One thing everyone seems to know about Florida is that it’s the perfect place to vacation – but the truly amazing thing about Florida (other than that trademark sunshine) is that a Florida vacation means something different to just about anyone you ask. For some, the first thing to come to mind is a hammock, a secluded pristine beach, and piña colada in the Florida Keys. To others, it’s roller coasters, great dining, and the inescapable magic you can only find in Orlando. To others still, it’s mornings on South Beach, nights at the best clubs and dancing with friends (or sexy strangers) in Miami. The diversity of possibilities that constitute what a Florida vacation can be are far too varied for me to list here. But, once you’re there (anywhere in Florida), waking up to Florida sunshine that first morning has got to be one of the best ways to start a holiday! Now it’s easier than ever to plan your trip with the Florida getaway mini vacay hub on Expedia. It features Florida destinations and trip ideas that users can easily bundle and book for a quick getaway.
Fortunately, I was invited by the Florida Tourism board to hop on a flight anywhere in the Sunshine State for a quick getaway. I was thinking about tapping into my inner Danika Patrick and checking out Daytona, but I really wanted 3 things out of my quick four day vacay: First, I wanted to choose somewhere unique. Somewhere different. Somewhere that your mind doesn’t instantly think, “typical Florida vacation,” when you hear it. Second, I wanted a place that offers a tremendous variety of excursions and activities. Third, one of those activities needed to be beautiful beaches (I wasn’t going to go to Florida and not hit the beach). After looking into it, Fort Lauderdale looked more and more like the place I was looking for.
Sure, people know Fort Lauderdale. I knew Fort Lauderdale. It has an airport and a harbor where you can leave from on a cruise. But the more I looked into it, the more Fort Lauderdale looked like the perfect sleeper city for my getaway. The city is vibrant and has more than enough to compliment its stellar beaches. It’s closer and has easier access to Florida’s incredible Everglades Wildlife preserve than Miami, and you have the benefits of staying in a real city, unlike the Keys. That’s what I was looking for; Beaches, City Luxury, and interesting excursions and wildlife.
Fort Lauderdale is really a city on the rise, so if you can, get in on the action now! First, it’s a breeze to fly into (Uber pickup is super convenient – no walking half a mile to a pickup spot or waiting in a 40 minute line for a cab). Once you’re there, fun is around every corner. Just basking in the sunshine with the beautiful palm trees swaying in the ocean breeze is enough to bring a smile to just about anyone. But, if that isn’t enough, Fort Lauderdale is full of hot new restaurants that are sure to rival any other city’s celebrity chef-helmed cuisine, high-end shopping, nature preservations, everglades tours, stunning beaches, and the development of luxury hotels and residences that could soon rival Palm Beach’s elite real estate offerings (like I said, if you can, get in now!). Also, its great location (South of Palm Beach and North of Miami) almost begs you to jump on Expedia and grab a rental car – preferably a convertible so you can get a tan while you drive, top down music blasting, and explore all south Florida has to offer.
I recently spent 4 days based in Fort Lauderdale, and, while I could have spent four weeks and still not been able to see and explore everything I wanted to, I’ve compiled a list of what I was able to enjoy.
If there is one thing that Florida is famous for, it is the world class beaches that stretch the entire length of the State’s legendary Atlantic Coast. Hitting the beach is a must when visiting the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, which has twenty-three miles of sweet sandy shores divided into 8 separate beaches, each with its own unique vibe, but all serving as your gateway to the inviting blue ocean waters. The beaches are lined with waterfront hotels and an array of restaurants with oceanfront patios. Grab a frisbee or a surfboard, pack a picnic or dine along the boardwalk – however you decide to beach, do you, (maybe you’re one of those people who can actually just sit still and bask in the glorious Florida sunshine, unlike me). Make sure not to miss out on Fort Lauderdale’s beach scene!
