Mention Fort Lauderdale and the first thing most people think of is spring break. But if you’re worried about being caught in a hazing ritual in a hotel elevator, fuggetaboutit. The spring break crowd has long graduated, gotten jobs and moved on.
Not that Fort Lauderdale doesn’t have a youthful vibe. Fort Lauderdale’s arts and entertainment area, known as the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, has the impressive NSU Art Museum.
Highlights of the permanent collection’s 6000 pieces include the largest US collection of William Glacken’s work, avant-garde CoBrA artists from Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam and works by leading Latin American artists.
Its distinctive modernist building, designed by the renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes is a short walk to the shops, restaurants and galleries of vibrant Las Olas Boulevard as well as to the picturesque Riverwalk waterfront promenade.
The district runs east-west along Las Olas Boulevard, from the beach to the heart of downtown, easily traversed aboard a cute trolley.
Another fun way to see Fort Lauderdale is by water taxi. Often called the Venice of America for its extensive network of canals, Fort Lauderdale has Venice beat with its 165 miles of waterways compared to Venice’s 26 miles of waterways and canals.
Fort Lauderdale has something for history buffs as well. But If you’re hoping to see forts here, like the 315-year-old Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, you’ll be disappointed. At the end of the conflict the forts were abandoned and it took 50 years before the development of the city began. Fort Lauderdale is named for William Lauderdale who built the first fort during the Second Seminole War in Florida.
Instead, for a rare glimpse into old South Florida, visit the colorful Bonnet House, listed on the National Register of Historic places and currently celebrating its 100th year anniversary. Hugh Taylor Birch gave the house and property to his daughter Helen and her husband, Chicago artist Frederic Clay Bartlett as a wedding gift in 1919.
Hugh Taylor Birch came to Florida in 1893 and purchased ocean-front property for a dollar an acre. Wishing to keep the natural environment from development, he donated his estate to Fort Lauderdale with the proviso that it remain a public park.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, located between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, is a 180-acre island of trees and greenery in the middle of urban Fort Lauderdale. The park features nature trails, canoeing, camping and picnicking areas, and features the Terramar Visitor Center, with exhibits about the ecosystem of the park. The on site outdoor tiki-type bar makes a fun happy hour stop after a warm afternoon of hiking.
For swimmers and fans of the sport, there’s The International Swimming Hall of Fame, that houses a large aquatic complex as well as a museum, theater, and research library. The public can swim laps at regularly scheduled hours.
Where to Stay
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Just steps from the beach, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort features spacious guest rooms with great ocean views from private balconies.
Guests have three great options for dining at the Hilton, the casual and contemporary S3, Ilios and Marche. At S3 try the burrata salad with faro, the chili-rubbed bavette steak perfectly grilled medium-rare and the grilled octopus sitting atop giganda beans and salsa verde. For dessert, try their panna cotta served with strawberries and blackberries.
Next door to the Hilton Beach Resort, The Conrad, the Hilton’s hip younger sister offers a cool, contemporary cocktail bar. Try the Old & Smokey if you enjoy an Old Fashioned – the great presentation matches the drink. WOW. We also enjoyed the swordfish empanadas and the smoked salmon pizza.
Where to Eat
Greek Islands Taverna
A perennial favorite, always busy and worth the wait. Traditional Greek cuisine and impeccable service that never disappoints. My favorites are the grilled octopus and lamb chops.
Located on A1A just north of Oakland Park Blvd.
Fresh Mexican cuisine with a contemporary health conscious approach – all natural, no preservatives, nor MSG. Perfect example is their chile relleno – not breaded, deep-fried and over sauced. Great varieties of salsas and the gringo beer is just 2 bucks. Take out or eat-in – there are tables but the vibe is more fast food.
N. Federal Hwy near the Best Buy, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
While there is yet no Fort Lauderdale location, it’s a short drive to Coral Springs. Great artisan style, 11” wood-fired pizzas. Honey on a pizza? Sounds crazy but you have to try it. A drizzle of chili-pepper infused wildflower honey takes a pizza to another place. Mike’s Hot Honey is now a permanent item at all Mod locations. Foodable Network named Mod Pizza as the most loved pizza brand in 2017.
2702 N University Dr. Coral Springs.
South Florida Food Tours
Tailored for small groups of foodies, South Florida Food Tours offer a great introduction to local ethnic restaurants. The tour operates on a “dine-around “ system so that different course and drinks occur at different venues punctuated with lively commentary and fun facts on the scene.
Fort Lauderdale Travel Planner
Visitors have the option of flying direct to Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport or into Miami International. From the Miami airport Fort Lauderdale is a 40 minute drive north on I-95 with Sunpass tolls – or catch the new Tri-Rail train in the Miami airport to Fort Lauderdale, about an hour’s journey for $5.
601 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale
999 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale
On the corner of Sunrise Blvd and A1A, across from the tranquil Hugh Taylor State Park.
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
505 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale