Living in Fort Lauderdale: 2021 Community Guide
Even though it sits so close to Miami, Fort Lauderdale has an ambiance completely different from its neighbor. Steeped in military history, it was only after World War II that the city hit its stride. Today, this popular area is full of museums, entertainment, restaurants, parks, beaches, and so much more.
Let's dive into what makes Fort Lauderdale an excellent place to live!
History of Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale's beginnings date back to 1838, when Major Willian Lauderdale built a fort on the present-day city site during the Seminole Wars. After the wars ended, the site would lay abandoned for nearly 50 years.
In 1893 Frank Stranahan would arrive on the scene and set up a trading post to trade with the local Seminole people. The small trading post would quickly expand due to its popularity with the local Native American tribe, and this growth brought in new settlers looking for work in the area.
New River, as it was called, had grown large enough to be incorporated into a city in 1911 and was renamed Fort Lauderdale after the original army forts that had occupied the site. In 1915 the new Fort Lauderdale was designated the county seat of Broward County.
Fort Lauderdale saw an economic boom in the early 1920s but suffered devastating losses due to two hurricanes and the stock market crash towards the end of the decade. The city became a significant Navy base during World War II and saw another substantial economic boom when serving members returned from the war, prompting a considerable population spike.
Lifestyle and Culture in Fort Lauderdale
Today Fort Lauderdale boasts miles of beautiful Atlantic white sand beaches and an extensive network of canals that have earned it the title of "The Venice of America." You'll also find many museums, galleries, incredible eats, and high-end shops. With plenty of work opportunities, it is perfect for the younger crowd but has also been listed as one of the best cities to retire to. Fort Lauderdale really does have it all.
Fort Lauderdale likely has everything you'll ever need, but Miami is less than 40 minutes away by car if the mood strikes you. Highways like I-95 pass right through town and will get you to Daytona, Jacksonville, or even all the way to Canada if you so desire.
The Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport is a major hub, serving multiple airlines and connects south Florida with many US cities. Additionally, the airport also allows for easy access to destinations in the Caribbean, Canada, and beyond.
The quality of life in Fort Lauderdale is off the charts. After all, who wouldn't be happy living in a city with an average yearly temperature of 75 degrees and 245 days of sun? It's the perfect climate for outdoor enthusiasts and beachgoers and has many parks to enjoy.
Hurricanes are not common in the Fort Lauderdale area, contrary to popular belief. Estimates indicate that a Category 3 (winds of 111 miles per hour) or higher hurricane will only hit the south coast of Florida once every ten years. This in no way outweighs the incredible weather that Fort Lauderdale sees most of the year.
Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale Beach
With over 7 miles of shoreline, Fort Lauderdale screams beaches.
Aptly named Fort Lauderdale Beach is a wide beach with picture-perfect sand that stretches for miles. The Beachfront Promenade is excellent for a stroll, with the beach on one side and many shops and restaurants just across the street on the other.
It's also a great place to swim or snorkel, and there are plenty of lifeguards present. If you want to take the experience to the next level, many businesses rent out scuba gear, watercraft and offer many different types of ocean tours.
Las Olas Beach
At the southern end of the city, you'll find Las Olas Beach. This beautiful stretch of sand and water is right on par with the longer Fort Lauderdale Beach. Situated right where the famous Las Olas Boulevard begins, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and cafes right along the water.
Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District
This 22 block stretch of adventure has something for everyone. It's a magical place to stroll, either before or after a show. Don't forget to take in the options for food, drink, nightlife, shopping, or to visit a museum or gallery.
Check online before heading out to see all the events happening down there.
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
The Broward Center is the place to be for spectacular entertainment in Fort Lauderdale. It is the jewel of the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District and beautifully overlooks the river.
It is host to over 700 events each year in four different theaters. There are many kinds of events, including plays, concerts, operas, ballets, comedy, lectures, and many community events.
If you're curious about what happens behind the scenes, the Broward Center even offers backstage tours. Just be sure to check ahead for scheduling.
Fort Lauderdale has a plethora of fantastic museums to choose from, so chances are high you'll find something you enjoy at more than one of them. Here are just a few of the top museums in the city:
Museum of Discovery and Science
The Museum of Discovery and Science is one of those museums that has something extraordinary for everyone. It is one of the largest museums of its kind and one of Florida's most visited museums.
Just some of the incredible exhibits include the prehistoric era, weather, flight simulation, a science park, discovery labs, and theaters where crazy science happens. There's even an IMAX theater for out of this world movies. This museum is a must for ages one to one hundred.
Historic Stranahan House Museum
The Historic Stranahan House Museum is where Fort Lauderdale was born. Perfect for history buffs, this home and museum take visitors back in time to tell the Stranahan family's story as they founded the trading post that would lead to the settlement of a community.
