Apr 23: A VIP Trip

Posted on April 23, 2014 11:58AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Everyone should feel like a VIP. Greater Fort Lauderdale is doing its part to help us appreciate ourselves a bit more than we normally do. I mean, think about it. We drive around town and go to work and spend time with family or friends. Just like everyone else. Somewhere inside us, though, we each know ourselves to be a pretty amazing individual. Come on, admit it. But do we each feel like a special person? No, we don't. We feel ordinary - and therein lies the problem. Because you are a VIP. The reality is that there's no one else exactly like you, no other human being with your exact combination of talents and experiences. You're a Very Important Person. Which brings me to "Vacation like a VIP."

What can be better for your psyche than a getaway that emphasizes how great you truly are? It's an opportunity to enjoy some of the perks that come with being you. Vacation like a VIP is a five-month promotion that can carry you off to one of the finest hotels in South Florida, with things like resort credits and valet parking and complimentary wine thrown in for good measure. Very VIP.

The Vacation like a VIP signature package requires a minimum two-night stay. No problem, right? Who wants to do the VIP thing for less than a couple nights? The promo comes with a room upgrade and a $100 resort credit that can help pay for such expenses as food and beverage, golf, spa treatments or kids programs. You'll also receive a $25 American Express gift card along with complimentary valet parking at both your hotel and the upscale Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass Mills. Plus, you can sip a free glass of prosecco at Villagio Ristorante while shopping at Sawgrass Mills. Perhaps the best part of the whole deal is this: The impressive list of resorts and hotels taking part in Vacation like a VIP. Like, how about staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale? Or the W Fort Lauderdale? Or the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa? Or the Bonaventure Resort & Spa? You get the idea. Very VIP, for sure. You can read through more of the details at this link: Since the promotion starts in about a week and continues through September, you've got plenty of time to plan your VIP vacay. As it should be. A personage of your stature should not be hurried when making important decisions. You really are a VIP, you know, whether you feel like it or not. Maybe this is a good chance to start feeling like it.

Apr 21: On Silver Seas

Posted on April 21, 2014 12:36PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Fact: Fort Lauderdale is one of the world's top cruise ports. It's easy to forget that. Sometimes even I need a good reminder and, really, I'm one person who shouldn't. I'm a former contributing editor and cruise columnist for Budget Travel magazine. And I still write about amazing cruises that I'm lucky enough to take, including a voyage just last summer in Ukraine. Over Easter weekend I got a pleasant little poke in the ribs to remind me about the status of Port Everglades, the massively busy port located just off Fort Lauderdale's 17th Street Causeway. The holiday event was an anniversary celebration for Silversea Cruises, which remains one of the most respected cruise lines - and among the most luxurious. Silversea turned 20 years old this month, you see. And that's important for Fort Lauderdale because during that 20 years, Silversea has maintained a corporate headquarters right here.

Appropriately enough, they're in a tall office building directly next door to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale. As Silversea has built a major reputation over those two decades, the cruise line has grown from one ship to eight ships. They've also won many coveted travel awards and much recognition. Only last month Entrepreneur Magazine named Silversea among the 120 most trusted brands in America.

That says much about the company, of course, but also suggests something about their Fort Lauderdale home. Silversea could set up shop anywhere, but they haven't. They've stayed here - and they've stayed for good reasons. For me, this was the takeaway from the Easter weekend gala on their gorgeous flagship, Silver Spirit. As it happens, I'm very familiar with the ship. I've sailed on her three times so it was a bit of a homecoming for me. The party started on Saturday around 11 a.m. with champagne and other cocktails in the Spirit's lovely Panorama Lounge. Chefs cooked up individual servings of foie gras and lobster appetizers. Caviar and other hors d'oeuvres were spread out behind special anniversary ice sculptures. Then lunch was served in the ship's main restaurant, six courses that began with a scallop-and-caviar appetizer and ended with a lavish dessert of homemade ice cream and dark chocolate, fresh raspberries and more. The VIPs on hand were mostly veteran Silversea guests, wealthy folks with as many as 500 nights aboard the line's ships. That's the kind of cruise company that Silversea is. High end, definitely. Their 20 years in Fort Lauderdale is a statement about the city that serves as a corporate headquarters on this side of the Atlantic Ocean. In the cruise biz, Fort Lauderdale is high end. Definitely.

April 18: Kid's Eye View of Gulfstream Park

Posted on April 18, 2014 9:26AM

Posted by Guest Blogger

Gulfstream Park

I love visiting Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach. My grandpa sometimes takes my brother and me for an afternoon of horse races. It is a ton of fun to bet on the horses (but you need an adult in order to bet money).

