Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA
In the 1960s Fort Lauderdale's beachfront was lined with T-shirt shops interspersed with quickie-food outlets, and downtown consisted of a lone office tower, some dilapidated government buildings, and motley other structures waiting to be razed. Today the beach is home to upscale shops and restaurants, while downtown has exploded with new office and luxury residential development. The entertainment and shopping areas-Las Olas Boulevard, Las Olas Riverfront, and Himmarshee Village-are thriving. A captivating shoreline with wide ribbons of sand for beachcombing and sunbathing makes Fort Lauderdale and Broward County a major draw for visitors and often tempts cruise-ship passengers to spend an extra day or two in the sun. Fort Lauderdale's 2-mi (3-km) stretch of unobstructed beachfront has been further enhanced with a sparkling promenade designed more for the pleasure of pedestrians than vehicles.
Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale's cruise port, is the second largest in the world. The port is near downtown Fort Lauderdale, but it's spread out over a huge area.
Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. On the way to the Everglades from Fort Lauderdale are this reservation's two very different attractions.
At the Billie Swamp Safari, experience the majesty of the Everglades firsthand. Daily tours of wildlife-filled wetlands and hammocks yield sightings of deer, water buffalo, raccoons, wild hogs, hawks, eagles, and alligators. Sighting of the rare Florida panther are limited to the two captive felines on-site. Animal and reptile shows entertain audiences. Ecotours are conducted aboard motorized swamp buggies, and airboat rides are available, too. The on-site Swamp Water Café serves gator nuggets, frogs' legs, catfish, and Indian fry bread with honey. 30000 Gator Tail Trail, Clewiston Admission charged.
A couple of miles from Billie Swamp Safari is Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, whose name means "a place to learn, a place to remember." This museum documents the traditions and culture of the Seminole Tribe of Florida through artifacts, exhibits, and reenactments of rituals and ceremonies. The 60-acre site includes a living-history Seminole village, nature trails, and a wheelchair-accessible boardwalk through a cypress swamp. 34725 West Boundary Road, Clewiston Admission charged.
Bonnet House. A 35-acre oasis in the heart of the beach area, this subtropical estate on the National Register of Historic Places stands as a tribute to the history of Old South Florida. This charming home, built in the roaring '20s, was the winter residence of the late Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett, artists whose personal touches and small surprises are evident throughout. For architecture, artwork, or the natural environment, this place is special. After admiring the fabulous gardens, be on the lookout for playful monkeys swinging from trees. Hours can vary, so call first. 900 N. Birch Rd. Admission charged.
Butterfly World. As many as 80 butterfly species from South and Central America, the Philippines, Malaysia, Taiwan, and other Asian nations are typically found within the serene 3-acre site inside Tradewinds Park, at the western edge of Pompano Beach, several miles inland. A screened aviary called North American Butterflies is reserved for native species. The Tropical Rain Forest Aviary is a 30-foot-high construction, with observation decks, waterfalls, ponds, and tunnels filled with thousands of colorful butterflies. Kids bug out at the bug zoo with Asian cockroaches as big as your hand. 3600 W. Sample Rd., Coconut Creek Admission charged.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area. You can stroll along a nature trail, visit the Birch House Museum, picnic, play volleyball, pitch horseshoes, and paddle a rented canoe at this 180-acre park. If you are driving, be aware that parking is limited on Route A1A; park at Birch and take a walkway underpass to the beach (between 9 and 5). 3109 E. Sunrise Blvd.
Museum of Discovery & Science/AutoNation IMAX Theater. With over 200 interactive exhibits, the aim here is to entertain children-and adults-with wonders of science. Exhibits include Kidscience, encouraging youngsters to explore the world; and Gizmo City, a look at how gadgets work. Florida Ecoscapes has a living coral reef, plus sharks, rays, and eels. Runways to Rockets offers stimulating trips to Mars and the moon while nine different cockpit stimulators let you try out your pilot skills. The AutoNation IMAX theater, part of the complex, shows films, some in 3-D, on an 80 foot by 60 foot screen with 15,000 watts of digital surround sound broadcast from 42 speakers. 401 SW 2nd St. Admission charged.
Riverwalk. Lovely views prevail on this paved promenade on the New River's north bank. On the first Sunday of every month a free jazz festival attracts visitors as does an organic, urban farmers' market each Saturday from 9 to 1. From west to east, the Riverwalk begins at the residential New River Sound, passes through the Arts and Science District, then the historic center of Fort Lauderdale, and wraps around the New River until it meets with Las Olas Boulevard's shopping district.
Las Olas Riverfront. This is a shopping, dining, and entertainment complex with constantly evolving shops for everything from meals and threads to cigars and tattoos. 1 block west of Andrews Ave. along New River.
Las Olas Boulevard. The city's best boutiques plus top restaurants and art galleries line a beautifully landscaped street. Window shopping allowed. 1 block off New River east of Andrews Ave.
The Gallery at Beach Place. Just north of Las Olas Boulevard on Route A1A you can browse touristy beach shops, enjoy lunch or dinner, or carouse at assorted nightspots. Beach Place has covered parking, but you can pinch pennies by using a nearby municipal lot that's metered. 17 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd.
Galleria Mall. Just west of the Intracoastal Waterway, the split-level emporium entices with Neiman Marcus, Dillard's, and Macy's, plus 150 specialty shops for anything from cookware to exquisite jewelry. Recent upgrades include marble floors and fine dining options. Chow down at Capital Grille, Truluck's, Blue Martini, P.F. Chang's or Seasons 52, or head for the food court, which will defy expectations with its international food-market feel. Galleria is open 10-9 Monday through Saturday, noon-5:30 Sunday. 2414 E. Sunrise Blvd.
Fort Lauderdale's beachfront offers the best of all possible worlds, with easy access not only to a wide band of beige sand but also to restaurants and shops. For 2 mi heading north, beginning at the Bahia Mar yacht basin, along Route A1A you'll have clear views, typically across rows of colorful beach umbrellas, to the sea and ships passing into and out of nearby Port Everglades. If you're on the beach, gaze back on an exceptionally graceful promenade.
Pedestrians rank above cars in Fort Lauderdale. Broad walkways line both sides of the beach road, and traffic has been trimmed to two gently curving northbound lanes, where in-line skaters skim past slow-moving cars. On the beach side, a low masonry wall doubles as an extended bench, separating sand from the promenade. At night, the wall is accented with ribbons of fiber-optic color. The most crowded portion of beach is between Las Olas and Sunrise boulevards.
North of the redesigned beachfront is another 2 mi of open and natural coastal landscape. Much of the way parallels the Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreation Area, preserving a patch of primeval Florida.