Fort Lauderdale/Palm Beach/Boca Raton, Florida
Value for Money:
Personality Types that Like it Best
Did You Know … ?
- The 1960 movie, “Where the Boys Are,” set in Fort Lauderdale, turned the resort into spring break central.
- Palm Beach got its palms — and later its name — because a ship loaded with coconuts ran aground there (1878).
- The Seminoles of Florida are the only tribe in America that never signed a peace treaty.
- A team of IBM engineers in Boca Raton created the first preassembled personal computer (1981).
- Two-thirds of Broward County, home of Fort Lauderdale, is Everglades swampland.
A coast of choices
Fort Lauderdale anchors a string of towns and cities that line the east coast of South Florida, on the Atlantic Ocean. The shoreline is distinguished by coastal islands, inland waterways and manmade canals; the latter are particularly numerous in Fort Lauderdale itself. Palm Beach and Boca Raton, to the north, are perhaps the best known of the neighboring resorts, but there are numerous others.
Together, these coastal communities provide rich choices for the arts, beaches, marinas, water sports, sightseeing, wildlife and wilderness, enough for very active or very relaxing vacations. Besides, the ocean views are beautiful.
From the 1960s, hard-partying students on spring break ensured Fort Lauderdale was seen as a destination for hard-partying students. But, in 1986, the city launched a process that changed Greater Fort Lauderdale into a year-round destination with appeal to families, couples, international visitors and conference delegates.
Area redevelopment — which included fancier hotels, chic cafes, ritzy shops, new museums and entertainment venues — also made the destination more attractive to the moneyed classes. Further, the refined lifestyle and Fort Lauderdale’s extensive system of waterways combined nicely to earn Fort Lauderdale the moniker, yachting capital of the world.
Palm Beach, on an island 45 minutes to the north, was already an upscale kind of place. It’s got the billionaires’ homes, but it’s not a party town — the rich go elsewhere for a raucous time. Instead, it’s a beautiful place where visitors can take a guided walking tour, ride a bicycle past the grand clubs and massive mansions, and drop cash in the shops and eateries.
Initially a farming community, Boca Raton, between Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach, was turned into a resort town by design in the 1920s. The city’s look still reflects the Spanish-Moorish building style of the architect, Addison Mizner, who drew the plans for this transformation.
The centerpiece, Mizner Park, is a mixed-use space offering cinemas, restaurants and shopping, plus walkways and fountains that invite pedestrians to take leisurely strolls in a lush tropical atmosphere. The park is home to the Boca Raton Museum of Art and an outdoor amphitheater, where free concerts and other recreational events are staged.
Things to do for Venturers
- Go waterskiing or parasailing on South Florida’s canals. Or, make that jet skiing.
- Don the gear for scuba diving. There are more than 100 good diving spots featuring shipwrecks and natural and artificial reefs in the greater Fort Lauderdale area alone.
- In the spring, attend the Seminole Okalee Indian Village Powwow.
- Play polo at Palm Beach County Polo, or at least watch a professional match there.
- Captain your own, or a rented, boat while exploring South Florida’s waterways. Or, take sailing lessons. Or, come to town for Fort Lauderdale’s monster-sized boat show in the fall.
- Get into the Festival of the Arts BOCA, a multiday event for jazz, classical performances, opera and a lineup of engaging speakers.
Things to do for Centrics
- Go to the races. Choices include greyhound racing, harness racing and thoroughbred racing.
- Head out to sea for big-game fishing. Drift fishing (fishing from a boat that drifts with wind and currents) is another alternative.
- Explore the history and culture of the Seminole Indians at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. Use an audio tour to make the most of the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, and see tribal members demonstrating traditional arts and crafts.
- Further pursue arts in the area. Consider the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District, a 22-block section along the New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale, for the art galleries and other diversions.
- If short on time for the national park, take an airboat ride through Broward County’s 29-acre Everglades Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale and see the flora and fauna typical of the subtropical wilderness known as the Everglades.
- Come to Fort Lauderdale, or maybe Boca Raton, for spring break. Students still do that.
Things to do for Authentics
- Play golf or tennis. Also, there are several casinos in South Florida. How lucky can you get?
- Be enchanted at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, which boasts the largest butterfly aviary in North America, as well as an insectarium and a hummingbird environment.
- Use the water taxi for transportation in Fort Lauderdale. Also, take a tour by rickshaw or trolley.
- Shop until your credit cards snap. The region is known for its upscale shopping — the fanciest in Palm Beach — but also has secondhand shops selling lightly used luxury items.
- Take a sightseeing cruise, with dinner and entertainment, on the Fort Lauderdale canals. Other options up and down the coast include sightseeing cruises on the Atlantic and inland waterways.
- Tour Fort Lauderdale’s historic, art-filled Stranahan House, the oldest building in Fort Lauderdale, and Bonnet House. Get a peek at some of the mansions on the so-called Billionaire’s Row in Palm Beach, and look in at the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum.
For more information, consult Visit Florida at www.visitflorida.com