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What Is Fort Lauderdale Known For?
It’s hard to think of Fort Lauderdale as anything other than warm weather, relaxing sandy beaches, and clear ocean water waiting for sunbathers and swimmers alike to enjoy the scene. Although Fort Lauderdale still offers this experience to travelers, it has developed into a mecca for the more sophisticated traveler in the last thirty years. What is Fort Lauderdale known for?
Fort Lauderdale is known for its laid-back beaches, historic riverfront, city canals, fantastic museums, mesmerizing nightlife, and fantastic shopping. It’s known as the Venice of America and the World’s Yachting Capital. The city also hosts the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in October.
Read on to learn more about what exactly Fort Lauderdale is known for and what makes this city the perfect place to vacation, retire, or raise a family. We’ll review the following Fort Lauderdale destinations:
- Pristine beaches
- Yachting opportunities
- Historic riverfront
- Outstanding food options
- Exciting nightlife
- Venice of America experiences
Fort Lauderdale’s Pristine Beaches
When it comes to beach life, Fort Lauderdale has something for everyone. There are many beaches to choose from within the city, and they all offer white sand and clear water. One thing Fort Lauderdale is known for, though, is having a beach for everyone because each one is different, ranging from busy and fun-filled to quieter and family-friendly to a deserted island feel relaxing beach.
You just have to know what type of beach day you want, and then the choice is easy. Here’s a look at Fort Lauderdale’s most pristine beaches worth visiting on vacation:
- Hugh Taylor Birch State Park – is one of the most peaceful beaches in Fort Lauderdale. Though the beach is popular with swimmers and sunbathers, many primitive tent campers enjoy the location because it offers scenic hiking and biking trails along with canoe rentals. There’s even an underground tunnel that leads to a section of Fort Lauderdale Beach.
- Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park – is a different ocean experience from the typical tourist beach. This park calls nature lovers to come canoe or kayak in the brackish waters or hike along the mangrove trails. The park advertises itself as “the last example of an undeveloped ecosystem in Broward County.”
- Fort Lauderdale Beach Park – is a pristine oceanfront park that offers a non-motorized boat ramp, basketball and volleyball courts, restrooms, outdoor showers, and a picnic area. Of course, sunbathers and swimmers are welcome, but there’s a lot of activity on this beach.
- Fort Lauderdale Beach – is separate from the park, and it likely has the whitest sand in America. Like most of Fort Lauderdale, it offers something for everyone. The old standbys of swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing are favorites, and the beach has some of Fort Lauderdale’s best shops and restaurants just steps from the beach. Fort Lauderdale Beach’s only drawback is that there are no public restrooms.
- Lauderdale by the Sea – is five miles outside of Fort Lauderdale and is known as Florida’s Beach Diving Capital. Divers and snorkelers, young and old, enjoy this location because of the three-tiered coral reefs just 100 yards (300 feet) off-shore. Another unique feature of this beach is the long pier that beckons anglers and photographers alike. It’s also a mecca for music lovers and is quite pedestrian-friendly.
- North Ocean Park – this beach is known for being the windiest of all of Fort Lauderdale’s beaches. It’s 12 mi (19.31 km) north of Fort Lauderdale, and it’s where kitesurfers like to gather. Parking is limited, which is why many visitors may not frequent this beach, but if you’re looking for something more private or want to experience wind sports, North Ocean Park is worth visiting.
Fort Lauderdale’s Yachting Opportunities
From 1960 – 1980, Fort Lauderdale had a reputation as one of America’s hottest Spring Break locations. College students from all parts of the US came to visit these pristine beaches to wind down from a challenging semester of learning, make friends, and create long-lasting memories.
Although many still travel to Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break, Broward County started a revitalization project in the Eighties that priced many Spring Breakers out of any Fort Lauderdale vacation. Today, the area is geared more toward wealthy Americans looking for family vacations and world travelers craving a place to launch their yacht.
Some residents lament the Fort Lauderdale changes and the fact that a more sophisticated population with expensive tastes replaced Spring Breakers. However, the town prospered so much that Fort Lauderdale became known as the Yachting Capital of America.
With over 300 mi (482.81 km) of inland waterways and already being home to two of the most prominent cruise lines in America, Fort Lauderdale seemed destined to make this change. Currently, over 50,000 yachts are registered in Fort Lauderdale, and it’s home to the largest boat show in the World, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which will be held this year from October 27 – 31.
The yachting industry offers much to the Fort Lauderdale area in terms of employment for residents, and it provides tourists another way to see the area. Charting a yacht allows tourists to experience the sea from the sea rather than on land. Groups can rent yachts for an entire day or just half of a day and cruise the Fort Lauderdale ocean in style.
Popular places for yacht rental companies in Fort Lauderdale include:
- Anchor – This company rents boats and yachts for individuals, couples, and groups of up to 40 passengers.
- Charterlux – This company rents yachts for the day, and it also does destination cruises. Charterlux’s focus is to allow patrons to host and experience a yacht party, a dinner cruise, or a destination vacation that meets their highest expectations.
- Fort Lauderdale Yacht Rentals – is another company that offers yacht rentals by the day, and they also provide chartered yacht cruises for destination vacations like the Bahamas.
Fort Lauderdale’s Historic Riverwalk
Fort Lauderdale beaches are some of the prettiest in America, and they’re worth seeing. But the town has much more to offer tourists and residents alike than swimming, sunbathing, and sandcastles. Riverwalk, for example, has come to be known as Fort Lauderdale’s birthplace, and no trip to Fort Lauderdale will be complete without a visit to this location with its tropical landscape and magnificent shopping areas.
