Lauderdale for Locals

Summertime in Fort Lauderdale - when the tourists go home & we're left on our own. Down here though, the party never stops. And in the hot-and-sticky months, there's some fun that's just meant for us.

By: 

Gisel Habibnejad & Natasha Yvette Lucas

Published date: 

Jun. 1, 2017

W Hotel

Fight the hot-and-sticky season the best way you can: by taking a dip in the pool. Or somebody else’s pool. And when you can’t go to Vegas, bring Vegas to you.

The W Fort Lauderdale is not like most hotels. It takes its vacation experience seriously—from pool parties to the nightlife to luxurious spas, upscale dining options and a results-oriented concierge service. Even your pooch gets a VIP experience.

But in the summer, it’s all about the famed pool parties that even locals flock to. For the first time ever, W Fort Lauderdale is welcoming locals to party with guests at its popular WET Deck Pool and Bar when you purchase exclusive day passes.

Sound familiar? While Las Vegas has always been known for casinos and nightlife, most recently the city has been attracting visitors with its pool party scene. But the W Fort Lauderdale is making sure we’re catching up with Vegas.

The pool party passes for locals are available Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for $25 and include access to the W’s signature rooftop pool, a reserved lounge chair, towels and complimentary valet parking. Looking for a more VIP experience? You can ask for an upgrade to one of the daybeds with personalized bottle service.

The W experience doesn’t end there. When the pool party is over, the nightlife begins. The nightly events are hosted in the newly remodeled Living Room lounge that was part of a $55 million revamp.

Each day of the week offers a different themed party, such as “Off the Wall Thursdays” (choose a record and hear it pulsating through the lounge) and “Neon Nights Saturdays” (where the ‘80s never left).

W Fort Lauderdale (pictured above) / 401 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd. / 954.414.8200 / wfortlauderdalehotel.com


Starlight Musicals

For many locals, summer only starts when there are free concerts in Holiday Park. This eight-week summer concert series, presented by the city and sponsored by Bank of America, has been providing enjoyment for 39 years.

This year’s series features a lineup of bands mostly covering trop-rock (think Buffett covers), country, R&B, rock and more. The concerts happen at 7 p.m. every Friday night from early June to early August on one of the football fields at the southeast corner of the park.

Concertgoers often bring blankets, folding chairs and coolers for a scene that rivals pre-Dolphins game tailgating. People tend to start arriving not long after 5 to get set up.

“We have a huge demographic of people, from singles to friendly families,” says Debbie Bylica, special events manager for the City of Fort Lauderdale. “People have full-blown parties - they would bring beer, soda, coolers, chairs and tents.”

The Starlight series hasn’t always been in Holiday Park; it began nearby in the late 1970s and was held at several locations.

“Starlight began at George English Park,” Bylica says. “Some people would even come out in their boats and start listening to music. Back then the concerts would alternate between George English Park and Fort Lauderdale Beach, and people would get confused on the location.”

Eventually the series outgrew George English Park and the beach; it’s called Holiday Park home for the last quarter-century.

Organizers have the task of organizing a concert series down pretty well. If anything, the main pitfall is having too many bands to choose from. Bands used to send in videos and cassette tapes; now, Bylica receives links to YouTube videos.

“There’s so many fans’ favorites,” she says. “We try to mix it up with new bands and returning bands.”

South Florida summer evening weather isn’t always perfect for concerts, but Starlight Musicals has loyal fans. “Rain or shine, people come prepared,” Bylica says. “They are diehard.

“You have to tell them to go home, because at 11 our team has to clean up.”

Holiday Park / 7 to 10 p.m. fortlauderdale.gov/starlight 954.828.5363


Water Taxi

The Water Taxi is one of our city of waterways’ more unique ways to get around – and when it’s not packed with tourists, it lets us experience our city in some unique ways. The transportation service and tour guide in one allows for hopping from restaurant to restaurant or beach to beach – or something a bit more bespoke.

In addition to its regular fleet of boats, Water Taxi offers private charters that accommodate anywhere from 10 to 150 guests. On these charters, you can choose which tour you’d like to experience, from scavenger hunts to mansion and marina tours. Summer pricing begins in mid- to late June.

The Cruise and Save segment allows passengers to get special discounts on appetizers, happy hours and more when they show their Water Taxi ticket to select restaurants.

“Some people actually save enough that it pays for their Water Taxi ticket,” Water Taxi president Bill Walker says. Food-and-drink-oriented stops include Las Olas Riverfront (Stop 1), Shooters Waterfront (Stop 11) and Bahia Mar (Stop 7).

Call the babysitter because the Moonlight Madness, also known as the evening tour, begins at 5 p.m. and is exclusive to adults. “Going out in the evening has many advantages in the summer; the sun is out late and sunsets are awesome,” Walker says.

For those who want adult refreshment with their water adventure, most boats serve beer and wine while others come equipped with a full bar.

Take an educational trip to one of the museum or nature stops, like the Bonnet House (near Stop 9), Hugh Taylor Birch State Park (Stop 10) or the Historic Stranahan House Museum (Stop 3).

Walker emphasizes each tour has its own unique characteristics. “Come enjoy the tour,” he says. “We are more than just a boat ride!”

Water Taxi / 413 SW Third Ave. / 954.467.6677 / watertaxi.com


Friday Night Sound Waves

It's easy for Fort Lauderdale people to take our shimmery nightlife and beach backdrop for granted. We don't have to search very far for a little paradise or cool band to dance to on the beach. Particularly not during this time of year - Friday Night Sound Waves is back for another year bringing you the best beach vibes with live music.

The weekly music concert series, which started in March, presents a lineup of bands every Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. through November 10 right on Fort Lauderdale Beach at Las Olas and A1A, which Friday Night Sound Waves refers to as #TheHub.

This weekly concert series features some of the region’s best musical talents performing a diverse range of genres including jazz, blues, country, Latin fusion, reggae, world and classic rock.

Preparing a summer concert series takes some time. Friday Night Sound Waves made its debut last year. It takes roughly eight months to get everything together, and within those eight months there’s a large amount of time dedicated to finding the right bands to keep the crowd moving.

“There’s a huge amount of talent in Fort Lauderdale,” says Arianne Glassman, the concert series’ producer. “Our team is out four to five months getting bands and referrals, and when it comes to choosing the bands, we are looking for something that works for the audience and can get the crowd into it.”

The concerts are meant to appeal to everybody, with bands that can attract a diverse, multigenerational crowd.

“We get everyone from the parents, parents dancing with their kids [to] millennials who are getting off from work,” Glassman says. “It’s multigenerational.”

The concert series doesn’t just celebrate music. It features a series of giveaways - if you’re attending one of the shows, you might win a prize. Last year’s grand giveaway was a three-day, two-night stay at a Fort Lauderdale Beach hotel.

This year’s giveaways? They’re getting even better. Southwest Airlines (one of Friday Night Sound Waves’ sponsors) is giving away round-trip tickets to any destination of your choice. There will be other fun giveaways that can be enjoyed including an all-day pass on the Water Taxi, a similar pass for the Sun Trolley or a dining gift card, just to name a few.

And remember, when the clock strikes nine that doesn’t mean the night is over. One of the organizers’ main goals is to get people enjoying the beachside restaurants and bars near the stage.

Fort Lauderdale Beach Hub (Las Olas and A1A) / 6 to 9 p.m. / fridaynightsoundwaves.com