Fort Lauderdale, with its well-known strip of beaches, restaurants, bars and shops, has undergone a major transformation. Once famous (or infamous) for the annual mayhem it hosted during spring break, the Florida city now attracts a more affluent, better behaved crowd. Its 300 miles of navigable waterways and innumerable canals permit thousands of residents to anchor boats in their backyards. On land, institutions like the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale and Museum of Discovery & Science give the city cultural resonance.
Things to Do
Plan to spend at least an afternoon or evening cruising the Fort Lauderdale waterways by water taxi. Stroll the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk for a people-watching parade of young hipsters, big families and skaters and for rows of tacky souvenir shops, game rooms and snack bars. Head to peaceful Fort Lauderdale Beach to sun and swim in the unusually clear waters or hike the nature trails at Lloyd Beach. Get in 18 holes of golf at Emerald Hills or see multicolored sponges on a dive off Pompano Beach.
Malls surround Fort Lauderdale, but the best shopping is within the city. Bargain hunters scavenge the off-brand shoes, bags and jewelry in the "fashion" stores on Hallandale Beach Boulevard. Hollywood Boulevard offers everything from Indonesian artifacts to used and rare books, leather bustiers and handmade hats. Called the antiques capital of the South, Dania boasts more than 100 dealers selling collectibles and fine antiques within one square mile. For upscale boutiques, browse the only beachfront mall, The Gallery at Beach Place.
Nightlife and Entertainment
Fort Lauderdale is slowly shedding its image as a raucous college party town of beer guzzlers and starting to attract a savvier clientele in search of something less lowbrow. While South Beach is hip and hopping, Fort Lauderdale has vastly improved the quality of its nightlife by welcoming earthy and sophisticated bars and clubs, especially downtown on Las Olas Boulevard. If you're looking for a quiet night out, you'll find a few low-key bars and lounges in Hollywood.
Restaurants and Dining
It took a while for a more varied epicurean scene to reach these shores, but Fort Lauderdale finally has several fine restaurants. Spurred on by luxury hotels and restaurant upgrades, ethnic options now join the legions of surf-and-turf joints in Pompano Beach and downtown. Las Olas Boulevard has so many eateries, from fusion and southwestern to Caribbean and seafood, that it's impossible to go hungry.