Fort Lauderdale Essentials

Whatever you're in the mood for in Fort Lauderdale, this guide has your answer. Entertainment, food, outdoor activities, and more!

Food and Drink Essentials: Best Places to...

BUY GROCERIES

Mediterranean Market
1021 E. Las Olas Blvd., downtown Fort Lauderdale
From lobster to excellent wine, this small market has the freshest and the best. Vendors know that Jeanine, the owner, will accept nothing less for her customers and she personally oversees every aspect of customer service. Breads, deli sandwiches, desserts and fresh meats are in abundance. Not a huge selection, but always, somehow what you are looking for. For events and parties, this is the place for catering services.

Penn Dutch
3950 N. 28th Terrace, Hollywood, 954-921-7144
This large market is located on the west side of I-95 between Stirling and Sheridan Street exits. Selections include: beef, veal, pork, lamb, poultry, cheese, fish, produce, baked goods, deli and a full range of smoked products. Penn Dutch has been a local favorite for 30 years. Prices are very good and people come from miles around to shop here. They have a new second location in Margate, near 441 and Sample Road in West Broward County.

Delaware Chicken Farm
4191 N. State Road 7 (441), Hollywood, 954-983-6831
Fresh fish, chicken, turkey and meats as well as prepared foods are offered at this family-owned Hollywood icon, serving customers in the tri-county area since 1951. Stone crabs in season are fairly priced and often in abundance. Call ahead for large or holiday orders. They boast hormone-free poultry, and the market has an atmosphere of an old butcher shop. The line goes fast, so take a number and relax.

Fernanda's International Market & Vintage Winery
3045 N. Federal Hwy.
The big attraction at this unique shop is ready-made deli foods. The store offers specialty food, fine wines and catering services. A place you will want to check out.

Josh's Organic Garden
Harrison Street and AIA, Hollywood, 954-456-3276
Open Sundays 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., a trip to this market is a Sunday ritual for many folks. Josh, owner and energetic farmer/businessman, offers up freshly picked locally grown organic vegetables for his patrons. He is a charitable man who donates all leftover produce to a local homeless shelter. Bring cash as no credit cards are accepted. Discounted parking in the lot or there's plenty of street parking. Located on the boardwalk at the ocean's edge, you can sip some fresh juice from Josh's stand and watch the world go by.

Publix Supermarkets
Many locations, including 1395 SE 17th St.
Founded in Florida, Publix is the largest and fastest-growing employee-owned supermarket chain in the United States. You can't go wrong here, and stores generally have all you could ask for. The organic food line is growing, the deli rivals independent specialty shops and the stores seem to be ahead of the curve in anticipating consumer trends.

Whole Foods Market
2000 N. Federal Hwy., 954-565-5655
This is another group that offers small market appeal. Several locations include Fort Lauderdale, Plantation, Coral Springs, Aventura and Boca Raton. Organic, fresh food and produce and "holistically" oriented packaged foods aplenty in this national chain store. The Fort Lauderdale location has a separate classroom for fee-based cooking classes and exercise programs offered to the community.

Fresh Market
Nothing yet in downtown Fort Lauderdale, but you can find these stores within a 30-minute drive from downtown. The upscale market with an Old World European flair offers an old-style butcher shop and fish market, bakery, produce and floral stands, and a delicatessen.

DINE ON ITALIAN FARE

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza
Several South Florida locations, including 2203 S. Federal Highway (U.S.1), 954-462-5555
This pizza “joint” is a restaurant pick due to its fabulous, if limited menu. These are among the best pizzas around, and the salad with the gorgonzola dressing is superb. Get there early or be prepared to wait. Families welcome.

Cafe Vico
1125 N. Federal Hwy., 954-565-9681
Chef Marco Vico and family have been mesmerizing patrons with their authentic Italian fare for years. Romantic yet comfortable atmosphere with excellent value. Highly regarded by locals.

Il Molino
1800 E. Sunrise Blvd., 954-524-1800
This local landmark has patrons raving about the Italian fare, both reasonably priced and delectable. Garlic bread that is not to be missed! Park in the back. No reservations accepted.

Casa D'Angelo
1201 N. Federal Hwy. #5A, 954-564-1234
Chef Angelo offers superb food in a high-end atmosphere. Tuscan-style, southern Italian fare. Exceptional food, serious dining experience. Extensive wine list and wood-burning ovens are highlights.