The Riverwalk area is called “Florida’s most beautiful mile,” and although it’s only a mile long, it’s the place to go for community events, shopping, and entertainment. Each year, one of the most popular events is the Riverwalk Fall Festival, a free event with a carnival-like atmosphere, complete with games, competitions, entertainment, and food trucks on site.
While the festival happens once each year, another popular event is the Jazz Brunch, a year-long event. On the first Sunday of every month, residents and tourists bring their lawn chairs, blankets, and picnic lunches and enjoy a morning of local jazz music.
There’s a Riverwalk calendar of events online, but it only lists events that occur over a one or two-day span. Residents know that Historic Riverwalk is also a place for ongoing presentations, exhibits, and other events, and most are free and open to the public. Some of those events include outdoor viewings of popular movies, color runs for charity, and various community brunches.
Fort Lauderdale’s Outstanding Food Options
Like any beach town, Fort Lauderdale has a glowing reputation for its delicious seafood. Few places will equal the grouper or shrimp dishes that Fort Lauderdale chefs create.
Some of the most popular restaurants in Fort Lauderdale include:
- Coconuts Waterside Grill – is known for its Sunday yacht shows. Patrons can order grouper, shrimp, oysters, or even alligators and watch extravagant yachts sail by. For land-lovers, they also serve steak and other cuisines. Don’t forget to order from their incredible cocktail menu.
- Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill – is the place to go if you are looking for a mouth-watering cheeseburger. This family-owned restaurant always has a family member on-site to greet hungry guests.
- Tropical Acres Steakhouse – is another family-owned restaurant and has been in business since 1949. It remains a local favorite both for its food and for its atmosphere. This upscale restaurant is famous for its Signature Sirloin and its Cowboy steak.
- La Dolce Vita – is an Italian restaurant and wine bar located in the center of Fort Lauderdale’s historical and art district. All pasta is made by hand, and their dishes are the definitions of comfort food.
- Canyon Southwest Cafe – offers a “New American” cuisine with Latin inspiration. They serve local Floridian favorites and offer new dishes such as filet mignon served with fresh guacamole.
For more exciting food options in Fort Lauderdale check out this food guide on Amazon.
Fort Lauderdale’s Exciting Nightlife
It’s hard to imagine having energy for nightlife after participating in all that Fort Lauderdale is known for during the day; however, the nightlife is even more exciting than the activities available during the day.
According to USA Today, some of the best places to experience Fort Lauderdale’s nightlife are:
- YOLO (You Only Live Once) – is a restaurant and lounge located in Downtown Fort Lauderdale on Las Olas. The establishment beckons all foodies and is also considered the center of social life in Fort Lauderdale.
- Blue Martini – is an upscale bar located on Sunrise Blvd. They host nightly entertainment and live music and, of course, serve martinis. They also have appetizers and some specialty dishes and desserts that receive rave reviews.
- Casablanca Cafe – is a unique piano bar and restaurant. The two-story Spanish house that was converted to the cafe was the first home constructed in Fort Lauderdale, and it remains the oldest structure there. The ambiance is like no other, and with its gourmet menu of American and Mediterranean food, this oceanfront cafe is an experience residents and tourists will want to repeat.
- Kalahari Bar – is an authentic South African bar where many patrons go as much to have an authentic African experience as they do to enjoy the food and drinks. The bar is decorated with authentic masks, art, and tools and has an enormous collection of sports memorabilia on display. Whether it’s weekend karaoke or weeknight sporting events, this bar provides patrons with imported beer and wine.
- Lulu’s Bait Shack – This bar and restaurant is located in the Beach Place complex, and it specializes in Cajun Cuisine. Lulu’s is the place to find delectable appetizers, tantalizing soups, and various seafood dishes and sandwiches. Lulu’s also has live entertainment each evening.
Fort Lauderdale’s Venice of America Experiences
Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America because of the 300 mi (482.81 km) of inland waterways in the area. Over half of those waterways flow throughout the city of Fort Lauderdale, and city engineers have capitalized on these unique “roadways” by incorporating water taxis and gondola rides into Fort Lauderdale’s transportation system.
If you want to travel Fort Lauderdale’s waterways, try:
- Water Taxi Transportation – This option is a unique way for most Americans to travel. Companies like Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi operate on the water the same way taxis operate in New York City, but they do it on a grander scale. These taxis take you from stores to museums and restaurants while providing a narrated tour of Fort Lauderdale. As a bonus, they offer beer, cocktails, and soft drinks below deck.
- Gondola Rides – Another way to see Fort Lauderdale is by taking a gondola ride along the New River. These vessels are authentic Venetian gondolas, and professional gondoliers take passengers on tours of luxurious homes and green spaces. Companies like Las Olas Gondola specialize in providing these tours. They offer sunset and full moon cruises that make this ride a romantic night to remember.
Whether you are searching for a couple’s getaway or a family vacation, you cannot go wrong in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. From pristine beaches to the historic riverwalk, everyone finds peace and tranquility in the sea’s beauty and the history of the riverwalk area.
Visitors also visit Fort Lauderdale to enjoy yachting since it’s the Yachting Capital of the World. Whether they’re new or experienced sailors, most enjoy traveling by water taxi or gondola in what’s now affectionately known as the Venice of America.
If you’re planning a trip to Fort Lauderdale check out this guide to the reefs in the area on Amazon.
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