When people think of Fort Lauderdale, they often think of the many miles of white sand beaches, the 300+ miles of inland navigable waterways and a sophisticated urban center. Residents and visitors cherish the year-round, sub-tropical weather, the amazing foliage and the fascinating wildlife. This is where people enjoy the outdoors, which makes the city ideal for a family walking tour.
Stranahan House — Photo courtesy of Stranahan House
Ready your gear
Plan a few hours for the tour. Wear good walking shoes, and bring a bottle of water and a camera (or a cell phone with a good camera).
Start out early. While South Florida's winters are beautiful and legendary, with temperatures in the mid-70s, summer weather tends to warm up considerably. It's not uncommon for temperatures to get into the upper 80s and sometimes low 90s.
Summer days also tend to be humid. An afternoon rain storm is the norm. A walking tour in summer is still a good idea, as long as you begin in the morning hours. Oh yea - and don't forget a handy umbrella.
Tour a historic house
Start with a historical tour of the Stranahan House, located right in the heart of downtown.
This fascinating house and museum was built on the shore of Middle River in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, who is credited as Fort Lauderdale's founding father. He and wife Ivy Comartie Stranahan, the area's first school teacher, lived in this home. Today, it is a testament to the city's founding and a priceless perspective on the area's growth into a modern urban center.
Pass by shops
A short walk north from the House is Las Olas Boulevard.
This famous street is the heartbeat of Fort Lauderdale's business and entertainment district, and the perfect trail for the walking tour. No shopping today, but a mental note of the shops and boutiques along the way to visit later won't be amiss.
Colee Hammock Park — Photo courtesy of Dale Mack
Watch boats and catch your breath
After walking eastbound on Las Olas Boulevard for four blocks, turn right (southbound) onto Tarpon Drive.
This pleasant street leads to a quiet neighborhood and Colee Hammock Park. This well-known, beautifully secluded and intimate setting makes an ideal rest stop, with its numberous park benches, scampering squirrels and priceless views.
Take a seat and a swig of water. Enjoy watching the avenue of boats, both large and small, personal and commercial, parade on the mansion-lined New River.
Get peace and quiet
After this respite, head to SW 15th Avenue, which is just across the street, east of Tarpon Drive.
This is another pleasant, shady and pedestrian-friendly street. It exemplifies a solitude that residents enjoy in contrast to the nearby downtown's bustling activity.
Grab a burger
At the end of this street and Las Olas Boulevard, just a couple of blocks away, is the very well-known eatery The Floridian.
This will make the perfect stop for lunch. This is one of those places that's not too fancy, but the walls are covered with celebrity pictures, and it's a Rachel Rae favorite.
Try one of their incredible salads or buffalo burgers, and insist on sitting outside for a little people watching.
The beautiful Las Olas Boulevard — Photo courtesy of Sunny.org
See palms and mansions
From there, continue heading west on Las Olas Boulevard towards the beach. It is several blocks and can be quite a good walk, but the views are priceless.
Palm trees line the boulevard and waterside mansions, many with their monstrous yachts moored just outside - and some almost as large as their house!
Have a drink
Nearing A1A is the end of the tour. A drink is well-deserved and waiting.
Try the world-famous Elbo Room at the northeast corner. Order a beer or a cocktail, sit back and gaze upon the glistening Atlantic Ocean. Just enjoy the playful atmosphere that this coastal city is known for.
The Elbo Room — Photo courtesy of Phillip Pessar