For those of us who came of age in the early 80s and before, Fort Lauderdale is a hazy memory of Spring Break beach parties, wet t-shirt contests, keg beer, baby oil sunburns and bawdy behavior. Three decades later, the same beaches and motel strip have matured and cleaned up nicely, providing an affordable, comfortable destination for a family getaway.
Spring Break veterans will recognize vintage establishments such as the Elbo Room, established in 1939 and still rocking 20-somethings looking for cheap drinks, a great view and not much else. I rediscovered the 50s era motel with center court pool that 14 of my closest friends and I shared for a week and affectionately nicknamed, "The Bahama Mama." Now sporting new paint, a new name and likely new owners, it bears a striking resemblance to the set of TVs Melrose Place and possibly a decent place to stay.
There is plenty of family appeal to the area including the wide, clean, light sand beaches with emerald water and palm trees, quiet hotels, trendy restaurants and boutique shops along Las Olas Blvd., and a variety of museums. Ice cream, pizza and sandwich shops have replaced most of the raunchy beachfront bars and even the tacky souvenir shops along the main strip are endearing. The miles of wide sidewalk that outline the beachfront are popular with runners, walkers and bicyclists. On the north end across from the beach, the refreshingly shady Hugh Taylor Birch State Park offers canoes, bicycles, fishing, swimming and nature hikes. A tunnel from the park extends under the main road directly to the beach.
Before you go, check out the classic 60s era spring break flicks, "Where the Boys Are" and Elvis's, "Girl Happy." Both films feature popular spots in Fort Lauderdale you may still recognize today. Fort Lauderdale promises plenty of opportunities for family fun and this time you won't be sleeping on a floor or nursing a hangover.
Where to Stay
Harbor Beach Marriott
Lago Mar Resort
Pelican Grand Beach Resort
Where to Eat
There are a variety of restaurants from fast food and chain restaurants to higher end local restaurants from which to choose. Coal fired pizza is popular in South Florida and of course at a beach resort, seafood is always a great option.
Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza
15th Street Fisheries and Dockside Café
Yo Mama's Ice Cream
Kilwin's Ice Cream
Other Popular Activities
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum
International Swimming Hall of Fame
Jungle Queen River Boat