The anticipation of seeing if your horse actually wins is very intense. When the horses start racing, you could hear the loud BOOM, BOOM, BOOM of their mighty legs as they gallop around the dirt track. The jockeys wear brightly colored shirts so it's easy to tell which horse you are rooting for. If you do win a race, I assure you, you will be jumping up and down and screaming your horse's name. If you lose, that will not stop you from having an awesome experience with your friends or family. Gulfstream Park is a nice place to just enjoy yourself and the people surrounding you.

-Written by Lauren, age 13.

Apr 16: Beyond the Bunny

Posted on April 16, 2014 12:35PM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

This is a hopeful season, isn't it? Maybe it's also a chance to spend the Easter/Passover weekend in a different way. If you normally cook your holiday meal at home, why not go out for a change? There are lots of options, as I'll show you in a moment. Or if you've typically done little to celebrate Easter or Passover, consider finding some new activity to make it a big deal in 2014. Let's start with the restaurants because, well, food's always a good starting place for any holiday plans. Many eateries around Greater Fort Lauderdale will offer special deals and special meals on Easter Sunday. Just a few examples for you: Blue Moon Fish Co. is serving up brunch for $58.95 per person, with 16 food stations that include a raw bar. Or for $75 each, Blue Moon will cater your brunch aboard the Florida Princess boat. Kind of cool.

You can go Cuban at Bongos Cuban Café for $40 a person, or Greek with an a la carte menu at Thasos Greek Taverna. The Capital Grille, Chima Brazilian Steakhouse, B Ocean Fort Lauderdale ... They're among the choices you have this weekend. For more details, check out this link:

If you're looking for something other than dining, no problem. You might get into a round of golf at Hollywood Beach Golf Resort, where they're doing some lower rates on Saturday and Sunday. Pompano Citi Centre will throw a pre-Easter bash on Saturday from 10:30 to 3:30. Expect free carousel rides and popcorn - and photos with the Easter bunny. Or what about visiting a lovely park instead? Like John U. Lloyd Beach State Park with its rock jetty at the very entrance to Port Everglades, a fab spot to watch boats and tankers and even cruise ships heading to sea. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is another pleasant area for hanging out. You'll find trails that wind among the natural surroundings but Birch also features rentals of bikes, canoes, kayaks and even Segways. Or ... maybe you simply want to savor a full day at the beach. Greater Fort Lauderdale's Blue Wave beaches each have distinct personalities and this website can help you pick one that's just right for your Easter or Passover getaway. A busy, vibrant beach scene? Maybe Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood. Quiet and reflective? Dania Beach might be best for that. This is a hopeful season, for sure. It's about renewal, about looking toward a better future. Maybe we should start off that future with a celebration that feels as special as this time of year.

Apr 14: Flying Away

Posted on April 14, 2014 11:22AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

You are leaving us now, you snowbirds. For a while. But knowing that many part-time South Floridians read this blog all year long, I wanted to wish you well for another summer. And to thank you. Those of you making the semi-annual migration are a vital part of our landscape, our culture. Sure, you are the butt of jokes sometimes because you offer an easy target for younger folks. Dinner at 5 pm? The Early Bird Specials can seem amusing to people who make dinner reservations for 9:30. Driving the speed limit, or below, on I-95? Haha, look at the license plate and the driver: yep, a snowbird for sure. Ok, whatever. This is mostly just good-natured humor and, hey, it's a simple thing to poke fun of anyone. I've got plenty of witty lines to skewer the twenty-somethings who party and eat and drink til dawn every weekend ... and never drive below 80 mph on the interstate.

My point for any snowbirds reading my blog today is this: I hope you understand that you're appreciated in your South Florida winter home. Because you know what? You really are appreciated.

Those of us who live in South Florida year round recognize that our economy needs you here, for one thing. All those homes and condos you own - paying your taxes and your maintenance fees. All the cultural organizations you support by attending concerts and shows and performances of many kinds. All the nonprofit groups you assist by giving donations and volunteering time and going to galas. Thanks so much for that. But there's something else too. Despite the jokes about you, we actually enjoy having you around. From the time the snowbird migration starts in the fall until it ends in the spring, you add a vitality to our community. That may even be hard for you snowbirds to believe, but it's true. You might wonder, "With so many young vibrant people, with so much diversity, why would anyone care about a bunch of older snowbirds?" You lend a different dimension to our world, that's why. You indeed are older and, often, you are more interesting. You also help fill up our roads and stores and restaurants and theaters and, by doing that, you add to the seasonal vibe, the buzz that livens the air from November through April. Yes, I may have to search harder for a parking space because the snowbirds are in town. I may have to wait longer to snag a restaurant seating or to use my condo's laundry room. But it's a small price. Like many of my full-time neighbors in Greater Fort Lauderdale, I'll miss you in the coming months. And I'll look forward to your return.

