Update On Best Hotel, Food, and Other Local Secrets From a Local As To Why You Should Visit Fort Lauderdale in July and Why Our New Residents From Up North Should Consider a Staycation

Standing on the beach watching the fireworks on July 4th, needing a light jacket, made me realize that visiting Fort Lauderdale in July is a secret joy that this Grandma should share, and I did in 2017.  It is time for an update, especially since our South Florida population has exploded during the pandemic when so many northerners moved here working remotely in paradise.  Yes, PopPop and I have lived here for nearly fifty years and watched our hometown grow from a small town to a city.  Traffic is now something we South Floridians have to deal with year-round.  Hopefully, we can still get reservations anywhere here this summer with the influx of new year-round Floridians, who should definitely consider a staycation.

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-five municipalities on July 4th.  In addition to the secret of the most comfortable weather, here are more secrets:

Hotels and the Best Restaurants in Fort Lauderdale

It is cheaper to visit Fort Lauderdale in July and you can get a reservation or used to be able to!  The majority of the tourists have left, and the locals can take advantage of “staycations,” Florida resident specials abound all over Florida, and in Fort Lauderdale. 

The Visit Fort Lauderdale website has a wealth of information, exclusive travel deals, including just for Florida residents, on hotels, attractions, and restaurants. Some of the hotels offers extend to Georgia residents. There is even a special July Fourth special at an apartment hotel.

The attractions that have Florida resident specials include more than just discounts to attractions, but also tours, paddleboarding, jetskiing and more.

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, rated number one on Tripadvisor.  There is a Ritz Carlton across from the beach.  Both have summer specials.   If you want to stay in the quaint Las Olas shopping area the Riverside Hotel has resident specials.  https://www.riversidehotel.com/packages/florida-residents-rate

However, we have some secret gems too.  The Pillars Hotel, 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 outdoor air conditioners in the summer and portable heaters in the winter.  The view of the multimillion dollar mansions across the water is spectacular.

Another secret hotel, on the ocean with a beautiful beach, is the Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club,  rated number 3 on Tripadvisor.  It is a great family hotel with kitchenettes.  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.  It is rated number 4 on Tripadvisor.  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.

For more ideas for local discounts, see “Summer fun in the South Florida sun: 2022 discounts on dining, hotels & attractions,” by Lois K. Solomon, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, May 25, 2022.It includes a listing of our South Florida attractions and specials:

“The Summer Savings Pass. The pass allows unlimited visits to Zoo Miami, Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach and the Cox Science Center & Aquarium in West Palm Beach. It’s good from May 27 to Aug. 31 and costs $60 for adults and $50 for kids age 3 to 12.”

The South Florida Adventure Pass, which gets you unlimited admission to four Broward County attractions through Sept. 30: the Museum of Discovery & Science in Fort Lauderdale, Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston and Flamingo Gardens in Davie. Cost: $50 for adults, $40 for kids age 3 to 12.”

“Dine Out Lauderdale will offer a minimum three-course meal for $35 or $45. Participants haven’t been announced yet, but last year’s slate included Steak 954, Boatyard, 3030 Ocean and Lona Cocina & Tequileria.” and other Fort Lauderdale restaurants with summer specials July, and August through September.

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,

In North Beach, there is a new luxury restaurant in the Auberge on the ocean, DUNE By Laurent Tourondel. For a beachside 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 some of 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.

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, so check out  Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill which has the best burgers near the beach.  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 fabulous bar food and beer selection, go to Tap 42.  Las Olas Boulevard, our quaint shopping walking street, has Cheesecake Factory and many places to people watch and have a drink.  At the far end is the Floridian Diner, 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.

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 often that has daily specials to view on line, 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 in North Beach.  It will be crowded year round, full of locals, cash only.  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 locals know that the most expensive and highly rated Chinese restaurant, Rainbow Palace, is amazing.  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 dozens of things to do in Fort Lauderdale.

We have The Classic Gateway Theatre, the place where “Where the Boys Are” premiered in 1960,  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.

And, if you want a walk after 11 am before 5 pm, head to our air conditioned Galleria Mall, with 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!

You already know winters in South Florida are clearly better than where you live.  However, we have had so many northerners move here recently, please do not consider moving to South 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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