Once a spring break mecca, Greater Fort Lauderdale has come a long way from its raucous past. Today, covered with 300-plus miles of winding inland waterways and thousands of high-end boats cruising the coast, this glamorous South Florida destination is better known as the “Yachting Capital of the World.” Whether you’re embarking on a snorkeling trip to the only coral reef in the continental U.S., booking a flyboarding session with Aqua Flight, or taking a tour of the mansions on Millionaire’s Row, Greater Fort Lauderdale is packed with unparalleled outdoor activities.
But the adventure doesn’t end on land. A cosmopolitan center, Greater Fort Lauderdale offers sophisticated, culture-rich experiences, including hidden speakeasies, over-the-top spas, and celebrated museums. Book a swim-up suite at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, see your favorite band perform live at the BB&T Center, indulge in crispy mahi mahi tacos at El Vez, and do some serious shopping on Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale’s answer to Rodeo Drive. Here, discover how to make the most of your escape to this treasure on Florida’s Gold Coast.
Enjoy elevated stays at hotels and resorts
In recent years, Greater Fort Lauderdale has enjoyed a luxury hotel boom. The upscale renovations and openings show no sign of slowing down, either, with the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences Fort Lauderdale set to debut in December 2021. Here, just a few of the other top addresses in town with next-level amenities and exclusive activities.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood. Live it up like a VIP at this grand, music-themed hotel where the new 7,000-person capacity Hard Rock Live hosts A-list entertainers, comedy acts, sporting events, and live broadcast productions. Come morning, guests can kick back at private poolside cabanas modeled after the blissful lagoons of Bora Bora, party at Daer, the only dayclub in South Florida, or splurge at the Shoppes at The Guitar Hotel, a 26,000 square-foot retail promenade.
The Kimpton Goodland Hotel Fort Lauderdale Beach. Tucked away in a tropical oasis just blocks from the beach, the Goodland debuted in April 2021—but it boasts rich history. An adaptive reuse of the Escape Hotel, which originally opened in 1950 as the first year-round resort in Fort Lauderdale beach, this is the place to find luxury with a local touch. Unwind with yoga classes in a lush courtyard, sip on fruity tiki cocktails at the poolside bar, and listen to live music on the rooftop as yachts drift by in the canals.
The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, this sparkling grande dame provides the ultimate nautical getaway. With a massive, heated infinity pool hanging over the sand and a skywalk attached to the beach, you’ll never be far from a relaxing afternoon in the sun. Speaking of: Don’t skip the ocean-inspired spa with its decadent sea salt, marine mud, and Florida citrus treatments.
W Fort Lauderdale. Fresh off an ambitious renovation, the W brings together bold architecture, delicious food, and one-of-a-kind perks. Dine at James Beard Award Winner Stephen Starr’s Steak 954, El Vez, and Living Room Sushi Bar, request whatever you’re craving from the concierge using W’s Whatever/Whenever text service, or arrange to sit for a custom portrait with local artist Hector Prado.
Feed your appetite for discovery
With a highly diverse population, Greater Fort Lauderdale has developed a dynamic food scene spiced with flavors brought to life by local chefs and restaurateurs hailing from Jamaica as well as other islands in the Caribbean and from around the world. From fresh seafood and jerk chicken to trendy speakeasies, there’s a world of dining you won’t want to miss.
Take a dinner cruise. Combine sushi and eco-friendly sightseeing on an electric-powered yacht with Riverfront Gondola Tours. This isn’t your typical take-away option though. Guests dig into a full omakase dinner from Casa Sensei—served on teak tables with silverware and linen—while winding through the city’s magical canals.
Watch the sunset while sipping champagne. Savor freshly caught seafood with soft sand at your feet at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa. The hotel’s Barefoot Dining package includes a four-course meal at an intimate table on the property’s private beach as well as romantic tiki torches.
Step back in time. Set in a former guest room, 901 is a speakeasy at the Hyatt Centric Las Olas showcasing turn-of-the-century elegance and old-school cocktails from a rotating pop-up program of bartenders-in-residence from around the country. With only six guests allowed in at a time, you’ll want to keep this one hush-hush.
