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Soaking Up The Art Scene In Fort Lauderdale

Is Fort Lauderdale quietly becoming Florida’s new cultural capital?…
Florida has always offered us the promise of a quick hit of sun and sand, an easy escape from our grey cold winters. But recently the deal has sweetened. Something else has people talking, it’s South Florida’s fast growing arts and culture scene and with that, Fort Lauderdale is quickly becoming the new hot spot.
Yes, of course we all know about Miami’s uber cool Wynwood Art District and who hasn’t been to Art Basel (or seen it on Instagram)? But while Miami has been basking in the international spotlight some interesting things have spread further north. Artists, gallery owners, curators and creatives seeking new inspiration along with more affordable studio spaces and communities, have taken up residence in Fort Lauderdale.
Known for its tolerant queer friendly and ethnically diverse communities, mixed with an abundance of interesting warehouse spaces, Fort Lauderdale has set the perfect stage for a young and exciting emerging arts scene.
The proof is everywhere. Bonnie Clearwater, NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale Director and Chief Curator, is excited about the changes. She was hired by the museum in 2013 to help attract larger international exhibits to the museum and to help foster the local arts scene. Having been a driving force behind Miami’s Art Basel, she’s already a success. Note the current Frank Stella exhibit at the museum. There has been a significant increase in not only visitors attracted to the cities art scene but locals are becoming more increasingly involved.
But art is more than galleries, it’s about communities. Once such example is FATVillage. Spread across four blocks of industrial warehouses, the area is bustling with designers, artists, and some unique shopping. The area really springs to life the last Saturday of each month, when the neighbourhood throws an Art Walk. A great opportunity to mingle and meet some of most interesting people in town. Food trucks, open door galleries, live music and streets overflowing with artisan vendors. Think of it as a huge bustling street party.
Viewing art in a gallery or a museum is for most people the norm, however this does not fly in Fort Lauderdale. When you are in a city blessed with not only sunshine, but built along the famed Intracoastal waterways, you do things a bit differently. Art Fort Lauderdale is a 4-day curated art fair and a great way to view art in unconventional spaces like vacant waterfront properties via yacht or water taxi.
So if you are looking to add a dash of culture to your next sunny escape Fort Lauderdale might just be just the surprise ticket you are looking for.
Where to stay:
B-Ocean Hotel: They say it’s all about location, and this hotel knocks it out of the park. Located on one of the best strips of beach in the city you can relax either sand or poolside. Amenities include free bikes, wifi, 24hr fitness centre, sinfully comfortable beds and beautiful beach views!
Where to eat:
Lunch: Boatyard – Hit the deck and join this establishments “eat local, be coastal” philosophy. You will not only find some of the best views in Fort Lauderdale but you’ll sample some of the freshest seafood available.
Dinner: One Door East – Serving up “global tapas” this is THE place to go for an amazing evening of relaxed fine dining. Owned by Michelin star chef Jeremy Bearman, the menu serves up an eclectic yet delicious mix of flavours inspired by a variety of regions: Asia, Europe, Africa, South America mixed in with good ol’ American BBQ.
Coffee: Brew Urban Café – It really doesn’t get more hipster then this. A café that looks like a library in an arts warehouse beside a train track with an airstream. All irony aside, this place serves up some outstanding coffee with some pretty great Instagram photo ops!
Where to play:
Mermaid Aqua Burlesque Show: Shake your fins every Friday and Saturday night with this stunning Burlesque Mermaid (yes I said Mermaid) show. Grab a few classic tiki drinks and prepare to watch an underwater extravaganza unfold. The wreck bar has dates back to the 1950’s has been used as a set for movies such as 1999 “Analyze This” movie starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal.
Where to relax:
The Ritz Carlton Spa: Sure the beach is a perfect spot to unwind but nothing beats the pampering of a spa. A great idea is to bookend your trip with a relaxing treatment. Indulge in one of the spa’s many signature packages such as the intuitive Ocean which combines a Salt & Oil Scrub, Marine Body Wrap, and Body Massage. Be sure to make time pre and post treatment to take advantage of the spa’s steam room and sauna facilities.
Where to plan:
www.sunny.org: The go-to site to help you plan and make the most out of your trip to Fort Lauderdale.

Daniel MacKinnon (@danielmackinnon) is a Toronto based travel writer, content maker and editor of jetlegs.net.