The Sunshine State is famous for beaches and Fort Lauderdale is no exception. White, sugar-like sands unravel for miles alongside the town’s seafront – lined by promenades flanked with cafés, watersports centres and locals scooting past on rollerblades.
Just like the district of LA this stretch shares a name with, Hollywood Beach is a magnet for stars. And by that, we mean star ratings – it has a collection of awards under its belt, including the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice accolade. A total of 50 restaurants, 30 shops and three parks means there’s everything you could need within easy reach. And the latter is stocked with sports courts and dolphin-shaped fountains that are a big hit with kids.
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, Hillsboro Beach is a top choice. Half an hour’s drive outside of Fort Lauderdale, it’s a much quieter place to soak up the sun. Time your trip between March and October and you might be lucky enough to spot the turtles that come here to nest. While you’re there, check out the Hillsboro Inlet Lighthouse and the statue dedicated to the legendary Barefoot Mailman.
You can snap up almost anything at Swap Shop, Fort Lauderdale’s huge flea market. More than 2,000 stalls trade everything from clothes to food and jewellery at rock-bottom prices. It’s open every day of the week and is located inside an air-conditioned complex. There are plenty of reasons to make a day of it, too, thanks to the drive-in cinema, the big video arcade and the vintage car museum.
Famous American department stores, like Macy’s, and familiar high street names, such as H&M, are found under the roof of the Galleria shopping mall. There’s a food court, where you can take a break from stretching the purse strings, plus a Starbucks café, a chocolate shop and a children’s theatre. Travel there in style by hopping in a water taxi – there’s a station right by it.
For upmarket shopping, head to Sawgrass Mills. Stocked with more than 300 boutiques, it’s Florida’s largest designer outlet mall. Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Michael Kors – they’re all present and correct here. In-between shopping, you can refuel with a sugary slice from the Cheesecake Factory, a pretzel from Auntie Anne’s or a burrito from the Chipotle Mexican Grill.
Live entertainment and dinner are combined at Mai Kai, a Polynesian-themed restaurant complete with a sunken ship bar, a tropical garden, fish tanks and fire torches. As you tuck into honey-glazed chicken, sweet and sour pork, or lobster bora bora, you’ll be surrounded by grass skirt-clad entertainers who dance, play the drums and throw fire.
Put on your best outfit for an evening at the Blue Martini Lounge – it’s the place to see and be seen in Fort Lauderdale and hosts live entertainment and parties seven nights a week. As you’d expect from the name, they major in martini cocktails – lemon, strawberry and raspberry are just a few of the varieties shaken up behind the bar.
Open since the 1950s, this place has built up quite a reputation. Ice-cream flavours tick off everything from rocky road to rum raisin. And you can go all out with a jumbo sundae, piled high with hot fudge, brownie chunks and whipped cream.
Grilled sirloin steak and peach-smoked chicken are just a few of the types of taco you can order at this cheap and cheerful eatery. Whichever one you go for, make sure it’s loaded with guacamole – the restaurant’s motto is ‘we rock the guac!’
If you’re looking for a decent start to the day, this breakfast place is sure to fit the bill. The likes of buttermilk pancakes, Mahi fillet omelettes and thick-sliced bacon sandwiches are listed on the menu – and they’re all made using fresh and organic ingredients.
For a meal with the wow factor, it’s got to be the Capital Grille. This smart, fine-dining restaurant serves 10oz filet mignon steaks, fresh Maine lobster and parmesan truffle fries, to name a few.
Make a reservation at this waterfront dining spot, and you can take in the views of the luxury yachts bobbing on the marina as you eat. Seafood is the theme, but there are burgers, steaks and sandwiches, as well.
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