South Floridians are ignoring the scorching heat and walking miles to catch Pokemon, the fictional animal-like characters that have been popular in games and cartoons since the 1990s.
The reason is Pokemon Go, a new cell phone game that has become a national phenomenon in the past week. The number of daily active users in the United States could surpass Twitter's, according to a report by SimilarWeb, cited by Forbes.
In typical video games, players click buttons to move around, but Pokemon Go tracks GPS, creating a virtual world based on the real one, so users have to physically walk in order to play. All the locations on the game's map are places in the real world. The game also uses the phone's camera to place the character in real places. Users can catch up to 151 Pokemon.
While Pokemon characters can be found everywhere, some areas are more popular than others. In the game, a "Poke Stop" is a place where gamers can find tools for the game, such as "Poke Balls" to catch the Pokemon. At certain times, these Stops attract more Pokemon. In the real world, a Poke Stop could be anything, from a public landmark to a restaurant, or even a community pool.
Besides catching Pokemon, players can progress further in the game by entering battles at a"Pokemon Gym."
Because of its relationship to reality, the game warns users to pay attention to their surroundings while playing. Regardless of the warning, gamers have been walking into walls and onto private property. In Boca Raton, police reported that a driver threw fireworks at a man who was playing the game at 2 a.m.
Here is a list of some of the best places to catch Pokemon across South Florida:
Downtown Delray Beach
The downtown area along Atlantic Avenue features dozens of Poke Stops and several Pokemon Gyms. You'll literally find a Pokemon, such as Pidgey (a bird-like character) and Pinsir (a monster-like character), on every corner. Downtown Delray is also full of bars and restaurants. You can stop for drinks and catch Pokemon during happy hour.
Poke Stops can be found in and around the popular comic book store (4566 N. University Drive, Lauderhill). There are two additional Pokemon Gyms across the street. The store also sells Pokemon merchandise and is a popular spot for gamers.
"Yesterday we had over 100 people having fun in the store ... and so many others throughout the weekend. We are really lucky to have such an awesome community of 'Trainers' in this area," says JoAnn Minieri, store manager.
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale
This riverside park is one of the most popular spots for catching Pokemon in Fort Lauderdale. It's walkable with shade and is often breezy with a beautiful view. If you need water Pokemon characters, like Psyduck (a duck-like character) and Magikarp (a fish-like character), this is the place to go. The place also features several Poke Stops.
NSU Art Museum
Fort Lauderdale's seminal art museum (1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale) has two Poke Stops. They have embraced the trend, encouraging "Trainers" to "catch ‘em all" at the museum. Admission runs $5 to $12.
Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
Pokemon was invented in Japan, so there couldn't be a more appropriate spot to play the game than inside a Japanese garden. Admission at Morikami (4000 Morikami Park Road, Delray Beach) is $9 to $15. The trail around the lake is packed with Poke Spots, and there are two Pokemon Gyms inside the park.
"The response has been astounding, as we've had an abundance of 'Pokemon Trainers' visit the museum within the last few days," says Kizzy Sanchez, a spokeswoman for the museum.
ArtsPark at Young Circle
The ArtsPark at Young Circle (1 N. Young Circle, Hollywood) is home to two Pokemon Gyms and at least five Poke Stops. There are several other Stops and Gyms in the streets around the circle and along Hollywood Boulevard. It's also a good place to bar hop while catching Pokemon.
Pompano Beach Pier
Many popular beaches are packed with Poke Stops and Pokemon Gyms, but Pompano Beach's Pier (222 N. Pompano Beach Blvd.) has become especially popular. The place is known for having many Gyarados, a rare dragon-like Pokemon known for being strong.
Downtown West Palm Beach
Walk down Clematis Street all the way to Flagler Drive, and you'll find about four Pokemon Gyms and a dozen of Poke Stops. Water Pokemon have been found along the boardwalk, as well as the flying Pokemon Doduo, a two-headed bird.
Packed with Poke Stops and Pokemon Gyms, Markham Park has quickly become a a hot spot for Pokemon Go meetups. It costs $1.50 to enter the park located at 16001 W. State Road 84 in Sunrise.
Aventura Mall is home to several Poke Stops and Pokemon Gyms. The elusive and popular Pikachu character has also been spotted at the mall (19501 Biscayne Blvd.). As a plus, you can chase down Pokemon in cool air conditioning.
Central Park, 9151 NW Second St., in Plantation has at least five Poke Stops and three Gyms. The park is often full with people walking around playing the game.
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