Once upon a time, one could look down the road along Fort Lauderdale beach and inland along U.S. 1 and see flat land and the occasional scrubby palmetto as far as the eye could see. Now villages meld into adjoining towns, towns into cities, suburbs into each other and the entire county has become one sprawling megalopolis that stretches from the sea to the Everglades and from the northern border of Miami to the southern border of Palm Beach and beyond.
South of Fort Lauderdale is Hollywood, which has a small but significantly entertaining downtown area built around one of the several big traffic circles that characterize the city. Thanks to a redevelopment project that beautified downtown streets with intriguing architectural touches, trees and flowers, downtown Hollywood has become a popular. Restaurants like
Not far away, the tiny town of Dania, founded by tomato farmers, has left its farms behind and is best known for a street lined on both sides by dozens of antique shops brimming with an eclectic array of collectibles. Parimutuel fans flock here to
Beach enthusiasts will find some of the region's most intriguing sands here, many of them tucked away behind forests of palms, pines and palmetto bushes. The standout is
Traveling north of Fort Lauderdale, one wanders through a series of small towns including Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, which pretty much describes this tiny town that is home to a cluster of small inns and a few seaside cafes. The 180-acre
Continuing northward, you pass through Deerfield Beach, home to a few small resorts, before you reach Boca Raton. Boca's love and lure is its historic and elegant
To the west of Fort Lauderdale lies a host of smaller cities that are the bedroom communities of the region, their residents working in municipalities throughout the area or in Miami. Among those are Sunrise, Plantation, Tamarac, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Coral Springs, Margate, Lauderdale Lakes, Davie—which is particularly proud of its farmland and celebrates it with Western-style architectural touches—and the newest town of them all, Weston, a developer's dream just minutes from the Everglades.
From the historic Museum of Discovery and Science to the serene Deerfield Island Park, Fort Lauderdale offers many attractions for visitors.
Museum of Discovery and Science Downtown Fort Lauderdale is home to the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and the Museum of Discovery and Science. Browse the offerings at Pocock Fine Art & Antiques, then have dinner at Reed's River House.
Stranahan House Explore the many fine galleries located downtown. The New River Gallery, the Seldom Seen Gallery and the Beaux Arts Galleries are three of the best. Tour Stranahan House, the city's oldest home, then dine at Mango's Restaurant & Lounge.
Old Fort Lauderdale Village & Museum Stroll through the historic Old Fort Lauderdale Village & Museum, then picnic at Bubier Park and visit Wyland Galleries. Have dinner at Indigo or Jackson's Steak House.
Old Dillard Art and Cultural Museum In North Fort Lauderdale, visit the Old Dillard Art and Cultural Museum, the Mills Pond Park and Deerfield Island Park. Grab lunch at Old Vienna, then go to Butterfly World in Tradewinds Park.
Sunshine Cathedral Tour the Sunshine Cathedral, cool off at Paradise Cove Water Playground or hit the links at Raintree Golf Resort. When you're through, dine at Blue Water Restaurant & Bar or Ronieri's Restaurant.
Go snorkeling, take a deep sea fishing trip or take a ride in a helicopter; there are many ways to see Fort Lauderdale.
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Florida's Gold Coast, of which Fort Lauderdale is such an integral part, is proof that contemporary alchemy exists.
Seven decades ago, what is now seductive sands, swaying sea oats and glittering hotels and condominiums was palmetto scrub and swampland. Along these sands, only the occasional beached sailor and the fabled barefoot mailman strode.
Many generations ago, the Abaniki tribe of Native Americans lived beside the sea here, followed generations later by pirates who awaited an opportunity to attack Spanish galleons heading home from Central America, loaded with gold.
Some didn't just await an opportunity—they created it. Early entrepreneurs called 'wreckers' lured ships onto the spiky shoreline stones that gave Boca Raton, which translates loosely to 'rat's mouth', its unglamorous Spanish name, a salute to the rocks' resemblance to rat's teeth. Wreckers had a pretty easy job of it, however as hurricanes and inadequate navigational aids sent many a ship to a watery death. So often did this happen, in fact, that the locals often went to church to pray not only for booty, but for specific booty, designed to meet the need of the moment. So handsomely were some prayers answered that a massive party went on for days in Boca Raton when a Spanish shipwreck produced hundreds of barrels of sherry.
The wreckers were such a demanding crowd that, by the late 1800s, they were accusing shipowners of sending out worthless cargo to collect insurance money. Audacity like that is nothing new in these climes, where some of the nation's most flamboyant characters have made miracles and millions, trading on pride and sunny circumstances.
One of these characters was long-ailing architect Addison Mizner, who rode railroad entrepreneur Henry Flagler's train to Palm Beach to swim in healing sunshine. He ended up swimming in millions of dollars, happily paid by those who commissioned him to build massive homes along the Gold Coast. Palm Beach and Boca Raton soon became the stronghold of Addison's flashy 'Bastard-Spanish-Moorish-Romanesque-Gothic-Renaissance-Bull Market- Damn-the-Expense' architectural style.
