Fort Lauderdale Up Close And Personal
May 25, 2016
Whether you’ve lived in Fort Lauderdale your whole life, or you find yourself just passing through, this historic, sunny town along Florida’s southeastern coast has something for everyone. Visit the upscale boutiques and restaurants on Las Olas or spend an entire day on the pristine beaches. You might even find a bit of adventure on the miles of boating canals that give Fort Lauderdale its nickname: Venice of America.
Think you’re a Fort Lauderdale buff? Know everything there is to know about the history of this city and its vistors attractions? We hate to bust your bubble, but think again. There are tons of interesting facts about Fort Lauderdale that, chances are, you probably don’t know.
Juan Ponce De Leon sailed by the Fort Lauderdale area in early May 1513 during his expedition when he discovered La Florida. The Lewis Family settled on the New River around 1789 and farmed here until approximately 1820. William Cooley and 50 other residents created the New River Settlement in the early 1830s and remained here until the Seminoles attacked and killed the Cooley family in 1836. Following the Civil War, John “Pig” Brown maintained a pig farm at the beach before being elected to the State Legislature in 1877. Frank Stranahan arrived in 1893 to operate the New River Ferry and establish his trading post.
A Surprising Pirate Past: The Colorful Fort Lauderdale History
The earliest Fort Lauderdale fun facts are the stuff of legends. Pirates, to be exact. Aargh, matey!
Since 1911, the city of Fort Lauderdale has attracted visitors to its 23 miles of white sandy beaches. Nestled between Miami and Palm Beach, Greater Fort Lauderdale holds 30 municipalities within 36 square miles. It’s a tourist town that caters to people from all walks: college students on spring break, deal-obsessed shoppers, sun-seekers and foodies looking for their next great meal.
When Fort Lauderdale was still wilderness, it was home to the Tequesta tribe. The last Tequestas left with the British in 1763 when Florida was transferred back to the Spanish. The Seminole tribe moved into what is now Broward County in the 1820s.
Before Fort Lauderdale was anything that we recognize today, it was home to the Abaniki tribe who were known for living along the sea and using its resources for survival. Later, pirates pushed these Native Americans out. The swashbuckling pirates used the canals and rivers of Fort Lauderdale to prey on Spanish sailors who had loaded their ships with gold from Central America.
The Name Game: The History Behind the Fort Lauderdale Name
Fort Lauderdale was named for Major William Lauderdale, who established a fort on the New River in March 1838 during the Second Seminole War. Lauderdale and his Tennessee Volunteers only remained one month and had one minor skirmish with the Seminoles out at Pine Island (Davie). A second temporary fort was re-established along the river in January 1839 before the third permanent fort was built at the beach (now Bahia Mar).
Can’t Get Enough History? Visit These Must-See Fort Lauderdale Museums
There are plenty of things to do in Fort Lauderdale, including taking the time to dive into its rich history. While there are several places you could add to your list of must-see places on the Gold Coast, there are a few historical spots that stand out on this list:
- History Museum Fort Lauderdale
Located in downtown Fort Lauderdale at the intersection of the FEC railroad and the New River, the History Museum Complex is comprised of six historic structures including the:
New River Inn (History Museum)– a 1905 hotel constructed by Ed King and operated by Philemon Bryan. The first building in Broward County to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places (1972). Today, houses exhibits on the history and development of Fort Lauderdale.
Hoch Heritage Center-archives and collections center. Maintains research files on the history of Fort Lauderdale and over 300,000 images, maps, architectural drawings and ephemera.
King-Cromartie House – a 1907 historic house museum interpreted to the 1915 period. Family home of two early pioneer families. As the first historic preservation project in Fort Lauderdale, the house was moved up river to save it from demolition.
- Bonnet House
Nestled in the heart of the barrier island, the Bonnet House property was given by Hugh Taylor Birch to his daughter Helen as a wedding gift in 1919. Construction on the house began in 1920 and was intended to be a winter home for the Bartletts. However, Helen died in 1925 and Frederick Bartlett married Evelyn Fortune Lilly and they completed and lived in the house. Evelyn donated the house to the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation in 1983 and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.
Visitors who enjoy history, art, tropical gardens and even animals — there are monkeys on the property! — will find an afternoon of education and entertainment at the Bonnet House. Take your time exploring the lush estate and all that it offers. You’ll be glad you did.
- The Stranahan House Museum
The oldest existing structure (1901) in Fort Lauderdale, the Stranahan House started as a trading post and overnight camp (1893). Frank & Ivy Stranahan helped build Fort Lauderdale as a destination for visitors and an area known for business development. Today, you can take a tour of the house and grounds. You’ll be amazed by how well the property has been preserved. And you’ll also be impressed by its unique and compelling contributions to Fort Lauderdale’s early success.
Impress Others With These Interesting Facts About Fort Lauderdale Weather
So, the next time you’re at a party in Fort Lauderdale or socializing with friends, we have a sure-fire way to impress those around you. With these interesting facts about Fort Lauderdale weather, you’ll get the conversation flowing:
It didn’t snow in Fort Lauderdale until 1977 — at least according to the most recent meteorologist records that have been found on the topic. If you’re truly looking for a sunshine destination to chase away the winter blues of more northern states, this is the place to be. There has been no record of snow since that first recording.
The average low in Fort Lauderdale in January is 59 degrees, but it can be as warm as a balmy 78 degrees. In July, often the hottest month of the year, lows average 73 degrees while the high sticks to about 90 degrees.
