By Mike Miller Updated December 31, 2022
The City of Fort Lauderdale, Florida is in the southeastern part of the state, about 25 miles north of Miami on the Atlantic Coast.
The city has a population of 182,000 but is in the heart of Broward County with a population of about two million.
Fort Lauderdale is famous for its many miles of waterways that include a reported 165 miles of residential canals.
It is unlike any other city in the United States and has the nicknames "Venice of America" and "Yachting Capital of the World."
This is where you will have great opportunities to see the magnificent yachts of the rich and famous.
If you love boats you will love Fort Lauderdale even though you may not like the heavy traffic on its highways and long commute times.
The history of the town begins about 1836. In that year, some early settlers named Cooley were murdered by the Seminoles.
They killed Mrs. Cooley, her three children and their tutor, and the Second Seminole War was under way.
Major William Lauderdale led a group of Tennessee mounted militiamen to the area, and they built a fort. The men voted to name it for their commander.
By 1842 the war was over, and the area was abandoned. It remained a "no man's land" until the 1890's.
Frank Stranahan was the first permanent resident in 1893, opening an overnight camp for travelers and operating a ferry across the New River.
His young wife, Ivy, was the town's first school teacher.
He eventually built a larger house and general store on the New River that still stands today.
It is located above the New River Tunnel.
This tunnel is one of only two I know of in Florida (the other is to the Port of Miami), and carries US-1 (Federal Highway) under the New River.
The town grew up along the New River.
For many years, until after World War Two, the main population of the area was still in the areas north and south of the New River.
The beach communities began to grow rapidly in the years after the war.
By the time the 1960 movie, "Where The Boys Are", was made, the city was already established as the spring break capital of the country.
As a Florida history buff, I love to watch that old movie. As the opening credits are rolling, the scene is from a low flying aircraft moving north up the Intracoastal Waterway.
You can see the thousands of newly developed, empty canal front lots along the mainland side of the waterway.
As reinforcement for the idea that the history of Florida is very young compared to many Florida cities, consider that I met Frank Stranahan's widow in 1969.
As in much of south Florida, I-95 and the Florida Turnpike are jammed up during rush hours, and rush hours sometimes seem to last all day long.
When I lived in Fort Lauderdale a few years ago the daily commute to my job in Coral Gables 28 miles away usually took one hour. It must be worse now.
If you have the time, stay off I-95 and enjoy the local roads.
Even better, figure out a way to commute to work on a boat.
If you are on the Florida Turnpike or I-95, several exits take you into Fort Lauderdale.
Try Commercial Boulevard, Sunrise Boulevard, Davie Boulevard, Broward Boulevard and SR-84. Any of these roads will take you into the city.
The heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale is the area near the intersection of US-1 and Broward Boulevard. US-1 in this part of Florida is known as Federal Highway.
Fort Lauderdale has many interesting places. I love Pier 66, the tall hotel on the intracoastal waterway that has been renovated several times in the past 40 years or so.
It is located at the east end of the 17th Street Causeway Bridge.
This iconic Fort Lauderdale hotel was famous for its rotating roof top lounge with a beautiful view of the area. It was the hot spot for locals and tourists back in the day.
The lounge is no longer open to the public. Pier 66 is currently being renovated again and is scheduled to open in 2023. Maybe we will luck out and they will reopen the Top of the Pier.
Bahia Mar is also a great place, a resort and marina out on Fort Lauderdale beach. It has been there for years.
Travis McGee, the hero of 21 John D. MacDonald novels, lived at Bahia Mar - in the novels, that is.
Travis lived aboard his houseboat, "The Busted Flush", at Slip F-18. There used to be a marker indicating the location of the slip, but it has been removed in recent years.
Las Olas Boulevard is a trendy shopping district that extends from US-1 east to the Atlantic Ocean.
It is loaded with great restaurants, art galleries, coffee shops and retail shops. It also has a centerpiece of the elegant Riverside Hotel.
Port Everglades is a major freight shipping terminal, and the origination point of many Caribbean cruise ships.
In recent years, downtown Fort Lauderdale has seen the construction of dozens of new residential high rises, many of them along the New River.
These homes along the New River and near Las Olas Boulevard epitomize the fun of living in a walkable community.
A favorite place for locals and tourists alike is Lester's Diner. It's been in business since 1967.
The original Lester's is located at 250 W. State RD. 84, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315. They have newer locations in Sunrise, Margate, and Pompano Beach.
FORT LAUDERDALE EVENTS
The Winterfest Boat Parade is held every December along the waterways in the town known as the Venice of America. Enjoy the spectacular lighting and multitude of celebrities. There are many good areas along the route to enjoy the spectacle.
The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show takes place the first weekend in November or the last weekend in October. It is one of the biggest power and sailboat shows in the USA.
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By Mike Miller, Copyright 2009-2023
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