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Fort Lauderdale

fort lauderdale beach Las Olas Boulevard (particularly the stretch between 6th and 11th Avenues, near downtown) is a lively destination for shopping, dining and people-watching. During the day, you can hop a boat for a tour of the intracoastal canals that wind through this picturesque section of Fort Lauderdale, or stroll along the Riverwalk, a 1.5-mile stretch of boardwalk along the New River that links many of the city's historic and cultural landmarks. At night, festive diners spill out of sidewalk cafes, and romance-seekers ride in horse-drawn surrey carriages.

For a peaceful beach experience, head for Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, a 180-acre barrier island where you can rent a canoe, go inline skating, bike along a scenic circular road or hike the trails.

For an easy "time stands still" getaway, head to nearby Delray Beach. (You'll need to rent a car.) The heart of the community -- shops, boutiques, art galleries and fashionable restaurants -- runs from the ocean along Atlantic Avenue. Definitely check out Old School Square, which has a number of restored 1920's buildings.

For an exotic and serene experience, drive to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. The fascinating museum is devoted to Japanese art and culture, and the beautiful Japanese garden includes everything from fish-filled ponds and Zen gardens to pathways that wind in and out of pine woodlands.

The Jungle Queen Riverboat has been a Fort Lauderdale institution for more than 60 years; it offers daytime sightseeing trips up the New River and evening dinner cruises with famed barbecued ribs and shrimp. All cruises include a stop at the Jungle Queen Indian Village.

westin diplomat resort golf course green There are more than 40 golf courses in the Fort Lauderdale area, and with south Florida's year-round balmy climate, getting the chance to swing a few shouldn't be too difficult. One of our favorite courses is Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, which was redesigned a few years ago by Joe Lee. If you're looking for a shorter, less expensive course, try the nine-hole Eco Golf Club, which has great greens and reasonable rates. And for a real challenge, try the 7,280-yard Club at Emerald Hills, frequently rated among Golf Digest's best places to play.

Fort Lauderdale Beach bustles with activity. Lined with waterfront hotels and an array of restaurants with oceanfront patios, this beach is where you'll go to see and be seen.

Compared to other beaches in the area, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, located just north of Fort Lauderdale beach and south of Pompano Beach, is a nice, quiet hideaway. Though still close to hotels and beachfront dining venues, it's less frenetic and makes a great place to spend a lazy afternoon. Plus, conditions for snorkeling and diving are ideal there -- there's a reef within swimming distance.

John U. Lloyd Beach State Park is a great place to be active or just relax and watch the cruise ships go by. You can rent canoes and kayaks, surf-fish, take a hike or have a leisurely lunch on one of its 300-plus picnic tables.

Dania Beach, just south of Fort Lauderdale, is one of the area's best-kept secrets. Warm sands, shady palms and a quaint fishing pier can be found at this calm beach, and with just a little legwork, you'll discover a historic arts and antiques district, ice cream parlors, and plenty of pubs and seafood restaurants, all encompassed in a small beach town with big character.

Hollywood Beach, with its famous 2.5-mile "Broadwalk" -- an asphalt strip along the beach that is filled with street performers, couples walking hand-in-hand and families with young children meandering along in the sunshine -- was featured in the film "Marley and Me." It's the perfect setting for an ideal day at the beach. Get involved in sports of all sorts (bike-riding, roller-skating, kayaking and beach volleyball), or simply soak up the sun -- loungers and cabanas are available for rent. Shops and restaurants are close by, too.

At Gulfstream Park Racing & Casino you'll find a gamers' paradise. Live thoroughbred racing happens from January until April, and there are also Vegas-style slots, no-limit poker, dining and entertainment -- all under one roof. This is a great spot for night owls.

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