Thursday, July 23, 2015

Still looking to beat the
heat? The kitsch aspects that define Tiki culture have become a kind of
stylistic cult over the years, and Fort Lauderdale has emerged as a haven for
Tiki Americana, boasting several attractions that make you want to don a lei
and grab a Mai Tai, and pretend you're on an island in the South Pacific.
On Friday and Saturday nights, the "Mermaid Show" at the Wreck
Bar—featured in Robert De Niro's 1999 movie Analyze This—is a mainstay of
Fort Lauderdale Tiki culture. Tucked into the lobby of the B Ocean Resort,
formerly the 1950s-era Yankee Clipper hotel, it features massive aquariums,
nautical decor and porthole views into the main pool, as well as a custom list
of island-inspired cocktails.   During its weekly "Mermaid Show"
(happening Friday and Saturday nights, at 6:30 p. m. sharp) entertainers
dressed as mermaids put on an aquatic performance that is viewed through those
portholes, a high Tiki moment that embodies the best of classic Fort
Lauderdale.  The resort also offers a "Mermaid Wedding," with an
underwater ceremony flanked by the hotel's mermaids. (In August, the New
York-based Stonehill & Taylor will commence a year-long redesign of the
resort's public areas and 487 guestrooms, though happily, the Wreck Bar will
remain. )   Also in Fort Lauderdale is the family-friendly Mai-Kai,
listed as one of the "ten best Tiki bars in the United States" by USA
Today. Along with Polynesian food and big rum drinks in festive glasses, the
Mai-Kai has a nightly floor show of Polynesian dancers and Samoans twirling
double-ended torches. On any given night, the Molokai Bar at the Mai-Kai
might contain tatted-up hipsters in Pareo sarong wraps, Pan Am flight bags,
and Shriner hats, dancing with equally tatted-up rockabilly women in poufy
retro dresses. (Every June, the Mai-Kai realizes its true aesthetic
perfection with The Hukilau, an international conference on all things Tiki,
with everything from black-tie-clad Swedish Tiki bands to appearances by Dawn
Wells, who played Mary Ann on Gilligan's Island. ) Recognizing the
circa-1956 Mai-Kai's legacy, the National Park Service has added it to the
National Register of Historic Places. With any luck, it will stick around for
a long time. Tom Austin is based in Miami and covers the Florida beat for
Travel + Leisure. Follow him on Twitter at @TomAustin.   More good
reads from T+L:
• Pssst: Secret Beaches For a Non-Crowded (!) Florida Getaway
• World's Best Islands
• Best Places to Travel in 2015 Did you enjoy
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Next Article How to Transport 50 Priceless Works of Art from the SFMOMA to
France As Tiki culture has grown in popularity over the years, Fort
Lauderdale has emerged as a haven for Tiki Americana, with several
island-themed bars and restaurants.

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