Spoil yourself with top-grade steak. With exquisite marbling and tenderness that practically melts in your mouth, A5 Wagyu is the best quality beef available—and tricky to find in the U.S. At Takato, indulge in thick, buttery slices of it seared on a traditional Japanese hot stone alongside wasabi and tōgarashi.
Have a night out on the town. Relish an authentic taste of Italy without needing your passport at Casa d’Angelo, local fine dining luminary Angelo Elia’s flagship restaurant. Celebrated by Wine Spectator as one of the country’s best wine restaurants, you’re sure to find the perfect match for your linguine vongole or vitello alla milanese.
Dive (and fly) into outdoor adventure
Thrill-seekers, nature-lovers, and everyone in between will find something to love in Greater For Lauderdale’s wild spaces.
Cruise the canals. Learn firsthand why Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice of America” while you take a tranquil boat ride along the famous waterways that lace the city. For a true taste of luxury, book with Lauderdale Yacht Charters. A captain will navigate so you can soak in unimpeded views of the “Millionaire’s Row” mega-mansions (typically priced between $30-$40 million) with their yachts parked outside. Along the way, stop for a refreshing swim in the ocean and relax in the lavish staterooms.
Discover a new world underwater. Greater Fort Lauderdale is home to part of the only coral reef in the continental U.S. Located in shallow waters that begin just 100 feet from land, the reef—part of an environmental program started in 1982—provides shelter to sharks, barracudas, and more. More experienced scuba divers can visit the remains of the SS Copenhagen, a 19th-century British cargo ship that struck the reef on its journey to Cuba. Rent your gear from Gold Coast Scuba, a few blocks from the beach, or book a trip with the guides at Private Scuba and Snorkel.
Hit the beach. No trip to Greater Fort Lauderdale is complete without some serious time spent near the water. With 24 miles of golden sand, you’ll have no trouble finding a spot to enjoy the sunshine or, if you prefer, rent a paddleboard, kayak, or boat for water-skiing or cruising. Located at Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Best Boat Club has plenty of options or you can sign up for a lesson with the pros at LTS Wakeboard and Waterski.
Try an extreme watersport. Looking for something more intense? Blast above the water during a flyboarding session with Aqua Flight. Using the board’s jet propulsion system, you’ll be able to dive like a dolphin and soar along Fort Lauderdale beach.
Immerse yourself in world-class culture
While you could spend an entire vacation in Greater Fort Lauderdale lying on the beach, the area offers a host of enriching museums, shopping, shows, and more.
See your favorite performers live. From opera and pop concerts to comedy acts and traveling Broadway musicals, Greater Fort Lauderdale has a packed cultural calendar that’s sure to impress. Sip a martini at intermission at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, sit up against the glass for a Florida Panthers game at the BB&T Center, or party like a rock star at Revolution Live, a popular venue for Top 40, rap, and electronic music.
Visit an art haven. Purchased by Hugh Taylor Birch as a wedding gift for his daughter and her husband in 1895, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is a historic estate that transports visitors back to the beginning of the 20th century. The whimsical, Caribbean-style home is full of the couple’s impressive art collection, featuring works by Pablo Picasso and Georges Seurat. Roam the stunning 35-acre grounds, featuring manicured gardens, fragrant flowers, and a tranquil lake populated by white swans.
Play your cards right. Head to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood for top tournament play. Guests can also choose from popular games such as blackjack, mini-baccarat, poker, and video roulette games.
Explore a shoppers’ paradise. Lined with art galleries, upscale designer stores, unique boutiques, and sidewalk cafes, there’s no better place to spend a leisurely afternoon than Las Olas Boulevard. Pop into Maus and Hauffman, which has been selling classic, elegant clothing in the same spot since 1940, and grab a drink at Ann’s Florist & Coffee Bar, an adorable hybrid shop where you can get bouquets, antiques, and an afternoon pick-me-up.