As one of the nation’s highest- profile destinations for LGBTQ travelers, Fort Lauderdale is a hotspot for anyone looking for sun, sand, nightlife and fine dining. And while the hotels here cater to a wide variety of tastes and budgets, guests at full-service, upscale hotels have the advantage of expert advice and insider travel tips from the concierge staff. The Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa (3030 Holiday Drive. Tel. 954-525-4000. www.marriott.com) is one such property. Located steps from the beach and minutes from alwayspopular Las Olas Boulevard and the LGBTQ-famous city of Wilton Manors, the Marriott is well positioned for exploring all that the destination has to offer. With advice from resort concierge Mark Vorderbruggen, it’s even easier.
Before a visitor ventures out to explore the city, what are some of your favorite in-house offerings?
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention our own 3030 Ocean (Tel. 954-765-3030. www.3030ocean.com) for modern American seafood. Executive Chef Adrienne Grenier is a local Floridian and offers a creative menu in a casual chic atmosphere with vistas of our beach and ocean. Chef Grenier was locally trained and has a resume that includes being a Chopped champion on the Food Network.
What other restaurants do you recommend?
Boatyard (1555 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954-525-7400. www.boatyard.restaurant) offers an upscale, nautical-chic vibe in a sophisticated, laidback atmosphere that embraces the pulse of the city’s yachting culture. It has a prime view of the scenic Intracoastal Waterway and is the perfect setting to grab a bite or drinks with good company while enjoying an afternoon or evening watching the boats cruise by. It’s located off of the 17th Street Causeway, just before the bridge that crosses the Intracoastal Waterway.
For great seafood and steaks, Steak 954 (401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale.Tel. 954-414-8333. www.steak954.com), located in the W Hotel, is laidback and sophisticated as well. It’s a Stephen Starr restaurant and its location on Fort Lauderdale Beach is perfect.
Outside of your hotel, where are the coolest places to go for cocktails?
Although Fort Lauderdale isn’t known for a vibrant downtown with a huge skyline, there are two rooftop restaurants that I recommend. The first-ever rooftop bar in Fort Lauderdale is Rooftop @ 1 W LO (1 West Las Olas. Tel. 954- 523-1956. www.rooftop1wlo.com), which is located at the end of our famous Los Olas Boulevard. The second one I recommend, and the newest, is Sparrow (299 North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954-9100. www.sparrowbar.com), a rooftop bar that’s located at the top of one of our newest hotels, the Dalmar, which is also in downtown Fort Lauderdale and within walking distance of Los Olas Boulevard. Sparrow is a mod-designed, retro-themed bar, framed in violet neon, inspired by the 1950s and 1960s era of American travel, with a lounge-y main bar and wood and brass accents.
Who serves the best weekend brunch?
Blue Moon Fish Co. (4405 W. Tradewinds Ave., Lauderdale-by-thesea. Tel. 954-267-9888. www.bluemoonfishco.com) serves Sunday brunch with unlimited champagne, mimosas and bloody Marys. It’s located directly on the Intracoastal Waterway and has a great reputation for seafood and one of the best brunches in the area.
Where should people go when they want to enjoy live entertainment?
For live entertainment, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino (1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tel. 866-502- 7529. www.seminolehardrockhollywood.com) is a great venue for any live show. It hosts celebrity performances as well as award shows, comedians and concerts. In addition to the main casino there are also additional venues, comedy clubs and nightlife. For those looking for more sophisticated entertainment, I recommend the Broward Center for Performing Arts (201 Southwest 5th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954- 462-0222. www.browardcenter.org), which is located in the Riverwalk area. The center brings a wide variety of cultural programs to Broward County. You can experience ballet, theater, musical performances, and opera, all under one roof.
Which museums do you recommend most?
The Museum of Discovery & Science (401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954-467- 6637. www.mods.org) is a great choice. There are different exhibits for the entire family and the AutoNation IMAX 3D theater is a must-see experience. Built in 1920 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens (900 N. Birch Rd., Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954-563-5393. www.bonnethouse.org) is one of the few complete homes and studios of two American artists open to the public. It’s nestled among miles of beachfront development on 35 acres of a native barrier island ecosystem.
What about guided tours and excursions?
The Everglades Holiday Park (21940 Griffin Rd., Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954-434-8111. www.evergladesholidaypark.com) airboat tour. All of the tours offered have their own charm, but I will have to say that anyone who visits South Florida should experience a boat tour of the Everglades. This tour offers you incredible views and experiences, where you can learn about many species of birds and wildlife, such as alligators. The Everglades is truly the heart of South Florida.
Fort Lauderdale is known for its LGBTQ pride festival, and in 2020 it’s even bigger, as the city hosts Pride of the Americas. What are the top annual events that should be on our calendar?