Apr 9: Big Time

Posted on April 9, 2014 11:08AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

It's another sign of Greater Fort Lauderdale's many good changes. Some more evidence of our growth as a major international tourist destination, our development as a sophisticated place to enjoy the tropical lifestyle. Because just look at the lineup of stars coming to our town. This weekend during Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival. And beyond. Let's begin with Luke Bryan, who must be one of the hottest acts on Planet Earth at the moment. Only last weekend, he and Blake Shelton hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards - and seemed to win pretty much rave reviews, judging by what I read. One example, quoting from a CBS News blog: "They deftly stole the show with a mix of self-deprecating, celebrity-skewering jokes and two performances apiece." That same day, Bryan was on the cover of Parade magazine. Big time, indeed.

So it turns out that this weekend, Luke Bryan will be one of the headliners right here in Fort Lauderdale at the Tortuga Music Festival. Along with Eric Church, who was the butt of some kidding during the ACM Awards. Oh and a few other entertainers you may have heard of.

Like, say, Sheryl Crow. Or Ziggy Marley or Hank Williams, Jr. or Dierks Bentley. Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. You can find out more about the beachside music extravaganza at this link: But really, I'm trying to make a point beyond simply a reminder about this huge annual event. It turns out that Greater Fort Lauderdale for some time has been getting a fairly constant flow of top-name stars. In the next few weeks alone they include Lady Antebellum and Carlos Santana - Santana's already sold out by the way. Sorry. John Legend is doing a night at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts too. Then the big MOVE Live show comes to the Seminole Hard Rock complex, starring Julianne and Derek Hough of Dancing With The Stars fame. Oh, and Jay Leno was here shortly after leaving the Tonight Show. You get the idea. Big big acts who find themselves playing to large audiences in Greater Fort Lauderdale. That's been happening for a while, true, but these days it's more and more common. And so I suppose this must say something about who we are as a community in 2014, don't you think? I do. All the star performers offer more than something delightful when you're in our area. They also are proof that Fort Lauderdale has grown up ... and turned into a hot spot for everyday visitors and famous visitors alike. As an everyday resident who's watched these changes happen, I've got to tell you - it's about time.

Apr 8: To The Beach

Posted on April 8, 2014 11:04AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

It's a South Florida symbol - the beach. That's true for both tourists and locals. Even those two words, "the beach," stand for something special. More than just one special something, really. I think they represent relaxation, of course, the opportunity to take some time for yourself. But "the beach" also suggests a kind of freedom. At the beach, we're not constrained in the usual way by lots of clothes and we're at a place where the daily frustrations can't reach us. Traffic? Not when you're lying on the sand. Bosses? Not if you're wise - leave the smartphone at home ... or at least silence the thing and use it for photos only. Bills? Nope, there is no mail delivery on our beaches, fortunately. In South Florida, a day at the beach is the ultimate form of escape.

I was thinking about this after a quick comment made to me by a stranger the other day. I walked by him, smiled and said, "Gorgeous day, huh?" He replied, "Yeah! I'm going to the beach!" And he said this with a huge grin and tone that told me this dude thought there was nothing better on earth than heading to the beach.

A lot of people feel that way in this part of the country. Again, both visitors and residents. I live in Dania Beach, only about one mile from the ocean as the seagull flies. In my neighborhood it's easy to find homeowners who make their personal connection with the beach known to the world. Two blocks from my condo, a lovely home has a sign hanging neatly on the front door. It says simply, "Welcome to the beach!" Another house nearby sports a blue ceramic tile next to a window. The tile shows a seahorse and one word in white lettering: "Beach." Other homeowners have turned surfboards into patio furniture or nautical ropes into decorative lawn fencing. These are neighbors who celebrate a relationship with the sea as part of their everyday lives. It is important to them ... the sea, the beach. You'll find similar reminders of the beach all over South Florida, especially in coastal communities. For tourists, obviously, the beach typically is a big part of any vacation to Greater Fort Lauderdale. Beachside hotels are among those most in demand. And beachside cafes and beachside bars and beachside anything. To those of us here, whether staying briefly or permanently, the beach is more than a pile of sand near a large body of water. The beach is a lifestyle - and we love it. (Photo courtesy of

Apr 6: Endless ways to satisfy your urge to submerge

Posted on April 6, 2014 7:12AM

Posted by Guest Blogger

Written by dive enthusiast Rob Curran

Sunny, it's gridlock out here

Blue skies overhead, my buddy Susan and I slip into our scuba gear and shuffle off the beach into the ocean. Divers-down flag in tow, we make the easy five-minute surface swim out to the first reef, just a hundred yards from shore.

