Every vacation, no matter the duration or distance, introduces the senses to new places and perspectives. This was true during a recent three-day getaway to Fort Lauderdale, an east coast city known for its beaches, boating canals and being a Spring Break hotspot where the style has morphed from party central to a luxe escape. (Think less sloppy drinks and wet T-shirt contests and more classy cocktails and chic cabanas).
This was not my first visit to the seaside city, a short drive south from West Palm Beach. But it didn’t matter. New sights and tastes emerge regularly.
I stayed on the beach at W Fort Lauderdale (marriott.com/en-us/hotels/fll-wh-w-fort-lauderdale) which rises over the ocean like a huge luxury ship, with dazzling ocean and Intracoastal views and a party vibe reminiscent of Miami’s South Beach.
Considered by many to be the city’s trendiest hotel, the W sports a rooftop see-through swimming pool, spa, 517 contemporary rooms and suites with nautical decor, a well-equipped gym and a couple of not to be missed restaurants: El Vez Mexican restaurant with crispy tacos, and classic guacamole; and Steak 954, which serves excellent dry-aged meats and has a striking 2,000-gallon jellyfish aquarium wall.
There’s also a grab-and-go market on the first floor (I went there for muffins or yogurt) and a grill at the roof-top pool and So-Be Vegan, a plant-based restaurant in whimsical setting near the parking garage. This is the spot to grab a yummy power bowl or smoothie before you head to the beach.
While I’ve dined (and enjoyed) all the above, I also ventured off-property to savor the flavors of a few of Fort Lauderdale’s other hotspots. Among them were Rocco’s Tacos on Las Olas, where staff prepare the guacamole table-side and the margaritas are toast-worthy; and downtown on Riverwalk at Rivertail, which has a seafood-driven menu and waterfront dining. Both are excellent options for a night out.
Another fun place to spend a few hours for food and drinks is the Sistrunk Marketplace & Brewery (sistrunkmarketplace.com), a hip food hall in Fort Lauderdale’s art district.
And speaking of the art district, no one spending a few days in this city should overlook a visit to Nova Southeastern University’s (nsuartmuseum.org) lovely art museum and the colored glass work of Haitian artist Edouard Duval Carrie. Enchanting!
Additionally, the museum spotlights its impressive permanent collection of more than 7,000 works and has the largest collection of paintings by American realist William Glackens.
Want to make art? I did — although I’m not so sure what I created at the Rug Tufting House (tuftinghouse.com) could be considered art. I was, however, able to channel my creative side to make a sunflower design. I took it home as a souvenir. The piece currently adorns a wall in my guest bedroom.
Back at the W, I joined a group of new friends for cocktails and games (Jenga, Cornhole, air hockey and arcade video games) in the Living Room, a 20-foot bar and terrace with a sushi bar and sometimes a DJ. This place is fun and features special drinks and snacks tied to the theme of the night.
But when it comes time to chill, there’s no better place to do it than Away Spa. The name really fits, too, because a massage or facial here will transport you to nirvana. I’m planning a return trip to Fort Lauderdale soon just to let Danielle from Uruguay work her magic.
Of course, you wouldn’t want to be staying on the shoreline without enjoying all the beach has to offer. I strolled the shores of the beachfront promenade to see other swanky hotels and shops, splashed around in the ocean, and ultimately, settled into a lounge chair under an umbrella and read while enjoying the sea breezes.
In this city, after all, life’s a beach — at least until you have to go. If you’re lucky, you can take a tan along home with your memories.