So you’re thinking about heading to Fort Lauderdale for the big boat show? Great. But what do once you’re there? Here’s our list of ten things to do to make your visit truly memorable.
1.Go to the show. It’s one of the best, and largest, in the world, with 1,500 new boats and 1,200 exhibitors. This year it runs from Wednesday, Oct. 31 through Sunday, Nov. 4. You’ll find everything from megayachts to jet skis, Ferraris and helicopters. There’s so much that the show can be overwhelming, and crowded; it had 110,000 visitors last year. If you get tired of the crowds, see number two, below.
2.Forget the show and walk across the street to the beach. The wide, gentle, white beach seems to go on forever; it’s actually seven miles long. It’s a great place to take a long walk to get some exercise, or if you’ve already walked too much at the show, get a big towel and sit on the sand. You’re blood pressure will drop like a rock.
3.Take a cruise. Fort Lauderdale is called the Venice of America for a reason; it has 165 miles of waterways within the city limits. Go up and down the Waterway itself; take in the houses, the waterfront restaurants, the world-class marinas. Take a side trip up the New River, but look out for the big tourists boats that dominate the middle of the channel, as well as megayachts coming and going from the yards there.
4.Get your boat repaired. Lauderdale is the home of some of the biggest, and best, boat yards in the United States. Whatever you need (and who has a boat that doesn’t need something?), you’ll find experts there – engines, electronics, gelcoat, painting. Years ago I took my Grand Banks to Bob Roscioli’s yard up the New River for a paint job; it looked so great when it came out that I put it in the Miami show a few months later.
5.Stroll, shop and dine along Las Olas, also known as Lauderdale’s “style mile.” It’s the home of great restaurants, boutiques, sidewalk cafes and drinking spots. Enjoy an early morning or evening stroll along the romantic Riverwalk.
6.Eat at Coconut’s. The good news is that it’s almost impossible to miss, since it’s just up Seabreeze from the Bahia Mar. It’s so close it’s almost part of the show, and has a patio overlooking the water. Go early if you want to avoid the crowds; it opens at 11 Monday through Friday, but at 10 for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Whenever I go to Lauderdale, I try to find time to sit at the bar and have some conch fritters.
7.Eat at the Boatyard. If you haven’t run into all your friends at Coconut’s (which is likely), you’ll certainly find them at the Boatyard. You have to go over the 17thStreet bridge back to the mainland; it’s at 1555 SE 17thStreet. The food is good, the bar is lively, and the company is usually simpatico.
8.Get some culture. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is the area’s home for great entertainment and ranks among the top ten most-visited theaters in the world. It presents more than 700 performances a year – Broadway musicals, operas, ballets, plays, lectures and workshops.
9.Enjoy some fresh fish. Not far from the show, 15thStreet Fisheries, at 1900 SE 15thStreet, is one of the most popular restaurants in town, for a reason. It’s on the water, with a great view, live music and tarpon feeding from the dock. A little farther away, the Blue Moon Fish Co. is a foodies destination, an upscale fish house with an outdoor deck and Sunday buffet lunch. It’s at 4405 W E Tradewinds. Avenue, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.
10.Leave. Go to the islands. Lauderdale is a great jumping off point for the Bahamas. A few years ago, the day after the show ended, Billy Black, the photographer, and I took a 47-foot Maine Power Cat over to the Abacos, stopping first at West End, then Green Turtle Cay, and finally at Hope Town. The water was absolutely gorgeous, the ride on the Maine Cat easy and smooth, and the entire trip simply one of the best. Do it.