We descend 20 feet, to a chaotic scene. Over to Bob, for the traffic report...

It's eight a.m. The locals rolled out of bed just two hours ago. But it's already bedlam. And still ten minutes before the traffic peaks, and the jam turns to gridlock.

It's a riot of color and a deafening roar of visual cacophony. On the noisy street, the manic rush hour races ahead full-throttle...

Trumpetfish, leaning on their horns.

Angry damselfish and sergeant majors, cursing, weaving and cutting in and out of traffic.

A four-foot nurse shark dawdling in the fast lane.

Bottlenecks of yellowtails and silver grunts.

Tie-ups and tangles of neon wrasses.

Cleaner fish hustling customers for a wash and wax at the detailing station.

Two stoplight parrotfish jockeying for position at the drive-up window, angling for a nip at the coral and a quick take-away.

A gang of four-foot tarpon hanging out on the corner, on the down-low.

A lone sea turtle, just passing through.

And two blind lobsters tap-tap-tapping their way down the sidewalk-their antennas like white canes-oblivious to the chaos and commotion...

Susan touches me on the shoulder, to get my attention. My buddy flashes me an enthusiastic OKAY! signal (looks like ALL-CAPS). I notice that the mask and regulator do a poor job of concealing the eat-a-banana-sideways grin on her face.

And I think: "We could be shoveling snow today. Instead, we're diving Fort Lauderdale. From the beach!"

Riches are no shame

A writer for Scuba Diving magazine once called Fort Lauderdale "an embarrassment of riches." Curious expression. What, exactly, does that mean?

An embarrassment of riches is too much of a good thing. Which, for a dive destination, is a high-class problem, isn't it?

Time and again over the last decade, the readers of Scuba Diving magazine heaped praise on Greater Fort Lauderdale. The diving played to rave reviews, as-year after year-readers recognized the sunny blue-water destination with a host of "best" accolades, among them:

• top ten in the world for wreck diving, marine life and value,
• top five in the U.S. and North America for big animals and shore diving.

How did Fort Lauderdale end up in this embarrassing (but welcome) situation-with too many choices for world-class diving?

Too rich? Because mom

Blame our predicament on Mother Nature.

The source of our blessings is the Gulf Stream, which is, in essence, a river in the ocean. Just off Fort Lauderdale, the Stream swings in close to shore. This river is rich in marine life and nutrients, and it bathes and nourishes the living coral reefs in warm, blue currents.

The waters off Greater Fort Lauderdale are a marvel of biodiversity: Mother Ocean decorates the sea bottom with a painter's palette of colorful hard and soft corals, sea whips and purple fans. The reefs teem with riots of small, colorful tropical fish---hundreds of the same species seen throughout the Caribbean. And divers thrill to encounters with large marine life: sea turtles, nurse sharks, sting rays, barracudas, huge angelfish and giant green morays.

In Broward County, three reef lines parallel the 23 miles of golden sand beaches, from Deerfield Beach in the north to Hallandale Beach in the south. On the reefs, structures run the gamut.... from flats, holes, and undercuts... to ledges short and tall, and mini-walls.

The first reef begins a hundred yards from shore at its closest. This reef varies from two-foot limestone ledges in ten feet of water, to true coral reefs at 15 to 25 feet. The second starts about a half-mile from shore. Depth ranges from 30 to 50 feet. The third reef lies about a mile offshore; depths run from 60 to 100 feet.

The dive sites are close in, no more than a mile from shore. Quick, quick.... hop a dive boat on the Intracoastal, and your captain zips you out the inlet, to the ocean. One-two-three.... 20 to 30 minutes from the dock, you're drifting down onto a reef or wreck. No long boat rides in Greater Fort Lauderdale.

Year round, underwater visibility averages a respectable 30 to 50 feet. But from May to October, divers experience moments of astounding water clarity, when viz ranges from 60 to 100 feet+ on the deeper reefs.

Greater Fort Lauderdale is all about endless ways to satisfy your urge to submerge. Whatever your passion for diving, whatever your interest, whatever your skill level, Greater Fort Lauderdale is, year-round, your Number One Destination for total immersion fun. 

And I think: "We could be shoveling snow today. Instead, we're diving Fort Lauderdale. From the beach!"


