The “Other Side” of Fort Lauderdale

I know many Chicagoans, like myself, love to escape the sometimes-harsh Midwest winters and head off to South Florida. Many will even do biannual trips and will also try to break free from the greyness that can still grip the Midwest in March and April. There are certainly many escape routes to Florida, and for me, I’ve often traveled to Fort Lauderdale. However, the busy, energetic vibe of the “downtown” Ft. Lauderdale area didn’t seem the right fit for me. I went in search of something more low-key. My other vacations to national parks are, as my traveling comrades tell me, “a lot of work.” We hike, kayak, hike, bike, hike, raft, hike, etc. You get the picture. So, when I head to the land of beaches and sun, I really just want to relax! Downtown Fort Lauderdale, a bustling area, was too much for my end goal. I then traveled a little farther north and discovered another side of Fort Lauderdale: Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, a smaller, quainter town, snuggled between the larger Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach.

Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is a charming, old Florida-style beach village which boasts the motto, “Relax…you’re here!” I couldn’t agree more. It’s a slower-paced, laid-back atmosphere, and no car is required because almost everything is walkable. During the months of November – April, the temperatures range from 65-80 degrees, very favorable for walking this splendid coastal town.

This homey, South Florida community is more of a boutique town that strays from the usually ubiquitous mega-brands found in the larger resort areas. There are more boutique lodging offerings than chains and more unique dining selections over the larger, well-known names that often permeate tourist towns. Though every hotel does not offer direct beach access, there are plenty of public access points to be found. You won’t need to stroll far to dip your toes in the sand and water!

The entertainment hub of the town is Anglin’s Square. Centrally located, it’s an easy walk from most lodgings. It’s basically a four-corner area with a large plaza in the middle that encourages its visitors to be outdoors. There are large, colorful Adirondack chairs, outdoor games, and the occasional outdoor stage with live music. The anchor restaurants are outstanding! The best happy hour can be enjoyed at Ocean 101. From 5-7pm all drinks (wines, wells, premiums, all beers, etc.) are half-price. Dining at the Aruba Beach Café is impressive because you can dine and overlook the ocean. Mulligan’s is a fun-for-the-family joint that sits right next to Anglin’s Pier where you can walk out and gaze at the vast Atlantic Ocean. There are plenty of other distinctive dining possibilities in the Anglin’s Square area as well.

If your end goal is to relax, you don’t really have to leave Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. There’s just enough to do to give you time to relax at the beach and then spend some time strolling “The Square.” However, if you do want to venture farther out beyond Anglin’s Square, there are several options available to help in transportation. The Pelican Hopper, for instance, will shuttle you for free around the greater Lauderdale-By-The-Sea area. Just beyond the city limits, you can catch the Sun Trolley, which can bring you to Las Olas Boulevard, a popular entertainment and dining destination. Plus, the Broward County Transit system is easy to use, and brings you directly to some hot spots! The buses run frequently up and down the main street and make it easy to hop on and hop off with a daily $5.00 pass. If you’re even more adventurous, you can rent a scooter and handle the transportation all on your own! Speaking of renting motorized vehicles, you can rent those scooters, jet skis, and boats with Doctor Jet Ski Rentals located just behind the Ocean Sky Resort on Galt Ocean Drive.

Looking for more fun? The Water Taxi is a big draw in Fort Lauderdale, and it is not far from Lauderdale-By-The-Sea. You can pick it up by Bokamper’s Sports Bar, which is just about a mile to a mile and a half walk from many lodging options on Ocean Boulevard. The tickets for this iconic intracoastal water shuttle are cheaper if you board after 5:00pm for the Happy Hour Tour, and it’s fun to see the “Venice of America” and the “Yachting Capital of the World” all lit up at night! By the way, the Water Taxi has a stop at Las Olas Boulevard, and that’s a great place to seek out some dining opportunities. One suggestion would be to go to Rocco’s Tacos and Tequila Bar for Happy Hour. From 4-7pm, you get some great food and drink choices like $3 wines, $5 margaritas, and $2 tacos and appetizers. After dinner, hop back on the Water Taxi and cruise back to Bokamper’s Bar or the nearby Shooters Waterfront for a nightcap or dessert. Bokamper’s is a well-known sports bar and a great place to catch a game (wear your hometown jersery!), and Shooters Waterfront is a more upscale, award-winning premier restaurant/bar that has an elegant waterfront design.

Fort Lauderdale is fabulous due to its proximity to the Ocean. With such an immense coast, there are many options to help chuck the winter blues or to help serve as an antidote to cabin fever. However, if you would like to try something a bit more laid-back, less crowded, and low-key, give Lauderdale-By-The-Sea a look. Things are just a bit more relaxed on this “other side” of Fort Lauderdale, and its old Florida charm just may reel you in!

Note: I am not connected to any of the companies listed in this writing, and I am only writing on behalf of my own personal experiences.