By Melody Pittman with Wherever I May Roam

Hollywood is not only the movie capital of the world, but also a dazzling beach town in greater Fort Lauderdale that is coming into its own and making a big name for itself. I was lucky enough to have vacationed in Hollywood, Florida a few years ago and enjoyed a luxury stay at the Diplomat Hotel. I loved the close proximity to the beach and easy ocean access. There were so many things to see and do and now that Hollywood is taking their city to the next level, I was even more impressed.

In October, 700 travel bloggers from around the world gathered in Fort Lauderdale for a convention and on the eve of the event, Hollywood’s Community Development Agency (CRA) hosted a group of twelve of us to do a thorough tour and sampling of what all Hollywood has to offer. I jumped at the chance because I loved everything about it, from my prior trip. We went by bus with two guides to start our day of enjoying five Hollywood activities.

Our first visit was to the Anne Kolb Nature Center, a coastal mangrove wetland in south Florida. Being an Indian River Garden Club member, I was really excited to tour this beautiful amenity. Our guides at the nature center gave very extensive descriptions of what we were seeing and gave us the educational version, great for trivia nuts like myself. We went to the top of the observation tower (took the lazy way up by means of elevator) where we had a gorgeous view of the Intracoastal Waterway, Atlantic Ocean, and West Lake mangrove estuary. We walked around the Lake Observation as well as Mud Flat Trails and sought out migratory birds and insects. Lastly, we went in an Eco-room that offered hands-on experiences taught me all about horseshoe crabs, facts I would use later that night to impress the workers at the Museum of Discovery and Sciences when all my blogger friends thought they were stingrays.

The group then traveled to Hollywood’s Broadwalk, their version of an oceanfront boardwalk that is big enough to ride bikes, and stroll for hours. Local restaurants and businesses line the brick-lined Broadwalk and the new Hollywood Beach Theater hosts musical performances and events. The newly opened Jimmy Buffet Margaritaville Hotel sits on the corner from the bandshell and has their FlowRider double surfing simulator on the oceanfront, an attention grabber for those passing by.

We were hosted by Sun and Fun Cycles to enjoy a ride on specialty bicycles down the Broadwalk. We chose the tandem bikes, made for 4 people, and started our journey. These cycles are definitely harder than they look! Being as out of shape as I am, I was still doing better at surviving than the two younger girls on our bike. It was a workout but definitely fun and provided us a few laughs along the way. The array of bikes was huge and they also offer handicapped choices. Maria, the owner, was so sweet and rode a power scooter along with us.

We stopped  at Ocean Alley Grill for lunch hosted by owner Allie and Chef James. Ocean Alley is a trendy beach bar with food much better than expected. We were served huge platters of appetizers consisting of fried shrimp, calamari, and mozzarella sticks. They were all pretty delicious and not one bit greasy, something I am always leary of with fried seafood. For lunch, we had a few choices and I opted for the flame-grilled Ocean Alley Cheeseburger. The plates were delivered looking attractive and the food was spot on. Some of the group ordered the sweet potato fries, which looked really tasty, but my zucchini fries were the bomb! Yummy!

The travel bloggers all jumped back on the bus and headed for our next stop, the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. Our guide led us to a room adorned with a children’s art wall depicting colorful renditions of dogs. Being a huge animal lover, I fell in love with it. What talented children and this center certainly does their share in developing these gifts by offering art classes and camps throughout the year. I loved that the gallery was basically a historic house, you could feel the charm throughout and the ambiance was welcoming, unlike some stuffy art galleries.

Our last stop took us to Harrison Street to see some of the more popular artwork. Here, visiting the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, Hollywood’s street-art scene, made me happy as street art is all the rage and I like adding those up close and personal visits to my list. My favorite was a whimsical and very colorful wall of cartoonish mermaids, all dolled up in cute clothes and bright colors by artist Tati Suarez. This took me back to my childhood and made me smile.

I wish to thank the city of Hollywood, Florida, for hosting our group and showing us some new things and including Hollywood’s roll-out with us. I certainly hope to spend more time there in the future and seeing that I live only to hours away, I definitely will. Hello sunny! (#hellosunny)

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