In 1925, he created Boca's Cloisters Hotel, which stands still as part of a massive resort complex. He created the Breakers Hotel. He created Palm Beach's toney Worth Avenue. He created half of Palm Beach, at least, and what he didn't create, others created by copying his embellished style.
No shrinking violets when it came to promotion, he and his cronies lured the famed and infamous of the day, perfecting an enduring technique Mizner called, 'Get the big snobs, and the little ones will follow'.
Mizner's boom spread southward to Fort Lauderdale and environs, where canny characters salted the seaside with 'pirate gold' to lure buyers who already were pouring USD2 million a week into Mizner's sales coffers. So wildly farcical and often felonious did it all become that Boca Raton earned the nickname Beaucoup Rotten.
While this investors' feeding frenzy was luring wealth-seekers to the Gold Coast, down in Fort Lauderdale, a young man named Frank Stranahan was seeking his fortune in the sunshine along the city's New River. There he opened a general store and built a ferryboat to sail Miami-bound travelers across the river. To his humble home and store, which still stands, Seminoles paddled downstream from the marshes. They would sleep over on his porch before beginning the upstream return. Later, boarders of a more conventional nature slept in his extra rooms. When a young teacher named Ivy arrived, he married her, and the town of Fort Lauderdale, named for Maj. William Lauderdale, who had once commanded a fort on the site, was born.
All the bubbles burst when the Depression spread its depressing tentacles across the nation, but at least Addison Mizner sunk into fiscal gloom with characteristic style. Mizner sold a barren plot of land to an entrepreneur, whose efforts to grow coconuts failed miserably. The buyer sued Mizner, claiming he had been told he could "grow nuts" on the land. 'Oh no', Mizner responded to the judge, 'I told him you could go nuts on the land'.
In the years that followed, some went nuts, some went broke, but as the decades passed, the lure of year-round sun, sparkling sea and swaying palms proved irresistible to buyers.
That booms continued—and continues—as Fort Lauderdale became Greater Fort Lauderdale, encompassing a host of smaller urban areas stretching from the southern border of Palm Beach to the northern edge of Miami, luring thousands to a golden coastline that has become one of the nation's best-loved sunspots.
Whether you want to view the ocean and hear early morning waves breaking along Fort Lauderdale's famous beach, relax in luxury amid serene Everglades preserves on its western borders, or anything in between, there's a wide variety of accommodations to fit every comfort, style and budget.
Along the Intracoastal Waterway at Port Everglades where cruise ships abound, the Hyatt Regency at Pier 66, an established landmark since 1959, has a revolving lounge at the top and 142 boat slips at its marina. The Fort Lauderdale Marina Marriott, or the Embassy Suites Fort Lauderdale offer luxurious accommodations, all close to the Convention Center, shopping and restaurants near downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Just south of Fort Lauderdale proper is the landmark Hollywood Beach Resort, a famed 1920's grand hotel, now a condominium located right on the beach. The boardwalk is filled with strollers and skaters as well as with many shops, cafes and restaurants with umbrella shaded tables. There's plenty of entertainment and nightlife right outside your door. Also on the south beach area close to local attractions, you'll find the Clarion Hotel Hollywood Beach.
North Beach Area
If you prefer apartment style lodging, there are many large, furnished units such as the Ocean Terrace Suites, Tropic Isle Beach Resort, and the Pelican Beach Resort. Near the famous downtown shopping along famous Las Olas Blvd, one and two bedroom accommodations can also be found at the Banyan Marina Apartments.
Many places to stay in the Fort Lauderdale area are comfortable but unpretentious, offering simple amenities, but are close to attractions and the beach, such as the Oceanside Inn and the Ronny Dee Resort Motel. Just north of Fort Lauderdale on the beach is the Plaza Hotel and Resort, offering many conveniences such as coffeemaker, hair dryer, and data port. Also, the Best Inn Polynesian Hotel is a beautiful resort close to attractions, shopping and the beach. When a charming bed and breakfast is your desire near the downtown area, the Caribbean Quarters and the Ocean Hacienda Inn.
For older and smaller beach accommodations near Fort Lauderdale Beach with only a few rooms, but the draw is a multilingual staff, stay at Three Suns Motel, A Little Inn by-the-Sea, Jasmin Villa Motel or Estoril Paradise Inn Motel.
Along the western edge of the Everglades boundary about ten miles from the international airport, is the Coral Springs Wellesley Inn, or the Wyndham Resort and Spa with its championship golf courses and clay court tennis, not to mention a dazzling tropical garden complete with swans and waterfalls. They offer luxurious seclusion from the fast-paced world to the east, but with easy access to major highways to get right back in. The Sawgrass Mills, a shopper's paradise and one of the largest outlets in the United States with over 250 stores, is only a few minutes away.
Accommodations just southwest of the downtown area near the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, you'll find the Sheraton Suites Plantation, adjacent to the Fashion Mall, a two-tiered enclosed shopping center, the Sunrise Hilton, and the Fort Lauderdale Airport Hilton. Although they are chain hotels, they offer busy travelers convenient lodging with excellent amenities, close to main highways, attractions, shopping and restaurants.