To sun, sea and sand, let’s add a fourth “s” to the list of reasons to visit Fort Lauderdale: shopping!
Fort Lauderdale is a major shopping city, with indoor malls, outdoor shopping centers and retail districts within easy reach of its north-south arteries, I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike. From sprawling Sawgrass Mills mall (which attracts almost as many people as Orlando’s Walt Disney World) to the eclectic Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale has “shopportunities” to suit every taste and budget. Here’s your guide.
Ft. Lauderdale’s Las Olas
Stretching 3 miles from the Atlantic waves (las olas) that border A1A east to Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale’s marquee street offers 17 tree-lined blocks punctuated with more than 60 boutiques, restaurants and art galleries.
The Boulevard has an eclectic mix of shops, most of them independently owned. At Unique Treasures, snag anything from a $20 glass figurine to a 3-foot-high, $15,000 bronze bulldog. (Yes, they’ll ship!) Stop into Andre Dupree consignment store for gently used designer handbags at a fraction of the original price. And, complete your Florida wardrobe at Lilly Pulitzer and Tommy Bahama boutiques, where bright colors and bold patterns are the specialty.
Where to Eat
Hungry? Check out newcomer The Balcony, which attracts crowds with New Orleans-inspired cuisine, live music and a rooftop bar with boulevard views. Nearby, The Floridian diner has been serving up the good stuff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since 1937. Try their barbecue, served with soft and sweet Bimini bread, and don’t leave without a slice of Key lime pie. And, if your sweet tooth still craves satisfaction, stop in at Kilwins, where they hand out free samples of homemade ice cream and fudge.
If you’ve shopped ‘til you dropped, take a load off — and see another side of the city — on a relaxing gondola tour of the Intracoastal Waterway, which winds its way through Fort Lauderdale. Riverfront Gondola Tours’ 90-minute cruises depart daily from 1200 East Las Olas Boulevard.
Bring It Back
All of Las Olas’ art galleries offer insured shipping services. For smaller items, there’s a United States Post Office at 15th Street. The Mailbag, two doors down, offers FedEx and USPS shipping and ships luggage, too.
In the Vicinity
Just a 10-minute drive from Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, Las Olas is an easy shot from the north or south via I-95 to the Broward Boulevard exit. At the western end of Las Olas, you’ll find two of the area’s most popular attractions: NSU Art Museum, where the permanent collection includes more than 6,000 pieces dating from the early 19th century, and the Historic Stranahan House Museum, which was built in 1901 and is now the oldest structure in Broward County.
Where To Stay
Stay at the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale/Downtown Las Olas. It’s a half-mile away and offers a free shuttle to the Boulevard.
Sawgrass Mills: A Destination Shopping Experience
Fasten your Fitbit because you’ll be racking up the steps (as well as the bargains) at America’s largest outlet mall. With more than 350 stores in three sections (the mall itself plus outdoor promenades The Oasis and The Colonnade Outlets), the 2-mile-long Sawgrass Mills offers a day’s worth of deals, whether you’re searching for a new swimsuit, a bargain-priced slow-cooker or designer jewelry.
The deepest discounts are found at The Colonnade Outlets, a collection of 70 designer stores, many not found anywhere else in South Florida. You’ll be in handbag heaven at Coach, Tory Burch and Salvatore Ferragamo, and find plenty of formal-night finery at Prada, Gucci, Versace and Jimmy Choo. Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance Center and Off Saks Fifth Avenue offer serious savings on soup-to-nuts merchandise.
Where to Eat
No doubt you’ll need to refuel between retail sessions. Sawgrass has 43 restaurants and fast-food outlets where you can do just that. Grand Lux Café (The Colonnade Outlets) and The Cheesecake Factory (The Oasis) are perfect for groups because their extensive menus offer something for every taste. Sushigami’s Japanese fare (served on a conveyor belt) is a hit with kids, as is Rainforest Café, where you dine in a faux forest, complete with wildlife noises, spontaneous rainstorms and animatronic animals.
The mall was originally designed in the shape of an alligator (expansions have blurred the distinctive design). Need a ride? Hop the Sawgrass Express shuttle bus, which runs three times a day to the mall from South Beach, Downtown Miami, Sunny Isles and Aventura for $25 round trip.
Bring It Back
If you’ve over-shopped (is there really such a thing?!) you have three choices: Head to Discount Luggage Outlet or Samsonite for new bags; ask the store to ship your packages (most merchants will ship); or hit up the UPS store a half-mile away on Sunrise Boulevard.
In the Vicinity
The mall is a 30-minute drive north of Miami, 15 minutes west of downtown Fort Lauderdale and easily reached via I-95 or Florida’s Turnpike. Just a five-minute drive away, the BB&T Center is home of the Florida Panthers ice hockey team. And airboat rides through the Everglades are an hour away at Billie Swamp Safari.
Where to Stay
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Sunrise – Sawgrass Mills, right across the street! Or The Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach, a DoubleTree by Hilton, offering the best of both worlds — and is just a short drive to Sawgrass Mills.