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Fort Lauderdale:
Breaking the Lingering “Spring Break” Image

by Larry Benedict

For close to two generations, Fort Lauderdale struggled with a reputation as a rowdy destination of college students, out to tear up the town. Movies like “Where the Boys Are” and “Spring Break” kept the mythology spreading and wet T-shirt contests, along with staggering drunks and hotels overrun with kids, were the first images that came to anyone’s mind when the words “Fort Lauderdale” were spoken.

The city finally took action against the phenomenon itself and enacted some tough ordinances aimed specifically at breaking the “Break.” They banned open containers on city streets and public beaches. Outlawed overnight parking, ending the practice by kids of sleeping in their cars. They cracked down on sleeping on the beach and even built a wall in front of a strip of hotels to prevent kids from running back and forth from the hotels to beach.

This war being won, a task almost as daunting faced the city; that of luring more predictable groups of tourists, including the family vacationers, international travelers and business/convention groups. Victory, here as well, is within Fort Lauderdale’s grasp. Their all-out effort in the areas of publicity, architectural upgrades and forming associations with such organizations as American Express, has resulted in Fort Lauderdale being named by Money Magazine as “The best big city in America to live in.”

One misconception held by many in countries overseas, is that a city with "Fort" in its name must have something to do with the “wild west.” To counteract this idea, Fort Lauderdale is holding seminars for travel agents both here and abroad to help educate them on the attractions of this sophisticated and upscale destination.

Approximately 1.5 billion in funds has been allocated for new development such as a 450 room convention hotel, a $56 million New World Aquarium and the $11.5 million Port Everglades Terminal 18 which will be the largest cruise ship facility in the US when it opens this year.

Fort Lauderdale is a sprawling collection of municipalities and has such a variety of attractions, such as the world’s largest discount shopping mall, that if you really did want to go to a wild west rodeo, you could do it. The town of Davie boasts a large population of real cowboys who hold a rodeo every weekend whether tourists are present or not.

If you’re heading to south Florida or a taking cruise in the Caribbean, don’t make a bee-line for the cruise ship terminal, plan to spend some quality time in the city of Fort Lauderdale. It has made an outstanding effort to become an exciting destination in its own right and is well worth a lengthy stopover.

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