Exotic Wildlife of South Florida — Photo courtesy of sunny.org
Fort Lauderdale has a presence all its own. It is legendary and its name alone invokes exciting visions of vacations, endless beaches, boating, exotic wildlife, fishing, fun in the sun, beautiful waterways, million-dollar yachts and mansions – in essence, the good life.
A visitor's very first stay in the Venice of America is always exciting. Expectations are high, and whether it's for business or pleasure or even to relocate, getting acclimated quickly is really very easy. Arriving here by car, plane, private boat or cruise ship need not leave the first-timer feeling overwhelmed.
Fort Lauderdale and its surrounding metropolitan area is home to a stellar list of five-star and luxury hotels, as well as quaint guesthouses and affordable accommodations. Lining the beaches and the waterways and scattered conveniently throughout the city are such properties as The Ritz-Carlton, The W, The Hilton, The Sheraton, Holiday Inn and many locally-owned hotels that make any vacation or business stay comfortable and welcoming.
The Venice of America — Photo courtesy of Dale Mack
Once settled, the first priority is the beach and the fabulous waterways. This portion of the gleaming Florida coastline is home to the beaches that movies are made of. From the very north end of Broward County with the family-friendly and calming Dania Beach. Further south is the beautiful Hillsboro Beach and continuing down A1A, the very glitzy Fort Lauderdale Beach. For a natural setting, John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach is the perfect destination. For a day of playing on the beach and being steps away from great shops and boutiques and delectable eateries, then Hollywood Beach must be on the list.
Sawgrass Mills — Photo courtesy of Dale Mack
The second most popular activity for visitors is shopping. From the very high-end and upscale is Las Olas Boulevard with its unique shops and boutiques to the very popular Galleria just steps from Fort Lauderdale Beach. Here, such names as Neiman Marcus, Dillard's, Banana Republic and Williams-Sonoma await the eager shopper with discriminating taste. For discount shopping at its finest, head west to Sawgrass Mills, which proudly holds the title as being the second most popular tourist attraction in the state of Florida after Disney World. With names such as Barney's of New York, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Target and Marshalls, this is worthy of a full day's stay.
Stranahan House — Photo courtesy of sunny.org
But don't stop there. Fort Lauderdale is a historical city of great fascination. A first trip here should involve a stop at one or more of these interactive museums that have been painstakingly preserved to offer visitors a true sense of the city's history in a fun and inspirational way. The Bonnet House, just steps from the beach, is an amazing display of the early settlers' lives. This amazing house and garden is captivating and a true escape into early 20th century South Florida.
The Stranahan House and Museum, in the middle of the city's gleaming downtown, is a must-visit. Being the oldest house in Broward County, come and learn this museum's story and gain a tremendous amount of knowledge, and even respect for the early settlers and what became of their remote outpost (and yes, you will wonder how these pioneers ever lived here without air conditioning!).
A first trip to Fort Lauderdale must also involve the sizzling nightlife that abounds. From the legendary and historical beachside Elbo Room to the many stops along Las Olas Boulevard such as Mangos and to the very hot alternative dance club Revolution downtown, get ready for a late night!
This city is a vibrant and sizzling metropolitan area that draws millions each year. The first time is a wide-eyed experience that will probably not be the last time.