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Fort Lauderdale Travel Guide
Finger Island, Fort Lauderdale © Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
Situated in the heart of the Gold Coast in the Sunshine State of
Florida, and known as the 'Venice of America', it does not take
much imagination to understand why Fort Lauderdale was once the
favourite spring break holiday destination for the college crowd,
and has now evolved into a sophisticated yet casual resort town
attracting families and couples from all over the United States,
Fort Lauderdale is a city of islands, built on a network of canals, rivers, bays and waterways, fronted by 23 miles (37km) of sun-kissed golden sands washed by the shimmering Atlantic Ocean. Boating is, of course, a favourite holiday pastime, as is cycling, roller-blading or simply strolling along the scenic palm tree-fringed beachfront promenade which gives on to the magnificent beaches.
Near Fort Lauderdale, divers on holiday are delighted by one of the only living coral reefs in the United States accessible from shore, and there are sporting facilities galore throughout the city, particularly some wonderful golf courses. Those with a cultural bent are well catered for at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, the Florida Grand Opera, the annual renowned Film Festival and numerous art galleries and museums. Fort Lauderdale justly boasts that it has the facilities and attractions to please any visitor on holiday, young or old, seeking fun in the sun; and if that is not enough the exciting city of Miami lies only 40 miles (64km) away, just begging to be explored on a day trip or two.
Fort Lauderdale's chic downtown shopping street is the broad
avenue of Las Olas, lined with fashion boutiques, art galleries,
memorable restaurants and sidewalk café as it runs its
elegant course parallel to the river. Here window-shoppers chat in
a dozen languages while others rest their feet and watch the
passing parade from the shady cafés.
For more frenetic holiday shopping action in Fort Lauderdale head off about 10 miles (16km) west to Sunrise Boulevard and you can plunge into the Swap Shop Circus where more than 12-million shoppers a year sift through the goods at 800 open-air canopied vendor stalls selling brand name items at bargain prices. The circus also actually features circus shows, and boasts the world's largest 13-screen drive-in movie theatre.
Right nearby is Florida's largest retail and entertainment centre, Sawgrass Mills, with almost two miles (three km) of mall housing more than 400 stores and kiosks. The Oasis food court here holds more than 30 popular eateries. Antique-collectors enjoy the treasure-trove of the Dania Beach Historic Antique Shopping District, home to dozens of antique shops and the Antique Center Mall.
Variety spices up Fort Lauderdale's restaurant choice and whether you want down-home Southern cooking, genuine German sausages or French nouvelle cuisine you will find it without much trouble. Diners are catered for in more than 3,500 restaurants covering greater Fort Lauderdale, ranging from intimate cafés to al fresco waterfront terraces, quaint bistros and ethnic eateries to cosy steakhouses. Like elsewhere in Florida the local treat is fresh seafood. Occasionally some of the more popular restaurants band together for promotional months during which special fixed price menus are offered at bargain prices.
After sunset, Fort Lauderdale hums with activity. Although there is plenty of action to be had, nightlife here tends to be sophisticated rather than wild, and most of the fun is over by 3am at the latest. On offer after dark are coffee bars, music clubs, jazz clubs, comedy clubs, numerous theme bars and outdoor cafes with music. Night owls tend to stroll from place to place in the popular Himmarshee Village area, a block or two west of downtown, where many trendy establishments are situated. Another hotspot is Beach Place on the beachfront where there is plenty of nocturnal entertainment.
Water-based activities, particularly scuba diving and boating, are Fort Lauderdale's forté, whether it is enjoying a relaxing fishing charter, cruising the coastline on a yacht or exploring the colourful undersea world of the offshore coral reef. Numerous operators provide services for these recreational watersports. The less energetic can enjoy the year-round sunshine and tropical climate simply toasting on the golden sandy beaches. The city also boasts numerous attractions to entertain young and old in the form of museums, parks, golf courses and nature areas. Those who have the time and inclination to venture further afield on holiday can make excursions to the nearby pulsating city of Miami, the renowned Everglades National Park or Key West, the southernmost part of the United States.
Fort Lauderdale has fought hard to shake its image as a haven for scantily-clad and raucous co-ed college kids during the Spring Break holiday, but a certain number still congregate here every year. Many holidaymakers complain that the city's beaches and surrounds are scruffy, and that finding parking at the busy main beach can be a problem, particularly at weekends.