The Beginner’s Guide to Fort Lauderdale

By Sara Borzatta,

Named after Major William Lauderdale who led the second war against the Seminole Native American tribe, the city of Fort Lauderdale is mostly famous for its sparkling coastline. Located in the southeast of Florida, Fort Lauderdale used to be one of the most popular party spots for college students celebrating spring break but in recent years, the city has been given a makeover complete with upscale restaurants and boutique shops lining its glitzy coastline.

What To Do

Hit the beach


Beaches lined with Palm trees is what you would expect right? Photo by Chris CC BY.

Obviously one of the main attractions in Fort Lauderdale is the nearly 23 miles of sandy beaches in the area. This beachy haven was once known for epic college beach parties and drunk shenanigans — however in recent years the area has started to transform into a more upscale vacation destination with new businesses and older crowds moving in.

Head about seven miles north to Lauderdale-By-The-Sea for some prime snorkeling and scuba diving made possible by its natural, three-tiered coral reef that is easily reachable by a short swim from the beach. This quaint little beach has an old-school beach vibe to the town with cute ice cream parlors and a quiet contentedness.

Opt for the main Fort Lauderdale central beach for a glimpse of the new chic that has swept over the city. Fine dining and great shopping spots line the beach plus the beautiful promenade is sprinkled with palm trees, making it the perfect place for people watching under the sun!


Tour the Everglades


Explore the vast marshlands of the Everglades. Photo by Lisa Jacobs CC BY

If you’re looking to make the most out of your trip to the Everglades, definitely invest in a guided tour. The Everglades Day Safari is by far the most comprehensive tour and  includes a nature walk through Cypress forests, a scenic boat cruise through the Ten Thousand Islands area, and a 40-minute airboat ride where you’re sure to see some gators! The tour includes lunch and is led by an experienced naturalist.

The tour costs $159 for a full-day with round trip transportation from Fort Lauderdale included. Make sure to reserve your spot at least one day ahead of time and bring sunscreen!

You can also book less intensive tours like a 60-minute airboat tour followed by a live gator show for $29.15 or opt for the VIP option $59-$75 which includes transport to and from your hotel.


Shop your heart out

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Give your style a revamp! Photos courtesy of the Lilac and Lilies Facebook page

Shopping in Fort Lauderdale is an art, with gigantic shopping malls and streets lined with boutiques -down a straight avenue to any shopper’s heart. For fashionistas on a budget, head to the Sawgrass Mills, the largest outlet shopping mall in the US with 350 outlets including Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue and Tommy Hilfiger. For more hardcore fashion-lovers, the outlets include 40 high fashion shops including Versace, Prada, Diane von Furstenberg and Jimmy Choo.

Feel like a local and head to the Galleria for a day of shopping and eating, all within steps of Fort Lauderdale Beach. This 100 shop mall has all the usual suspects you’ll want to stop into on your shopping day from Macy’s to Pottery Barn — you have all the most popular stores at your fingertips, plus you can stop in to P.F. Chang’s for some yummy Chinese food on your lunch break. Make sure to check out upcoming boutique Lilac and Lilies for a mix of East and West Coast. Here, fresh-faced designer pieces are hand-picked by the store owners to provide a carefully curated fashion journey for visitors. The store also offer trunk shows and has in-store stylists to help customers create a unique look of their own.

Perhaps the most popular street in Fort Lauderdale, and the most charming is Las Olas Boulevard. The Las Olas shopping district stretches from the beach for ten additional blocks saturated with luxury shopping venues and al fresco eateries. The indoor/outdoor network of shops, museums, art galleries, bistros and cafes is a testament to the opulent charm sweeping over Fort Lauderdale in recent years. Enjoy an iced coffee at a sidewalk cafe and then drift into a quaint gallery for a glimpse of local and international artistry.


What To Eat

Morning Coffee

Warsaw Coffee Company | 815 NE 13th Street


Cinnamon, cloves and a fresh cappuccino at Warsaw. Photo courtesy of the Warsaw Coffee Company Facebook page.

Enjoy a freshly dripped brew from the Warsaw Coffee Company at their uber hip location on 13th St. The coffee is locally roasted and the pastries are made in-house each day to assure that buttery, flaky freshness is unmatched by most. If you’re trying to cut back on your coffee addiction, not to worry– instead order a salted hot chocolate instead, you won’t be disappointed. Pair your espresso with a butter croissant or opt for a warm breakfast featuring the Bacon Egg Burrito. Bon Appetit! 


