Laid-back Fort Lauderdale, known as “the Venice of America,” boasts not only beautiful beaches and sunshine but also an impressive network of 165 miles of inland waterways. Visitors can explore these canals by boat, gondola, kayak, or paddleboard, adding an extra dimension to the traditional South Florida experience. However, the city offers much more than just sand and sea. Fort Lauderdale is home to a flourishing art scene, featuring more than just street murals and trendy spots, and a diverse array of international dining options to appeal to locals and tourists alike.
Located a few steps from the beach, this maritime-themed resort builds upon the midcentury bones of the 1950s Escape Hotel, one of the first in Fort Lauderdale to have a private pool. Today’s upscale Kimpton Shorebreak adds a rooftop pool, swish interiors, and a refined signature Italian restaurant called La Fuga.
With bright rooms, meticulous-landscaped grounds, and a show-stopping courtyard pool overlooking Intracoastal Waterway, this intimate 18-key boutique recalls a friend’s characterful beach cottage—if your friend also had a private members club.
Fort Lauderdale is a casual town, but here’s one elegant spot you’ll want to gussy up for. The menu is brimming with classic Tuscan dishes passed down through generations of cooks; the wine list is extensive; and the service is top-notch. Don’t miss the tiramisu for dessert.
Although Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Sistrunk Marketplace is the first and largest food hall in Broward County, it’s so much more than a destination for global eats. The giant “lifestyle complex” is also home to a local brewery and small-batch spirits distillery, a DJ academy, a cooking class studio, and multiple art galleries.
At 35,000 square feet, Shooters Waterfront is the largest coastal restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, serving over half a million guests each year. Even though South Florida institution underwent a sleek top-to-bottom facelift in 2014, there’s still plenty of the easygoing vibes ethos from when it was founded in 1979.
Heritage was a fine-dining pioneer when it set up shop in emerging Flagler Village and continues to land on dozens of “best restaurant” lists every year since. While this makes scoring a weekend reservation a toughie, digging into the homemade pasta, fresh chopped salad, and pizza (with ten different varieties to choose from) is well worth the effort.
Helmed by celebrated chef Pablo Sales, the signature modern Mexican restaurant at The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort has a sprawling waterfront Tequila Terrace for sipping agave spirit-based cocktails—and filling up on killer tacos.
This vibey Polynesian-inspired lounge specializes in all-natural zero-proof kava drinks and exotic teas that reduce anxiety and elicit a relaxed mental state. Choose from one of the nearly dozen kava cocktails on the menu and pair it with flavored hookah.
A buzzy hub of culinary creativity and community spirit, “Fort Lauderdale’s Official Craft Beer Hangout” dishes up a vast library of over 650 craft beers, wines, and artisanal gastropub-style bites.
Retro dinner theater and boozy brunches have made this 1950s nautical-themed watering hole into something of a local legend. Yes, it’s kitschy, but where else in the world can you slurp a plate of pasta while mermaids perform underwater burlesque (and boylesque) through the pool’s porthole?
Fort Lauderdale’s premier gayborhood, nicknamed Island City, is the second gayest city in the country, with hundreds of LGBTQIA+-owned businesses concentrated along its main thoroughfare, Wilton Drive. “The Drive” is the place to be day or night, whether you’re shopping for retro candies at To The Moon Marketplace, enjoying brunch at Rosie’s Bar and Grill, or slinging back shots at gay bar Hunters.
The formerly seedy neighborhood of Flagler Village is now one of the most desirable in town, encompassing Fort Lauderdale’s defacto arts hubs (FAT Village, The Hive, and MASS District) with post-industrial warehouses converted into galleries giving way to luxury highrises. Come for the free art walk on the last Saturday of every month.
Unsurprisingly, the best way to discover the “Venice of America” is by boat. Forgo the tourist cruises and hop on (and hop off) the Water Taxi to sail the Intracoastal Waterway, past the city’s historic coastal buildings and Millionaire’s Row—all accompanied by entertaining narration. All-day tickets mean you can disembark at any stop along the route to hotspots like the Shops Las Olas and 15th Street Fisheries.
The quaint and casual village of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is best known for its low-slung mid-century modern homes—vestiges of what Florida’s Atlantic Coast was like before being conquered by high-rise condos. Cast a line at the iconic Anglins Fishing Pier, which extends 900 out into the ocean, or swim 100 yards from shore to snorkel or dive at a natural three-tiered coral reef.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 35-acre beachfront oasis offers visitors a glimpse into life in Old Florida. The historic Caribbean plantation-style home is still furnished with original pieces from former owner artist Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife, who maintained a tropical garden teeming with tropical plants and wildlife, including exotic birds, turtles, and mangroves.
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