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Ask a Local: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

by Our Editors
Fort Lauderdale (Photo by Sean Pavone)

Fort Lauderdale, a global leader in LGBTQ+ equality, is filled with everything under the sun for everyone to experience and enjoy.

Fort Lauderdale (Photo by Sean Pavone)

If you want to know what makes Fort Lauderdale, Florida such a special place to visit, ask a local—and that’s just what we did.

Join us as we explore this exciting location with three unique individuals who live, work, play, and create here. Fort Lauderdale, a global leader in LGBTQ+ equality, is filled with everything under the sun for everyone to experience and enjoy. From one-of-a-kind local businesses to art galleries, museums, theatre, scenic tours, culinary delights, and spectacular seaside adventures, Fort Lauderdale is one of the top LGBTQ+ destinations in the USA.

Claudia Castillo

Tell us about yourself and what you do for a living?
I’m a business owner and artist. I founded Claudia Castillo ART studio, a boutique art gallery in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where I exhibit my own art and give opportunities to other artists. I am blessed to have exhibited my work nationally and internationally in Italy, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Spain. I am very passionate about helping my community, and I serve on various boards and non-profit organizations expanding culture, art, and diversity. I am chairperson of the Wilton Drive Improvement District, and board member of the Greater Fort Lauderdale LGBT Chamber of Commerce.

How long have you been living in Fort Lauderdale?
I am originally from Bogota, Colombia and moved to Hallandale Beach in 1999. In 2009, I moved to Pompano Beach, and in 2017 I started my art studio gallery in Fort Lauderdale (Wilton Manors). I love Fort Lauderdale because it has a tremendous diversity of cultures, opportunities, and beautiful things to enjoy for every one of all ages.

Claudia Castillo (Photo by Claudia Castillo Art studio)

Claudia Castillo (Photo by Claudia Castillo Art studio)

What influenced your decision to move here?
The opportunity to live in an area that had more cultural diversity and an LGBTQ community. In Colombia, I studied social communication and was a radio and television producer, but my love was always in the arts and design. I came to Fort Lauderdale to study at the Art Institute and to transition my career. Wilton Drive, where my studio is located, is a warm and welcoming area that has great local residents. The community receives national and international tourists because of the diversity and acceptance that it offers. It also has a great entertainment area where you can safely walk around and enjoy the shops, restaurants and bars, and everyone is welcomed with open arms.

What are your favorite places to go for cocktails and/or dinner?
Rosie’s Bar & Grill is my favorite place to sit outside and enjoy the great food and lantern lights. Must eats are the Killing Me Softly salad, and the Boozy Bellini is a delicious accompanying cocktail. For dessert, Stork’s Bakery and Coffee House has a mouth-watering apple crumb pie and amaretto cookies that are a must have.

What cultural attractions or events are a must see for visitors?
The Historic Stranahan House Museum, the NSU Art Museum and the Museum of Discovery and Science.

A friend is coming to Fort Lauderdale for the first time. Please describe the perfect weekend.
The first day, enjoy Fort Lauderdale beach in the early morning and have lunch at Kaluz on the Intracoastal, then head to Las Olas Boulevard, for shopping, sipping margaritas, and a great happy hour and dinner at El Camino. Afterwards, it’s time to go to Wilton Manors to enjoy the late night bars, shopping for local art at Claudia Castillo ART Studio, a drag show at the Pub, great restaurants for a late night snack, and disco dancing at Hunters on Wilton Drive until morning.

The second day visit Bonnet House Museum and Gardens and head over to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino to party and to try your luck at the casino. For the last day, take a boat tour on the Jungle Queen Riverboat to relax and get some sun while enjoying the buildings along the Intracoastal Waterway.

What are the best places to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area?
The beaches anywhere in Fort Lauderdale are all beautiful areas to experience our natural beauty. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park provides 180 acres of park areas in the middle of the city along the scenic AIA Historic Coastal Byway with lovely beach views.

What is your favorite time of year in Fort Lauderdale and why?
December to April because the weather is beautiful, not to cold and not too warm. But honestly all year around it perfect for visiting because we always offer sunshine and great events to enjoy. You cannot miss the Pride of the Americas event in March, the Stonewall Parade and Street Festival in June, and the Wicked Manors Halloween spectacular in Wilton Manors in October. For the latter two events, the streets are closed for the day along Wilton Drive and it is truly an experience to remember.

What locally made product would you suggest visitors bring back for their family and friends?
Definitely shop local and pick up some beautiful custom art and jewelry treasures from our studio or at other local stores. You can even find stores that sell sand in a bottle to take home and remember your sunny local experience!

Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Fort Lauderdale without…
Visiting the Everglades National Park.

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