March 27, 2023


Without Art It's Really Boring!!!

Our favorite venues for live music, stage performances & visual arts

8 min read

As part of our Arts Guide, which published in PRIME Magazine on Oct. 2, we asked the South Florida Sun Sentinel’s features team to discuss their favorite local venues for live music, stage performances and visual arts. Check out their picks below.

And look for special Arts Guide stories posted online every day this week.

It seems rather obvious — even approaching the territory of duh, really? — but my choice of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts as a favorite venue has as much to do with what it is as where it is.

After spending its 30th anniversary in the long shadow of the pandemic, the 31-year-old entertainment venue has snuffed the ghost lights on its three performance spaces: the Au-Rene Theater, the Amaturo Theater and the Abdo New River Room.

Now the Broadway shows, stand-up comedy acts, concerts, ballets, regional theater performances, lectures and even the occasional movie screening are back, putting the establishment center stage again among North America’s performing arts centers. That’s not hyperbole on my part. It’s friggin’ true. The wide spectrum of entertainment treading the boards there means there’s something for all my various personalities … shut up Sybil, Rod’s in control now … from mainstream blockbuster stuff to what-the-bleep-was-that?

And, sure, the Broward Center is also expected to reopen its own eatery, Marti’s New River Bistro, this month, but for me it’s the nearby buzzy bars and vibey restaurants that make the entertainment enclave a SoFlo must-stop.

First, there’s Himmarshee Village, which was somewhat sidelined for a little over a year while desperately needed upgrades on an underground pump station took place on Southwest Second Street. But here’s the thing: Once the construction ended in August and the chokehold on traffic eased up, there was a different chi, a different feel to the food and beverage. Slowly but surely, the neighborhood started filling in where the tourists would have been. And little by little, to appeal to the downtown dwellers in nearby apartments and condominiums, the menus are starting to get just a bit more ambitious and diversified.

As for me, I like Rush Street Bar & Restaurant both pre- and post-show. I go for the bison sliders and flatbreads, but I linger for the flavorful craft martinis. Even better, the music is classic rock, alternative rock and Top 40 — stuff you know and can groove to.

There are a few newish places that quietly opened in the past year or so, including Munchie’s Pizza Club, Den Kitchen & Bar and Bandoleros Taqueria y Mas.

And nota bene: Sushi Song, which is tucked away alongside the railroad tracks at Second Street and Moffat Avenue, stays open until 4 a.m. Also, on the other side of the tracks and around the corner at Southwest First Avenue and West Las Olas Boulevard, just a short schlep away, you have Bodega Taqueria y Tequila, the Wharf Fort Lauderdale, Matchbox and Big Buns Damn Good Burgers (seriously, the boozy milkshakes are worth the walk) — all at Las Olas Riverfront Circle. Around the corner from that is the [email protected], if you’re feeling a little glitzy … still.

The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is at 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Visit

— Rod Stafford Hagwood

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach has been refurbished as part of a $100 million project .

Pre-pandemic, the Norton Museum of Art was approaching 80, so it decided to do what gracefully aging Palm Beachers sometimes do, because they can: treat itself to a dramatic facelift. Now sassier than ever with its $100 million upgrade, the Norton is my favorite South Florida museum.

Of course, architecturally speaking, its hard-edged facades and nice, geometric curves — all redesigned by Lord Norman Foster (London’s Wembley Stadium, New York’s Hearst Tower) — are stunning, but I’m a sucker for substance over beauty. After going dark in the pandemic, the 133,000-square-foot Norton now touts a 210-seat auditorium, a great hall and coffee bar, event lawn and impressive outdoor sculpture garden. You could spend all day meandering through the expanded galleries, like the one with a Chinese permanent collection of 430 objects spanning 5,000 years, and still overlook half of the Norton’s treasures. (Seriously, don’t forget to see the Dale Chihuly ceiling, an installation of jellyfish-like forms bobbing in a colorful ocean of glass.)

Undoubtedly the best time to visit is Friday, when the Norton hosts Art After Dark, its after-hours, eclectic art-music-film mashup. I enjoy The Restaurant at the Norton, with its convenient handhelds, soups and mezze platter, but I prefer an adventure down South Dixie Highway for delicious cocktails and trendy cuisine.

Because the Norton is perched south of downtown, few restaurants are accessible by foot, but I don’t mind the three-block schlep to Kanuga Drive and Grato, a casual trattoria from James Beard Award-nominated chef Clay Conley, for housemade smoked potato gnocchi and a glass of Chardonnay. Also fun is next-door Civil Society Brewing, a taproom that’s always well-stocked with brews for any mood, like Pulp, an easy-drinking American wheat ale, and Tracks, an over-hopped IPA.

The focus of Tropical Smokehouse in West Palm Beach is Florida's barbecue heritage, specifically its Cuban/Floribbean influences.

Exploring the Norton often leaves me in a contemplative mood … for barbecue. A worthy pit stop is Tropical Smokehouse 1.5 miles south, where chefs Jason Lakow and Rick Mace turn out Texas low-and-slow brisket and Cuban/Floribbean-inspired, mojo-spiced pork shoulder and jerk turkey breast.

