Before our migration from Boca Raton on Florida’s Atlantic coast to Sarasota on the Gulf coast in early 1999, we were frequent visitors to neighboring Broward County and Greater Fort Lauderdale to visit friends and enjoy the restaurants and recreational opportunities.
So, when we embarked on recent road trip back to our old stomping grounds in June, 2016, we were curious to see what has changed and what has endured. There are ample amounts of both.
For starters, the impressive infrastructure of greater Fort Lauderdale has stood the test of time. Visitors and residents alike can move around with east on the wide and well-maintained roads, and a remarkably good public transportation system with frequent buses and commuter trains. The downtown Ft. Lauderdale airport and the Port Everglades cruise terminal are also convenient and efficient terminals for visitors.
The subtropical ambiance that strikes visitors from the north so positively as a defining characteristic has not changed either. Lush landscaping of both public and private spaces is the norm and tends to dress up even some not-so-upscale neighborhoods.
Another enduring feature of the area is its allure to visitors. The warm weather, dynamic night life, great restaurants and tourist attractions ranging from Butterfly World and clean public Atlantic beaches to touristy lures such as horse racing, gambling and sightseeing cruises still give visitors plenty to do. Shopping malls of all kinds such as Sawgrass Mills, the Galleria and the Festival Flea market still draw throngs.
What is different is mostly in the commercial realm. Many of our favorite restaurants are no longer there or under new management, though some new ones caught our attention. The area immediately to the north of the iconic Deerfield Beach pier, one of our favorite evening walk venues, has gentrified significantly and we loved the view from Oceans 234. Demographically, South Florida ‘s refreshing diversity seems to be have continued.
We really enjoyed playing tourist. One of our favorite “touristy” things to do was a daytime cruise on the venerable Jungle Queen tour boat which is based at the Bahia Mar yacht harbor. For 90 minutes, we glided through the intracoastal waterway and the New River, passing mega yachts and mega mansions galore and absorbing some local color from the narrator’s spiel.
We also found some neat little restaurants on tony East Las Olas Blvd., along Ft. Lauderdale’s beachfront N. Ocean Blvd., and in Pompano Beach in the vicinity of the Intracoastal waterway and Atlantic Blvd. Waterfront restaurants ranging from commonplace to ultra-upscale are easy to find throughout the region.
Our visits to Butterfly World, downtown Ft. Lauderdale, Sawgrass Mills, The Festival Flea Market, and a drive along highway A1A as far as Mizner Park in Boca Raton also landed them on our “should do” list for visitor.
It was fun to revisit greater Ft. Lauderdale and see it from the eyes of a tourist. If you are looking for some good food, beaches and a lot of vacation attractions, we highly recommend you visit there whether for the first or the tenth time.