Primavera Restaurant
830 E. Oakland Park, 954-564-6363
Chef and restaurant owner Giacomo offers delicious northern Italian cuisine in a casual yet refined atmosphere. Open for dinner. Cooking classes offered. Diners of all ages.

DINE WITH A VIEW

15th Street Fisheries
1900 SE 15th St., 954-763-2777
Located at the Lauderdale Marina, this landmark waterfront restaurant offers good food with a beautiful view. Long known by locals, it has had a resurgence in popularity. Look for the reasonably priced double lobster specials in season.

Casablanca Cafe
3049 Alhambra St., 954-764-3500
Old restored home with ocean views. Mediterranean-American style dining. Piano bar, live jazz entertainment. Romantic, indoor or outdoor dining. Serving lunch and dinner.

Cafe de Paris
715 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-467-2900
A French and international outdoor cafe so "people watching" on Las Olas Boulevard can be combined with lunch or dinner. Mature adult crowd would be comfortable here. Early dining menu available.

SATISFY YOUR INNER CARNIVORE

Chima Steakhouse
2400 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-712-0580
Be served by authentic gauchos (cowboys) who roam the upscale dining room waiting to slice 16 rotisserie meats including prime rib, sirloin, lamb, chicken, sausage, fish and more. It is all you can eat, and it is always crowded. Chima offers an enormous salad bar as well as oven-fresh breads and soup. This is a fun place for a group or to celebrate with your significant other.

Jackson's Steakhouse
450 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-522-4450
Open nightly at 4:30 p.m., this downtown institution has been catering to the needs of the professionals in the area with great steaks and seafood. You can rent a cigar or a wine locker or use a private party room for special events. Near theater, entertainment and recreational venues with valet parking.

GRAB A LATE NIGHT BITE

Floridian Restaurant
1410 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-463-4041
Early morning, late night after the theater, Sundays and holidays, this 24-hour restaurant will fill you up with great food for a great price. "Meet Me at the Flo" is the phrase used by locals who want to enjoy a special time with friends. In season, locals have to compete with visitors and wait in line. Bring cash. No credit cards or checks. A Rachael Ray TV show pick.

ENJOY LOCAL FLAIR

Downtowner Saloon
10 S. New River Drive East, 954-463-9800
Under the Andrews Avenue bridge behind the courthouse, a bit off the beaten track, you’ll find a fun atmosphere, waterfront dining, nightly specials and live music at this historic restaurant. Great place to gather with friends for happy hour.

Canyon Southwest Cafe
1818 E. Sunrise Blvd., 954-765-1950
High-energy restaurant, can get crowded and noisy. Well-prepared modern Southwestern cuisine. Prickly Pear margaritas are a specialty. Handicapped accessible. Open for dinner. Business casual attire.

Johnny V’s
625 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-761-7920
Johnny Vinczencz, the owner of this restaurant since 2003, is known for his bold cuisine, Carribbean influence and sleek restaurant design. Great for special event-type dining, birthdays, anniversaries. Pricey but very good food with excellent service. The bar is a hotspot for singles late at night.

La Bonne Crepe
815 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-761-1515
French provincial style restaurant, inside and sidewalk dining. Crepes and omelets for breakfast and lunch, and a diverse dinner menu. Won’t break the bank and a special place that will stay in your memory.

Las Olas Cafe
922 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-524-4300
Fine dining with romantic and intimate European flair. On Las Olas but nestled in a cozy area down a brick-lined walkway. Adult dining, casual chic dress.

Mai-Kai
3599 N. Federal Hwy., 954-563-3272
Polynesian, family-owned dining for 50 years. Presents live, authentic musical revues that are restaged with costume changes every year. Caters to groups and families. Re-created Polynesian village is a feast for the eyes as well as your appetite. Johnny Carson, Ed. McMahon and other celebrities used to hang out in the Molokai bar when in town. Many celebrities still do. Visit Hazel in the unique gift shop.

QuarterDeck Restaurant
Several locations including 1541 Cordova Road and 2933 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Paul Flanigan, the founder of QuarterDeck Restaurants, provides a casual atmosphere, tasty food and drinks at reasonable prices. Can’t go wrong with fresh fish sandwiches and specialty drinks. Note: Paul Flanigan is nephew of the late Joseph Flanigan, well-known South Florida restaurateur and package store owner.