The Foxy Brown | 723 East Broward Blvd.


Are those chicken wings on pancakes? Yes! Photo courtesy of The Foxy Brown Facebook page.

Whether you decide to lunch or brunch, The Foxy Brown is the restaurant that will hit the spot. For lunch, enjoy a Stracciatella salad comprised of juicy mozzarella cheese, green peas and fresh prosciutto or opt for a hearty meal like the Chicken Little (herb marinated quail with a cornbread andouille sausage stuffing). The brunch at The Foxy Brown is even better and was celebrated as one of the best brunches in Fort Lauderdale by New Times, The Foxy Brown knows how to mix flavors and food genres in a way that will make you wonder why you never thought of this before: for example the Banana Bread Grilled Cheese with Nutella and ricotta– yum. Make sure to top of your brunch with a BLT Bloody Mary.


Coconuts | 429 Seabreeze Blvd.

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Enjoy a colorful meal! Photos courtesy of the Coconuts Facebook page

Owned by the same crew as My Foxy Brown, it’s no wonder that Coconuts is the top spot for a dinner on the water in Fort Lauderdale. Its prime location on the main beach strip makes it a popular spot with tourists, but its decadent, home-style cooking is what makes it a local favorite. Make sure you try the conch fritters, a favorite Caribbean dish, and follow it up with a Comfort Bowl made up of pasta shells and sriracha cheese sauce with your choice of lobster, chicken or sausage. The best part of Coconuts is not limited to its amazing oceanfront view or its spectacular menu — but rather the restaurant’s motto ‘Be Nice’ is unbeatable and much-appreciated.

Where To Sleep

The Pillars Hotel | 4-star


Palm views await you! Photo taken from trivago.

Book me in!

There’s a reason trivago users rated The Pillars Hotel as the top four-star hotel in Fort Lauderdale. From its casual beachouse vibe to its opulent dining on the waterfront, the Pillars Hotel is a relaxing oasis of Floridian charm. Each of the guestrooms feature fluffy duvets and ultra-soft pillows plus sleek marble bathrooms and upscale toiletries. Let Chef Youssef Hammi transport your palette to exotic lands with his Moroccan-inspired dishes at the exclusive hotel restaurant, The Secret Garden.


Aqua Hotel | 3-star


Caribbean cool rooms at the Aqua. Photo courtesy of the Aqua Hotel Facebook page.

Book me in!

Relax in the Caribbean-themed rooms of the Aqua Hotel. Located just a two-minute stroll to the beach, this 3-star beauty keeps things fresh, simple and bright with 39 white and teal colored guestrooms. Indulge in one of two heated hotel pools or take a sunny amble through the hotel gardens. Its spacious guestrooms are complete with crisp oceanic decor and hanging surfboards and palm tree views that will constantly remind you you’re in the Sunshine State. Don’t miss out on this boutique hotel, conveniently located just two blocks from the Fort Lauderdale beach and half a mile from The Galleria shopping mall.


Blue Seas Courtyard | 2-star


Have a happy stay at this hacienda-style hotel. Photo courtesy of the Blue Seas Courtyard Facebook page.

Book me in!

Stay at a place just as colorful as the city of Fort Lauderdale with a night at the Blue Seas Courtyard hotel in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. This hacienda-style hotel is decked out in Mexican-Spanish decor complete with colorful stenciling, terracotta tiles and unique pottery. This is an artist’s paradise with immaculate attention to detail lavished by the owners Marc and Cristie, both of whom make sure that guests are greeted with a warm welcome. The beach is right across the street so you can wake up in your vibrant room overlooking the perfectly manicured courtyard and then head over to the beach for an afternoon snorkel!

Guide to Fort Lauderdale Fort Lauderdale hotels
Photos by Llima Orosa and  Vince Alongi CC BY

Fort Lauderdale has a lot to offer visitors and locals alike, this is just the beginning! Stay tuned for more information on what to see, do and most importantly where to sleep in Fort Lauderdale! In the meantime have a look at our other Florida-related content for some fun in the Sunshine State.

*Cover photo by John Spade cc by

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