The house itself dates back to 1901 and captures perfectly what life was like over 100 years ago.
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Guided tours take visitors through the main house, outbuildings, and some of the 35-acre grounds that make up this early 20th-century estate turned museum. Located on the water, the plantation has been well preserved and provides a window into what life was like in the area.
NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale
This fascinating art museum contains over 25,000 feet of exhibition space, showcasing more than 6,000 pieces of permanent art in addition to rotating galleries. It is most notable for American art from the 19th century to the present times.
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale
The Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale is an over one-mile long path that follows each side of the New River right in the heart of Fort Lauderdale's downtown area. The Riverwalk passes through a few of the city's parks, which offer scenic views. The route will also take you past some shops and restaurants.
Riptide Music Festival
The Riptide Music Festival is a two-night extravaganza right in Fort Lauderdale Beach Park.
The event features over 30 different bands and artists with some of the best names in music and some great emerging talent. The fun doesn't stop there, though – there's also an emphasis on other art with fashion displays, culinary demos, and art exhibits.
Dining and Shopping in Fort Lauderdale
If you're in downtown Fort Lauderdale, it would be tough for you to pick up a stone and not hit a restaurant or a shop from wherever you may be standing. There is an abundance of places to check out all along the beachfront and out on the canals.
Even heading more inland, districts like the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District is known for food, drink, and wares. No matter which neighborhood you end up in, there is always a range of places to choose from.
Here are just a few of the premier places to get your shop or eat on:
Las Olas Boulevard
Cutting right through the heart of Fort Lauderdale, Las Olas Boulevard is the place to go for shopping and dining. The immaculate, palm tree-lined street runs from the beach through the canals and offers impressive views of the Intracoastal Waterway the entire way.
Many feel this street is the heart and soul of Fort Lauderdale. Meaning "the waves", Las Olas is still making waves today with over 100 retail shops and boutiques, salons, spas, galleries, museums, a multitude of restaurants, and just about anything else one might need.
This two-story shopping mall is Fort Lauderdale's high-end shopping center. The Galleria is conveniently located close to the beach and right on the canals, making a water taxi a stress-free way to visit.
It is one of South Florida's premier shopping and dining destinations featuring popular anchor stores and over 100 upscale stores by internationally recognized brands. There are also several well-known restaurants on site.
Parks and Recreation in Fort Lauderdale
For being known as quite the urban sprawl, Fort Lauderdale has a whole heap of nice park space to escape away to when the need arises.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is known as the Central Park of Fort Lauderdale. Gifted to the city in 1941, it serves as a nice getaway from all the hustle and bustle. The 180-acre park has lots of wooded areas situated perfectly between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway.
The park has no shortage of amenities, with trails to walk, run, rollerblade, or bike and a long freshwater lake conveniently named Long Lake for paddle boarding, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing. There are also many spots throughout the park to sit, relax, or picnic, or even camp overnight.
While in the park, be sure to be on the lookout for some of the native wildlife, with many Caribbean species and over 250 types of birds. Guests can call ahead to schedule a visit to one of the park's live animal exhibits.
Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
This beach strip at the southern end of Fort Lauderdale's coastline is a beautiful place to take in some sun. More than just a beach, the park also has a full outdoor basketball court, volleyball court, and a playground for the kids.
There are plenty of places for grilling out and picnic tables for enjoying food with friends or family. For boaters, there's a non-motorized ramp for getting your craft in the water. When all the fun is over, there are even outdoor showers on-site to clean up.
Further inland, there are even more great parks, such as Snyder Park, with trails, picnic areas, and places for both two and four-legged creatures alike. Esplanade Park, right on the New River, has a waterfront garden and many places to relax. Colee Hammock Park is another stop along the river and is perfect for picnics, fishing, and scenic views.
Real Estate in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale has been booming since the end of World War II, and that trend doesn't look to change any time soon. Between the beaches, the water, the sun, the food, the parks, the attractions, and everything else Fort Lauderdale offers, it is a very well sought after community.
Fort Lauderdale has an upscale vibe, as can be seen in places like Las Olas. Trying to find a home in an area like this or along the waterfront will undoubtedly set you back a considerable sum of money, but there's no mistaking the excitement of the urban feel.
With the ocean to the east and over 500 miles of waterways in the city, many Fort Lauderdale residents choose to live aboard yachts. If being on the water is your thing, this is another option to consider.
Fort Lauderdale, much like Miami, features a plethora of condos for sale at nearly every price point.
In addition to the above, Fort Lauderdale has plenty of other neighborhoods that are worth looking into. Be sure to check all the areas, as costs in some can be steep. Even so, Fort Lauderdale remains relatively affordable, and it is possible to find a home or apartment on just about any income.
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