I say Fort Lauderdale, Florida – you say spring breakers, retirees and a cruise port? Why would I want to go there? I don’t even think there’s anything to do there except sit on a beach. And I say – hold on! You don’t know Fort Lauderdale like I do!
And that’s why I invited today’s guest to chat with me about everything and anything Greater Fort Lauderdale. And who is today’s guest? It’s Caitlan Etchever from Visit Fort Lauderdale.
And Caitlin loves to chat about her city. Although originally from Maine she’s been a Fort Lauderdale-ian for twenty-four years and considers Greater Fort Lauderdale her home. So needless to say, she’s my go to for all things Fort Lauderdale.
Read on to see what Fort Lauderdale is really all about – and why I bet you’ll be adding it to your domestic trip list soon!
Getting there: Super easy! There’s lots of airport lift in and out of Fort Lauderdale International Airport. And thanks to the abundance of flights they’re at great rates too. Plus, the flight time is minimal especially for my east coasters – which makes it an ideal three- or four-night getaway. And the accessibility? You can be from airport to beach in ten minutes! Another bonus – Broward County is a domestic destination so no passport needed!
Why Fort Lauderdale: As I touched on in the intro there are some misconceptions about Fort Lauderdale. And Caitlin is very well aware of that, so she answered the questions why visit, what am I going to be able to do there and why would it be my destination of choice? Let’s uncover her answers!
- Water Culture: Water is Fort Lauderdale’s wellness aspect. First there’s the 23 miles of beautiful coastline with sparkling blue waves and clean, pristine white sand beaches. And don’t forget the Intracoastal Waterway – which gave Fort Lauderdale it’s nickname – The Venice of the Americas! This beautiful waterway – lined with boats, yachts and million-dollar homes – can be experienced via their iconic yellow water taxis, gondolas or even a floating tiki bar! And having all this water around you never fails to refresh and renew the soul. Because let’s face it – anywhere you go you are going to feel and be in that vacation state of mind. The water is simply rejuvenating!
- Arts and Culture: Fort Lauderdale is not just water – you’ll find it has an artistic and cultural side – a lot of it moving up from Miami. In fact, it shares a lot of the same culture that Miami has – did you know that there are over 140 languages spoken in Fort Lauderdale?! Some examples of this side of the city’s personality include the A and E Riverwalk District, several different museums, the BB&T Center and fabulous live street entertainment – like Jazz Sunday which is held once a month in the Riverwalk area. There is also plenty of graffiti to be found. Downtown Hollywood is a great area to venture to as they have a mural area that offers tours every Saturday. You can also find graffiti art in downtown Fort Lauderdale and in Pompano Beach – as it is popping up in a lot of different areas these days.
Popular Areas: There are many must see parts not only in Fort Lauderdale but in the close by surrounding towns as well.
- Of course, there’s the well-known Las Olas Boulevard which is about a mile and half long and is lined with shops, restaurants, courtyard bars, nightclubs, art galleries and more. With palm trees lining the middle of the street that sparkle at night dressed in white lights – it is a fabulous place to eat, shop or just people watch! While on Las Olas you can also check out the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk which runs along the New River for about a mile.
- The Florida Everglades are close by and can boast that they are the only place in the world with this type of eco-system – making it a very unique spot on earth. For all you parents who are home schooling – this is a great live classroom experience! (Side Note: Caitlin also advised that they offer a Junior Ambassador Program that allows students to learn more about the Florida Everglades – as well as Greater Fort Lauderdale area overall. It features math lessons, science lessons and civics and upon completion the kids even get a certificate!) And the preferred mode of transportation in the Everglades? Airboats of course! Airboats are used to get you around and offer a breathtaking experience. Most of the time you’ll have the opportunity to see a gator or two – but if not, there are many beautiful birds to spot because – well – you are in nature! And what a great opportunity to connect with Mother Nature!
Sightseeing and Activities: You get a great variety of things to see and do in Fort Lauderdale – especially with so many great natural resources and beautiful scenery.
