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CityTips Guide to Fort Lauderdale

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Palms sway and sea oats rustle along seven miles of sand in Fort Lauderdale, a sun-drenched playground of seaside cafes, picturesque waterways, a chic gas-lit shopping street, and a leisurely lifestyle that makes later seem like far too much pressure.

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Local Overview

Once upon a time, one could look down the road along Fort Lauderdale beach and inland along U.S. 1 and see flat land and the occasional scrubby palmetto as far as the eye could see. Now villages meld into adjoining towns, towns into cities, suburbs into each other and the entire county has become one sprawling megalopolis that stretches from the sea to the Everglades and from the northern border of Miami to the southern border of Palm Beach and beyond.

South

South of Fort Lauderdale is Hollywood, which has a small but significantly entertaining downtown area built around one of the several big traffic circles that characterize the city. Thanks to a redevelopment project that beautified downtown streets with intriguing architectural touches, trees and flowers, downtown Hollywood has become a popular. Restaurants like California Cafe and Henry's China House, and shops like Sigrid Olsen are popular among visitors.

Not far away, the tiny town of Dania, founded by tomato farmers, has left its farms behind and is best known for a street lined on both sides by dozens of antique shops brimming with an eclectic array of collectibles. Parimutuel fans flock here to Dania Jai-Alai and Simulcast, where talented handball players compete, slamming a wooden ball around at speeds up to 100mph and catching it in a hand-held basket.

Beach enthusiasts will find some of the region's most intriguing sands here, many of them tucked away behind forests of palms, pines and palmetto bushes. The standout is Hollywood North Beach Park, where you'll find many a sea turtle.

North

Traveling north of Fort Lauderdale, one wanders through a series of small towns including Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, which pretty much describes this tiny town that is home to a cluster of small inns and a few seaside cafes. The 180-acre Hugh Taylor Birch Recreation Area is filled with animals and tall, lovely trees. Beyond lies the city of Pompano, which gets its name from a coveted fish found in abundance here. Pompano is particularly proud of its sportfishing options and is home to a number of fishing competitions, a big fishing pier and a popular seafood festival. Hillsboro Beach, home to some of the region's most imposing seaside manses, is one of the loveliest parts of the drive, with the road rolling beneath massive trees and vegetation that must look much as it did a century ago when the fabled Barefoot Mailman strode the sand, armed with mail for the region's earliest settlers. Hillsboro Inlet is home to a fishing fleet so you can always find a fishing trip here and fresh-from-the-sea seafood at the Pelican Landing.

Continuing northward, you pass through Deerfield Beach, home to a few small resorts, before you reach Boca Raton. Boca's love and lure is its historic and elegant Boca Raton Resort and Club, a creation of architect Addison Mizner, whose pseudo-Mediterranean architecture is a wonder to behold.

West

To the west of Fort Lauderdale lies a host of smaller cities that are the bedroom communities of the region, their residents working in municipalities throughout the area or in Miami. Among those are Sunrise, Plantation, Tamarac, Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Coral Springs, Margate, Lauderdale Lakes, Davie—which is particularly proud of its farmland and celebrates it with Western-style architectural touches—and the newest town of them all, Weston, a developer's dream just minutes from the Everglades.

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