Travel: The Other Hollywood 

A trip to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino may offer glitz — but there's culture to be found too.

The multilayered complex occupies 100 acres of the Hollywood Reservation of the Seminole Tribe, about 15 minutes from southern Florida's Atlantic Ocean beaches. On our drive from the airport, we spotted the gleaming white Mediterranean-style hotel rising above lush, tropical landscaping.

In keeping with the resort's Hard Rock theme, both the hotel and casino showcase signed one-of-a-kind pieces of music memorabilia — more than 600 items, from a turquoise-and-black outfit complete with feather headpiece worn by Elton John to a flowered, beaded bra worn by Madonna.

Guest rooms in the hotel reflect a sleek, contemporary décor. Our room, which we were delighted to discover overlooked the large pool complex, was spacious. It also included an oversized bath with Roman tub and huge walk-in shower with multiple shower heads — great for soothing tired muscles after a day of traveling.

We'd spotted the Hard Rock Café in the lobby earlier and headed there for a late-night burger. The familiar sounds of slot machines drew us to the overflowing casino, more than 130,000 square feet of gaming machines and poker tables. After losing my usual pack of quarters, we took refuge in a small alcove that also doubled as a dance floor for the live band that was playing — a great spot for people-watching.

The next morning's agenda centered on outside relaxation, lounging at the pool. The 4.5-acre, lagoon-style pool meanders around a man-made mountain with waterfalls and a waterslide. Nestled at the base of the mountain, underneath the waterfall, is a pool bar. We splurged and rented a poolside cabana, which came equipped with a television, refrigerator and ceiling fan — all necessities on a hot day. Because we splurged there, we bypassed the services of the hotel's European-style spa, which offers among other things a "Chocolate Sensation" pedicure.

That night we dined on sumptuous scallops and Maryland crab cakes at Council Oak, a sophisticated steak-and-seafood restaurant in the hotel. Service was impeccable, as was the spectacular sunset via the restaurant's bay of windows.

Next stop: Seminole Paradise, a vibrant collection of retail stores, restaurants and entertainment venues, just steps from the casino. We followed the crowd into three trendy nightclubs — Pangaea, Passion and Gryphon, fashioned after a sister club in the Village in New York — before taking our seats at the Legends in Concert show, where look-alike artists belted out the songs of famous artists, everyone from Stevie Wonder to Madonna, my favorite of the night.

As we walked back to the hotel, we got caught in the crowds coming out of Hard Rock Live, the complex's new state-of-the-art venue, after a show featuring comedian Larry the Cable Guy. The evening capped off with an exciting laser show over Lake Paradise that featured rock music legends. (An earlier show highlighted the history of the Seminole Tribe.)

Before leaving the resort, we visited the Seminole Okalee Indian Village & Museum, part of Seminole Paradise. The museum is an offshoot and preview center of the original Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum on the Seminole Tribe's Big Cypress Reservation, north of Alligator Alley. One of the most colorful exhibits inside the museum focused on the evolution of Seminole clothing (skirts, capes and jackets) and the tribe's development of patchwork designs. One of the oldest objects in the collection is an intricately beaded bandolier shoulder bag and sash dating back to about 1830. We were told that Seminole men wore the bags over their shoulders in order to carry ammunition, tobacco and other valuables.

The main gallery also includes a 22-foot dugout canoe, the centerpiece of an exhibit detailing the importance of the canoe in tribal life, used for trading, hunting, fishing and the ongoing movement of Seminoles throughout the Florida Everglades.

The area outside the museum features an animal habitat, where we got up close and personal with Florida panthers, black bears, macaws, alligators and river otters before walking over to the traditional village, where we watched members of the tribe demonstrate woodworking, doll-making and cooking.

Later in the day, we planned a Venice of America sightseeing tour — just one of many adventure tours offered through the hotel and Aqua Sports — along the Intracoastal Waterway of Fort Lauderdale, known as the Venice of America. The guided boat tour passes by some of the most extravagant homes and yachts in southern Florida. A lingering thunderstorm put a damper on our plans but also gave us an opportunity to return, which we plan to do soon.




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