EAT HEALTHY
With many interested in “healthy foods,” Fort Lauderdale is no exception in providing options to local residents. Here are some favorites:

Sublime Restaurant and Bar
1431 N. Federal Hwy., 954-539-9000
Owner Nancy Alexander provides vegan food that is hearty and healthy in a visually stimulating environment. Proceeds from the restaurant go toward reducing animal cruelty and promoting a vegan lifestyle. Currently open for dinners only.

Sukhothai Restaurant
1930 E. Sunrise Blvd. #1930, 954-764-0148
Owner Susie Komolsane and her son Eddie Watana are your friendly hosts for reasonably priced, delicious Thai food in the Gateway Shopping Center. Open for lunch and dinner, Monday through Friday. Dinner only on weekends. Diverse appeal.

Sushi Rock
1515 E. Las Olas Blvd., 954-462-5541
Great sushi, a local favorite. Even when Hurricane Wilma closed down most restaurants, Sushi Rock was still up serving Japanese fare to the neighborhood. Long waits on Saturday nights.

Zona Fresca
635 N. Federal Hwy., 954-566-1777
You don’t normally think of fast food and healthy food in the same sentence, but at this popular spot, you can get a very inexpensive and healthy meal with a Mexican flair. The guacamole is made from fresh avocados on the premises. They use no lard in their beans and cook with 100 percent canola oil. Young couples and singles usually on premises. Sit outdoors unless the street traffic would bother you.

Seasons 52
2428 E. Sunrise Blvd., at the Galleria Mall, 954-537-1052
Quiet atmosphere, mostly adult-oriented. This restaurant highlights seasonal, fresh food that is prepared in a healthful way. Calories are specified. Great for lunch with the girls after shopping or for a light workday meal. They offer a large selection of wine by the glass.

GET AN EDUCATED DINING EXPERIENCE

Chef's Palette Cafe & Grill -- Arts Institute of Fort Lauderdale Culinary Program
1650 SE 17th St., 954-760-7957
You can experience dining in a unique setting as students of the International Culinary School prepare your meal before your eyes and serve it to you. Private parties are accommodated on request. 

Entertainment Essentials: Best Places to...

HAVE FUN FOR FREE

Go to the Beach
With 26 miles of shoreline, going to the beach is not only a free thing to do in Fort Lauderdale, it is THE free thing to do. Miles and miles of soft sand, ocean breezes and clear water, with virtually total access to the public, makes the beach scene the best you can find anywhere.

Catch the rising sun, watch the runners, cyclists and skateboarders moving up and down the beach almost seeming to be in rhythm with the waves lapping the sand, while pelicans glide in formation on the fresh breeze.

Grab a cup of coffee and relax on the Wave Wall or sit on the shore with your feet dipping into the ocean. In a little while, Ralph Riehl will open his kiosk and offer a friendly smile and an amazing amount of facts about places to go and things to do in Fort Lauderdale. You might be a local but you'll learn something new every time you visit with Ralph.

At night, enjoy the stars and blinking lights from cruise ships. On certain evenings, a full moon rising over the water is a beautiful sight. Stores, sidewalk cafes and entertainment venues line the Fort Lauderdale beachfront. People-watching doesn't cost you a thing.

The Everglades
Boating, fishing, bird-watching and biking are just a few things the Everglades offers. As the website puts it, "it is one of North America's unsung wild places -- a beautiful, rugged, subtropical landscape experienced by a relatively few adventurous souls each year." Be one of the few.

Suntrust Jazz Brunch
On the first Sunday of every month, year-round, the Suntrust Jazz Brunch takes place on Riverwalk in sight of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Take a chair, blankets and your cooler, and mark out your territory, hang with friends or stroll under the canopy of shade trees while listening to live music. As many as a half a dozen solo artists and groups are on the schedule during this event. The New River flows by the Sunday brunch's parklike setting and boaters will wave to you as they pass.

If you want, bring your dog with you. Watering stations are provided, and you'll see a lot of folks with their pets in tow (or vice versa).

On many Sundays, there's an opportunity to take a tour of the Broward Center, which also makes its restrooms available for brunch attendees. On a hot day, go inside for a drink of water and bit of air conditioning.

Riverwalk
The Riverwalk area is a nice place to visit even when the Jazz Brunch isn't scheduled. Stroll from just west of the Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Boulevard and follow the New River. Esplanade Park nearby offers benches, a band shell and a large musical fountain. There are free movie screenings on many nights during the year and local festivals on the weekends.

