From the world’s most exclusive caviar and sky-high lounges to superyachts and Broadway theater, Greater Fort Lauderdale raises the bar on over-the-top experiences. Attracting a new type of savvy, modern traveler who’s looking to pamper and indulge as much as immerse themselves in an environment and its culture, it’s a far cry from its past as a spring break hotspot in the 1960s-1980s. Today, with the arrival of lauded chefs, renowned hotel brands, and leading entertainment, the destination’s reputation is quickly morphing from vanilla to diverse, artistic, and upscale.
A true cosmopolitan playground within a stunning natural landscape, visitors can escape into a glittering, dreamy world of golden beaches and unexpected, once-in-a-lifetime pleasures. Venture into the vast wilderness of the Everglades on a private boat tour. Enjoy bespoke spa amenities while overlooking the shimmering ocean. Dine at a Michelin-starred chef’s restaurant. Here are just some of the most unforgettable things to do, places to stay, and food to eat when you’re in town. Your adventure awaits.
Welcome to the “Yachting Capital of the World”
A leading center for the marine industry for more than 60 years, Greater Fort Lauderdale is a vibrant boating community with more than 50,000 registered yachts and upwards of 100 marinas. Charter your own vessel and navigate the area’s scenic waterways and stretches of soft sand, pausing to visit waterfront cafes, shopping, and nightlife. Explore the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (October 27-31), the largest in-water boat show on the planet, where you can browse everything from designer sunglasses to superyachts. Or, come December, stop by the Winterfest Boat Parade, one of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s most beloved traditions where 100-plus boats decked out in holiday lights promenade for 12 miles down the New River and Intracoastal Waterway. For the best seats, don’t forget to book your tickets months in advance for the Grandstand Viewing Area or reserve a dinner table at one of the restaurants along the route.
Celebrity chefs are taking over
Greater Fort Lauderdale’s food scene isn’t just packed with big flavor—it boasts big names, too. Located in Hotel Maren Fort Lauderdale Beach, Curio Collection by Hilton, Riviera by Fabio Viviani is Top Chef star Viviani’s new eponymous coastal Italian eatery. Soak in sea views from the veranda while dining on locally sourced dishes like grilled fresh fish ranging from swordfish to snapper, squid ink lumache (a shell-shaped pasta), and shrimp and melon ceviche. Meanwhile, Michelin-starred chef Laurent Tourondel is set to transform Dune, one of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s most celebrated oceanside restaurants, with his classic French training and simple but elegant recipes this fall.
Go on safari (Florida-style)
Known as the gateway to the Everglades, Greater Fort Lauderdale makes a fabulously convenient jumping-off point for a pulse-racing trip to Sawgrass Recreation Park where you’re all but guaranteed to come face-to-face with the state’s most infamous reptile, the alligator. Jump on an invigorating private airboat tour, cut through the cattails, and glide at speeds up to 40 mph along the eastern edge of the Everglades while your guide shares the history of this ecological wonder and points out lurking turtles, wading birds, and other swamp residents. Those who are brave at heart can book a nighttime tour and use flashlights to search the waters for the telltale glow of alligators’ eyes.
The museums are full of blue-chip art
Downtown Fort Lauderdale’s arts and entertainment district is one of the fastest growing regions in the U.S. and it shows. There you’ll find the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale whose 6,000-work permanent collection contains the largest group of paintings and drawings by American realist William Glackens, an extensive selection of Latin American and Cuban art, and an impressive roster of boldface names like Andy Warhol and Frida Kahlo. Be sure to check the calendar before you go: The museum also puts on lectures, food and wine gatherings, and workshops inspired by current exhibits. Nearby, FATVILLAGE hosts open gallery spaces where contemporary artists set up exhibitions and showcase their pieces during a festive art walk scheduled for the last Saturday night of each month.
The nightlife reaches new heights
Thanks to Greater Fort Lauderdale’s wide variety of glamorous rooftop bars, you never need to waste a sunset. Start by elevating your evening at Sparrow on the 25th floor of The Dalmar or basking on Rooftop @1WLO’s open-air patio with a refreshing, hand-crafted spritz in hand. Later, stop by Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood’s Rooftop Live, which features music, a taco truck, tiki-themed cocktails, and oversized games. At the The Easton, guests can take a dip in the top-floor pool, enjoy handcrafted cocktails, and dance in the indoor-outdoor lounge.
Get five-star treatment at five-star spas
Greater Fort Lauderdale is dotted with luxury spa resorts, many of which take advantage of their magical location on Florida’s Gold Coast. Head to the rooftop PURE Spa at Pelican Grand Beach Resort, where you can dangle in the relaxation room’s hanging chairs overlooking the crystal ocean, take a post-massage nap on the sprawling sun deck, and end the day floating down the hotel’s peaceful lazy river. The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale, meanwhile, takes its inspiration from the surrounding ocean with decadent sea salt, marine mud, and Florida citrus body treatments.
The only place in the U.S. where you can taste pure beluga caviar
From fresh lobster to A5 Wagyu, Greater Fort Lauderdale’s restaurants are full of first-class ingredients. But the rarest (and perhaps most locally sourced) has to be the pure beluga caviar available at Marky’s Caviar Lounge. The only source in the country for this pricey specialty, owner Mark Zaslavsky brings in his eggs from the sturgeon farm he co-founded near the Florida-Alabama border shortly before a 2005 ban on importing beluga caviar from the Caspian Sea took effect. Savor this rich, briny treat with an ice-cold vodka martini.
Broadway is never far away
New York City’s not the only place you can see top-quality musical theater. Every year the Broward Center for the Performing Arts hosts a spectacular series of Broadway’s hottest productions and greatest classics. This season, catch touring casts perform Come From Away, Cats, Tootsie, and more. Overlooking the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale, the Center is worth a trip in itself. Ranking among the ten most-visited theaters in the world, guests can see what it’s like on the other side of the curtain during a behind-the-scenes tour on the first Sunday of every month.