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VOL. 131 | NO. 13 | Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Wiedower

Lance Wiedower

Fort Lauderdale for Beach, Adventure

By LANCE WIEDOWER

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Fort Lauderdale screams “Hello Sunny,” but the tourism slogan isn’t necessary to get the point across for visitors once they arrive. It’s undeniable when stepping out from the airport to prepare for a few days in this South Florida hotspot.

Fort Lauderdale once was known as a haven for spring breakers, but today the party scene is a few miles farther south in Miami’s South Beach. Sure, Fort Lauderdale has plenty of beautiful people on the beaches and watering holes to quench your thirst.

But it’s all in a more family-friendly style, with 20-plus miles of beaches in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area providing plenty of outlets for relaxation in an unpretentious or dressed-up way.

Fort Lauderdale is only about a 30-minute drive north of Downtown Miami, making it seem like just another community in the greater metropolitan area. And while a map might agree, Fort Lauderdale is a destination in itself.

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is about five miles south of Downtown Fort Lauderdale and seven miles from the beach, meaning visitors are at the beach within minutes of arrival. Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades is considered one of the top cruise ports in the world, making the community an obvious choice for stopovers before or after an excursion.

But Fort Lauderdale’s miles of beaches, easy access to the Florida Everglades to the west, spots for water sports and a wide selection of fresh seafood make the community an option for standalone visits, too.

Fort Lauderdale is defined by water. The surf of the Atlantic Ocean sits to the east with what can be best described as a system of Venice-like waterways that help make this an international yachting destination. Boats appear to be in every direction.

Fort Lauderdale sits on the same reef system as the Florida Keys, and there are a number of diving options beyond the surf.

Stand-up paddleboard and kayaking options are abundant, and there are protected waters such as the Hillsboro Inlet at Pompano Beach or John U Lloyd Beach State Park’s Whiskey Creek to get up the courage to give either a shot.

A short drive west from the beaches will give visitors a taste of the River of Grass. It will take a little longer to get to the heart of the Everglades National Park, but there are parks in Broward County where airboat rides are available during the day or night. The daytime rides give a full visual of the massiveness of the Glades, but a nighttime ride offers the chance to see the glowing eyes of gators out on the prowl.

I experienced both, and my money is on the nighttime ride for the rush of excitement.

Back in Fort Lauderdale, some of the region’s better seafood restaurants touch all price points, from easygoing beach hangout with a tuna Philly cheesesteak to white-tablecloth spots overlooking the marina where grilled swordfish and lobster tail are among the specialties.

And if your visit coincides with one of those Florida bursts of rain, the family will enjoy the Museum of Discovery and Science with its hands-on exhibits spread across two floors.

If the itch to check out South Beach is too great, Uber drivers are happy to make the drive down Interstate 95. But there really isn’t any reason to head south. Enjoy local breweries and clubs in Fort Lauderdale, where the hotel prices are a little friendlier, too.

Lance Wiedower can be reached at tripsbylance.com.

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