Best Hotel, Food, and Other Local Secrets From a Local As To Why You Should Visit Fort Lauderdale in July

Lago-Mar_1Standing on the beach watching the fireworks on July 4th, needing a light jacket, made me realize that July in Fort Lauderdale is a secret joy that this Grandma should share.

There is a joke that we locals tell: What is the coldest state in the United States?  Florida.  We have the best air conditioning and every place turns it down so much that you must always carry a sweater.

A long (we never say old) dear friend remained in Fort Lauderdale for the month of July for the first time in nearly two decades.  She said she is so surprised that it is beautiful in July, comfortable and delightful.  She said she expected it to be unbearable.  This Grandma responded that it is unbearable up north and out west where the heat can go into the high nineties in the summer without proper air conditioning to handle it.  Here in Florida, we are usually in the 80’s and low 90’s, and if you stay on the barrier island, I have been told it is ten degrees cooler than on the mainland.  The barrier island runs the length of Broward County, the county of Greater Fort Lauderdale, and separates the mainland from the ocean by the intracoastal waterway.  Fort Lauderdale is called the Venice of the United States because of the many waterways that intersect the Greater Fort Lauderdale area.

Just like elsewhere in the tropics, the sun is hot.  We locals know to stay out of the sun from 11 am to 2 pm.  The beach is beautiful early morning and even more beautiful around 5 pm.  Early lunch outside at a café and siesta is what you do on vacation in July in Fort Lauderdale.

Hurricane season is here, but we locals fear the end of August, September and October, when the ocean has heated and hurricanes may be more common.  You will see thunderstorms in the forecast daily, but those seem more prevalent in the west, not on the barrier island in the east, in the afternoons.  Our showers on the barrier island seem to be before we wake.

Yes, you should visit Fort Lauderdale in July, especially for the outstanding fireworks in many of our over twenty municipalities on July 4th.  In addition to the secret of the most comfortable weather, here are more secrets:

Hotels and the Best Restaurant in Fort Lauderdale

It is cheaper to visit Fort Lauderdale in July and you can get a reservation!  The majority of the tourists have left, and the locals can take advantage of “staycations,” Florida resident specials all over Florida, and in Fort Lauderdale.  The hotels try to entice visitors.  Yes, we have great chain hotels on the barrier island, where you should stay, such as the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, right on the sand.  There is a Ritz Carlton across from the beach.  Both have summer specials.  However, we have some secret gems too.  The Pillars Hotel, http://pillarshotel.com/ on the intracoastal waterway, is a member of the Small Luxury Hotel group, and is charming, like a small European inn.  It caters to foreign guests.  The secret of the Pillars Hotel is the Secret Garden Restaurant, outside right on the waterway.  We locals join as members to be able to enjoy the best restaurant in Florida, but you can eat there if you stay at the hotel without being a member.  Yes, they have portable air conditioners in the summer and portable heaters in the winter.  The view of the multimillion dollar mansions across the water is spectacular.  On Tripadvisor, The Pillars Hotel is rated number 2 hotel in Fort Lauderdale.

Another secret hotel, on the ocean with a beautiful beach, is the Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club,  rated number 5 on Tripadvisor.  It is a great family hotel with kitchettes.  There is a pool for families and another for adults. There is miniature golf course, volley ball, foosball, playground, ping pong, a giant chess board and pieces, and an ice cream shop.  Even another right on the sand is the Pelican Grand Beach Resort, A Noble House Resort, in north beach.   There is a Marriott Residence Inn on the intracoastal waterway on North Beach that is the nicest residence inn you will see and within walking distance to many of the best restaurants.

Locals know that these places to stay are the best year round, but especially in the summer, as you are staying on the barrier island.

And the Rest of the Restaurants

Being a tourist destination, Fort Lauderdale has the best restaurants.  And, in the summer, there are specials galore.  Locals eat local and when the tourists leave it is wonderful to get into any restaurant you want in July.  If you are here for July Fourth, to see fireworks, you can eat at the restaurant outside of the Ritz Carlton, Burlock Coast Seafare & Spirits, or outside on the first or second floor of an oceanfront home turned into a restaurant, Casablanca Café.   For a view of the fireworks on July 4th, you will need to make reservations well in advance.

You can check out our amazing restaurants on line.  I am going to concentrate on the locals’ special secrets.

