Sunny Fort Lauderdale getaway starting at $99DESTINATION: Fort lauderdale, FL
Visit Fort Lauderdale
Collegians of the 1960s returning to Fort Lauderdale would be hard-pressed to recognize the onetime “Sun and Suds Spring Break Capital of the Universe.” Back then, Fort Lauderdale’s beachfront was lined with T-shirt shops, and downtown consisted of a lone office tower and dilapidated buildings waiting to be razed. Not anymore! What was once a hotbed of dive bars, diners, and all-day beach parties is now a more upscale destination with a deeper focus on quality in the pursuit of leisure. The city’s elevated personality has paved the way for creative organizations, notable eateries, and premium entertainment options to stake their claims and has attracted a menagerie of world-class hotel brands and condo developments. Fortunately, the upscaling is generally guided by an understated interpretation of luxury that doesn’t follow Miami’s over-the-top lead. Fort Lauderdale is still a place where flip-flops are acceptable, if not encouraged.
Along The Strip and west to the Intracoastal, many of the mid-century-modern boutique properties are trying to preserve the neighborhood’s vintage design aesthetic. Somehow, Greater Fort Lauderdale gracefully melds disparate eras into nouveau nirvana, seasoned with a lot of sand. This could be the result of its massive territory: Broward County encompasses more than 1,100 square miles of land—ranging from dense residential enclaves to agricultural farms and subtropical wilds. But it’s the county’s beautiful beaches and some 3,000 hours of sunshine each year that make all this possible.
Fort Lauderdale was named for Major William Lauderdale, who built a fort in 1838 during the Second Seminole War. It was incorporated in 1911 with only 175 residents, but it grew quickly during the Florida boom of the 1920s, and it became a popular spring break destination in the 1960s. Today’s population is more than 176,000, and the suburbs continue to grow. Of Broward County’s 31 municipalities and unincorporated areas, Fort Lauderdale is the largest. And now, showstopping hotels, a hot food scene, and a burgeoning cultural platform accompany the classic beach lifestyle.
Top things to do in Fort Lauderdale
- Las Olas Boulevard – Diverse restaurants, three museums, 10 international art galleries and 65 retail options line Las Olas Boulevard, with recent visitors saying it’s the perfect place for a stroll, if not a shopping spree. But while casual walkers and window shoppers enjoy soaking in the Floridian atmosphere and overall aesthetic of the boulevard, the more intent consumer may not find this commercial street as appealing due to the high price tags. However, travelers recommended grabbing a bite above all else, as many were impressed with the quality of food and the amount alfresco dining options available. Our advice would be to make a stop here if you’re planning to visit the nearby Stranahan House, Riverwalk or Museum of Art.
- Fort Lauderdale Beach – Want a beautiful Florida beach without a crazy party scene? Fort Lauderdale Beach may be just what you’re looking for. Here you’ll find a calmer and less chaotic version of Miami Beach — but with the same sugary sands and crystal clear water. There are still parties, but you’re more likely to find families relaxing or leisurely walking the waterline than raucous groups of college kids. Backing the shoreline, the palm tree-lined promenade bustles with visitors looking to shop and dine in the many establishments along it. There are also water sport and beach chair rentals near the shore.
- Sawgrass Recreation Park – Take an airboat tour of the Florida Everglades at the Sawgrass Recreation Park, home to a huge range of flora and fauna, including a variety of birds, fish and alligators. And prepare to be amazed (or scared) by the close-up vistas of gators and other creatures. You can even reserve an airboat tour for nighttime runs to see nocturnal animals in their natural state. Visitors can also arrange for private tours, which are longer than the normal 30-minute runs.
- Hugh Taylor Birch State Park – Located less than 2 miles north of the Bonnet House, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is situated between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean and boasts fun activities for all types of travelers. Those looking to get a little wet can canoe or kayak in the largest of the park’s coastal dune lakes. Adventurers who want to get their adrenaline pumping can bike along the nearly 2-mile paved park drive. Meanwhile, visitors who prefer to explore by foot can hike the Coastal Hammock Trail, which snakes through a native maritime tropical hardwood hammock ecosystem, one of the last of its kind in the county. Fisherman can make a catch at the seawall while bird-watchers can have fun trying to spot any one of the 250 species that live in and regularly grace the park. There are also free ranger-guided walks that take travelers through sensitive habitats, along the beach and even to Hugh Taylor Birch’s old residence, for which the park is named.
- Stranahan House Museum – The oldest residence in Fort Lauderdale is now a living monument to Floridian life in the 1900s. Frank Stranahan originally constructed the house located off Las Olas Boulevard, as a trading post before making it a home for him and his wife Ivy, the city’s first schoolteacher. From this spot, he met and did business with Seminole Indians who were in the area. After Ivy Stranahan’s death in 1971, the building was purchased by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and is now a museum that provides guided tours three times a day.
- Bonnet House – This house sitting in the middle of the city has a long romantic history. In 1919, a wealthy settler gave the 35-acre property (named after the bonnet lily flower that grew on the grounds) as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband Frederic. In 1920, the newlyeds began construction of Bonnet House, hoping to build a winter getaway where Frederic could pursue his art and Helen could work on her music and poetry. But construction soon stopped when Helen unexpectedly died in 1925. Frederic didn’t resume property renovations until 1931 when he married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. The new couple continued decorating the house until Frederic’s death. Several decades later in 1983, Evelyn donated the house to the state’s Trust for Historic Preservation, opening it to visitors for guided tours.
- Museum of Discovery and Science – If it’s a rainy day and you need an indoor activity that appeal to the kids, take them to the Museum of Discovery and Science. The museum’s Ecodiscovery Center is filled with so many activities, animals and exhibits your kids may never want to leave. Get introduced to river otters, take a simulated airboat ride along the Everglades or learn more about Florida weather patterns at the Storm Center. There’s also an aviation station, where kids can climb into the cockpit of a DC-9 commercial airliner, and rea dinosaur bones at the Fishy Fossils exhibit. If that’s not enough, guests can venture into the 7-D capsule theater that takes visitors on a flight through the sky to learn more about the mechanics of aviation. There’s also a 300-seat Imax theater showcasing documentaries and major motion pictures.
- NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale – Las Olas Boulevard’s NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale is a great spot to escape the hot or rainy weather, according to recent visitors. The modern art museum features more than 6,000 works from a variety of artists in its permanent collection, including the largest holding in the country of post-war and avant-garde works from CoBrA (stands for Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam) artists in the country. There is also a significant amount of work from various Latin and Latin-American artists, as well as art from African, Native American and Oceanic Tribal Arts. The museum has rotating exhibits, previous of which have included the likes of Frida Kahlo and Pablo Picasso. Along with an extensive art collection, the more than 50-year-old museum also works in conjunction with Nova Southeastern University to provide art classes for visitors.