Fort Lauderdale is a city with something for everyone, from beautiful dinner spots to museums, bottomless brunches, shopping and everything in-between…
When many think of Fort Lauderdale, they envisage the crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches of the coastline, elegantly bordered with palm trees and volleyball nets. While this is true, there is more to see than stunning beach views and much more to do than just feel the sand between your toes. A veritable alternative to its neighbourhood location Miami, Fort Lauderdale is a flourishing yet simple city with so much to give. We recently headed to downtown Hollywood to discover the location and really root ourselves in the beautiful city nestled in the aptly named sunshine state.
To get there
To fly from London to Fort Lauderdale it takes roughly 9 hours 45 minutes. For our experience, we flew with British Airways as they flight direct, multiple times a week. The flight includes plenty of leg space, 23kg of luggage, food and bar service and 30-31″ legroom as well as food and bar service. You can upgrade to Premium Economy for 38″ legroom, 2 x 23kg baggage allowance, a separate smaller cabin and a three course meal as well as bar service. Take a look at flights here.
Fort Lauderdale is a traveller’s playground of Hotels to choose from, each offering different purposes, perks and a unique taste of the city. We decided on the Circ Hotel Hollywood, a chic and contemporary Hotel spanning 12 floors with 111 rooms.
A new addition to the area – and the first of which in 40 years – it has been credited as offering Downtown Hollywood a new lease of life. The area itself is more low key than the touristy sea front, but all the better for it. It offers a bit more of a local taste of the city with independent eateries, and it throbs with an arty and creative flair; think a more refined Shoreditch (minus all the UK rain). Walk two minutes from the Hotel and you’ll arrive at the art pavilion and amphitheatre at ArtsPark and hop on a tram or grab an Uber to the beach which is just four miles away. The rooms are airy and modern with free wifi, flat screen TV’s and Keurig coffeemakers. Beds are supremely comfortable and large windows pave the way for breathtaking views across the city. The landscape here is so flat you can see for miles. You can dine in the onsite restaurant Olivia’s or head to the rooftop deck for more casual dining such as flatbreads and to indulge in a cocktail or glass of prosecco while over looking the views. A DJ plays here some nights and it’s the perfect spot to either start or round off an evening. The rooftop deck of the Circ Hotel is also home to a swimming pool and plush loungers, perfect for when the weather gets hot. It’s easy to see why this hotel is such a favourite with locals and visitors alike.
To Get Around
There is so much to see in Fort Lauderdale, we recommend you get yourself a car. You can easily and effortlessly hire one from a number of locations with rentalcars.com. We recommend you sort this before you get there for peace of mind. You can choose from a whole range of cars, from small city runarounds to large SUV’s depending on what you wish to drive.
Fort Lauderdale is a city that does balance right. Turn one way and you’re faced with a beach that could only be rivalled by that of the Caribbean, turn another and you’re face with a buzzing metropolis, another and you’re in luscious greenery immersed in a whole host of wildlife. Because of this, there is so much to do in Fort Lauderdale – here are just a few of our suggestions…
Visit the Flamingo Gardens
While the Fort Lauderdale Flamingo Gardens might suggest they are just about the famed pink bodied bird, there is so much to do in this beautiful garden and wildlife sanctuary we suggest you put aside at least half a day to explore. The Flamingo Gardens is a non-for profit business taking in injured animals who wouldn’t be able to survive in the wild and not only rehabilitating them, but giving them a home for life. Meet Josh the bear who spent the first decade of his life purporting as a photo prop in a travelling zoo, alligators Elvis and Priscilla, the otters, the flamingo pond, the Panther and Bobcat residents and so much more. When you are done taking in the animals, head on the tram for a guided tour of the gardens with hundreds of different types of plants. There are plenty of great photo opportunities and spots to relax while the sun shines.
See the Downtown Hollywood art mural project
The Downtown Hollywood mural project is an installation of murals dotted on a trail around the city. The project is designed to curate contemporary outdoor murals at key locations to encourage visits all around the city and to showcase some of the more hidden spots. You can get a free guided tour or download a map and make your own way around. Take an afternoon to use the map and discover the different art works as you also get your bearings in Downtown Hollywood. (Great for photo opps too!)
