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Travel Through Time in Historic Greater Fort Lauderdale
Hailed for its spectacular golden sand and vibrant nightlife, Greater Fort Lauderdale has a lot more to offer than just fun and sun. Beyond its legendary beaches, the region is rich in history, making it a perfect destination for inspiration as well as relaxation. When you immerse yourself in the culture of Greater Fort Lauderdale, you’ll dig deeper into the region’s relationship with American Indians, maritime industry, the Civil Rights movement, and more. On this four-day trip, discover where to learn about history, from the houses of the city’s earliest pioneers and beaches that played a key role in Florida’s famed “wade-in” protests to magnificent examples of mid-century architecture and restaurants that hosted presidents and Hollywood’s brightest stars. Here’s how to soak up some unforgettable culture and the sun in one glorious long weekend. If you have a passion for the past, you’ve come to the right place.
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    The Riverside Hotel in Las Olas
    Day 1
    Arrive in Fort Lauderdale
    Many of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s hotels delve into the area’s fabulous past. The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale’s vintage glamour celebrates the destination’s designation as the Yachting Capital of the World with design details such as a pool inspired by a ship’s bow and oceanside views. Meanwhile, the more traditional Riverside Hotel rooms, complete with dark wood furniture and bright white bedding, will have you feeling snugly tucked into a ship’s stateroom. If you’re crazy about mid-century architecture, you’ll adore the Manhattan Tower Apartment Hotel. Its building was designed in 1952 by the great Charles McKirahan, who left quite the stamp on Fort Lauderdale with many impressive examples of his work throughout the city.  

    Still can’t get enough mid-century design? Take a self-guided walking tour of Fort Lauderdale’s architectural gems. Dubbed “McKirahan Village,” Yacht Club Boulevard is home to several stunning examples of the master’s ingenuity. Don’t miss the former Castro Convertibles building now occupied by Ferguson Plumbing on N. Federal Highway, and the 16-story Birch Tower in Fort Lauderdale’s central beach neighborhood, with its floating, neon-backed sign—it was Broward County’s tallest high-rise building in the 1960s.  

    If all this walking makes you hungry, go with “The Flo,” The Floridian, that is, a landmark diner that’s cooked up comfort food for more than seven decades. Chef John Jennet’s crab meat omelet gets rave reviews, and breakfast is served 24/7.
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    The Bonnet House
    Day 2
    Uncover the Past at Historic Homes
    Greater Fort Lauderdale is a vibrant history book come to life, with a compelling cast of characters. Feel the energy of the city’s early pioneers at the Historic Stranahan House Museum, Broward County’s oldest surviving home. A guided tour lets you time travel to an era when Seminole Indians befriended a young man from Ohio—Frank Stranahan—and his wife, Ivy, the area’s first schoolteacher, who settled in the frontier town now known as Fort Lauderdale. Get to know another fascinating local couple, Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett, at the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, which celebrates the art, history, and nature these two cherished.  

    A lighthouse is always a beacon; the one in Broward County shines extra brightly thanks to the Hillsboro Lighthouse Preservation Society, who—with the cooperation of the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary—restored and reactivated the lighthouse’s original Fresnel lens. More treasures from the illustrious past await at History Fort Lauderdale Museum. To enjoy history while on the move, choose a Historic Walking Tour.  

    Food is a fine way to commune with Fort Lauderdale’s storied past. For a nostalgic nosh, enjoy a meal at Casablanca Café, a historic former residence with ocean views and Mediterranean-American plates, plus live piano music. When it comes to evening entertainment, Wreck Bar stages the only mermaid burlesque show in the U.S., world-famous since the 1950s. Meanwhile, Elbo Room, founded in 1938, is another historic nightlife fixture and a setting from Where The Boys Are, the classic 1960 film featuring George Hamilton and Connie Francis that, back in the day, helped make Fort Lauderdale synonymous with Spring Break.
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    Day 3
    Explore the Outdoors and Immerse Yourself in History
    Start your day with a morning stroll and swim at Fort Lauderdale Beach, which you may recognize from the climactic scene of Midnight Cowboy, or visit Rev. Samuel Delevoe Park. Named to honor one of the city’s first Black police officers who later became a community activist, civil rights leader, and street minister before he was fatally shot in 1977, the memorial shares property with the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center, a branch of the Broward County Library. Its collection includes the papers of Roots author Alex Hailey and the Hewitt Haitian Art Collection, one of the nation’s most significant collections of Haitian art. 

    For more nature, head to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, home to butterflies, gopher tortoises, sea turtles, gray squirrels, and marsh rabbits, plus more than 200 species of wading birds, hawks, and ducks. Rent a kayak or canoe and travel the mile-long freshwater lagoon or enjoy a hike or swim at the beach. The visitor center was formerly the Art Deco home of the park’s namesake, a Chicago attorney who fell in love with this part of the Sunshine State, acquired 180 acres, and built his dream home in 1940, naming it “Terramar” (“land to the sea”). Today the park is revered by locals and visitors as Fort Lauderdale’s “Central Park.”  

    Golfers will appreciate the Deer Creek Golf Club in nearby Deerfield Beach. The championship course was ingeniously designed by the legendary Arthur Hills to keep local regulars on their toes, without over-challenging vacationing out-of-towners. Stay for dinner at the casual yet festive Deer Creek Grille, open 365 days a year.
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    Dr. Von D. Mizell—Eula Johnson State Park
    Photo By Photo by Georgialh
    Day 4
    Dive into the Water—and Antiquing
    Spend the morning at Dr. Von D. Mizell—Eula Johnson State Park. As you enjoy sinking your toes into the soft sand, you’ll be communing with the indomitable spirit of civil rights pioneers; Florida’s famed “wade-in” protesters sought an end to the state’s racially segregated public beaches. (Mizell was founding president of the Broward NAACP, while Johnson was NAACP Chapter President.) 

    You've absorbed a fair dose of Greater Fort Lauderdale's storied past this weekend—now it's time to support small businesses and stock up on souvenirs to hold you over until your next trip. Art and antiques aficionados will adore the selection Pocock Fine Art & Antiques, especially the European and American paintings authenticated by expert Stuart Pocock. You can even select a handsome, hand-carved frame in 22-carat or silver leaf at the point of sale. Dania Beach’s Antique Row has a collection of shops dealing in art and antiques. The buildings themselves are antiques, many dating back to the turn of the century. If you find old books addictive, better stay away from the Old Florida Book Shop, where the staggering offerings for bibliophiles are meticulously catalogued by category. Need to score a perfect gift for your favorite sports fan? Tropical Sports Cards & Collectibles makes fast work of knocking it out of the park. Expect a first-rate lineup of memorabilia such as antique baseball cards and signed items from the Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat, and other popular teams of the region.  

    Cap off the trip with crab cakes and calamari at Cap’s Place Island Restaurant. As Florida’s oldest eatery, it’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has hosted the likes of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Al Capone, and Gloria Swanson. Located on an island off Lighthouse Point, it began as a 1920s casino and rum-running speakeasy and is only reachable by Cap’s own motor launch.