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Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s South Beach

November 30, 2011 by · 2 Comments 


After leaving the Florida Keys, we returned to CB Smith’s County Park just outside Fort Lauderdale for a few more days so that we could visit with some old friends and experience Fort Lauderdale Beach and Miami’s famed South Beach.

It had been years since we had seen either of our friends: Mark, who attended high school with our daughter, and his partner Andy, and Steve, once married to the now-departed and much missed Eva. Their beautiful homes, hospitality and gracious entertaining left Maureen and I with more fond memories of them and Fort Lauderdale.

There are other memories of Fort Lauderdale and Miami that come to my mind, although they happened many years ago. I last visited the Fort Lauderdale-Miami area with a high school friend some 45 years ago, in celebration of our graduation and the purchase of my brand new Corvette Stingray. Since then, much has changed. Once Easter-Break-Central for much of the east-of-the-Mississippi high school and college students crowd, we found that most of the kids have moved elsewhere.

Yes, the Elbow Room Bar in Fort Lauderdale was still there on the corner, across the street from the beach. Made famous in the 60’s movie, “Where the Boys Are,” the Elbow Room sits side by side with bar-after-restaurant-after-bar, all with menu-wielding hawkers calling out the virtues of their establishments to passersby, with some playing over-amplified music out of their entrances. Very tacky. And tourists beware! We stopped for a couple of house Margaritas at one place. $20 plus tip. Ouch! And to be enjoyed while sitting 6 feet from a very busy street with its exhaust smells and noise. Bummer!

As I’ve noted, back in the 1960s, Fort Lauderdale was a famous Spring Break destination. It became a mecca for high school and college-age kids of both sexes looking for fun and romance on their Spring Break. That was why my friend Bob and I drove over 1,000 miles down from New York, believing that the movie was an accurate depiction of what awaited two young men who had just graduated from high school and were looking for some excitement.

Oh, how naïve we were back then. The only thing I got during my one-week visit, was 4 days of near-blindness from diving into an unmarked, but recently hyper-chlorinated swimming pool (WHY is it always ME?).

Miami’s South Beach area, the famous art deco district in Miami, is, like much of Fort Lauderdale; a real estate agent’s dream; location, location, LOCATION!

Back in the sixties, my traveling partner, who was Jewish, quipped that Miami Beach was where old Jews went to die. It has a much more diverse community now, with a large Hispanic population who have emigrated from Cuba and elsewhere and made a new home in the Miami-Dade area. The South Beach neighborhood is where a gorgeous beach and many fine homes sit side-by-side with condos and restaurants, all crowded in between the intercoastal waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Not to mention the super private neighborhoods that many stars have taken up residence in. Hi Rosie!

On our must-do list was dinner at the actor and now restaurateur Danny DeVito’s fine eating establishment in SoBe (aka South Beach, for you stay-at-home, armchair tourists). “Danny DeVito’s South Beach,” aka “America’s Most Long Awaited Italian Restaurant” (so says their web site) is a beautiful eatery in SoBe. Yes, we checked it out; we even made reservations for what probably would have been a great (and very expensive) dinner, but, no, we didn’t eat there. I got stomach-cramping-sick right after making our reservations and maybe 1-half-hour after mid-afternoon hors d’oeuvres at a tropical café (the one with the $10 margaritas) on the beachfront.

But there may have been something else that made my stomach queasy: I couldn’t stop thinking about DeVito’s role in the movie, “Wiseguys,” where he borrows his mother’s big, pointy butcher knife to, appropriately, butcher a guy stuffed in his car’s trunk (but, to give his character credit, he did return the knife to his mom after using it and I think that he may have even cleaned it first. What a good boy!).

SoBe is beautiful, but very crowded, all bright whites and pastels, with a beachside promenade and canals looping through posh mega-yacht boating communities, with big hotels and condos everywhere, with lots of traffic with few places to park, with a beautiful, white-sandy beach with Caribbean-green water, scantily clad/unclad beachgoers (both male and female) and suggestions by the locals not to stray too far north, south, or west of the beach-intracoastal area because of the “dangers” that lurk there.

We didn’t get to see any of the stars or their homes, but we did check out East Los Olas Boulevard, a lovely shaded street just west of the beach area that is a cornucopia of galleries, restaurants and fine shops. We drove along it at the end of the day and drooled over all of the al fresco dining choices. We’ll definitely visit it on foot the next time around. Just remember to bring your wallet… and be there when your stomach isn’t rebelling.

Till Next Time,

The Traveler


2 Responses to “Fort Lauderdale and Miami’s South Beach”
  1. Gail Duykers says:

    Hi Traveler, The next time you are in SE Florida, instead of spending the “big” bucks in SoBe or Ft. Lauderdale, try Hollywood. Great beaches, wonderful restaurants and a beautiful, active downtown area with music and entertainment in the evenings. Of course I am very partial to the place since I live here year round.

  2. Traveler8343 says:

    That is probably excellent advice, thanks Gail. Regardless of what my experiences were, you sure live in a beautiful corner of the world.


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