15 Reasons Fort Lauderdale Is On Our Vacation Short List

Nov 21, 2016

Finding the perfect Florida destination for your sun-soaked vacation is a bit like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Some cities might be too focused on glitz and glam for you. Some might be too focused on children and theme park screams. And then some places, like the eight beach towns that make up Greater Fort Lauderdale, might be just right.

From the beaches to the Everglades, to its shopping, dining and nightlife, the laid-back vibe here makes it easy to relax. Here are a few reasons why you should choose this South Florida hot spot for your escape from the cold winter chill this year.

1. It's easy to get to.

Air Canada, WestJet, Air Transat and Sunwing all fly directly into Fort Lauderdale, so it's not off the beaten path. Plus, once you leave the airport, you'll be greeted with blue skies, warm temperatures, and swaying palm trees. Nice change from back home, eh?

2. You can leave your boots at home.

With over 35 kilometers of certified Blue Wave beaches beckoning you to wriggle your toes in the sand, you'll soon forget the feeling of thermal socks. Plus, with an average winter water temperature of 22 degrees Celsius, you'll be tempted to spend the whole day relaxing in bathtub-esque water.

3. There's water, water everywhere.

And it's not frozen. With a Venice-like system of inland waterways spanning almost 500 kilometers, this area is all about its water culture. Not only are there dock-and-dine options and water taxis transporting folks to shops, this is also the Yachting Capital of the World, so expect to see mega-yachts from around the world everywhere you turn.

4. You can immediately dive in.

The water off the coast is home to shallow beach diving (15 feet or less) as well as deep wreck dives (more than 100 feet). In addition to three natural reef structures that run parallel to the shore, Broward County created about 90 artificial reefs, including ships and vessels for divers to explore.

5. Go on, make your friends jealous.

While your friends and family back home are shoveling snow, you could be doing this:

Or this:

Or this:

Try not to rub it in too much so you don't get a snowball to the head upon return.

6. Take a stroll in the sunshine (without a coat).

Las Olas Boulevard stretches a few blocks inland from the beach and is considered one of the finest places to walk in Fort Lauderdale. It's home to confection shops, eclectic boutiques, art galleries and a plethora of restaurants. Sample farm to table cuisine at Sweet Nectar or stop by meatball heaven at Fork & Balls. If you're in the mood to party after all that food, Las Olas draws a crowd at night.

Seabreeze Boulevard and A1A are also stroll-worthy and fun for checking out the hotels along the beach, such as the W, the Atlantic and the Ritz-Carlton. One hidden gem in this area is the Pelican Grand Beach Resort. This old-style Florida, Victorian property has a high-back porch where anyone can go and have dinner or just grab an ice cream cone at the Emporium Ice Cream Parlor and sit on the porch there, enjoying the sea views.

7. Enjoy dock-to-door service.

The quintessential Fort Lauderdale experience is docking and dining, where you arrive by boat or paddleboard for a casual meal at a waterfront restaurant. There are water taxis available at many stops to help you sail from point A to B.

8. Chew on this.

In the past few years, the Fort Lauderdale dining scene has been thriving. It's no secret that they're big on fresh seafood dishes, what with all that water around, but this "Floribbean" cuisine also draws influences from Cuban, Jamaican, Puerto Rican and Latin American flavours. Greater Fort Lauderdale's culinary scene will be in the spotlight for the Food Network & Cooking Channel South Beach Wine & Food Festival (Feb. 22-26). Now in its second year, the Taste Fort Lauderdale series features celebrity chefs and personalities like Valerie Bertinelli, Neil Patrick Harris, David Burtka and Geoffrey Zakarian.

9. Do some serious holiday shopping.

Okay, the exchange rate might not be in your favour right now, but there are still deals to be had. People come from miles around to go to Sawgrass Mills, considered the largest designer outlet mall in the U.S., with more than 350 retailers including Calvin Klein, Diesel and Tommy Hilfiger. It's open daily and has 10 full-service restaurants as well as two food courts.

10. It can be the start (and end) of your Caribbean cruise vacation.

Fort Lauderdale is one of the largest cruise ports in the U.S., with major cruise lines such as Royal Caribbean, Holland America, Celebrity, Princess and Carnival sailing from Port Everglades to the Caribbean and the Bahamas. The 40 ships that call Fort Lauderdale home include some of the world's largest and newest vessels. The cruise port is close to hotels and the beach, so you can hang out for a few days before or after your cruise vacation.

11. You can check out land sports too.

Fort Lauderdale is home to more than 40 golf courses, open year-round. Options are available for all levels of skill. If you've got a competitive feeling about hockey and want to see how the Americans do it, go check out the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center. You probably won't be the only snowbirds in the arena rooting for your Canadian hometown team.

12. There's lots to discover.

The Museum of Discovery and Science has tons of interactive exhibits for kids and adults, like testing your pilot skills in cockpit simulators and experiencing hurricane force winds in the Storm Center. The museum is also home to an AutoNation IMAX 3D Theater which underwent a renovation this past September and now has the largest screen in South Florida (18 by 24 meters).

13. Be entertained.

The Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District lives up to its name with a number of options. Not only can you find bars and clubs here, but it's also the place to see your favourite band on tour at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts or to experience the Florida Grand Opera. Art lovers can walk around the grounds and the original furnishings at the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, built in 1920 as the home and studio of Frederick Clay Bartlett and Evelyn Fortune Bartlett.

14. The calendar is full of events.

Celebrations are in full swing at the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade (Dec. 10) where Pitbull is the Grand Marshall, and at the New Year's Eve Billy Joel concert at the BB&T Center. The events continue on and off the beach with three days of fashion at Underground Lauderdale Fashion Weekend (Jan. 26-29) and the 2017 FIVB World Tour begins with the Swatch Beach Volleyball Fort Lauderdale Major on Fort Lauderdale Beach (Feb. 7-12).

15. Go natural.

You can't make it this far away from home and not take a trip to the Everglades, especially as it takes up almost two-thirds of the area here anyway. Take a ride on an airboat and glide along a river full of grass while looking at the exotic plants and wildlife (everything from alligators to Florida panthers).

With more than 20,000 live butterflies from around the world, Butterfly World is the largest butterfly aviary in North America. Here you can walk around the butterfly flight area as they flitter above you, hand-feed colourful lorikeets and stroll around the botanical gardens.

If the only flamingo you've ever seen has been a plastic one in a front yard, head to the Flamingo Gardens & Wray Botanical Collection to rectify that immediately. This 60-acre botanical garden and wildlife sanctuary is home to more than 90 species of native Florida animals, including alligators, otters, bobcats and of course, flamingos. In addition, view thousands of rare, exotic and native plants, including some of Florida's oldest trees.

Ready to go? Search for hotel deals in Fort Lauderdale for a winter getaway.

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