Every couple of years it’s nice use the time off around Thanksgiving for a little traveling. In the past I’ve used the time to explore Australia, lounge in Puerto Vallarta, backpack in Yosemite and Point Reyes, and rock climb in Joshua Tree. This year I spent my turkey day weekend in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I had never been and knew very little about the destination, but I did a fair amount of research ahead of time and sketched out a light itinerary to assure a positive experience. It ended up being a beautiful, relaxing long weekend with good drinks and eats, and a lovely stay at a small, unique hotel.
If you’re interested in going to Fort Lauderdale or planning a short trip in the new year, here is a quick guide I’ve put together based of my stay.
If you’re gay and open to birthday suit poolside sunbathing, stay at the Villa Venice. This guesthouse recently joined a property family with the popular Worthington and Alcazar resorts, and as a guest in one you have access to all three, each separated by a short palm-lined stroll. The Villa Venice seems like the nicest of the three, definitely the quietest when we were there, with the nicest lounge chairs (important) and a comfy poolside cabana. The rooms are modern and clean, and a basic but high-quality continental breakfast in the morning is the perfect way to start the day.
Villa Venice isn’t within walking distance to Wilton Manors, the gay neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, where the local bars are, but the location is ideal because of the proximity to the beach. I don’t know what other areas of Fort Lauderdale are like (because we were perfectly happy staying in our beautiful area) but the stretch along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. (1A) is a popular area, and not over run with tourism.
We were recommended Casablanca Cafe by at least one person and it came up in our research as a top nearby place to eat. We ended up there twice because of the great outdoor seating and well-done American dishes. We highly recommend the rigatoni. We split oysters and two entrées for lunch on our first visit, which was the perfect way to dine. With spiked Arnold Palmers, on the patio and sun beaming down, it couldn’t be beat.
We had Thanksgiving dinner at Steak 954 at the W Hotel, perhaps the nicest place to eat in the area. The jellyfish in the waiting area of the restaurant are mesmerizing and memorable. Our food was good — the oysters, steak, and turkey dinner were all prepared well. There was a cool breeze the evening we were there so we didn’t sit outside, but the patio is spacious and would be inviting on a beautiful warm day or night.
We also enjoyed a dinner at The Plaza Bistro, a unique outdoor dining concept. Essentially they’ve parked a glorified gourmet food truck on an empty plot of land a few blocks from the beach, and thrown in a professional wait staff and proper seating and plating, for a pleasant and satisfying experience.
If you drive into the small retail / tourist trap area near NE 9th Street and Sunrise Lane, I would avoid pretty much all of the food establishments, as they’re all poorly rated. We stopped into SandBar for lunch and sat on their run down roof deck. We sent our poorly cooked burgers back and what they replaced them with (slightly better cooked burgers), weren’t any good either.
The W Hotel of course has a bar to have a few pre- dinner drinks but our favorite watering hole ended up being the dive Patio Bar attached to the equally dive Tropic Cay guesthouse. Friendly servers, stiff drinks, a juke box, pool table and ocean breeze, all combine for a great low-key cocktailing experience.
While the guesthouses and towering luxury hotels have nice pools, don’t miss the opportunity to spend time on the beautiful beaches of Fort Lauderdale. The entire stretch along North Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. that we strolled and lounged along from Terralinda to Sebestian, is blissful. The gay area is near Sebestian Beach and I found it to be unpretentious and picturesque.
Simple instructions here: when in Fort Lauderdale, focus on one thing – relaxing. It’s so easy to do. Beach, sun, warmth. Read a book and soak up some Vitamin D. Recharge and let your mind rest.
At some point you may want to do something beside read, eat, sleep and sun. If you’re like me, maybe you will want to do a little exploring. Look no further than the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. It’s a historic home sitting on a beautiful plot of gardens, once owned by some wealthy Floridians, and now featured on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
We explored the grounds, met a few monkeys, and strolled past all the key landmarks before joining a guided tour of the house. We were intrigued by the art, decor, style and history.
I knew nothing about Fort Lauderdale three months ago but I’m now happily enriched by its beauty and getaway characteristics. Maybe it’s a wilder place during spring break or during the summer months, but for Thanksgiving it was the perfect getaway.