Fort Lauderdale divides in half: the sandy coast is where most of the hotels and restaurants have long been located, while the mainland's downtown was primarily a business district. This distinction is slowly blurring as the city center's main artery, Las Olas Boulevard, is redeveloped for pedestrians with new shops and restaurants, while a chunk of riverfront land downtown has been turned into the Arts and Entertainment district, with attractions for both day (museums) and night (bars, concert venues). As for the beachfront, it's sloughing off its Spring Break-heavy, budget accommodation in favor of swanky new hotels and upscale restaurants.
WHEN TO GO
For a sceney weekend and flawless weather, February. To avoid the crowds and snag the best hotel rates, June.
HOW TO GET THERE
Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL, www.fortlauderdaleinternationalairport.com) is becoming the hub of choice for South Florida air travel, since its low landing fees have attracted budget airlines priced out of the mess that is Miami Airport (MIA): JetBlue and Spirit have daily flights. All the major airlines also connect FLL with the rest of the country. Tri-Rail and Amtrak serve the city toothe station is at 200 S.W. 21 Terrace, from which you can catch bus #22 to reach the center of town.
Almost everyone rents a car from the airport when they land, as Florida's rental fees are consistently among the lowest in the country. Otherwise, the bus network in Fort Lauderdale is serviceable, if sporadic: buy a $3 unlimited daily Buz Pass (954-357-8400; www.broward.org/bct). More fun, if a little pricier, is the water taxi, which threads through Fort Lauderdale's ribbons of canals and will deliver you to almost any destination; a day-pass for this service is $13 (954-467-6677; www.watertaxi.com).
The superb Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau is a terrific source of infounlike many CVBs in the country, it's not member-funded, so the advice it gives is impartial. The drop-in center is at 100 E. Broward Boulevard, Suite 200 (954-765-4466; www.sunny.org).