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Fort Lauderdale is a coastal city on the Atlantic Ocean in the US state of Florida. It is known as the "Venice of America" due to its expansive canal system. Situated in Broward County in South Florida, the city's population is over 170,000.
The city is most famous for its beaches and boats, and while the city of Fort Lauderdale is relatively small in area, the term 'Fort Lauderdale' is often used to refer to the larger metropolis that has grown up around it. It is the county seat for Broward county, and is part of the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area, which has over 5.5 million people.
Fort Lauderdale has a subtropical rainforest climate, which means all months of the year have a mean temperature of 18 C (65 F) or higher. As is typical in most tropical climates, there is a "wet/dry season". Much of the rainfall in Ft. Lauderdale falls in the hot and humid summer months from May though mid October. Daily thundershowers build up in the intense heat and quick, but intense, tropical downpours are common. Daytime temperatures are usually in the high 80sF or low 90sF with high humidity; nights are around 77F. The dry or low sun from November through April normally features sunny, dry, and warm weather with highs in the middle 70's and lows near 60 F. Some winters can be quite dry and brush fires and water restrictions in place. The warm tropical climate of Ft. Lauderdale gives the city a 12 month beach season.
South Florida has three airports with commercial service:
Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL) located just two miles south of down town Fort Lauderdale. It is a major airport and popular low cost carrier destination. This is most convenient airport to Fort Lauderdale. Spirit Airlines maintains a hub here; JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Delta Air Lines, and Virgin America all also have substantial operations here. FLL is the main domestic airport for the South Florida region. It is also an emerging hub for flights to and from the Latin America and the Caribbean. There are some limited charter flights to and from Europe. Many passengers are bound for or coming from cruises using Port Everglades, some two miles away. Many taxis, cruiseline buses, and hotel/motel shuttles make access to either easy. Several air charter companies, with piston aircraft, turbo props and jets are based here. Air Ambulance services are also available.
Monarch Air Group
Miami International Airport (MIA), is located 25 miles south of Fort Lauderdale. It is the major international airport in South Florida, and known as 'The Gateway to the Americas'. Home of American Airlines Latin American hub with frequent flights to Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, and US west coast. It is a 40 minute drive, south, from Fort Lauderdale using I-95, but can be much, much slower during rush hour. You can catch the Tri-Rail from Miami airport to Fort Lauderdale station for about $4 a head. Then catch the linking bus, or get a cab from the station to the hotel. (More on Tri-Rail below).
You can take one of the shuttle vans from Miami Airport to Fort Lauderdale.
Palm Beach International Airport (PBI), 1000 Turnage Boulevard, West Palm Beach. This airport is another option. PBI, however, primarily serves the Palm Beach area and is the least convenient of the three airports for visiting Fort Lauderdale. Nevertheless, you can use Tri-Rail to get from Palm Beach Airport to Fort Lauderdale.
For general aviation:
Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), Located between Commercial Blvd and Cypress Creek Road just west of I-95 with entrances off West Commercial Boulevard at NW 12th Avenue, NW 15th Avenue and NW 21st Avenue and entrances off Cypress Creek Road at NW 10 Terrace and NW 24th Way and NW 28th Way. One of the ten largest general aviation airports in the country. Located in Fort Lauderdale, the airport is bounded by the cities of Tamarac to the West, Oakland Park to the South and Pompano to the North. Many privately owned aircraft are hangared or tied down here. Several air charter companies, with piston aircraft, turbo props and jets are based here. Air Ambulance services are also available.
Interstate 95 is the major North-South artery along the East side of the city. It connects Fort Lauderdale with the downtowns in Miami and West Palm Beach and goes north to Jacksonville and beyond.
Florida's Turnpike runs North-South west of the city. To the south it connects to Homestead and the Florida Keys. To the North it connects to Orlando and North Florida.
I-595/I-75 connects Fort Lauderdale to Florida's West Coast (including Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota and the Tampa Bay area).
Port Everglades, on the south side of the city center, is the most active container port and second most active cruise port in Florida. It supports a high number of cruise ships with about ten thousand passengers arriving and departing each week.
Those able to drive here for a cruise may find Port Everglades somewhat more convenient and economical than Miami to park and stay overnight at local lodging, and then catch a shuttle to/from the ship's terminal. Numerous hotel/motel chains offer park/stay/cruise-shuttle packages. Most are also quite close to the airport.
The east side of Fort Lauderdale, between down town and the beach, is criss crossed with canals. It doesn't matter if you are in a car, on bicycles, or on foot, you have to cross the canals where the bridges are. This is one town where a good map can save you a lot of backtracking. Surprisingly the best road map of the East side of town is the 'Dolphus Waterway Map".
The US 1 does NOT intersect with Las Olas Boulevard. Your map is wrong if it says otherwise. The US 1 passes under the river in a tunnel and goes under Las Olas too, re-emerging only at Broward Blvd. to the north. This confuses many people who are trying to navigate around Fort Lauderdale.
What to see
Air Tours over Fort Lauderdale and The Everglades
For a unique view of Fort Lauderdale, the Beach, The Everglades and surrounding cities take a scenic flight in an airplane and see it all.
Fort Lauderdale Air Tours, Located on the South side of Pompano Beach Air Park, at 1401 NE 10 Street, Pompano Beach, FL 33060 (Between Atlantic Boulevard and Copans Road, just West of US 1 / Federal Highway). See all Fort Lauderdale has to offer on a Scenic Air Tour.
Fort Lauderdale Beach (The Strip)
The most popular section of beach is where A1A runs along side the beach, between Las Olas Blvd north to Sunrise Blvd.
