When people think of Fort Lauderdale, wild spring break antics are what usually come to mind. This perennial party town was where the boys were in the ’60s and by the ’80s it was where girls went wild. Fort Lauderdale has grown up a bit since then, and the introduction of new upscale beachfront hotels like the Ritz Carlton, Hilton and W are helping it attract more than just the college crowd. That’s not to say there isn’t still a free-spirited Bourbon Street quality to parts of the famed “strip” along the beach. Bawdy beachfront t-shirt shops and happy hours are still abundant, but the city has gone out of its way to attract families and adults past college age, too. You’ll still find sections of the beach where the boys are, just keep in mind they could be attracting other boys now, as Fort Lauderdale has a reputation for being gay-friendly.
The newest hotel addition to the strip is another single letter hotel chain. In what seems to be a growing trend, the W opened up in 2009 and now there’s the hip and happening B. It’s a letter that seems well-suited for hotel branding… think it’s the place to B, free to B, B adventurous… you get the picture. B is a newly created hotel brand and this is the first of its properties. It’s across the street from a blissful section of the beach, at the corner of A1A and Sunrise Boulevard. The B is removed from the hustle and bustle of the strip, yet within easy walking distance to it. B makes good use of its beachfront location. Floor to ceiling windows in all the rooms mean incredible views of the Atlantic. Ocean views are also found in the exercise room and the restaurants. There’s also an amazing penthouse party area that can be reserved for celebrations and receptions. The lobby is ultra mod with beautiful glass sculptures and neon lighting. Inside the rooms you’ll find clean, crisp, all white suites. Stuffed turtles placed on the beds add a cozy marine-themed touch, especially for families with kids. The pool is small and simple, but plush poolside cabanas create pockets of luxury and privacy for guests.
Traditional public transportation in Fort Lauderdale isn’t the best, but that doesn’t mean you have to rent a car. The best way for any tourist to get around the canals and waterways of this “Venice of America” is via water taxi. Instead of battling traffic, you can take a leisurely cruise to the most popular spots in Fort Lauderdale during this one-of-a kind commute. The B is just a few blocks from the Intracoastal Waterway, where you can hop on board a water taxi and get a peek at luxurious waterfront mansions during a picturesque one hour trip to Las Olas Boulevard, the Rodeo Drive of Fort Lauderdale. Water taxis offer rides to 20 regularly scheduled stops along the New River and the Intracoastal Waterway. A $20 pass allows you to ride it the whole day. Children 4 and under are free. The water taxi will also deliver you to Fort Lauderdale’s delightful downtown riverwalk along the New River and then back to the beach, when you’re ready to call it a night.
When you’re ready to escape the excitement of South Florida, take the time to visit Birch State Park, directly across the street from the B Hotel. This 180 acre wilderness preserve can feel like your own private reserve for a mere $2 entry fee. For $5 you can rent a canoe and explore this tropical paradise. Bike, skate and segway rentals are also a great way to enjoy the trails of this “Old Florida” treasure. Picnic tables along the Intracoastal Waterway provide you with a picture perfect way to enjoy an inexpensive al fresco meal.
Another “Old Florida” oasis sits on the other side of the B Hotel. Just a few blocks south is where you’ll find the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, a tropical treasure. Touring this historic Caribbean-style home and surrounding gardens is a great way to see firsthand what this area looked like before the hotels and bars arrived. You’ll be delighted to watch wild Brazilian squirrel monkeys scampering about on the grounds. Admission is $20 for adults, kids 6 and under are free.
Need a break from the sun? Head indoors to the Galleria, an upscale mall featuring stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus, just a few blocks from the B Hotel. Getting to the mall is half the fun- it’s a pleasant walk over the Sunrise Boulevard bridge, where you’ll get a glimpse of the magnificent yachts that call Fort Lauderdale home.
It’s still easy to find a nightly party in Fort Lauderdale, but it’s just as easy to find beachside bliss and world-class hotels, restaurants and spas. As its newest hotel would point out, Fort Lauderdale is the place to B.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park