A beachside weekend in Florida is never a bad idea. Fort Lauderdale, especially, is the weekend getaway you should consider booking. It truly encompasses the mantra there’s something for everyone here, with a never-ending list of activities to keep you busy, easy accessibility to Palm Beach and Miami, divine restaurants, all an easy 2.5-hour flight from Houston.
Here are our recommendations for a quick jaunt to Fort Lauderdale.
We made the award-winning beachfront luxury hotel, the W Fort Lauderdale, our homebase on a recent weekend trip, and it kept us central to all the fun. The hotel is everything you’d imagine after a $55 million renovation: sleek and stylish, with 517 well-appointed rooms offering unrivaled ocean and Intracoastal views, five-star service, and the feeling you’re at the hottest address on the beach. We were quickly transported to full-on vacation mode.
You can also soak up the sunshine with a frozen cocktail at the infinity pool’s WET Deck bar, overlooking the beach. We particularly liked the frosé made with Ketel One and Meiomi Rosé, and the Tropical Crush, which blends Bacardi Coconut Rum with fresh mango, guava and pineapple. Equally impressive, the hotel’s signature bar, the Living Room, is thoughtfully-designed to feel like your own—if you upped the trend factor by a hundred—serving cocktails with live music and televised games.
Beach luxury comes in many forms and they should all include a spa treatment. W Fort Lauderdale is home to the Away Spa, with a full beauty menu, in addition to its lineup of massages and facials. Like most spas, it’s all about relaxing, with added bold elements to help you detox and relax.
If you need to get glammed up before a night out on the town, head to the spa's Glam Station, where you can get a make-up dusting for a quick touch-up or full make-up for a fresh new look. If you’re in a hurry, opt for a 10-, 25- or 50-minute quick fix with their state-of-the-art express massage chair—no changing room required. The Manicure Bar, fully stocked with a rainbow of colors, offers a variety of services for your fingers and toes.
Fort Lauderdale has no shortage of reservation-worthy restaurants, but if there ever were a time to spend 90 percent of your stay eating at your hotel, this is it. Guests can choose from delicious cuisine from Philadelphia-based James Beard Award winner Stephen Starr. His eateries in the W Fort Lauderdale include STEAK 954, El Vez and Sushi Bar. STEAK 954 quite possibly serves the best steak in all of North America, which says a lot coming from a Texan. Start with the "Colossal Shrimp" and finish off with the 22-ounce Prime 40-day, dry-aged bone-in ribeye.
Out on the town, have dinner at Kitchenetta, an unassuming family-style restaurant that serves traditional Sunday Supper (doors open at 5:30 p.m. and reservations are suggested). It gets busy, has an incredible local feel, and you need to save room for their homemade tiramisu. The portion sizes are insanely large (we’re talking the single size, not even the family size) and it feels criminal to leave anything remaining on your plate. Consider yourselves warned.
S3 Restaurant (Sun Surf Sand) is trendy, laidback beachfront dining at its finest. Located one block from the W Fort Lauderdale, the coastal-cuisine eatery offers Sunset Happy Hour from 4 to 7 p.m. with sushi and tapas-style plates. Order slowly because most of the small plates here are Texas-sized and you’ll fill up quicker than you think.
Looking for a midday splurge? Lunch at Burlock Coast (on the beach at The Ritz-Carlton) will cost you, but YOLO on vacation. They do offer some great specials, too—Burger n’ Beer Mondays, where you can grab both (along with fries) for just $10 total from 5 to 10 p.m., and half-priced bottles of select wine and oysters on Wednesdays.
The city's one of the few places in the world where both saltwater fishing and freshwater fishing (on the Intracoastal) are within 20 minutes of each other. And whether you want to relax on the beach, or schedule any number of outdoor activities on or off the water, from sailing and paddleboarding to golfing and shopping, the average daily temperature of 76 makes it an ideal destination all year.
Most hotels offer complimentary beach cruisers for guests; the W Fort Lauderdale offers beach cruisers to explore the boardwalk. The city is also home to B-CYCLE and Bird scooters, and A1A is walkable as well.
If you don't go the rental cars route—many beachfront hotels have overnight parking upwards of $40+ per night—the area is home to rideshare programs (Uber, Lyft), and if you want to explore downtown Miami or downtown Palm Beach, you can also use Brightline, a high-speed train service that quickly connects you from Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Miami.