- Water Sports: Well with all that water it shouldn’t be a surprise that they are home to many different water sports – all available year round thanks to the beautiful southern Florida climate. You can fish – either in the everglades or deep-sea fishing – or both! You can also snorkel in that crystal-clear water. And something that a lot of people don’t realize – you can also dive here. In fact, there are over 17 different shipwrecks right off the coast of Pompano Beach which is a quick drive from Fort Lauderdale. And of course, should you need it – I can arrange to get you certified and / or get you all of the needed equipment.
- Arts and Entertainment: In Fort Lauderdale you will discover that the opportunities to attend touring Broadway shows, ballet and even opera are many and are performed year round in such venues as the Miramar Culture Center, the Broward Center for Performing Arts and the Lauderhill Theater.
- Golf: Once again thanks to that fabulous weather golf is available year-round and is a fabulous sport for managing your social distancing – not to mention great for exercise! The Greater Fort Lauderdale Area has 40 different golf courses to choose from – all types of different ranges and styles.
- Parks and Recreation: You can find parks on the ocean side and also inland where you can partake in kayaking, hiking and bike riding. The national parks in the area are stunning, but they also have a lot of county parks as well. There is the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park where you can find a little cool and casual restaurant called Park and Ocean. Here you can enjoy a burger and some beer while listening to live music. Another great place is Flamingo Gardens which is a wildlife area and sanctuary. If you love photography this is the place to head for some great pictures – especially of the Champion Trees which are the biggest trees in state of Florida.
Accommodations: The new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Hollywood – opened in October of 2019 is literally in Fort Lauderdale’s own backyard. It features a huge, iconic tower with 600 rooms that is – well shaped like a guitar! And that guitar puts on a daily light show orchestrated to music that is not to be missed! Caitlin also let us in on a little secret of sorts – if you stay in The Guitar Hotel you have the option to request a guitar in whatever color you want – included in price – for use during your stay! Another fun fact is that the architects that created this visually stunning masterpiece made sure to construct it so that each room has amazing views. They pretty much have everything except for the beach at this resort so they brought the beach to them – as a section of pool resembles a beach experience complete with sand.
Gastronomy: Fort Lauderdale is home to an abundance of great chefs and thus great restaurants. There is plenty of al fresco dining as well giving you ample opportunity to enjoy the fresh air. There’s the Fifteenth Street Fisheries where you can arrive via water taxi if you like. It is one of oldest restaurants in the area and since it is located on the Intracoastal Waterway it provides amazing water views. If you are a fan of Brazilian cuisine, then Regina’s Farm is a must – if you can get reservations! (Don’t worry – I can work my magic for you with Caitlin’s help!) Open only on Saturdays it is an extremely popular venue that offers a Brazilian themed dinner every weekend in a unique environment where you get to experience the Brazilian food as well as the culture. For fresh fruits and veggies check out the Yellow Green Market in Hollywood. This is a really cool area that is home to a bunch of mini-restaurants, food trucks and kiosks representing a lot Caribbean, South American and Latin American countries. Lots of great food to be found here!
Safety: Caitlin emphasized that Fort Lauderdale is covering all their bases as far as post covid cleaning and sanitizing preparations go – so that as visitors return – they are assured a safe experience.
Updated COVID-19 Information: As of this writing travel to the state of Florida has no travel restrictions in place.
Now when I say Fort Lauderdale, it will conjure up images of a fabulous destination to give your mind, body and soul a disconnect, teaming with art, culture, activities and more. And since everything is pretty much all outdoors thanks to beautiful weather and natural resources it’s great for social distancing. You may also want to consider doing a pre-or post-cruise stay here. As long as your ship is departing from Fort Lauderdale – spend a few days exploring it!
And one last thing that Caitlin and I agree on – Fort Lauderdale has a value proposition to it that Miami doesn’t always bring. Meaning – you can have a little Miami vibe – with a lot of the same style properties – at a lower price point. And Miami is close enough you can always take a train or uber down to check it out for the day or evening!
For more details on things to see and do in Fort Lauderdale, where to stay, it’s price points and more – contact your Travel Guru! Oh, and if you need a payment plan to fund your travel adventure – we got those too!