Greater Fort Lauderdale, a destination once famous - or infamous - as the top U.S. Spring Break haven, today stands as South Florida's transformation story and one of the most revitalized destinations in the country. During its peak in the mid-1980s, Spring Break in Greater Fort Lauderdale attracted some 400,000 college students over a six-week period, a non-stop party where motel railings were used as pool diving boards and the area's beautiful golden sand beaches were left littered with beer cans and cigarette butts.
It took a dedicated effort to bid Spring Break adieu. Despite concerns from local businesses that thrived on the annual phenomena, a public and private sector initiative was created to rid the destination of Spring Break for good.
The hospitality industry expanded, modernized and improved. Millions were spent on new hotel developments and upgrades. New facilities such as the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the 600,000-square-foot Greater Fort Lauderdale/Broward County Convention Center were built. Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport - which now stands as the fastest growing large airport in the U.S. over the past decade - was greatly expanded and Port Everglades emerged as the country's top luxury cruise port.
The New Greater Fort Lauderdale
Today, Spring Break has been transformed into beach chic. Greater Fort Lauderdale's Blue Wave beaches - so certified for their outstanding beauty and cleanliness - have been complemented by upscale hotels and a wide variety of top attractions and activities. Casual yet sophisticated, Greater Fort Lauderdale is South Florida's renaissance story.
More than 40 golf courses make the destination a golfer’s paradise. Attractions such as Butterfly World – the largest butterfly aviary in North America – and the natural wonder of the Everglades bring visitors in touch with nature and native culture. A three-tiered coral reef system and more than 100 dive sites draw novice and expert scuba divers, while kayaking, paddleboarding, parasailing, kiteboarding and snorkeling entertain those looking to stay above water.
Trendy boutiques and luxury retailers line Las Olas Boulevard, Greater Fort Lauderdale’s unofficial “Main Street,” and the upscale Galleria mall is the result of a recent $100 million renovation. Sawgrass Mills, Florida’s largest outlet, value retail and entertainment destination, has announced a 22,000-square foot addition at The Colonnade Outlets, including new luxury outlet retailers Canali, Tag Heuer, Tommy Bahama’s, Tumi, True Religion Brand Jeans, and Villagio, a free-standing restaurant. Construction of Phase I of the new Village at Gulfstream Park, an unsurpassed shopping, dining and entertainment complex set to include 70 specialty shops, restaurants and outdoor cafes, which is now open.
The luxury vacation experience continues to grow in Greater Fort Lauderdale with new upscale hotels, restaurants and shopping entering the marketplace. B Hotels & Resorts, the new upscale hotel brand, opened its flagship hotel, B Ocean, in Greater Fort Lauderdale in January 2011. The luxurious $205 million, 482-room W Fort Lauderdale opened as the company’s first property in Florida in 2009. The Westin Beach Resort, Fort Lauderdale, formerly the Sheraton Yankee Trader, reopened following a two-phase, multi-million makeover, and The Ritz-Carlton Company assumed management of the $240-million, 166-room St. Regis, Fort Lauderdale, featuring the stylish Via Luna gourmet restaurant. The 589-room Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina underwent a comprehensive $70 million transformation including the opening of Jeffrey Chodorow’s China Grill when it opened and the 501-room Hyatt Regency Bonaventure Conference Center & Spa has also been refreshed with the completion of a $100 million.
The destination also continues to add a variety of dining experiences to the menu, including celebrity chef Stephen Starr’s Steak 954 at the W Fort Lauderdale, and the new Wild Sea Oyster Bar & Grille on Las Olas Boulevard, as well as Truluck’s Steak and Crab House at the upscale Galleria shopping complex. Need further proof of Greater Fort Lauderdale’s transformation? Just head to the Intracoastal Waterway, where some 50,000 registered yachts make Greater Fort Lauderdale the yachting capital of the world. For more information on the luxury vacation experience in Greater Fort Lauderdale, visit www.sunny.org/luxe.
About Greater Fort Lauderdale From the seagrass to the sawgrass, Greater Fort Lauderdale boasts more than 34,000 lodging accommodations at a variety of hotels, luxury spa resorts, and Superior Small Lodgings reflecting a “beach chic” vibe. Visitors enjoy 23 miles of Blue Wave certified beaches, discover 300+ miles of inland waterways that run from the Intracoastal Waterway to the Everglades, dine at thousands of restaurants and eateries, get immersed in a thriving arts and culture scene and indulge in top shopping. For more info, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 22-SUNNY or visit www.sunny.org.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau can also be followed on Twitter at www.twitter.com/visitlauderdale or become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/visitlauderdale or join us on Foursquare at www.foursquare.com/visitlauderdale. To have Greater Fort Lauderdale in the palm of your hand, download the free iPhone applications, Defrost Your Swimsuit and ‘Fork’ Lauderdale, and Mild to Wild the LGBT mobile site at www.sunny.org/apps.