That twitch in your eye can mean only one thing: You are, of course, awed by the overwhelming joy of the season. Of course. But there is also the impending reality that those people are on their way back, and you’ll be playing master of ceremonies. And they’ll want more than football and streaming “National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Family Reunion” (Bryan Cranston!).
Here’s a list of new things to do in places that have opened since last Thanksgiving. Maybe they’ll be new to you, too.
The brightly colored cars of the Brightline, rolling through eastern Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties like fanciful tubes of tropical taffy, offer upscale rides from convenient downtown stations in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Families with young children may want to try the holiday-themed Brightline Polar Express, an interactive trip with readings of the book, visual and edible treats and a visit from Santa. Pajamas optional (but encouraged). Polar Express rides take place Saturday-Sunday through the end of the year, with tickets starting at $55, $50 ages 2-11. Standard tickets for Brightline start at $10. Visit GoBrightline.com.
Opened last December just a hop and a skip from the Brightline Station, the West Palm Brewery and Wine Vault has been a dynamic setting for beer, wine and live music. Its Black Friday Bash will include all three, with a nitro Toasted Coconut Milk Stout making its debut for a mere $3, and its new 2016 Inky Black Red Wine also being unveiled at half-off, $19 a bottle. Visit WestPalmBeer.com.
Grandview Public Market has brought the urban food-hall experience to West Palm Beach’s evolving warehouse district, with a trendy lineup of vendors, shops and snacking and dining options, including Crema and those crazy Thai ice cream rolls. On Saturday morning (10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.), the Norton Museum of Art will host another kid-friendly Family Studio gathering. Visit Facebook.com/GrandviewPublic.
Dog-friendly Mathews Brewing Co. in downtown Lake Worth quickly became a hub of activity in support of various community events and a new stage for local musicians to share songs. Recommended: Live music all weekend, including the Mark III Band 8 p.m. Friday, Girlfriend Material 8 p.m. Saturday and the Crazy Fingers Trio 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Visit Facebook.com/MathewsBrewing.
The restaurant Driftwood in Boynton Beach got three stars from Mike Mayo on SouthFlorida.com, who found it uneven in some areas but with much more to praise. Those meals took place last summer, and we’d like to assume fixes have been made at this “restaurant for regular people,” as chef-owner Jimmy Everett calls it. Yelpers seem to love it. We can’t get past the dessert of warm cornbread with buttermilk ice cream and blackberries. Visit DriftwoodBoynton.com.
As Yogi Berra once said of Beach House Pompano, “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” That rare instance of a restaurant (and casually chic bar) located right on the beach, the light, bright Beach House is the jewel of the city’s beautifully realized remodel of North Pompano Beach Boulevard, just north of Atlantic. Sweet spot to stroll while you’re waiting for your table. BeachHousePompano.com.
The first restaurant on the river at downtown Fort Lauderdale’s historic Riverside Hotel, Boathouse at the Riverside, is such a seamless addition to the old gal that you’d swear it’s been there forever. The casual vibe of this covered wraparound terrace, showcasing seafood-dominant tapas-style dishes and a thoughtful cocktail menu, is the definition of what a visitor might expect during a stay in Fort Lauderdale. Visit BoathouseRiverside.com.
The Wilder is the downtown cocktail bar that Fort Lauderdale needed, as urban and streetwise as its sister spot, Rhythm & Vine, is sunny and frolicsome. They take their cocktails very seriously. Sweet patio, too. Visit IntoTheWilder.com.
The college crowd (perhaps those who wish they were still in college) made Township in downtown Fort Lauderdale a hot destination from the get-go. Recommended: The Florida State-sympathetic beer hall will host an FSU-UF watch party at noon Saturday, which will offer plenty of reminders of the sad state of Sunshine State college football (with all due respect to UCF). Visit Facebook.com/TownshipFTL.
Tarpon River Brewing in downtown Fort Lauderdale comes from the fertile minds behind Riverside Market, Native Brewing Co. and the Restaurant People, which is all you really need to know about it. But along with the quality beer, it’s just a quality hang. Recommended: Mark Dubin & the Honest Liars 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Visit TarponRiverBrewing.com.
Tap 42’s more brazen sister, Bar Rita is the newest rooftop to open in downtown Fort Lauderdale (not to be confused with the swank Rooftop) and the colorful, open-air space under its impressive second-level cover pulses with energy. All the cool kids are there. Visit BarRitaFTL.com.
All whitewashed Malibu-meets-Fort Lauderdale chic, with the fresh, healthful dishes that define the original Myapapaya (great bison burger), the new Myapapaya on the River achieves a higher zen by virtue of its Federal Highway location on a bend in the Middle River, with a dock out back and Sunrise Paddleboards just a few steps across the parking lot. Hint? Recommended: The Saturday Night Beaver full moon party, with DJ, dinner and drink specials under the Beaver Moon. Visit Facebook.com/MyapapayaOnTheRiver.
There is no shortage of breweries in Fort Lauderdale. But Gulf Stream Brewing Co. has opened in a spot that allows for this sentence as you pull up in front of the Christmas Palace on 13th Street: “Honey, I’d love to go inside, but I hear a funny noise coming from the car, and there’s a place where I can get it looked at right down the street.” Someone inside Gulf Stream Brewing definitely will look out the window at your car. Visit GulfStreamBeer.com.
