Picture this: you’re fresh off the plane, having just escaped yet another brutal northeast winter. Sure, you will have to go back in four days, but you’re determined to make the most of your vacation to Fort Lauderdale. This South Florida city has it all: enriching museums, beautiful beaches, buzzing bars and chic boutiques. Need help figuring out where to start? Don’t fret, we’ll show you the best places to go, no matter what scene you’re looking for.
“The weather is always so nice, and it’s always calmer than Miami,” said Navya Kulhari, a junior from Broward County. She said Fort Lauderdale is the perfect place to soak in the Florida sunshine without the hustle and bustle in Miami. Come one, come all to Fort Lauderdale, your new go-to vacation spot.
Fort Lauderdale was initially inhabited by the Tequesta people. In the late 19th century. The area was settled by Americans who established small farms. In 1911, the city of Fort Lauderdale was incorporated and, in the 1920s, the city became a popular tourist destination due to its beaches and scenic waterways. During World War II, the city served as a training center for soldiers and, after the war, it experienced a rise in popularity as many veterans returned to the area. In the 1960s, Fort Lauderdale became known as the “spring break capital of the world” due to many college students visiting the city during spring break.
The spring break hotspot is often referred to as the “Venice of America” due to its vast network of canals, which resemble the waterways of Venice, Italy. The city has over 165 miles of navigable waterways connecting to the Intercoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Initially used for transportation and commerce, these waterways add to the attraction of Fort Lauderdale, offering boat tours, water taxis and views of the magnificent waterfront homes you see on Zillow. The canals have also contributed to the city’s reputation as a boating hub, littered with numerous marinas and boat yards.
Food & Culture
The Fort Lauderdale food scene is thriving, with a collection of restaurants that range from casual seafood grills to fancy steakhouses. Whether you’re looking to catch a meal between tanning sessions on the beach or dress up and splurge on a fancy dinner, they have you covered.
Mitch’s Downtown Bagel Café is a popular breakfast spot known for its fresh-baked bagels made daily. The menu also features a variety of spreads, sandwiches, salads and other breakfast items. The café has a cozy atmosphere and is a popular gathering place for locals to grab either a quick bite on the go or indulge in a leisurely brunch.
“We ate at Mitch’s Downtown Bagel Café and it was fire,” said Thalia Vlahos, a UM sophomore who visited Fort Lauderdale earlier in the semester.
For lunch, stop by Magnolia Caffe, a hidden gem in the heart of Fort Lauderdale. The artisan cafe is covered in eye-catching antiques from wall to wall. The family-owned business serves coffee, tea, kombucha, light meals and desserts baked fresh every morning. Its unique decoration — indoors and outdoors — makes any guest feel like they are enjoying a meal with the coolest grandparents.
15th Street Fisheries is a popular seafood restaurant situated on the Intercoastal Waterway. The riverside location offers scenic views of the water and surrounding boats. The menu features a variety of fresh seafood options, including fish, crab, lobster and more. Known for its relaxed, casual atmosphere, the spot is a popular destination for locals and tourists.
If you’re searching for a pick-me-up throughout the day or a spot to catch up with friends for a cup of coffee, there are plenty of options. JB&C, Wells Coffee Co. and Brew Urban Cafe are all situated along the Tri-Rail railroad. With their unique atmosphere and varied menus, these spots allow patrons to enjoy company or read.
Shopping & Culture
Fort Lauderdale has a rich cultural heritage, reflected in its museums, galleries and cultural events. Las Olas Boulevard, a popular location, offers a variety of shopping and dining options.
“If I was visiting Fort Lauderdale for Spring Break, I’d definitely say to visit Las Olas. There’s plenty of great local restaurants and shopping there, and they often host events like theater performances and off-broadway shows nearby at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts,” said Emily Danzinger, a UM sophomore from Broward County. “Not too far from Las Olas is also Revolution Live, where you can watch your favorite band, and the Museum of Science and Discovery, which has one of the biggest IMAX movie screens in America.”
According to locals, the thrifting culture in Fort Lauderdale is one of the best in the tri-county area. Stop by the American Thrift Store for multiple floors of pre-loved clothing, shoes, bags, furniture and more. Now open with two locations, Oddballs is the place for antique lovers. Filled with what is best described as “things.” From unique plates to vintage movie posters and bomber jackets, Oddballs is the perfect place to walk through for hours. Out of the Closet is a chain of thrift stores with a mission to support HIV/AIDS healthcare, prevention and advocacy. All proceeds from the sale of items at Out of the Closet stores support the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and its efforts to provide healthcare and support to those affected by HIV/AIDS. In addition to its thrift store offerings, Out of the Closet also provides free HIV testing and other health services at some of its locations.
Fort Lauderdale has a vibrant nightlife scene, with several popular nightclubs that offer a variety of experiences for visitors. Some of the best nightclubs in the city include Revolution Live, a popular live music venue that hosts local and national acts, America’s Backyard, a large outdoor bar and nightclub that features live music and DJs, Vibe Las Olas, a chic nightclub that features a large dance floor and VIP areas, The Wharf Fort Lauderdale (cousin to Miami’s beloved Wharf) is waterfront bar and bistro with DJs providing the vibe, and Blue Martini, an upscale bar and lounge that features live music, cocktails, and a VIP section for you .
If you’re planning to spend spring break in Fort Lauderdale, here are some tips to help you make the most of your trip.
First, plan. Fort Lauderdale is a popular destination, so make plans to ensure you have accommodations and activities set before you arrive. This doesn’t mean have a full itinerary, but locking down where you’re staying and maybe a reservation or two for dinner can make things go a lot smoother.
Next, know the rules. The city is known to have strict regulations for spring breakers, so familiarize yourself with the local laws and regulations to avoid trouble during your stay. Stay safe and use your common sense. As one would anywhere else, be aware of your surroundings, travel in groups and take precautions to keep you and others you are traveling with safe.
Though while being prepared is important, the number one rule of every trip is to have fun. Explore the city, enjoy the beautiful beaches and enjoy every moment.
words_lauren ferrer. design_adriana león. photo_isa márquez.
This article was published in Distraction’s Spring 2023 print issue.