Our famous Winterfest Boat Parade (www.winterfestparade.com) and Pride Fort Lauderdale (www.pridefortlauderdale.org), which is one of the biggest pride festivals in the southeast. In the spring, the Tortuga Music Festival (www.tortugamusicfestival.com) takes place directly on Fort Lauderdale beach, with a variety of top-name musical acts, focusing mainly on country headliners.
What are the best options for exercising and working out?
If you want a gym with all the amenities, I recommend LA Fitness (multiple locations. www.lafitness.com). They have classes, treadmills, gym equipment, weight rooms and even a pool. For a different experience, Orangetheory Fitness (Multiple locations. www.orangetheoryfitness.com) is my recommendation. They combine science, coaching, and technology in their workouts in a unique ambiance.
Who offers the best full-service spas in Fort Lauderdale?
My first recommendation is, the Spa at Harbor Beach, as it is the largest spa in the area, with its own adults-only outdoor pool and ingenious therapies individually tailored to restore the body, mind, and spirit. For a great off-site experience, I recommend Mynd Spa & Salon (The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale, 2598 E. Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954- 564-5787. www.myndspa.com/locationdetail/ft-lauderdale). It has everything under the same roof, with a chic vibe and facial treatments, massages, nails, and hair salon.
What are the best options for shopping?
The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale (2414 E. Sunrise Blvd. Tel. 954-564-1036. www.galleriamall-fl.com) is very convenient in proximity and has a great array of designer stores. On the other hand, fashionistas will delight in luxury-brand outlet shopping at The Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass Mills, with exclusive outlets not found anywhere else in South Florida, including Burberry, Diane von Furstenberg, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Prada, and Versace. Closer to the beach and downtown is Las Olas Boulevard, which many have nicknamed the Rodeo Drive of Fort Lauderdale.
Which LGBTQ bars do you recommend the most for cocktails?
DrYnk Bar & Lounge (2255 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors. Tel. 954-530-1800. www.drynkftl.com), located in Wilton Manors is a good choice. The place is very unique, and their drinks have awesome reviews. They recently added an outdoor patio, which gives more life to the place.
And what about LGBTQ venues for dancing?
Hunters (2232 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors. Tel. 954-630-3556. www.huntersftlauderdale.com) has a modern vibe with laser lights and a very hype atmosphere. Scandals Saloon (3072 NE 6th Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954- 567-2432. www.scandalsfla.com) is a country western bar with pool tables and a unique country western line dance. Georgie’s Alibi (2266 Wilton Dr., Wilton Manors. Tel. 954-565-2526. www.alibi.lgbt) is one of South Florida’s longest running, and one of the country’s most successful gay restaurants, bars, and nightclubs, rolled into one. The club consists of four distinct areas, the main bar, the sports bar, the Monkey Bar, and the patio. As one of the busiest venues in Florida with an award-winning, full-service restaurant, and more live entertainment than any bar in the area, you will find something for you.
When the evening’s over, where’s a good place for a late-night meal?
Big City Tavern (609 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954-727-0307. www.bigcitylasolas.com) is a good choice. The food is great and they’re open until 2 A.M. during the week and until 3 A.M. Fridays and Saturdays. For late, late night and into the morning dining, you have to go to the Floridian (1410 E. Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954- 463-4041. www.thefloridiandiner.com). Known as “The Flo” to locals, the Floridian has been a landmark Las Olas eatery for over 70 years and is one of the oldest restaurants in Fort Lauderdale. It’s open 24 hours, and they serve breakfast 24 hours. It’s very eclectic; you’ll be entertained by all of the photos of movie stars of the past who have stopped by the Floridian for a meal. They’re also pet friendly!
What’s a truly iconic Fort Lauderdale souvenir, and where can we buy it?
Fort Lauderdale used to be your typical ocean resort city, where the typical souvenir might include a T-shirt, plastic flamingo glass, or a shot glass from the iconic Elbo Room (241 S. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Tel. 954- 463-4615. www.elboroom.com). Well, the Elbo room is still there, and I do recommend stopping in for a drink or just for the nostalgia of the 1960s-era beach town that was known back then for Spring Break. And yes, there are still a few tacky tourist shops around, however, Fort Lauderdale is now more sophisticated, with its very own vibe and eclectic neighborhoods. Save your money for a nice comfortable guayabera or Tommy Bahama shirt to go with your Ray Bans. If you are still in need of something that screams Fort Lauderdale, pick up a sand globe that you can put on your desk to remind you of our beautiful beaches.
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Fort Lauderdale without …
…taking the Water Taxi for a ride up and down the Intracoastal Waterway. It’s a very unique way of getting around and the taxi captains give a great narrative tour of the homes and mansions, along with a history of the famous people that live here or have lived here. You can hop on and off for a meal or a drink or shopping for one reasonable, all-day ticket price.