Las Olas Arts and Crafts Fair
Artists from all over the country attend this weekend event held several times each year. Las Olas Boulevard is closed to vehicle traffic and more than 100 vendors set up shop. Shuttle buses available. Only resident parking is allowed in the neighborhood during the fair.

The Winterfest Boat Parade
Held every December, the event has grown into the most unique holiday event in the country. Yachts, motorboats and kayaks are festooned with lights and move through the waterways of Fort Lauderdale. With viewing from the shoreline, homes, hotels and boats, this is a free event that draws hundreds of thousands each year.

MEET NEW PEOPLE AND GET INVOLVED WITH THE COMMUNITY

Bonnet House and Gardens
900 N. Birch Road
Once you visit this beautiful property of the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation, you may never want to leave. There are 35 acres of Old Florida hidden in a bustling urban center. Even locals are amazed the first time they visit. Volunteer opportunities include being a guide, an education volunteer, a nature trail interpreter, a bridge greeter, a data entry staffer, to name a few. Single seniors welcome. They have fundraising events, music and art for the public as well.

Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival (FLIFF)
Cinema Paradiso, 503 SE Sixth St., 954-760-9898
Volunteers are the mainstay of this local art house treasure. Housed in a beautiful renovated church. FLIFF has a knack for great movies, parties and an opportunity for friendship. Irwin Levenstein will be happy to talk to you about membership which affords you the benefits of attending the film festival as well as other events during the year. You might even see some famous faces along the way. Get involved, meet new people and enjoy independent film.

Gilda's Club
199 Rose Drive, 954-763-6776
If you are living with cancer, have a family member with cancer, are a cancer survivor or a family survivor, you can join for free. They have support groups, educational programs, classes and more. Anyone can volunteer to help with special events, social events, outreach, clubhouse support and "noogieland" (working with children and teens).

Sister Cities International, Fort Lauderdale
954-828-4536
The Greater Fort Lauderdale Sister Cities International Inc. (GFLSCI) has been around for 20 years. It is a friendly, nonprofit group that promotes diplomacy among nations and provides a network between Fort Lauderdale and communities around the world in an effort to increase global cooperation at the municipal level. Former partner cities include Haifa, Israel; Cap Haitien, Haiti; and Mugla, Turkey.

Volunteer Broward
4800 N. State Road 7, Building F, Suite 102, 954-522-6761
If you're not sure where you would best serve and meet new people, contact Volunteer Broward at contactus@volbrow.org and attend one of their orientations. They have many organizations to choose from where you can give back to the community.

ENTERTAIN THE KIDS

Boomers
1700 NW First St., Dania Beach, 954-921-1411
This amusement park has free admission and is open seven days including holidays. Pay for the attractions you want, including rides, batting cages, bumper boats and laser tag. They also have educational children's programs and party rates for group celebrations.

Bergeron Rodeo Grounds and Entertainment Center
In Davie, 30 minutes from the Fort Lauderdale beach
Davie Pro Rodeo, a 72,000-square-foot rodeo arena, seats 5,500 spectators. See professional cowboys ride broncos and bulls in a traditional event you won't forget. Visit a downtown with a Western theme or ride your own horse on local trails. There's a youth rodeo in the summer and other special events year-round.

Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop
3291 W. Sunrise Blvd. (954) 791-7927
An indoor/outdoor flea market that also features a drive-in theater with multiple screens and a real circus. Mostly new items for sale from 2,000 vendors. Also a garage sale area for used goods on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Open daily.

Museum of Discovery & Science and the Auto Nation IMAX 3D Theatre
401 SW Second St., downtown Fort Lauderdale. 954-467-6637
Plenty to do for the young and young-at-heart in the interactive museum. The theater shows special features, some in 3-D, on a 5-story-high screen with surround sound speakers.

Nightlife Essentials: Best Places to...

EXPERIENCE ARTS AND CULTURE

Broward Center for the Performing Arts
From offerings for children and seniors to everything in-between, this beautiful downtown theater is your place for the latest and greatest in theatre, dance and musical entertainment. Au Rene and Amaturo theaters offer different venues. They also offer educational programs for the community. Tip: Park near Himmarshee Village, eat at one of their restaurants and walk to the theatre. Accessible facilities.

Parker Playhouse
707 NE Eighth St.
Affiliated with the Broward Center since 1967, this location was one of Fort Lauderdale's first venues and holds 1,167 seats in a fully equipped theater. Valet or self-park.

