Stay & Play: Fort Lauderdale

It’s hard to separate Fort Lauderdale from its infamous reputation of a raucous spring-break party town fueled by booze and debauchery, but so much has changed. Visitors are still drawn to “The Strip”, a timeless promenade with a signature white wall that lines the beachfront area, and Las Olas Boulevard remains the spot to see and be seen, however Fort Lauderdale has grown up — drawing snowbirds, families, the LBQT community, and still some college-age students, to its beautiful beaches, boating canals and blue waters. And, with the addition of the Brightline, a privately operated, express intercity high-speed rail system with service between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, it’s now easier than ever for Palm Beach County residents to venture south for a staycation.

Beyond beaches, Fort Lauderdale offers so much more. Spend a morning touring Sailboat Bend, a neighborhood featuring historic 1920s-era bungalows that have  been beautifully restored to their full glory, and lunch at one of the area’s many authentic Jamaican and Brazilian restaurants. Or, visit the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, one of the few complete homes and studios of two American artists open to the public; the Museum of Discovery and Science, with interactive exhibits, an eco-center and giant IMAX theater; Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, which features hiking, fishing, a diverse wildlife habitat and a lagoon; or The Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum and its impressive collection of motor cars and memorabilia. Then spend a relaxing afternoon at one many beachside eateries, which will serve up anything from pitchers of beer to handcrafted cocktails and artisanal snacks. Plus, a visit to Lauderdale wouldn’t be complete without venturing over to Las Olas, a premier destination for tourists and residents alike. There you’ll find fine dining, casual cafes and bars, boutiques, art galleries and luxury condominiums. Las Olas also hosts monthly and annual special events, arts fairs, festivals and holiday celebrations.

Over the past decade, development in Fort Lauderdale has been booming—high rise residences, expansive mansions and luxury resorts are quickly replacing the dingy motels and beachside cottages that, in the past, defined the vibe of the city. Today, discerning travelers have a bevy of beautiful accommodations to choose from when planning a visit. Some boast big names synonymous with huge budgets and others reflect a hip-modern vibe. However, we found a perfect respite, suitable for couples and families alike. Situated upon 500 feet of Fort Lauderdale’s pristine sand, Pelican Grand Beach Resort blends Old
Florida charm with coastal elegance, to offer guests a comfortable beach retreat. Part of the Noble House Resort & Hotels collection, Pelican Grand Beach Resort is a 156-room boutique hotel that has undergone extensive enhancements including the additions of the 12th floor Sky Suite penthouse and 11th floor Pure Suite, which are the supreme oceanfront suites in Fort Lauderdale. Services were also expanded at PURE Spa, an indulgent sanctuary that boasts incredible views and a menu including hydra therapy treatments, facials, body treatments and the must-try Royal Bathing Ritual, which incorporates a unique MicroSilk® technology that cleanses, exfoliates and moisturizes the skin with an oxygen rich blanket of micro bubbles upon submersion.

The spa also offers roof-top yoga, nail care, waxing and make-up application. Outdoor enthusiasts will revel in the Resort’s exterior amenities, specifically the zero entry oceanfront pool, lazy river, beach service and onsite paddle boarding. And, after a long day in the sun, find delectable dining at OCEAN2000, the property’s signature waterfront restaurant featuring unmatched views and contemporary American cuisine with a focus on seafood. Menu highlights include Florida Conch Chowder, Soy-Miso Mahi Mahi, Seafood Mushroom Risotto and the Build-Your-Own Chilled Seafood Platter. Landlubbers may choose from Beef Filet Mignon, Grilled Bone-In Pork Chop or Roasted Organic Chicken. Diners may eat in the restaurant’s flawlessly-decorated interior space, or al fresco with breathtaking beach and ocean views. Breakfast, lunch and Sunday Brunch are also available. At Pelican Grand Beach Resort, laid-back luxury in Fort Lauderdale awaits, and you deserve a weekend away.