Laspada’s Hoagies has several locations, one on 17th Street near the beach, and one in Lauderdale by the Sea on the beach side. They are a legend here, with the best sandwiches and salads.  It is rated number two in Fort Lauderdale on Tripadvisor, so tourists have found it.

17th Street in Fort Lauderdale is the way you go from the airport or port to the beach and has many restaurants.  Some are better than others.  There is an Outback Steakhouse.  Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill  has the best burgers in town, near the beach.  Giorgio’s Brick Oven Pizza, also on 17th Street, has great Italian food, and is across the street from Starbucks and Stone Cold Creamery.  La Bamba is the best local place for Mexican, with a new location near 17th Street.  Kelly’s Landing, off 17th Street, is where locals go for New England seafood and a great Sunday brunch.  Check out their website for their other daily specials.    Just north of 17th street, on U.S. 1 you will find the best local Southern ribs and fixins at Tom Jenkins BBQ , closed Sunday and Monday, and lines every other day.  For breakfast or lunch diner food, try Joe’s Café near 17th street, or Top Hat Deli,near downtown.  For a minimalist, modern cafe for health-focused, sustainable and vegan-friendly meals, plus wine & beer, go to Green Bar and Kitchen.

For fabulous bar food and beer selection, go to Tap 42.  Las Olas Boulevard, our tourist walking street, has Cheesecake Factory and many places to people watch and have a drink.  At the far end is the Floridian Diner, http://www.thefloridiandiner.com/ another Fort Lauderdale institution, open 24 hours a day, and consistently voted best breakfast, with many varieties of benedicts.

North Beach is north of Sunrise Boulevard.  Greek Taverna  is the best Greek food in South Florida, takes no reservations, and the lines are shorter in the summer.  Casa D’Angelo is consistently the best Italian, expensive and you will need reservations even in the summer.   They have a tapas restaurant, much less expensive, next door to La Bamba on the land side in north beach, Angelo’s Pizza . Sicilian Oven just opened another location at 2761East Oakland Park Boulevard on the land side.  Casual, and fabulous reasonably priced Italian.

Just south of these, on the same side of the street, U.S.1, is Jack’s Hamburger, a local hamburger joint, also a Fort Lauderdale legend. Il Mulino, on Sunrise Blvd;, next to the Gateway Theatre is our go to Italian weekly. No reservations and always crowded.   Another restaurant we frequent almost weekly, a real secret gem, is Cafe Italia Ristorante,  on U.S.1, just north of Oakland Park Blvd., in an office building.  The owner, in his 80’s, greets you.  The restaurant specializes in fish and Italian, and the prices are so reasonable for the quality of food, you will be pleasantly surprised.

Bayview Café, on Oakland Park Blvd, land side, near the beach, is the best local breakfast and lunch diner.  It will be crowded year round, full of locals.  For Spanish food, go to Café Seville, and Joey, the owner will warmly greet you with daily specials on a board.  Mario’s Catalina Restaurant  is the best Cuban food, by far.  Go to both for a delicious lunch at a reasonable price, and a more upscale costly menu at night.

Asian food is a challenge in Fort Lauderdale, but Christina Wan has followed her father into the restaurant business and is the best Chinese in town.  Locals know that the most expensive and highly rated Chinese restaurant, Rainbow Palace, is open for lunch   Friday and Saturday, and that is when to enjoy their amazing food for a reasonable price.

The list above does not make a dent in the fabulous options in Fort Lauderdale.

And the Rest of the Best

Yes, the beach is the Fort Lauderdale draw, but there is so much more.  Tripadvisor lists 111 things to do in Fort Lauderdale.

We have the The Classic Gateway Theatre  and The Savor Cinema  for art films, foreign films, and more.   We have Broward Center for the Performing Arts with shows and concerts in July.  We have a secret gem, The Island City Stage , a tiny theatre where the local performers are outstanding.

And, if you want a walk before 5 pm, head to our Galleria Mall, with Neiman Marcus, Macy’s and Dillard’s as the anchors, on Sunrise Boulevard.  Bring a sweater.  In the late afternoon and evening, walk Las Olas Boulevard or must I say it again, our beautiful beach!

Now, you know winters in Florida are clearly better than where you live.  However, please do not consider moving to Florida now that you know the summers you feared are better than where you live, too.  That is not why I shared our local secrets.

 

Joy,

 

Mema

 

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