While Fort Lauderdale is world-known for being one of the ultimate tourist destinations - with its award-winning Blue Wave beaches, endless sub-tropical wilderness and glittering urban lifestyle - it is also known for its many colleges and universities that make it even more appealing. It is here, mostly clustered in the welcoming city of Davie (just west of Downtown) that South Florida gets its stellar reputation for its institutions of higher learning. Names like NOVA University, Florida Atlantic University, University of Florida, Broward College, ITT Technical Institute and more are right here.
Every fall, thousands of eager, wide-eyed students (and their families) arrive to begin their new life - and new lifestyle. We've all been there: packing; buying school supplies, dorm furniture and accessories; and getting to the school just in time to register, often in a city that's new. What an exhausting time it can be, as well as an emotional drain for everyone.
But besides the givens of finding your dorm room, meeting the roommates and getting settled, why not plan ahead to spend an extra day just to relax and get to know the city? This will calm the nerves of the students, who will feel more confident in getting around without relying so heavily on the GPS. And moms and dads can return home, knowing their child is in a safe neighborhood. They themselves will be familiar enough with this part of South Florida to get around when they make their frequent visits - and they will make frequent visits.
Enjoy paddleboarding on the Atlantic — Photo courtesy of sunny.org
Plan for a great day! This is the time to play tourist. Look around. This is where people spend their lives to retire, yet by being accepted at a world-class school, here you are at the ideal age. Very few places in the world compare to South Florida.
Head north of Fort Lauderdale on A1A to Deerfield Beach. This playful destination is perfect for the entire family. With 3,000 feet of sparkling shoreline, this beach is perfect for family getaways. There are also plenty of activities for bold beachgoers, such as Ski Rixen, one of America's first cable water ski parks. Show off your spike in a volleyball game or haul in the catch of a lifetime from the 920-foot pier.
Fort Lauderdale Beach — Photo courtesy of sunny.org
Head back down the scenic A1A to Fort Lauderdale Beach. This glamorous stretch of beach is world-known and is a great place for lunch. Head to Beach Place, and choose from a number of great eateries, such as Lulu's Bait Shack, Fat Tuesday and Hooters. Or splurge a bit at Haagen Dazs. There's plenty of parking on the property for a few dollars, so relax and enjoy the food and the people watching.
But the day's not over. Climb aboard the Jungle Queen Riverboat for a sightseeing cruise unlike any other. Cruise up the New River, past Millionaire's Row and downtown Fort Lauderdale and into the Everglades. Then, enjoy a stopover at the Jungle Queen Indian Village, a tropical island environment with macaws, rare plants and birds and even alligator wrestling. Reservations are required.
Welcome home. You're settled in and have taken a brief tour of the area, so now it's time to say good-bye to the family, hit the books and focus on grades. But don't be surprised when Dad and Mom come back to visit - or even to stay!