This is a sponsored post but all opinions expressed within are my own.
Fort Lauderdale has held a special place in my heart ever since I was five years old. That’s because it was the destination of my very first flight. Flying from freezing cold, dreary New York City, to warm and sunny Florida instantly gave me the travel bug. The short two and a half hour flight just blew me away. I marveled at the fact that these huge metal birds could get off the ground and take me to somewhere so beautiful and, did I mention, warm?
Without a doubt, Fort Lauderdale, like most places, has changed a lot since those days. Back then, we probably stayed at one of the city’s nicest hotels, which was a two-story motel. These days, there’s an array of luxury hotels to choose from and more and more continue to be added. In fact, on the way to our hotel, I saw that construction had begun on the new Four Seasons Private Residences Fort Lauderdale, which will open in 2020 with 130 guest rooms and 90 residences. As Fort Lauderdale continues to transform, it becomes obvious that it’s so much more than just a beach destination. It’s a luxury escape as well for the sophisticated traveler. Here are my recommendations on where to stay and eat in Fort Lauderdale:
Fort Lauderdale Hotels
B Ocean Hotel
I’ve been to Fort Lauderdale multiple times in the last several months for both personal and professional reasons. In March, I stayed at the B Ocean Hotel, which is just a few miles away from the Broward County Convention Center where I was speaking. I stayed in the Beach Tower and the bed and bedding were comfortable. I loved the views from the pool and the easy access to the beach since it’s right on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Overall, the newly-renovated hotel has a fresh, contemporary design, a great location and a cool vibe.
Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale
The B Ocean Hotel is nice but it doesn’t compare to the beautiful and luxurious Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, which is a AAA Five-Diamond hotel. All of the hotel’s rooms have private balconies with intracoastal or ocean views and sumptuous marble bathrooms. They’re just begging you to take a warm bath or shower, put on one of the lightweight waffle robes, then sit on the balcony and watch the sun rise over the glistening Atlantic Ocean. It doesn’t get much more relaxing than that!
The Ritz-Carlton knows how to treat their guests. They have plenty of valets and desk clerks so there’s no waiting in the driveway for your car or to check-in to your room. They do a lot of little things, which is what makes this hotel special. For instance, they have a front desk for kids right next to the real front desk so kids can “check-in” too, by filling out their own form.
In the morning, the hotel has chilled towels, Gatorade, bottles of water and fruit for early joggers to take advantage of the perfect weather. They also provide jogging maps, which you don’t really need as you will see lots of people up before the sun rises, running their little hearts out on the beach path along Fort Lauderdale Beach. The valets also provide departing guests with cold bottles of water and on Fridays and Sundays, the hotel sets up a stand inside the lobby with someone serving free mini gelatos and champagne.
What’s also convenient about the hotel is that right next door is a CVS so if you find you need any medicine, toiletries or anything else, you only have to walk a short distance. If you forget to bring something from home (like we forgot to pack Jack’s swim diapers!) it’s not a chore to go get something. Actually, I would love to see every hotel have a CVS or Walgreens connected to them sort of like how many hotels have a Starbucks inside.
Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale Spa
For a truly luxurious experience in Fort Lauderdale, block a couple of hours off your calendar and check yourself into the spa at the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale. Whether you book a massage, facial, manicure, pedicure or wrap, you’ll leave feeling refreshed and revitalized. I love that they have a Men’s section on the spa menu, with treatments specifically designed to address men’s skin. And if you’re not sure what to try, I always go with a signature treatment. Try the 110-minute ‘Intuitive Ocean’ experience, which includes a salt and oil scrub, a marine body wrap and a scalp and body massage. Check out the full spa menu here.
The Diplomat Beach Resort
One of my favorite luxury conference hotels in Fort Lauderdale is the Diplomat Beach Resort. The rooms are beautifully designed, spacious and have luxury bath amenities and plush bedding. And it’s situated right on the beach along Hollywood’s Gold Coast. There’s plenty of meeting space so you don’t need to leave the hotel to attend meetings but if you’re attending a huge conference, it’s not too far from the Broward County Convention Center.
There are 10 restaurants in the hotel including two by celebrity chefs Geoffrey Zakarian and Michael Schulson. There’s also a spa, two beachside pools, a kids’ club and a Dip & Slide Waterpark, so while either my wife or I are working, our son can have a grand ol’ time.
Fort Lauderdale Restaurants
To find great food you don’t need to go far if you’re staying at the Ritz-Carlton! Located inside the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale, overlooking A1A and the beach, Burlock Coast serves up some tasty food. They have both indoor and outdoor seating and it’s popular with locals as well as hotel guests. On Mondays, they have $10 burgers that include a beer. My wife loved their scallops and lobster pappardelle and I enjoyed my Lake Meadow half chicken served with black eyed peas, bacon, braised greens and bourbon. Jack gave the macaroni and cheese his seal of approval, which is no easy feat. Here’s a look at the menu. You won’t be disappointed!
If you’re looking for a luxe dining experience with craft cocktails and incredible food, head to Louie Bossi’s. It’s an Italian restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard that is a feast for the tastebuds and the eyes. The menu features a fresh take on Italian food and the pastas, breads, pastries, gelatos and cookies are all made in-house daily. But the décor is what will really stop you in your tracks. The indoor part of the restaurant is all dark woods and leather seating that’s rustic and chic all at the same time. But the outdoor setting looks like it’s out of a fairy tale with a gazebo, a bicycle-drawn gelato stand and a bocce court. Once you’re seated, you’ll never want to leave. And according to The Miami Herald, the best seat in the house is Table 221, inside the golden gazebo.
Café Martorano is one of my favorite Italian restaurants in the United States; it’s where celebrity chef Steve Martorano whips up ridiculously tasty food! The restaurant is located near the intracoastal in a strip mall, so it might not sound luxurious but the food is incredible and the entire experience, unforgettable. Inside, there’s an old-school Italian mafia-type vibe. That’s possibly because the walls are red and there are a number of televisions playing old gangster movies, like The Godfather and Goodfellas. I’ve been to this restaurant multiple times and once with my dad, who said the meatballs were the best he’s ever had. Now, that’s saying something since his parents were born in Italy and his mom made meatballs every Sunday. In fact, I recently noticed that the Café Martorano website features a quote from Gourmet Magazine saying: “Maybe the best meatball in the world.” Maybe my dad should have been a food critic! TIP: Ask a waiter if you can get a photo with Steve since they will take you through the small, open kitchen to where the big man is cooking. He’s a really nice guy.
El Camino just opened in March 2018 on the popular Las Olas Boulevard. The restaurant and bar are packed with locals drinking and dining on authentic Mexican soul food. My wife, son and I went on Taco Tuesday and enjoyed the flavorful $2 tacos, fresh fruit juices and Mexican street corn. Thanks to the happy hour specials, the place is almost always busy even in the off-season while we were there. It’s got a lively and energetic vibe and the bright and colorful décor is really welcoming. This is a great place to go with friends if you’re looking for a fun night out with delicious food.
If you’re ready for a sunny Florida getaway, Fort Lauderdale is a great place to enjoy so much more than just a beach vacation. With plenty of luxury hotels and restaurants, it’s a great spot to travel to as a couple or as a family. Fort Lauderdale easily combines luxury with family-friendly (something that matters a lot to me now that I’m a dad!) and there’s no end to things to do with my son, from water parks and children’s theatre, to numerous nature-inspired activities like the Flamingo Gardens, Butterfly World and the Buehler Planetarium. Fort Lauderdale was my first airplane destination, I’ve been more times than I can count and my most recent trip was definitely not my last!