Apr 2: Rock the Ocean

Posted on April 2, 2014 9:06AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Fun for a cause. What could be better? The fun comes in the form of music on April 12 and 13 at the Fort Lauderdale beach. The cause, appropriately, is that body of water at the end of the sand: You know, the ocean. No kidding, this is a major event that's returned for a second year following a successful debut in 2013. Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival will take over Fort Lauderdale Beach Park for the weekend with some of the top acts in country, roots and rock music. Like, for instance, Luke Bryan and Eric Church. And Sheryl Crow and Hank Williams, Jr. And Dierks Bentley and Train and Ziggy Marley and ... An impressive lineup for sure.

Just as impressive to me, though, is the conservation connection here. The Tortuga Music Festival's tie-in with the Rock the Ocean Foundation means that something will emerge from this event beyond just having a good time.

The goal is to help the public better understand the environmental challenges facing the world's oceans - and to raise money that can make some difference. Funding for research, for education and for ocean conservation. Last year, this festival contributed more than $70,000 to organizations such as the Guy Harvey Foundation and Nova University simply through ticket sales and donations. This time around, the organizers hope to bring in more money for the cause. And we'll all hope for weather much like it has been in recent days. Just about perfect. Typically April is one of our best weather months so there's a good shot at pleasant temps and sunny skies. But the music forecast is even more reliable: Oh yeah, definitely a 100% chance of awesome listening. I mean, look at that lineup again. How cool would it be to hang at the beach all afternoon with performers of that caliber, each singer backed by the soft rolling music of the sea? Very cool. For more info about Rock the Ocean's Tortuga Music Festival, just click here: Even the names of some of the scheduled acts can make you smile. White Denim or maybe Moon Taxi. Or Blackjack Billy. Or my personal favorite name on the Tortuga Music Festival roster: Quaker City Night Hawks. This event's conservation partners have less inventive names, but important ones. Sea Turtle Conservancy and the Ocean Foundation and National Coral Reef Institute, to list only a few. Like I said, fun for a cause. Really, does a weekend ever get much better than that?

Mar 31: Going for Greatness

Posted on March 31, 2014 11:09AM

Posted by LauderBLOGGER

Have you heard about this thing? Next weekend in Fort Lauderdale, they are going for it. For the gold, for the gusto, for the greatness. This one-time-only event is called "Drumming 4 Guinness" - and it happens not so much in Fort Lauderdale as around Fort Lauderdale. Judging by the name, you might expect Drumming 4 Guinness to be an Irish band or something, a bunch of dudes blowing penny whistles and beating bodhrans in exchange for pints. Not at all. Drumming 4 Guinness is a serious attempt to form the largest-ever drum circle, with drummers from 129 nations attending to set an official Guinness World Record. The percussionists will make the circle by standing at attention, both arms outstretched to the side so the tips of their drumsticks touch. Estimated distance: six feet apart. So roughly every six feet (or less when short-armed drummers are side by side), a woman or man with some kind of drum will take their position on Saturday, April 5.

The goal is for drummers to completely encircle the perimeter of Fort Lauderdale ... well, except for that strange part of town that juts out of nowhere to the north. But yes, the main southern portion of the City of Fort Lauderdale will be ringed by drummers.

And what drummers! Some of the biggest drumbeaters on the planet have pledged to be there. They include Stewart Copeland, formerly of the Police, and Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones. Don Henley of the Eagles will handle one of the coveted spots too as will the most famous name to grace Drumming 4 Guinness: Ringo Starr of the Beatles. Wow, huh? The prediction is that the world record should require precisely 12,866 drummers - though event organizers have an extra 200 local drummers waiting just in case they're needed. At noon sharp, a text message will go simultaneously to all 12,866 (or so ..) drummers. The text will read simply, "Start banging!" Then the huge percussion assemblage will launch into an eighth-note rhythm played at 100 beats per minute for the next half hour. The city has set up a special hotline for noise complaints. Just think of that sound! Bam-bam, bam-bam, bam-bam all around Fort Lauderdale, a pounding both rhythmic and merciless, for thirty uninterrupted minutes. Helicopters will hover with video cameras to prove this is the largest drum circle ever on earth, at which point Guinness World Record officials will sanction the event as one for their book. Imagine the World's Largest Drum Circle ... right here! Meaning, uh, right inside your imagination. April Fool (slightly early)! Haha! Though personally I feel this would be a most wonderful event, I'm sorry to report the whole thing's a figment of my own warped mind - in keeping with our tradition of April Fool blogs for readers. Hope you enjoyed it. And hey, don't feel disappointed. Ringo Starr may not be drumming in Fort Lauderdale on Saturday, but neither are those 200 local drummers. That's probably a sound best left to the imagination.