Fort Lauderdale: “The Venice of America”
While the beaches of Fort Lauderdale might be calling your name, venture a bit inland and take in the miles of canals that this region of Florida offers. With 500 miles of waterways and more than 162 bridges in the area, it’s easy to see how Fort Lauderdale got its nickname as the “Venice of America.”
Take a tour of the waterways, and you’ll see some of the most luxurious in waterfront properties. You’ll also get an up-close look at some pretty cool wildlife!
Alligators, fish, cranes and other unique creatures make a tour on the canal an unforgettable, sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat experience. Plus, the tours can be as interactive or secluded as you’d like. Looking for romance? A sunset cruise on the waterway is just the way to do it. Looking for ways to show the kids a good time, without having to do too much? A cruise will keep them occupied for most of the afternoon.
Sawgrass Recreation Park is one of the most popular destinations for taking in some of Fort Lauderdale’s riveting nature scene. Consider booking a nighttime airboat ride to see all the nocturnal creatures that bring the night to life. A great destination for families, couples or those just seeking a little adventure, the Sawgrass Recreation Park offers attractions on land and water. Before or after your boat ride, check out the exhibits featuring mountain lions, snakes and other exotic creatures.
Wildlife and reptile shows also give guests a close-up view of some of Florida’s unique animals. Watch trainers feed gators who are otherwise found sunbathing on the grassy terrain. Or, face your own fears and let a guide safely help you hold a tiny alligator. The natural wonders of Fort Lauderdale are as vast as the winding waterway that these creatures call home.
Fort Lauderdale’s Pumping Spring Break History
This beautiful beachfront city is perhaps best known for its iconic spring breaks. Fort Lauderdale’s history of spring breaks goes back to the 1930s, when northern college swim teams came here to practice and compete.
In the ’60s, ’70s and even ’80s, the beachfront — particularly the area of Fort Lauderdale known as The Strip — was a top spot for many spring-break-bound students. It perhaps gained the most attention in the 1960 film “Where the Boys Are,” which highlighted the adventures of Midwestern college girls who were looking for a little adventure in the warmer climate.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale region took on a mission in the mid-1980s to change the perception of Fort Lauderdale from party central to family-fun zone. Instead of just attracting college students for a week of warm-weather fun, the city tried to showcase itself as a year-round destination for visitors of all ages.
Sparkling hotels, sprawling shopping malls, free outdoor activities and pristine beaches helped Fort Lauderdale slowly change its image to what you see today: good, clean fun that creates life-long memories.
Fort Lauderdale: A Shopper’s Paradise
Insider tip: If you’re into shopping, bring an empty suitcase with you. There are enough prime shopping destinations throughout Fort Lauderdale to turn your weeklong stay into a weeklong spree. When you’re in Fort Lauderdale, you must check out these retail hot spots:
- Las Olas District
Do you crave independent boutiques and restaurants? Do you hunt out the best deals? If this sounds like you, check out the Las Olas district. From home décor and unique art to creative restaurants and beautiful galleries, there’s plenty to tempt you.
- The Galleria
Whether you hop in a car or water taxi to get there, The Galleria is one of Fort Lauderdale’s most upscale malls. This mall has it all: more than 100 specialty shops and eateries, valet parking and a Sun Trolley that runs to nearby hotels. Maybe best of all, it’s just steps away from Fort Lauderdale’s famous sunny beach.
Feeling Lucky? Place Your Bets in Fort Lauderdale
When it comes to things to do in Fort Lauderdale, hitting the slots or tables is high up on the list for many. In fact, Florida is the third most active gambling state thanks to Fort Lauderdale’s many casinos.
Whether it’s slots, table games, horse racing or dog racing that gets your goat, you’ll find the thrill in Fort Lauderdale. Check out the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood, Isle of Capri Casino and Pompano Park Racing or the Mardi Gras Casino to become a high roller for the day.
Take a Trip Under the Sea
The word “pristine” is an understatement. Fort Lauderdale has 23 miles of beach that the Clean Beaches Coalition has certified Blue Wave. What does that mean? It means these beaches really are world-class. To qualify, beaches must follow a list of seven ethics that include a carry-in and carry-out policy, protecting the sand dunes, respecting the power of the ocean and providing healthy activities such as running, walking and swimming.
It also means that Fort Lauderdale offers some of the most beautiful and sought-after diving options along the East Coast. All you need to do is swim just a few hundred feet from shore to find more than 76 artificial reefs and a three-tiered living coral reef system. And it’s easy for even snorkeling newbies as they’re only 15 feet below the surface.
Fort Lauderdale Goes Digital
If you want to take in all that Fort Lauderdale has to offer, you can’t skip on the food. With so many tasty restaurants just waiting to cater to the needs of growling bellies, it can be tough to choose where you’ll dine next. Don’t try to figure it out on your own. Fork Lauderdale, an app available for iPhone and Android, takes the stress out of choosing which restaurant you’ll dine at tonight.
With about 50 restaurants in its database, Fork Lauderdale tells you what’s nearby and which place has the best sushi, pizza or Italian options. You can even use the app to look for particular settings, such as a romantic location, a waterfront option or a restaurant that offers late-night munchies. It’s yum made easy!
Brightline Making Discovering Something New Easier — And Stress-free
Whether you’ve lived on the Gold Coast for years, or you’re visiting the area for the first time, there’s plenty of things to do in Fort Lauderdale. The area is rich in history, entertainment and the arts. What comes with all this excitement? Traffic and limited parking. But don’t let that stop you from visiting!
Starting in 2017, Brightline is taking the only two downsides out of the equation. With door-to-door connectivity, comfortable trains and super-easy seat booking, Brightline will make getting to Fort Lauderdale as fun as being there!