Get creative at the Hot Glass Workshop
Whether you picture yourself as the next Van Gogh or are a little less arty, you would fail not to love the Hollywood Hot Glass workshop. Choose which of the different templates to make – this includes a heart, a star, a paperweight, a vase and more – pick your colours, and then be guided through the glass making process, both having fun, learning something and also crafting a great souvenir to take away with you from your trip. Each piece takes approximately 20 minutes per workshop and you have a dedicated instructor to help you through the process. You’ll be surprised (at least we were) at just how amazing your finished creations look. They need to be picked up the next day, so be sure to make time for this in your plans!
Brunch with Mermaids at the Wreck Bar
Take brunching to a whole new level with the B Hotel’s Wreck Bar Mermaids and Mimosa brunch. Here, you head to a themed eatery which looks like a historic shipwreck – complete with underwater views through the ship portholes. The brunch includes unlimited seafood such as Bluepoint Oysters, Octopus Ceviche, Scallops and more, as well as a variety of cheeses, omelettes, fresh meat carving station, breads, fruits and berries. The food is delicious and accompanied by bottomless mimosas or bloody Marys. Do all this to the backdrop of mermaids who do a swim show through the port holes for a truly magical brunch unlike any other.
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is the legacy of Frederic Clay Bartlett’s visions and talent and was built in 1920. Originally designed as a plantation house to promote a gracious indoor-outdoor lifestyle, it is a beautifully artistic place to head and spend a day. Wander round and take in the collection of art and personal treasures, before taking to the grounds and gardens right on the Fort Lauderdale beachfront.
Explore the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
If you love your art, be sure to had to the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale. Originating in 1958, it is a 75,000 square-foot modernist building designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes and has a whole host of beautiful art work on show. There are over 6,000 works to view as well as special exhibitions and events throughout the year.
Explore Las Olas Boulevard
Las Olas boulevard is an absolute must when visiting Fort Lauderdale. Filled with a range of shops, bars and restaurants it is one of South Florida’s most architecturally unique, authentic and eclectic districts. It is the perfect place to head for a shop and a coffee during the day, and for dinner and drinks when the sun sets. You can take a languid wander with an ice cream, or pop to the shops to find something to wear. It is bordered by palm trees and a beautiful spot no matter your purpose.
Dinner at Olivia’s Restaurant in Circ Hotel
Olivia’s Restaurant in Circ hotel is a delicious Italian restaurant ideal for languid dining with a glass of red in hand. It’s a place to relax after a busy day of exploring the city where you can take in the delicious scents of garlic, fresh pasta and tomatoes as you peruse the varied menu. Enjoy fresh mozzarella from their mozzarella bar and dig into everything from fresh pasta dishes with home made sauces, to brightly coloured salads, juicy steaks, delicious chicken and fresh fish.
J28 Sandwich Bar
For a quick yet tasty lunch near to Circ hotel, be sure to head to J28 sandwich bar, a Peruvian inspired eatery with fresh, home-made bread, a whole host of sandwiches and other speciality dishes. Choose to eat in in their cosy seating area, or take your sandwich out while you go for a wander round downtown Hollywood.
GG’s Waterfront Bar and Grill
For a more fine dining seafood restaurant, be sure to head to GG’s Waterfront bar and grill. Nestled right on the waters edge, tuck into perfectly cooked dishes while watching the sun set. You can choose from the raw bar for a host of fresh raw fish, or main menu dishes from Thai fried oysters, to lobster, lamb chops or filet mignon. Be sure to take a look at their dessert menu – you’ll regret it if you don’t!
Louie Bossi’s is one of our favourite destinations in Fort Lauderdale. It’s charming, it’s beautiful and it’s a slice of Italian homeliness in the heart of a busy American city. Each and every taste is a real treat, from the fire-pit pizza to the homemade pasta, each and every flavour is evident in every mouthful. Find a spot in the courtyard for a glass of wine as the sun sets and pop in on a Sunday for a bottomless Bellini brunch.