|With 16 stops throughout Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, the Water Taxi allows adults to hop on and off all day for $20.|
Pre- and post-cruise attractions in Fort Lauderdale
Having welcomed its first cruise ship in 1931, Port Everglades is now one of the world’s busiest cruise ports with 3.8 million passengers expected this year. Many of those guests will spend a few days ashore in Greater Fort Lauderdale either pre- or post-cruise.
Many agents attending this month’s Cruise Lines International Association’s (CLIA) cruise3sixty conference are similarly eager to explore the area. What’s to see and do? Following is a sampling of fun activities.
Called the Venice of America—and celebrating its 100th birthday this year—Fort Lauderdale is surrounded and dissected by waterways. So not surprisingly, many top attractions are water-focused. “I think the Water Taxi is pretty cool,” says Michelle Fee, co-founder and CEO, Cruise Planners. “It’s fun to bar- and restaurant-hop.” With 16 stops throughout Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, the Water Taxi allows adults to hop on and off all day for $20, with lesser fares for seniors and kids.
History buffs and romantics may check out Las Olas Gondola Tours for Venetian-style gondola sightseeing. Or, visitors may board the 550-passenger Jungle Queen Riverboat for a three-hour, narrated sightseeing cruise along the New River and Millionaire’s Row, with a stop to view rare birds, monkeys and an alligator exhibition. A dinner cruise features all-you-can-eat ribs, chicken and shrimp, followed by a variety show.
Greater Fort Lauderdale boasts 23 miles of Blue Wave environmentally certified beaches, each with soft white sand and its own personality. It’s easy to identify Fort Lauderdale Beach from its low, undulating white walls along the beach road, as well as palm trees and active beach scene. Movie buffs may want to peer inside Fort Lauderdale Beach’s Elbo Room, featured in the 1960 spring break romp, Where the Boys Are. Further north, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea exudes a low-key, quieter style with eclectic restaurants and a fishing pier.
The 2.2-mile Hollywood Oceanfront Broadwalk is the place to stroll, ride a bicycle or just people-watch. Corral a Broadwalk-facing table at the Hollywood Beach Marriott’s outdoor Tiki Bar and chow down on fresh grilled fish, salads, burgers and Caribbean fare.
One of the destination’s trendiest shopping areas for clothing, jewelry, gifts and galleries is Las Olas Boulevard. The sprawling, 400-store Sawgrass Mills Mall in Sunrise is the place for shopaholics. For cruisers with flights home late in the day, some lines offer post-cruise shuttles to Sawgrass, followed by an airport drop-off.
One trendy upscale Hallandale Beach attraction is the Village at Gulfstream Park with clothing boutiques, housewares, gifts, galleries, outdoor cafes and fine restaurants. Recommended is BRIO Tuscan Grille, which serves yummy northern Italian cuisine in a casual, white-tablecloth atmosphere. Gulfstream’s adjacent horseracing track, home to the Florida Derby, is open in the winter season and its casino is open year-round with 850 slot machines, electronic table games and live-action poker.
In Touch With Nature
Exploring the Everglades is a Florida “must-do” for many visitors. An all-day ecotour by Everglades Day Safari combines an airboat ride, nature walk, wildlife drive, Southern lunch and scenic boat ride into the mangroves of the 10,000 Islands. Everglades Holiday Park-Airboat Tours will rent fishing boats or take consumers through the River of Grass on a one-hour tour.
Heading west in Broward County along I-75’s so-called Alligator Alley, visitors may immerse themselves in viewing native American heritage and wildlife at the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation’s Billie Swamp Safari. Airboat rides, alligator shows, Swamp Buggy tours and animal exhibits are the big draws. So is the onsite Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, which explains Seminole history and culture with dioramas, native crafts and artifacts.
At Flamingo Gardens and Wray Botanical Collection in Davie, visitors enter a 60-acre garden and explore a tropical plant house, birds-of-prey center, walk-through aviary and a wildlife sanctuary that’s home to bobcats, Florida panthers and alligators. And yes, here visitors also will see flamingos. While the pink birds are actually native to the Bahamas and the Caribbean—not Florida—to most tourists, the birds are Sunshine State icons.
To stroll amid 10,000 butterflies, travelers may check out the 10-acre Butterfly World in Coconut Creek. Highlights are an English rose garden, tropical rainforest aviary, a Wings of the World Secret Garden, colorful fish, an insectarium, exotic birds and more.
History, Culture and More
Fans of religious art should head for Vatican Splendors: A Journey through Faith and Art, a special exhibition through April 24 at the Museum of Art/Fort Lauderdale at Nova Southeastern University. Visitors will view priceless works by Bernini, Giotto and Guercino as well as Vatican artifacts.
Families or those seeking something to do on a rainy day may venture to the Museum of Discovery and Science for hands-on science fun and an IMAX theater. The International Swimming Hall of Fame displays Olympic memorabilia from 100 nations, as well as information and videos on more than 600 aquatic stars. One current exhibit showcases actor and swimmer Johnny Weissmuller, his Olympic gold medals, a swimsuit worn during the 1928 Olympic Games and movie memorabilia from 16 Tarzan films he made during the 1930s and 1940s.
The Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District is a lovely place to stroll. Among its attractions is the Fort Lauderdale History Center, where travelers may check out the old photographs and artifacts at the center’s museum, housed in the 1905-era New River Inn.
Broward County’s oldest structure is the 1901-era Historic Stranahan House Museum, a Florida vernacular-style mansion with period antiques. In partnership with Water Taxi, the museum offers a spooky Sunday evening River Ghost Tour with a house visit and boat ride. Tickets are $25 per person and reservations are required, so e-mail [email protected]
Surrounded by subtropical gardens, the 1920-era Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is the former home of two American artists; some works and a studio are on site. The Old Dillard Museum specializes in African-American heritage. Antique aficionados might browse for glassware and American artifacts at the small Dania Historic Antique Shopping District, a short taxi ride from Port Everglades.
Hollywood’s Seminole Paradise Hard Rock Hotel & Casino fields slot machines and gaming tables but the Seminole Paradise complex also includes 18 themed dining options, 12 high-energy nightclubs and live entertainment venues, as well as 23 boutiques.
When the locals want to take family or friends visiting from out of town to a fun evening show, they often head for the Mai Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show in Fort Lauderdale. Diners savor the Panang Curry Chicken or other Asian dishes, watch hula dancers and fire twirlers, and soak in a South Seas ambiance.
The 27-acre Boomers! Greater Fort Lauderdale in Dania Beach is a hit with families, with its go-karts, video game arcade, rock wall, mini-golf, bowling, batting cages, laser tag, bumper boats and several thrill rides, including the Hurricane, a 3,200-foot wooden coaster.
For details about these and other Greater Fort Lauderdale area attractions, visit www.sunny.org. That site also has information about such programs as Dine Out Lauderdale, an October promotion that offers three-course meals at top restaurants for a fixed $35.
From May through September, visitors will reap two-for-one savings on attractions in the destination’s Vacation like a VIP program. During Learn to Dive month in June, Greater Fort Lauderdale visitors who book an open-water scuba diving course with a local dive specialist will receive a free graduation dive and free night’s stay: the region boasts more than 100 offshore wreck dive sites.
Also, agents may check out We Love Cruisers deals for pre- and post-cruise stays at www.sunny.org/cruiseandplay.
|Fort Lauderdale has more than 20 miles of beaches, including this area seen from the Atlantic Hotel.|