By Expedia Guest Author, on November 16, 2007

Splurging and saving in chic Fort Lauderdale

In Fort Lauderdale, you can pick up the latest designer handbag and be the envy of your friends. Come evening, a private ride in a Venetian-style gondola will deliver you to an exclusive restaurant on the beach.

Fort Lauderdale is a sophisticated playground filled with world-class shopping, dining and entertainment. But you don’t need to empty their wallets to enjoy yourself here.

The city offers an interesting mix of upscale and easy-on-the-pocket choices. In the center of it all is the new Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach, a dependable hotel chain styled with Fort Lauderdale flair. From here, you can walk to famous beaches and window shop along trendy Las Olas Boulevard, then cruise the canals in a water taxi and dance the night away at a posh nightclub. It’s just one of many fresh locales in this chic and unique East Coast city.

So pack your bags – Fort Lauderdale makes for a great weekend foray, or more.

City by Day

There’s no better place to begin a vacation than at the ocean. Fort Lauderdale’s golden beaches border 23 miles of Atlantic coastline, so you’ll get plenty of it here. Spread a blanket by the shore or join the cyclists and rollerbladers gliding along Fort Lauderdale Beach’s famed beachfront promenade.

In North Fort Lauderdale Beach, walk across the street and order a Pitts-burgher Sandwich from Primanti Brothers for $5.95. The signature sandwich, which comes loaded with fried potatoes and coleslaw, is a huge beach bargain. There’s a variety of salads, too.

Nearby in Sunrise, shop the racks at Sawgrass Mills, the largest outlet mall in the United States. Sawgrass Mills features more than 350 name-brand stores, bargain-rich outlets, restaurants, cinemas and entertainment venues. Plan a few hours if not the whole day.

Or, see fashion trends come to life along the famed Las Olas Boulevard. The charming thoroughfare bustles with the finer things in life at its boutiques, art galleries and sidewalk cafés. If your feet tire, hop aboard a water taxi and float around the city, known as the “Venice of America” because of its intricate canal system. For romantics, settle into a gondola for a private cruise. If you’re in the mood to splurge, book a luxury yacht ride.

City to Stay

Looking for a quick rest? Or maybe a dip in the pool? If you’re staying at the Courtyard by Marriott Fort Lauderdale Beach, you won’t have to walk far. This comfortable and convenient hotel – which opened in October 2007 – stands in the center of downtown Fort Lauderdale, nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway (and it offers great views of both).

The 13-story hotel is within steps of the best of Fort Lauderdale, including shopping and dining hotspots like Las Olas and The Gallery at BeachPlace. The 261-room hotel includes 88 roomy parlor suites with king-size beds, flat-panel TVs and all the right amenities.

On the sundeck, sip on a tropical drink from the poolside bar, where you can admire expansive views of the azure ocean and enjoy live entertainment six nights a week. When you work up an appetite, satisfy your palate with cuisine from the hotel’s Blue Water Restaurant & Bar or pick up a quick bite from The Market, a 24-hour “grab and go” food and beverage area.

If you’re coming to sun or shop, you’ll appreciate the prime location. The hotel is also an ideal home base for anglers, who are within 20 minutes of both freshwater and saltwater fishing.

City by Night

Well-rested, a shade or two tanner and ready to party, you’ll be rarin’ to hit the town in that designer outfit or chic bargain find.

At dusk, step into an elegant, horse-drawn carriage and ride to the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, where you can walk along the brick-lined New River promenade and take in heritage sites. Catch a play at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

For a festive dinner, check out Taverna Opa, a moderately priced Greek restaurant where customers throw napkins in the air and dance on tables. You’ll forget you’re in Florida.

Don’t miss a Fort Lauderdale landmark, the Elbo Room. Locals and tourists frequent this charming beachside bar, which was immortalized by the movie, “Where the Boys Are.” The place is usually hoppin’ with live music, but you won’t have to fight for – you guessed it – elbow room.