The "Strip" also known as A1A is amongst the most popular locations, not just beaches, in Fort Lauderdale. There are a wide array of shops, restaurants, bars, and hotels amongst the strip creating a very unique experience right on the beach. The atmosphere careers towards the beach itself, which is that of being laid back, fun, and relaxing.
The "Elbo Room" bar, located at Las Olas Blvd and A1A was featured in the 1960's film Where the Boys Are'. The movie led to the city's former reputation as a spring break mecca. The bar anchors the Southern end of the 'Strip', a strip of eating and drinking establishments that run along the land side of the beach road.
Spring Break peaked in the mid 1980's and the city now attracts a more upscale crowd. Fort Lauderdale is in the midst of a luxury condo building boom, this is displacing the hotels that once lined the beach.
The city is more cosmopolitan than most, having lots of Europeans and gay residents. The beach culture reflects the laid back nature of the community. You will find European food in the restaurants and bathers in thong swimsuits.
Downtown/Las Olas Blvd
Las Olas is probably the best place to get out of the house and take a stroll at. It is a good, clean environment that has a lot of families on the boulevard doing the same thing. It is the newest part of Fort Lauderdale and in that regard, it is a nice tourist attraction. It also has the appeal of being a safe environment even though it is located "downtown" considering it is mostly new attractions.
Over the past decade, Downtown/Las Olas Blvd has seen some substantial growth in population. What was once mainly shops, boutiques, and restaurants, has now turned into a place where developers and contractors are bringing in many high-rise buildings and condominiums. These new developments are expanding the very popular areas and bringing in a new wave residential market.
The entertainment district runs east-west along Las Olas Boulevard. East Las Olas Blvd has a mile of upscale shops and restaurants. Across the railway lines, West Las Olas caters to a younger crowd. There are funky nightclubs and restaurants between the railway lines and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. In between East and West, there is a new set of shops called Riverside that sits on the RiverWalk. The RiverWalk runs along the north side of the new river, from the shops at Las Olas to the performing arts complex.
What to do
There are many things to do in Fort Lauderdale, but the beautiful beach is a prime attraction. There is parking just south of Las Olas Blvd or if that is full, there is plenty more under the Las Olas Blvd Bridge. The machines take cash or credit cards. There is more parking on A1A, North of Sunrise Blvd.
Athletes enjoy running along the road by the beach in the early mornings. On Saturday mornings there is a continual stream. Best viewed from one of the numerous coffee shops or restaurants across the road from the beach.
You can rent a bicycle and explore along the beach, or head inland via Las Olas Blvd, to explore the upscale shops that line Las Olas towards the down town. From Las Olas the RiverWalk connects to the Arts and Entertainment district. Parking at some beach hotels is limited and with things quite close you will find bicycles are a good way to get around. Bicycle on the sidewalks if the traffic scares you.
You can go boating on the miles of waterways, take the water taxi, or take one of the river cruises like the Jungle Queen. There is also sport or deep sea fishing. If boating is not your thing, then you can just watch the boats go by from the many waterfront bars and restaurants.
There is plenty of shopping. The metropolis has lots of malls. The closest to the beach is the Galleria at Fort Lauderdale, about 10 minutes walk from the beach along Sunrise Blvd. The biggest by far is the Sawgrass Mills located in Sunrise approximately 20 minutes west of Fort Lauderdale. With over 350 stores it is one of the largest outlets in the USA. There is also the 'Swap Shop', that bills itself as 'the largest Drive-In movie theater and daily flea market in the world.'
From Fort Lauderdale you can take a day trip to Miami's South Beach or downtown Miami, or closer to home, Hollywood Beach and Aventura. Popping down to visit the night clubs and restaurants along Hollywood Blvd near Young Circle is a close and interesting evening outing.
On Friday and Saturday evenings the bars and clubs along SW 2nd Street come alive with young people. If you are under 35 this is the place to be on weekend nights. Known by locals as Cooley Hammock, this is the two blocks on SW 2nd St just West of the rail way tracks, near the Science Museum and Preforming Arts Center. For tourists, or people over 35, there is the RiverSide complex with bars and restaurants just East of the same railway lines.
You can take overnight excursions to the Florida Keys or the Bahamas, but both are just too far away to make good day trips. There are also organized coach trips to the theme parks in Orlando but again a bit too far for day trips. If you are only here for a week it may not make any sense to take several days out to bus hundreds of miles to a different city when there is so much to do here.
Golfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and deep sea fishing are very popular sports in the area. The metropolitan area also offers the following spectator sports:
The Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League play at BankAtlantic Center in suburban Sunrise, Florida. The Panthers organization resides in the BB&T Center in Hollywood, Florida. Inside the arena there are actually a number of bars and sport grills that make it one of the more unique experiences throughout the National Hockey League. There is a Duffy's restaurant which is well known in a few different locations in Fort Lauderdale, you can get seating that overlooks the ice so you can watch and dine. The tickets for the Panthers games also come cheap and they offer family packages if you're with your family on vacation.
The Miami Dolphins play at Dolphins Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. The stadium is 17 miles South-West of Fort Lauderdale.
The Miami Heat of the National Basketball Association play at AmericanAirlines Arena in downtown Miami, located 23 miles south of Fort Lauderdale.
International Swimming Hall of Fame is located at Fort Lauderdale Beach.
South Florida also hosts the college sports teams of Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University, Nova Southeastern University, and University of Miami.
The Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the North American Soccer League play at Lockhart Stadium in North Fort Lauderdale only 12 miles from the downtown area.