For visitors, it’s pretty easy to get oriented: Fort Lauderdale is all about Las Olas and the ocean. Las Olas Boulevard runs east from the ocean into the heart of downtown, with many of the areas best boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs clustered along its margins. This is where you should start your exploration of the area. There are some worthwhile seaside satellites—Lauderdale-By-The-Sea—that will fill your ration of saltwater and sand, but at night, you’ll probably find yourself back “down on the boulevard.”
Founded in the early-1920s, this little seaside town nestled on a barrier island just east of Fort Lauderdale calls itself “Florida’s Beach Village.” If you decide to stay here rather than in the city, there are plenty of charming inns to choose from, great places to eat—especially by the water—and excellent snorkeling and diving opportunities. The county’s artificial reef program has sunk more than 75 ships, freighters and tugboats over the past 25 years, making this the self-proclaimed “Shore Dive Capital of South Florida.”
Located at the head of East Las Olas, this festival market is filled with specialty shops, kiosks, small restaurants and even a movie theater, Sunrise Cinemas, with its own bar—and yes, you can take your wine or margarita into the gallery while you watch the film. Like anywhere else in Fort Lauderdale where the fun takes place outdoors, it’s best visited in the shoulder- and off-seasons. Weekends and especially Friday and Saturday nights are the hottest times for clubs, like Off the Hookah and The Living Room. Every Sunday, a different act headlines the SunTrust Sunday Jazz Festival.
Himmarshee Village (Historic District)
Everything old is new again, right? Or, at least, it’s hip. Himmarshee is now the favored haunt of artists and the young professionals who want to hang with artists. They head straight for the area’s clutch of eateries and watering holes for finger food, Michelob and merriment. Pick a crowded bar and blend in—shorts and flips are all you’ll need—although this is also the locale of the Voodoo Lounge, which demands at least some dancing shoes. The Voodoo goes LGBT on Sundays with its weekly drag show.
Downtown Las Olas
The heart of Fort Lauderdale beats here, on a beautiful, tree-lined avenue lined with clothing and jewelry boutiques, restaurants, art galleries, spas and salons, hotels, bars and clubs. By day, locals meet friends for lunch or coffee, perusing the shops en route to their destination; at night, music spills into the street, diners fill up the café tables on the sidewalks, and the shop lights come on to greet those milling about between dinner and dancing.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
It’s where the boys were—and where they still are, along with the girls. Cyclists and hardcore bikers, skaters and strollers soak up the sun and mill in and out of the bars and beach shops along A1A. On weekends, go early or you may not find a place to park, because even the pay-to-park garages fill up quickly. The Gallery at Beach Place is home to Hooters, Lulu’s Bait Shack (a bar with live music and very good bar food), Fat Tuesday and a panoply of swimsuit shops, tattoo parlors and vendors hawking things like henna tattoos and shark teeth necklaces.
The specific neighborhoods above are surrounded by “Greater Fort Lauderdale” which takes in a dozen named communities including North Lauderdale, Lauderhill, Dania, Plantation and Sunrise among others. You probably won’t spend much time in any of them unless you’re heading for a specific attraction, restaurant, shopping venue or nightclub. As with many Florida cities, Fort Lauderdale’s layout is a product of the automobile, so there can be considerable drive times between these satellite areas.
Just south of Fort Lauderdale proper and close to the airport, Hollywood is chiefly known for the Hollywood Broadwalk, a 2-mile strip of concrete and brick sidewalk that runs alongside the beach. There’s also a Seminole Hard Rock Casino on the west end of Hollywood near the Florida Turnpike/I-595.
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Fort Lauderdale Travel Guide