By Sheree Bykofsky
Everyone goes on vacation to Florida, right? Perhaps – but why not forego the crowds of Miami and Orlando for beautiful Fort Lauderdale, where you can indulge in sunshiny activities by day and luxuriate in amazing hotels by night?
If an intimate bed and breakfast is what you seek, look no further than The Pillars (111 North Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, 33304, 954-467-9639, https://www.pillarshotel.com). With eighteen guestrooms, its elegant, spare beauty, accented with touches of dark wood, is a welcome change from the beach pastels-and-seashells theme that overrides many Florida accommodations. Luxurious and upscale with a Asian-European aura, it feels like you’re staying at a beach house owned by your wealthiest friend. The service is amazingly attentive; as soon as you walk in the door, staff members immediately offer you a glass of wine as a welcome, and happily bend over backwards to make you as comfortable as possible. And the amenities and features are endless and jaw-dropping. Mini-bars in every room? Check. Ditto for free high-speed internet service? Check. 24-hour room service? Check. And don’t forget to wander around the amazing lobby, where there’s a grand piano and a wine bar. Yes, a bona fide wine bar, with over fifty delicious selections.
In the morning, indulge in a lazy breakfast in your room or beside the pool. Then, after eating, head to the beach a couple blocks away, where a young, energetic crowd prevails, or hail the water taxi; there’s a stop right by the hotel, and it cruises into town every half hour. Sail past stunning mansions, then stop and browse at the lovely shops at Las Olas Boulevard, Las Olas Riverwalk, and the Galleria Mall. One caveat: don’t rush! The Pillars and the surrounding area are meant to be enjoyed – slowly.
The Pillars is a honeymoon haven from heaven. And the relaxed but elegant ambience makes this a perfect place for a wedding, too, as long as you don’t mind the fact that it may feel a bit austere. And don’t worry about logistics – the staff is more than willing to help you handle everything.
If you’re planning a larger wedding or event, or if you just want a bigger, more traditional hotel, check out the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa (3555 South Ocean Drive, Hollywood, 33019, 954-602-6000, https://www.diplomatresort.com,), just feet away from the water. (Although there’s no swimming beach, there is an amazing view!) Its stately Art Deco architecture will be the first thing you notice, as it towers above the Atlantic. Once inside, its sheer size will make you gape upwards, and you’ll feel like you’re in the clouds as billowing white curtains float around you.
Your room will be breathtaking. The signature Westin beds are superbly comfortable, immaculate, and are decked out with a down comforter and pillows. The bathroom, also a Westin signature, is stunning, featuring a separate shower and tub, where tubs might be strategically placed so you can gaze out the window at the sea and sky. (Many rooms have stunning views; if you’re staying on a high floor, you can’t avoid a panoramic view of the beach and pool or the intercoastal.) And with a comfy couch and high speed internet access to boot, you could be hibernate happily in your room for days.
And I’d definitely recommend spending a little more on your room for access to the Executive Club on the 33rd floor, where an excellent continental breakfast is served daily, as well as coffee and cookies through the day and hors d’oeuvres and cocktails in the evening.
But you’ll definitely want to leave to visit the lush, long, lovely pool area. Lie down and forget your stress as you enjoy a poolside massage in the private cabana or on the special massage chair. (Ask for Dan: he loves his work, and it shows!) Or swim under the waterfall that cascades from the upper pool to the lower. Or just relax in a beach chair and work on your tan. And there’s a shuttle to the spa, golf courses, and tennis courts, although these amenities don’t come cheap.
Be sure to dine at Satine, a classic Asian fusion restaurant, and one of the Diplomat’s seven eateries. Their hot or cold “preludes,” or appetizers, might include poached asparagus with shaved bresaola, fried quail egg, slivers of parmesan and lemon thyme vinaigrette, or a spiced ginger scallion crab cake with avocado black bean relish and red pepper coulis. Then you’ll dive into selections from land and sea, like filet of beef, Cornish hen, and curry of shrimp, scallops and lobster. Pair each course with a selection from the internationally diverse wine list.
Then stroll over to Nicky’s Marina, the sister restaurant to Nicky’s Beach in South Beach, Miami. Here you can enjoy a few after dinner drinks (like excellent apple martinis) – in bed! Recline outdoors on queen-size mattresses with pillows and gaze out at the harbor. (Indulge in the two-bottle minimum, and snag an indoor bed that’s secluded by white drapes so you can snuggle and sip in secrecy.) It’s almost obscenely romantic – I dare you to find a more decadent place! Plus, by day or night, the food is amazing – I had a stellar Sunday brunch here, one of the best I’ve ever had.
Staying at the Diplomat makes you want to get married just for the chance to have your wedding and honeymoon in such a romantic, sumptuous setting! Since it’s a large hotel, it can accommodate as vast or intimate a wedding party as you’d like.
No matter where you stay, you’ll want to explore Greater Fort Lauderdale, which includes Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach, Hallandale, and Hollywood. I think it’s called “Greater” because it really is greater than most other vacation destinations in the universe. With five beaches within walking distance from many hotels and restaurants, you’re never more than a few minutes away from surf and sand, swimming and sailing. If you want to take a break from the breakers, you might visit the Anne Kolb Nature Center, a 1430-acre wetland and habitat for native wildlife. Or check out Butterfly World, a three-acre park that’s home to butterflies and hummingbirds from five continents. Shopaholics, don’t miss the Sawgrass Mills Mall, the world’s largest outlet mall!
I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the Greater Fort Lauderdale area; after visiting, I’m convinced it’s called “Greater” because it really is greater than most other vacation destinations in the universe!
Find out more about Fort Lauderdale at https://www.sunny.org