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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL Oct 18, 2015/ Troy Media/ – Which city boasts the most sunshine in the continental U.S.?
Nope, it’s not Los Angeles or Phoenix. It’s Fort Lauderdale, Florida. With its fabulous beaches, year-round water sports, great shopping, cultural life, casinos, and cosmopolitan array of restaurants, it has shed its image as a spring break town and become one of the premiere resort and family areas of South Florida.
More than 3,000 hours of sunshine a year means that you can sun, golf (52 courses), fish (25 miles – 40km – of coastline), play tennis (500 courts), and swim just about any day you choose. This is a major centre for diving – boasting America’s only living coral reef, as well as many artificial reefs and oddities (including a late-model Rolls Royce sunk by an eccentric owner for the public’s amusement). Fort Lauderdale’s 300 miles (483km) of canals and unique water taxi service have given it its nickname of “The Venice of America.”
The shopping is world-class in 12 modern, Florida-style malls and more than 1,000 quaint shops, as befits this resort-playground. The Galleria Mall is the place to go for designer-label style. And for a unique, if exhausting, experience, the gargantuan Sawgrass Mills is the outlet capital of the world, with hundreds of brand-name specialty stores, a cool food court, and a 23-theater movie house when you need a break. If it’s local color and bargains you want, the Swap Shop is a 75-acre combination of garage sales, boutiques, farmer’s markets, international bazaars, and country fairs. There’s also a free antique auto museum on the premises. They claim it’s Florida’s second-biggest tourist attraction, after Disney.
Dining and entertainment here are special. More than 4,000 restaurants, bistros and cafes serve a variety of cuisines to suit the city’s international, local and tourist population. From tiny mom-and-pop Hispanic holes-in-the-wall to lavish, upscale cathedrals of cuisine with celebrity-chef overseers, you can eat in a different restaurant every day for more than 10 years and not repeat yourself.
Cultural attractions include the Museum of Art, the Swimming Hall of Fame, the Museum of Discovery and Science (a kids’ favourite, not to be missed), the Young At Heart Children’s Museum, and Butterfly World. Antique-car buffs have two venues to drool over – the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum and the free museum at the Swap Shop. Children love the water experience of Carrie B. Cruises, and especially the amphibious Fort Lauderdale Duck Tours.
The city has a vibrant nightlife that spans clubs, horse and dog racing, jai-alai, and theatre (the Broward Center for the Performing Arts is quite spectacular). More than 130 nightclubs light up the night with entertainment, food and drinks.
Hollywood (this one’s in Florida), which shares the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, is just south of Fort Lauderdale and is a centre for vacationing Canadians, especially Quebecois. Take a walk along the restaurant-and-shop-lined boardwalk (Florida’s only one) for a great view of the city’s famous beach (and you might as well take in the sun or ocean while you’re at it). The food ranges from hot dogs to exotic – Turkish, Mexican, French, Italian, seafood – you even can find poutine if you really want it. There are convenience stores as well, where you can get the fixings for a light meal on the beach. The open-air Hollywood Beach Theater has a year-round schedule of free shows to suit every taste, from rock, to country, to jazz. It’s as casual as you can get. Rentals include reclining bicycles and pedal cars. The kids love ’em.
A few minutes away is downtown Hollywood, a fun and fantastically creative city that centres on two parallel streets – Hollywood Boulevard and Harrison Street.
For culture, visit the town’s best-kept secret, the Hollywood Arts and Culture Center, an intimate, user-friendly, and kid-friendly museum with a performing arts program aimed at adults and kids. For a look into the Seminole Indian lifestyle, there’s the Ah Tah Thi Ki Museum, $6 for adults, $4 for kids and seniors.
And for something completely different, don’t miss the mind-boggling Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Really a city in itself, this is a 24/7 destination that offers shops, restaurants, entertainment venues, and, of course, gaming. There is an on-site luxury hotel and spa as well.
Whether you stay in or around Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood, accommodations vary widely, as do the prices. You can expect to pay anywhere from $45 to $900 a night, depending on season and scale of luxury. The Seminole Hard Rock is celebrity chic, and the Westin Diplomat, also in Hollywood, caters to families, but it ain’t cheap without some kind of a deal. There are hundreds of highway-side chain motels with excellent prices, but you should seek out one of those coupon books offered on the Internet for the best deals. The numerous seedy, old-time motels, inns, and “apartments” are also good deals, but warrant an inspection. These are located along the beach in Hollywood and U.S. 1 in Fort Lauderdale.