Yummy cocktails require another short drive, this time north, to Treehouse, a lush rooftop bar atop the Canopy by Hilton West Palm Beach Downtown. Here’s where I admire the hanging Banyan vines and sip the Smokey Treehouse Treasure, an Old Fashioned muddled with maple syrup, chocolate bitters and Michter’s 10 Year Bourbon.

The Norton Museum of Art is at 1450 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach. Visit

— Phillip Valys

The ArtsPark at Young Circle in downtown Hollywood is ideal for music as well as for quiet contemplation.

To visit the ArtsPark at Young Circle in downtown Hollywood is to witness government-sponsored development at its most effective — a gem for a distinctive setting in the most valuable of Joseph Young’s remarkable rings.

The 10-acre park, at the confluence of U.S. 1 and Hollywood Boulevard, sits inside one of three roundabouts Young designed in creating the city nearly 100 years ago. This space was reimagined and redeveloped in the mid-2000s (with city and county bond funds), and it’s hard to imagine its success has not exceeded plans for it to stimulate cultural and economic activity.

In its accessibility in the center of downtown, the ArtsPark symbolizes a rare brand of civic sociability, with its spherical shape an exotic echo of Paris and Rome and Madrid. Some of us are even learning to drive like Europeans thanks to Young’s challenging roundel.

But within that commuter hum, the park also can be a place for quiet contemplation. My favorite spot is on a concrete bench affixed with a plaque reminding passersby that in 2009 the space was dedicated by the city as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Young Circle ArtsPark. In front of the bench is a large bust of Dr. King with the complete text of his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Nature abounds in surprising ways, too. The park is home to some extraordinarily large iguanas, but also an awe-inspiring collection of massive baobab trees, especially the two that bracket a south entrance to the park near Dr. King’s display. You and four friends could not join hands around them.

It is a special place, and more people seem to be figuring that out — the new apartment highrise 1818 Park on the west side pays homage with its name and rounded design details, while The Circ hotel is poised to the north, an undulating tower with The Muse rooftop lounge a great spot for a drink and a view of the park.

In October, the ArtsPark Amphitheater, with 2,500 seats on the lawn and another 1,000 on the fountain-ed terrace at the top of the hill, will host a concert by culty rap-rock acts Cypress Hill and 311 (Oct. 7), kicking off a new series of “curated nostalgia” planned for the venue by producers at Legends at Arts.

Later in the month, Miami-based The Rhythm Foundation will continue its decade-long relationship in the ArtsPark with a free performance by rising Cuban funk star Cimafunk (Oct. 30), part of the Hollywood ArtsPark Experience series.

Each of these acts comes with a large following who may not be familiar with what downtown Hollywood has to offer.

Mickey Byrne's Irish Pub in Hollywood, seen here dressed up for St. Patrick's Day, is one of multiple restaurants in the area that are dedicated to international fare.

The beauty of the area around the ArtsPark is that there is something for literally every taste. Literally. Hollywood Boulevard alone has a single block with restaurants dedicated to food from Peru (Cabo Blanco), Indonesia (Krakatoa), Jamaica (Gingerbay), Romania and Italy (Villa Romana), Thailand (Red), Ireland (Mickey Byrne’s) and the U.S. (Twin Peaks). Woody’s Tavern has a neon sign in the window for Okocim beer from Poland.

But if I were recommending a trajectory for an ArtsPark concert visitor, I’d pick Harrison Street, which is a little quieter and home to some of my favorite walls in the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project. (Look out for work by The London Police at 1909 Harrison St.)

If you’re just interested in a pre-show drink and snack, Harat’s Irish Pub opened recently across the street from the park on the southwest side. Because it’s Hollywood, you’ll probably hear more Eastern European accents here than Irish (it’s also part of a chain with most locations in Russia).

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But it’s a fine approximation of a sports bar, with a half-dozen large leather booths, plenty of big-screen TVs, including a projection screen in the back, a pool table, foosball and an unusual selection of draft beer. Among the options are Belhaven Scottish Stout, Švyturys Ekstra from Lithuania, Fuller’s London Pride ale, Weihenstephan from Germany and Bavik from Belgium.

For something more elevated, head a block-and-a-half west to 1910 Harrison St., where you’ll find no sign on the black awning to announce that you’ve arrived at Carmela’s, an Italian restaurant that opened about 18 months ago. (If you hit the not-unattractive bustle of Social Room, you’ve gone too far.)

At once refined and comfortable (the genius of white subway tile), the dining room is a stage for familiar dishes transformed: Papparadelle is served with braised duck ragu ($26), a chicken liver crostini appetizer is sweetened with figs and saba ($15), and for lunch there’s a mortadella sandwich on housemade focaccia ($18).

Farther down the street, at 1928 Harrison St., the institution that is Cuenca Cigars remains a very Hollywood way to end an evening out, its signature red umbrellas and chairs scattered across the sidewalk acting as a kind of welcome mat in the night.

Cuenca is more than tobacco, serving coffee, beer and wine, frequently accompanied by live music. Even people who don’t care for the scent of cigars have been known to find the open-air energy of the atmosphere transporting. That’s Hollywood.

The ArtsPark at Young Circle is at 1 N. Young Circle, Hollywood. Visit

— Ben Crandell

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