The thought of Fort Lauderdale may bring back memories of your college spring break days, featuring red solo cups, unfortunate tan lines and daytime beats. But, the Fort Lauderdale of today is an upbeat, beachfront paradise, delightfully devoid of red solo cups (though the tan lines may peek out after a day by the water). Expect an endless summer with vibrant boardwalks, fresh seafood, a rainbow of beach umbrellas, and a 23-mile white sand beach. A spate of luxury hotels, like the newly-renovated W Fort Lauderdale, and a host of ace restaurants and killer craft cocktail spots, are just what you need for a blissed-out weekend by the ocean.
Where to Stay:
Fort Lauderdale has been undergoing a renaissance, and at the heart of it, W Fort Lauderdale, a glimmering modern hotel conveniently located a stone’s throw from the beach. As part of a recent 55 million dollar renovation, the 517 guest rooms of the hotel were given a complete facelift, with a new design that thoughtfully emulates the vibrancy of the Fort Lauderdale strip. Now, Rooms are spacious and decked out with roomy showers and many, with spacious ocean-view balconies, overlooking either the serene waterways or the ocean – the sound of waves acts as a suitable substitute for a sleep machine. Opt for a beach-front room and enjoy happy hour from the patio: it’s got perfect views of the sunset.
The hotel’s beating heart is the fourth floor, where there’s a Living Room space to hang out in and sip sangria, an outdoor terrace to lounge on (or catch up on emails) and a sushi bar by a protege of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. Or, soak in the sun from the two rooftop pools, complete with cabanas and excellent pool-side bars.
What to Do:
The city’s maze of waterways makes for excellent kayaking with the guidance of Blue Moon Tours. Keen-eyed visitors might spot a gentle manatee or dolphin, but all paddlers will spot a rainbow of flora and fauna. If you’re visiting during a holiday, the New Years Eve tours have paddlers enjoying the fireworks from a kayak (bubbly in hand!). Or, rent a bike and roam the strip, taking in sweet boutiques and make a stop for a beach-front margarita.
For the less-outdoorsy, weekends at the W Fort Lauderdale are when the two rooftop pools really heat up. DJs spin during the daylight hours and the pool-side bar serves up light bites and a spate of really great cocktails, turning the pool into a vibrant rooftop party. A stay at the hotel includes a beach chair and umbrella, but rent a cabana and stay all day, but be sure to not miss taking a dip in the pool: the glass-sided pools allows swimmers to take mermaid-inspired Instagram shots.
Where to Eat:
If your mood is too languid to leave the property, El Vez serves up Baja-style cuisine. Come around sundown – the sun sets perfectly over the beach here – and order crispy Mahi Mahi tacos or if you’re hungry – a heaping order of brisket nachos. If you’re feeling a bit more coastal, seafood plates like black miso cod and towering seafood platters Steak 954 are not to be missed, though you’ll fare well ordering a steak here.
Not to be outdone by the food options, the mixology scene has raised the bar for excellent places to drink. Hit the Rhythm & Vine for Golden Hour: the verdant backyard beer garden is complete with picnic tables, board games, and local brews served out of a vintage Airstream.
Just a few blocks away, the sky-high Sparrow is perched atop the Dalmer Hotel; expect stellar sips by the James Beard Award-winning Proprietors LLC crew behind New York’s Death & Co.
As the evening grows late, stop into The Rooftop for the late-night DJ sets and flights-of-fancy inspired cocktails.