You’ve got one day to enjoy the city of Ft. Lauderdale. That’s 24 hours, and the choices are fabulous. Much more than a laid-back beach destination, this city rocks a terrific food, shopping and culture scene. Plus, the weather is sublime, so pack your flip-flops and your Manolos, and let’s get going.
After touchdown at MIA, grab a ride to a hotel on A1A along the coast, close to Las Olas Boulevard. Yes, the room is sumptuous, but get out of your city clothes and put on something worthy of sunshine and relaxation, then head out for a peek at some iconic Ft. Lauderdale landmarks.
First on the agenda is a beach walk. Slip off the Havaianas, and go get your feet wet. Then check for the majestic cruise ships steaming out to sea from Port Everglades. Get a little fix on the rhythm of the waves, let out a complete exhale, then pick up camp and head out for a nice little drive.
One could live on the views alone from Highway 1 to Las Olas Blvd. Admittedly, the visuals are outstanding, but there’s so much more than meets the eye. From the beach to the bistros, Las Olas Blvd. greets you with a friendly mix of old and new.
Heading east on Las Olas over the bridge, you’ll pass neighborhoods on the intracoastal waterway, with yachts as big as houses pulling at their lines on the docks. You’ll know when you get to the center of Las Olas when you feel the heartbeat, alive with shopping, dining, galleries and high-rise condominiums that draw an eclectic, upscale crowd. It’s simply perfect for people watching. It’s not the conspicuous glitz of Miami, nor the conservative opulence of Palm Beach, but a stylish, accessible version of the Florida lifestyle. Tons of outdoor dining options make it ever more intriguing and interactive. While you can shop just about anywhere, for something gorgeous and unique, Las Olas is the place for art, jewelry, fashion and food.
After your Las Olas excursion, head back to A1A for a little Florida culture and history. No stuffy museums here, but an unusual view of vintage Florida lifestyle beckons from the Bonnet House. This 1920 estate preserves 35 acres of Florida’s natural habitat in its gardens. The property offers a glimpse of what elegant winter homes looked like as
Florida attracted its first snowbirds. The family of Chicago hardware heir Frederic Clay Bartlett shares a rare vision of ecology, art, nature and history in one package. Guides and golf carts are good options, but nothing beats walking the grounds to be enveloped in the elegant story.
Another landmark worth your time is the ship-shaped Yankee Clipper Hotel. Once independent, this truly unique seaside resort has recently been refreshed by a modern hotel group. The Wreck Bar, with its underwater views of the pool enjoyed by many a celebrity, still proves a delightful stereotype of old Florida allure with a nautical theme.
Are you ready for lunch? Folks in Ft. Lauderdale use boats like most people use cars. Your day should be no different! Find a boat. Any boat. Then head toward a great raw bar for lunch. Locals prefer the iconic Cap’s Place, Bimini Boatyard, Southport Raw Bar and Shooters, but some newer, flashier destinations such as Grille 66 or Billy’s Stone Crab are also good bets for sampling Florida seafood. And of course, there is always the option of going out and catching your own.
If you have the time, a game-fishing trip here is nothing short of fabulous. Check the Florida Sportsman online forums for some good recommendations. The fishing in Ft. Lauderdale is some of the best in the world, so you will simply have to come back to catch the one that got away, or maybe change your plans and stay an extra day (okay, maybe two).
After lunch, zip over to Everglades National Park for a peek at the abundant alligators along the Shark Valley bike and pedestrian path. You’ll also be rewarded with an orchestra of beautiful birds, posing for pictures throughout the park. Or, if you spent too much time shopping Las Olas, you can opt to head over to the close-in, free-flight Flamingo Gardens for your wildlife fix with an emphasis on pink.
It’s five o’clock somewhere, and probably time for a sundowner. Hire a boat or sign up for a tour on the intracoastal or the New River. It’s a great way to see what this quiet Miami sister is all about. As the sun goes down, much of Ft. Lauderdale goes quiet, watching nature’s exquisite handiwork in full color. There are some hot nightspots, and if you want to pull out all the stops, head back to the Las Olas strip. It comes alive with a passion at night, with live music, dancing and a festive feel.
The real secret to a sublime stay in Ft. Lauderdale, however, is to simply enjoy some beach therapy. It’s why most people are here, and why you simply won’t want to leave.