Symphony of the Americas
199 N. Ocean Blvd. Suite 200, Pompano Beach, 954-545-0088
Artistic director James Brooks-Bruzzese has lovingly presented fine classical music consistently over the years. The symphony has promoted the sharing of international cultural events in the community.

PARTY ON

Culture Room
3045 N. Federal Hwy.
Bands nightly, very reasonable entry fee. Some really great groups come to this relatively small venue. Age varies with particular performer, overall younger crowd. Mostly standing room only in front of a stage. Tip: Go upstairs for drinks and "lean" against the railing or sit at the bar.

Himmarshee Village/Riverwalk
SW Second Street between Fourth and Andrews avenues
Rather than name all the clubs and restaurants in this historic area, suffice it to say this is a nighttime hot spot, mainly for the younger set. Go for happy hour or stay for dining and dancing until the wee hours of the morning. Outdoor cafes abound.

Las Olas Boulevard
Downtown Fort Lauderdale
Nine blocks of dining and entertainment venues blend into this upscale shopping district. Listen to live music while you dine or have a drink.

Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Offers prime entertainment, dining and dancing. Top acts from all over the world perform and clubs offer entertainment nightly on the premises.

DANCE

Christopher's Restaurant and Night Club
2857 E. Oakland Park Blvd., 954-561-2136
Catering to locals for more than 30 years, this nightclub has dancing and dining for the singles set. Popular happy hour, food bar offerings and midweek ladies' nights. Live music and DJ mix.

Dance Moves
220 Commercial Blvd., Lauderdale-by-the-Sea
Danny Carter is the instructor at this facility dedicated to the promotion of ballroom dancing. He offers instruction to couples who are getting married and want to learn techniques for their first dance. Other dance classes such as salsa and belly dancing are offered.

Pangaea and Gryphon
5707 Seminole Way, 954-581-5454
These two dance clubs are favorites at the Seminole Hard Rock on the weekends. Fun, trendy and lots of dancing. Cover charge some evenings. Social and networking groups meet here.

Goldcoast Ballroom
This is the premiere location for ballroom dancing, boasting a wonderful dance floor and great music. Owners Jeff Sandler and Vinny Munno have created an atmosphere where singles and couples of all ages can come to socialize, dance and learn. Even professional dancers stop in.

Revolution Entertainment
In Himmarshee in downtown Fort Lauderdale
Plush and youth-oriented, you can literally dance the night away in this dance club venue. 

Outdoor Essentials: Best Places to...

BE ACTIVE OR HAVE A PICNIC

City Parks 

Local parks are always a great place to take kids and in some cases, dogs as well. Call 954-828-PARK for special accommodations and other information. Here are a few parks near downtown:

  • Victoria Park, 2 N. Victoria Park Road. You'll see families and their dogs lounging or frolicking with their owners in this 3.5-acre park. Lovely water view. There is a yearly art festival. Hours: 8 a.m.-9 p.m.
  • Colee Hammock Park, 1500 Brickell Drive. Another lovely small waterfront setting where you can fish and picnic. Hours: 6 a.m.-11 p.m.
  • Holiday Park, 1300 E. Sunrise Blvd., 954-825-5385. This large, active park offers a tennis center, social center, gym and activity center. There are adult and youth league sports, yoga classes and children's classes. Hours: 5 a.m.-11 p.m.

BEST VIEWS OF THE CITY

Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six
2301 SE 17th St.
Blocks from the ocean, the hotel offers a 360-degree view of Fort Lauderdale from its 3,000-square-foot revolving restaurant and lounge high above the hotel lobby. Receptions, special events and functions are made more special by the breathtaking scenery.

Riverside Hotel
620 E. Las Olas Blvd.
This historic hotel provides relatively low level but beautiful balcony views of Fort Lauderdale toward the ocean just a mile and a half away.

From the Water
Lunch and dinner cruise boats provide views of Fort Lauderdale from a totally different perspective of this city of isles and wide canals. There are also water taxis that will take you to lunch, the theater or dinner at the same time you're seeing the sights.

Broward Center for the Performing Arts
On an elevated site in the bend of the New River, at the end of the Riverwalk area, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts provides a panoramic view toward the east. It offers a microcosm perspective of the city.

The Tower Club
Located on the 28th floor of a financial and office building in downtown, the Tower Club offers a 360-degree stunning view of Greater Fort Lauderdale, thanks to its floor to ceiling windows. Many civic and business groups hold their breakfast, lunch and dinner meetings at this private club, so if you're involved in the community, you'll find yourself at the "top of the world" sooner or later.

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