The trip to Aventura Mall need not feel like a mere obligation of the season. First, there’s Treats Food Hall, which the professional eaters at the Daily Meal judged one of the best mall food courts in America (though, as you’ll see, the term “food court” hardly applies). What’s more, there may be no more effective holiday de-stresser than the Aventura Slide Tower, a nearly 93-foot-tall spiral art work that is both a towering landmark and, yes, a functional slide. And it’s free. Visit AventuraMall.com.
The beautiful Faena Theater on Miami Beach is merely newish, but its Samsara Cabaret just debuted, and is probably not like anything they’ll see back home. A mix of Cirque-style acrobatics, burlesque, modern dance, live music, state-of-the-art technology and fire, Samsara Cabaret stars Miami native Bianca Allanic, with vocal help from Miami’s “America's Got Talent” star Yoli Mayor. Tickets start at $55 at FaenaTheater.com.
The backdoor intrigue that was Bardot in Midtown Miami has just given way to Boombox, a distressed-chic cocktail lounge from Ben Potts and the folks who brought you the celebrated Beaker & Gray. Intriguing. Not incidentally, there is late-night food from another newer place next door, Mason, by Beaker & Gray alum Brian Nasajon. Visit BoomboxMiami.com.
The Wynwood ice-cream wizards at Dasher & Crank specialize in the inventive and exotic, including the combination of peanut butter, banana and Miami Smokers bacon called the Fat Elvis; Raspberry Wasabi Sorbet; Black Mint, which achieves its dark hue from activated charcoal; and Ube Macapuno, made with purple Filipino yams and coconut jelly. Happily, Dasher & Crank is open until midnight Friday-Saturday. Visit Facebook.com/DasherandCrank.
The holidays, abridged
Mizner Park Amphitheater in Boca Raton throws its always energetic holiday tree-lighting party (carnival rides, fireworks) 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 21); Fort Lauderdale’s Light Up the Beach party is 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday (Nov. 21); lighting events for the 50-foot Christmas Tree at Miami’s Bayfront Park take place 7 p.m. Friday (Nov. 24); Christmas on Las Olas takes over downtown Fort Lauderdale Nov. 27; Delray Beach celebrates the 25th anniversary of its famed 100-foot Christmas Tree with a lighting party on Nov. 29; West Palm Beach’s holiday celebration, featuring Sandi, its soaring 700-ton sand Christmas tree, is Nov. 29; the charm of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea’s Anglin Square is the setting for the city’s Chanukah Festival on Dec. 2 and the Christmas-by-the-Sea party on Dec. 5; the 56th annual Greater Pompano Beach & Lighthouse Point Holiday Boat Parade returns on Dec. 14; the Winterfest Boat Parade in Fort Lauderdale (with grand marshal Huey Lewis) is Dec. 15.
Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road concerts at the BB&T Center in Sunrise 8 p.m. Friday and AmericanAirlines Arena 8 p.m. Saturday are sold out, as is his return to the BB&T Center on March 16 (check Ticketmaster’s resale tickets at Ticketmaster.com). … There are still tickets (starting at $39) for “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert” at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday in Miami’s Arsht Center (ArshtCenter.org). … Tallahassee emo vets Mayday Parade bring music from the new album “Sunnyland” to Revolution Live in Fort Lauderdale 7 p.m. Saturday (This Wild Life, William Ryan Key and Oh, Weatherly are openers) with tickets ($28.50) available (JoinTheRevolution.net). … Ghoulish Swedish metal showmen Ghost are at the Fillmore Miami Beach 7 p.m. Saturday with some general-admission tickets ($42.50) still to be had (FillmoreMB.com). … Soul-pop singer Michael McDonald (Doobie Brothers) will bring holiday music to the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek 8 p.m. Saturday, but it’s sold out. That’s right.
Miami-raised EDM star Steve Aoki has music from a new album, “Neon Future III” (with a dizzying array of collaborations from Daddy Yankee, Lil Yachty, Blink-182, Louis Tomlinson, Lauren Jauregui, Bill Nye, Lady Antebellum and others) to share 11 p.m. Friday at Story in Miami. Tickets cost $30. Visit StoryMiami.com.
Afrobeta, Galactic Effect and Twyn play 7 p.m. Friday at Las Rosas in Miami (LasRosasBar.com) … The Copper Tones lay down some soulgrass at 26 Degree Brewing in Pompano Beach 8 p.m. Friday (TheCopperTonesMusic.com) … The soulful pop of Spider Cherry fills Avant in Delray Beach 9 pm. Friday (SpiderCherry.com) … Itawe (Locos Por Juana) brings a funked-up Latin reggae vibe to the Wynwood Yard 9 p.m. Friday (TheWynwoodYard.com) … Birdman's Clambake is at Bar Nancy in Miami’s Little Havana 10 p.m. Friday (Facebook.com/BirdmansClambake) … Haute Tension and Supergold highlight a Flagler Village Artwalk show at Radio-Active Records in Fort Lauderdale 6 p.m. Saturday (Facebook.com/RadioActiveRecords) … Miami soul brothers Jason Joshua and the Beholders are at Las Rosas 9 p.m. Saturday (Facebook.com/TheBeholdersSoul) … Irreverent indie-rockers Milk Spot are at Dada in Delray Beach 11 p.m. Saturday MilkSpot.bandcamp.com.