I remember watching Dexter and thinking to myself, “if this show wasn’t about a vigilante and murders, it could easily be an amazing piece about Florida’s wildlife.” From that moment, I’ve always wanted to visit the Everglades, and I’m happy to report that not only is it a wildlife sanctuary unlike any you’ve ever seen, but it is also vigilante free. I recommend going on a Ranger led tour, as I doubt that you’d be able to fully appreciate the park and the work that has gone into its preservation without one. I purchased a tour to the Sawgrass Recreation Park on Expedia (for 23 dollars), and I was not disappointed, so those on a budget can still really enjoy this interesting pocket of American wildlife! A short 30 minute drive in our rental car and we arrived in the hopes to catch a glimpse of some alligators (and glimpse we did!). With your trusty Ranger guide you’ll be sure to be kept safe, considering that alligators can grow to almost 15 feet and swim up to 20 miles an hour, both facts that I learned on my tour – because knowing that beforehand may have had me second guessing my Everglades excursion. But, I’m so glad I went and would do it again in a heartbeat! Once aboard our airboat, our captain, named Captain Disco, zipped us through the marshes, and it felt like we were discovering these beautiful and mysterious landscapes for the first time. I still kept my eye on the prize in the search for an alligator and we saw three in our short 30 minute tour! All in all, an experience not to miss.
Stretching more than ten blocks, Las Olas Boulevard is a shopper’s paradise, visitors stroll streets lined with towering palm trees and shop in one of the seventy-five boutiques, stores, art galleries and museums. You can then dine at one of over thirty restaurants. While this was not my first time visiting Las Olas Blvd., I find something new every time. Walking from where we parked, I saw this adorable vespa, and, me being me, said, “Well, this is a perfect instagram photo.” I then ventured onto the path behind the vespa and found this adorable restaurant, called Louie Bossis, where we had gelato and delicious pizza. Las Olas is full of these hidden gems, as well as tried and true brand name stores so you get the best of both worlds.
Ride the Bolt
One of the greatest ways to explore a new place is on two wheels. Having the freedom to go where you want, when you want is a great feeling. But, an electric scooter is not something many are accustomed to (at least not me), though they can be quite a thrill, as well as nostalgic a la pee wee herman! These scooters are super accessible – all you need to do is download the Bolt app and hop on. The scooters can be “unlocked” via the app for just one dollar, with each minute of a ride costing 15 cents.
Grab A Bike
If scooters are not for you, that’s ok! Fort Lauderdale is basically a biking town, motorized or otherwise, so there’s no better way to explore it than by grabbing a bike by the handles. The AvMed program offers locals and visitors bikes at a reasonable hourly rate. Just grab a bike and ride it until your time runs out, then dock it, hop on another and you’re good to go! This is a great way to get from place to place in the Florida sun. There are even a couple of guided bike tours by the beach if you feel like tagging along with a group.
Explore The Food Scene
While I consider myself a foodie, most of my friends won’t call me one mainly due to my picky eating habits. I do, however, always love to explore the food scene wherever I visit. I may not be Julia Roberts in My Best Friend’s Wedding (she’s a food critic in the movie and it just popped on my TV like right now, so shout out to late 90’s romcoms) but I definitely like trying things out and know that Fort Lauderdale has some really good cuisine that you more traditional foodies will probably appreciate far more than I was able to.
Lanterns made in Mexico and an eclectic collection of masks adorn this Fort Lauderdale hotspot, which serves up table side guac and fish tacos any way you like them – blackened, grilled, or fried (or if you’re me, one of each). Also for this future bride trying to watch her physique (I feel like if I keep saying I’m watching my physique, eventually I’ll actually start to), swap out the tortilla for a lettuce wrap taco. Am I on Atkins now? Come back late night and you just may catch Rocco himself, who owns all six Florida locations and a newly opened Brooklyn outpost, donning the white platforms that hang above the bar to do his famous “tequila dance.”
I stumbled upon this gem, when meandering through the parking lot, trying to find the shops of Las Olas. Let me just say this is an Instagrammer’s photo heaven! I was lured in by the picture perfect vespa, but the food was the best part. The pizzas are made in a wood burning pizza oven and their pastas are made in house from scratch. The restaurant also has an in house bakery, so all pastries, gelato, breads, and cookies are homemade daily. They also offer locally brewed beers and house made cocktails on tap.
Try Your Luck
Whether you are a high roller or you just want to toss a few nickels in the slots, you can do both at the Hard Rock. Wow your friends with a tale of how you won it all—and then lost it all—on one magical night in Fort Lauderdale. The Hard Rock Seminole Casino boasts tons of shops, live music (check their calendar of events), lots of dining options, and if you go during the day, a pool with a water slide, and tiki bar.
What did we miss?
If I were to do this vacation again, and I plan on it, I would definitely venture out to see more…
Here’s a list of more places within Fort Lauderdale that we didn’t cover, each with a link where you can get more information.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Museum of Discovery and Science
International Swimming Hall of Fame
NSU Art Museum
Antique Car Museum
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Galleria Mall at Fort Lauderdale
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