Walk Fort Lauderdale’s famous beach and travel its endless canals by boat to discover this town’s sunny personality, then hit fashionable Las Olas Boulevard after dark to sample another side of this Florida city.
1 Boats and More Boats
It’s not just Fort Lauderdale’s delightful location on the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean that makes it a vacation hot spot for boaters of every variety, this town has a maze of canals that beg to be explored. Waterfront residents dock everything from speedboats to mega-yachts in front of their Florida manses. Rent a boat for the day or come in the fall when the nautical crowd descends on the city for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and shop for your own.
2 Biggest Cruise Port
Port Everglades can justifiably boast some of the best-designed terminals in the world that can move thousands of passengers from curb to ship in 10 to 15 minutes. Disembarking is just as quick and easy, which is why Fort Lauderdale is one of the most preferred ports for vacationing cruise passengers as well as cruise ships that call here. Plus its terminals are decked out with stunning public art that puts other terminals to shame.
3 Where the Boys Are
Atlantic Avenue is one of the hottest beach strips in Florida. Folks have been cruising this stretch since the 1960s when the movie Where the Boys Are put Fort Lauderdale on the map. Walk it, bike it, skate it, drive it—or just hang out on its sands. Along the pedestrian-friendly street you’ll find bars serving rainbow-colored frozen drinks, swanky hotels like the W and the Ritz-Carlton, bikini shops and even a museum with tropical gardens.
4 Las Olas Boulevard
A fashionable hub, Las Olas Boulevard is packed with personality. We love it best at night when palm trees wrapped in twinkle lights give it a romantic aura and sidewalk tables at 30-plus outdoor restaurants fill up with beautiful people. Book a room at the historic Riverside Hotel right on the boulevard so you can step out your door and shop, dine and enjoy the live music scene at your leisure.
5 Diver’s Jackpot
Off Fort Lauderdale’s coast divers find a natural three-tiered reef system that begins in 20 feet of water, just 100 yards from shore at its closest point. Making the destination even more diver friendly are 75 artificial reefs that been placed on the ocean’s floor over the past 20 years and serve as magnets for fish and reef life. From Deerfield Beach in the north to Hallandale Beach south of Fort Lauderdale, dive sites are plentiful, along with dive charters that depart from Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina.
6 Museums and More
Fort Lauderdale may not come to mind when you think of museums, but surprise, surprise, the mix of cultural venues in this town is quite eclectic. Start with the IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum and the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum for the lowdown on the two sports. At the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, the story of Fort Lauderdale’s early beginnings is told through this preserved historic home. In downtown Fort Lauderdale, you’ll find the Museum of Art and the Museum of Discovery & Science.
7 Place Your Bets
Gaming—horses, casinos and jai alai—are all nearby temptations for those who feel that Lady Luck is on their side. Horse racing and casino fun happens at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. Put on your poker face because there’s a game—plus slots and Black Jack—at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. For those who find the speedy game of jai alai from the Basque country of Spain intriguing enough to wager their hard-earned money, ball games happen at the Dania Casino & Jai Alai. And if you’re not the gaming type, then check out the bars, lounges, music and other nightlife options at all three venues.
8 Water Taxi
Much more than a means of transportation, Fort Lauderdale’s Water Taxi is an open-air sight-seeing boat that you can hop on and off as you ply the waters through Millionaire’s Row. En route you’ll pass Mediterranean-style mansions tucked in canals and the latest yachts docked out front. The guide’s commentary is a who’s who of the rich and famous that call Lauderdale home.
There’s no shortage of events that give you a good reason to visit, but among our favorites is the Las Olas Wine & Food Festival in May, when local culinary talent lines Las Olas Boulevard and shows our taste buds what they got. In December, top rating goes to the Winterfest Boat Parade. One hundred vessels dressed in thousands of holiday lights cruise up the New River and Intracoastal Waterway to the delight of crowds. And of course the biggest is Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, a fall event partly responsible for the city’s moniker Yachting Capital of the World.
10 Stay on the Beach Side
A room on Fort Lauderdale’s famous Atlantic Avenue makes the trip so worthwhile. You can go hip and stay in an uber chic tower at the W or go classy by booking at the Ritz-Carlton in a building designed architecturally to resemble a cruise ship. If you want to be on the sand, then the family-owned Lago Mar Resort and Club, a five-minute beach walk away from the bustling Atlantic Avenue scene, is private and relaxing—a great place for both couples and families.