If you want to know what make’s Fort Lauderdale such a special place to visit, ask a local—and that’s just what we did. Join us as we explore this beautiful and exciting destination with three LGBTQ individuals who live, work, play, and create here. Fort Lauderdale is filled with many wonderful things just waiting to be experienced and enjoyed. From unique local business to art galleries, museums, theatre, scenic tours, farm to fork restaurants, and spectacular adventures in nature, there is truly something for everyone in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
CEO / Executive Director, Julian’s Fountain of Youth
Tell us about yourself and what you do for a living?
I’m the CEO / Executive Director of Julian’s Fountain of Youth (jfoy.org).
How long have you been living in Fort Lauderdale?
I was transferred to Fort Lauderdale in 1998 from my hometown of Houston, Texas. I can’t say I was excited about moving since I was apprehensive about leaving my parents, four siblings, and their children. We’re a close family and I knew only a few people in Fort Lauderdale, but that soon changed!
If you moved from somewhere else, what influenced your decision to move here?
Prior to moving, I was traveling regularly from Houston to Fort Lauderdale for business. I recall having lunch at a Fort Lauderdale beach restaurant when it dawned on me that I had the opportunity to live in a city in which people traveled from all over the world to vacation. I was sold on the idea and knew my family would also come to visit.
What are your favorite places to go for a cocktail and/or dinner?
For a nice dinner, I’m hooked on Café Vico (www.cafevicorestaurant.com). This family-owned Italian restaurant with its tasteful décor is a MUST. The owner, Marco, has been greeting people at the door for over 20 years and he and his staff are second to none. Their lasagna is, without a doubt, the best I’ve ever had and has been voted the #1 lasagna in Broward County, Florida.
For a casual night out I go to Rosie’s Bar and Grill (www.rosiesbng.com) located in the island city of Wilton Manors. They have a collection of burgers and sandwiches along with fish tacos that will knock your socks off. I love taking out-of-towners so they can experience a place where the food is consistently good, the customers are enjoying their meals, and the owners and staff come to your table and are happy to see you.
If I’m going out for some cocktails, I head to Hunters (www.huntersftlauderdale.com). Located just blocks away from Rosies, Hunters offers some of the best poured drinks in town along with a light and sound system that is second to none. Their staff greets you at the door and the owner, manager, and floor team are always welcoming and attentive.
What cultural attractions are a must see for visitors to Fort Lauderdale?
A must see in Fort Lauderdale that I consider a gem: The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens (www.bonnethouse.org). The furniture, gardens, and artwork are absolutely beautiful. Located off Fort Lauderdale Beach, it’s easily accessible shaded grounds makes for a beautiful afternoon. You can take a guided tour through the main house and its grounds where you’ll find one of the most extensive collections of orchids in the United States. If you’re lucky, you’ll also get to see the monkeys that live on the grounds along with a beautiful swan.
The World AIDS Museum (worldaidsmuseum.org) is a must see for anyone visiting Fort Lauderdale. Take a guided tour through an exhibit that chronologically takes you through the AIDS epidemic. The exhibit is educational, eye opening, and empowering for everyone regardless of your age. For those of us who lived through and survived the crises during the early years it can be a bit emotional, but in the end you’ll be so happy you went to visit. It’s a beautiful tribute to our LBGTQ and straight family and friends who passed away from this horrific virus.
A friend is coming to Fort Lauderdale for the first time… Please describe the perfect weekend.
On Saturday, we would start the day with a light breakfast at the Floridian (www.thefloridiandiner.com/gallery) located on Las Olas Blvd. When we’re done, we would take a walk down Las Olas Boulevard (lasolasboulevard.com) and window-shop. We’d spend the early afternoon on Sebastian Beach (the LGBT-friendly beach) located on the corner of Sebastian Street and A1A. It’s a great place to meet new and old friends. Then it would be time for drinks and lunch Casablanca Café. Of course, you can’t visit Fort Lauderdale without an evening out. We would have a light dinner at Tee Jay Thai Sushi (www.teejaythaisushi.com) located on Wilton Drive then walk next-door to Hunters Nightclub (www.huntersftlauderdale.com) for dancing, drinks, and fun. On Sunday, a brunch at the Pelican Grande Beach Resort (www.pelicanbeach.com) on Fort Lauderdale Beach is a must followed by a late afternoon drink at DrYnk Bar & Lounge (www.facebook.com/drynkftl). A weekend without a Sunday Tea Dance is like a beach with no sand, so Hunters Studio 54 Sunday Tea Dance is absolute must. Music from the late 70’s and early 80’s will take some of us back to the days of our youth.
What are the best places to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area?
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park (www.floridastateparks.org/HughTaylorBirch) is absolutely one of the most relaxing places to visit. Steps away from Fort Lauderdale Beach and A1A, the park is a quiet getaway and yet steps away from the beach. The old Banyan trees and other foliage keep it nestled away from the road. I also think a drive up and down A1A can be absolutely beautiful. You can take in the sites of the beach, beautiful old and new hotels, and make your way to Seabreeze Blvd and 17th St. Causeway and enjoy the mega yachts and beautiful homes in the area.
What is your favorite time of year in Fort Lauderdale and why?
When you live in a resort city, which is located in one of the most southern areas of the most southern states in the US, it’s winter. The city of Fort Lauderdale truly comes to life in the winter.
What’s one souvenir to bring back for friends or family?
This is a tough question, the days of bringing back a souvenir spoon are way over. I would say utilize social media and bring the memories back with you. When you get home, you can share with your family and friends the places you visited and the people you met. Sure, everyone loves a t-shirt, but the best souvenir is your return home and sharing your memoirs of Fort Lauderdale.
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Fort Lauderdale without…
Taking a sightseeing cruise! These narrated 90-minute cruises take you along the riverfront and past some of the most beautiful homes in Fort Lauderdale, owned by some of the wealthiest and famous people from around the world. At first, I thought it was going to be another cheesy boat ride…boy, was I wrong. They are really a lot of fun and the captain and crew make for an enjoyable afternoon