When it was announced that TBEX North America would be held in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to finally experience my first travel blogging conference. I figured Fort Lauderdale is a quick and cheap flight from Atlanta, and if I didn’t pull the trigger, I’d risk next year’s conference being held somewhere much further away… So, I decided not to procrastinate another year and paid my conference registration fee. But, if I’m being perfectly honest with you, I wasn’t thrilled about the location of my first “big” conference. I mean, isn’t Fort Lauderdale where old people move to retire?
I arrived to Fort Lauderdale just in time for the pre-conference tours. Initially, when I thought of Fort Lauderdale, the Everglades came to mind (well, the Everglades and retirees), so I chose a tour exploring Everglades Holiday Park.
It was a ton of fun zipping through the Everglades on an air-boat in search of alligators.
After the ride, we watched a live alligator presentation by Animal Planet’s Gator Boys, and if you made a donation to the park’s alligator conservation program, you were able to hold a tiny alligator.
My Fort Lauderdale experience was off to a great start, but I still wasn’t sold.
Later that evening, I attended a cocktail party for the conference at the Museum of Discovery and Science. I assumed the museum was likely geared towards children and families, and that it had been chosen to provide a more interesting venue for the party than your typical hotel ballroom. I was wrong. The museum was a TON of fun (especially with a glass of wine in hand)! You could “pet” snakes and horseshoe crabs while naturalists educated you on the creatures, fight zombies and experience the Everglades through IMAX, watch otters swim or feel like you’re soaring through the clouds while in a flight simulator. I’m sure that the museum is indeed popular with children, but I had an absolute blast. I’d love to visit again to check out some of the other exhibits I didn’t have time to experience.
Okay, Fort Lauderdale was slowly (but surely) growing on me…
Unfortunately, the conference schedule was pretty jam-packed and way more exhausting than I anticipated, so I didn’t get to experience as much of Fort Lauderdale as I would have liked to. Conference sessions started at breakfast and conference activities ended at 10PM. (Granted, when I say “conference activities,” I mean cocktail parties, so I’m certainly not trying to make myself out as a martyr, but I was worn out after a couple twelve hour days chock-full of learning and networking). Although my days were jam-packed, I did have a bit of time to enjoy some of Fort Lauderdale’s impressive restaurant and nightlife scene (Las Olas Boulevard).
Luckily, I was also able to squeeze in a bit of pool and beach time at B Ocean Resort where I was staying…
It was probably at this moment, staring at the resort’s gorgeous pool overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, I realized Fort Lauderdale won me over. Huh.
The highlight of my trip really was staying at the lovely B Ocean Resort. The historic building, formerly the Yankee Clipper, is located on A1A and is an iconic building shaped like a cruise ship (you have to see it to believe it), which has hosted famous guests such as Marilyn Monroe and President Eisenhower. Aside from the resort’s iconic past and prime oceanfront location, B Ocean appealed to me because it is one of only four resorts on Fort Lauderdale Beach which have a private beach – most resorts border the public beach, meaning you’re not able to enjoy food and beverage offerings from the comfort of your beach-side lounger.
Okay, you’ve heard me gush on and on about the resort’s beach and pools, but what about the hotel itself? Well, during my visit the hotel was in the midst of a complete renovation, but the construction didn’t affect my stay one bit. The rooms were large and comfortable and the staff was friendly and helpful.
For example, after heading in from the pool one day, I found myself famished (and boarder-line “hangry”) before the resort’s main restaurant opened for the evening. A staff member saw me perusing the menu in eager anticipation for my dinner and, without me even asking, told me it would be no problem to order food early since the chef was in the kitchen prepping for the day’s diners. I was blown away by the offer and the level of service I experienced throughout my stay.
Oh, and the view from my room at sunrise wasn’t too shabby either:
Even if you don’t have the pleasure of staying at B Ocean, you must visit the historic Wreck Bar located inside the resort. The bar was featured in the movie “Analyze This” starring Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal, but is most famous for its mermaids. Yes, you read that right – mermaids. Wreck Bar is one of the only places in the world where you can watch a live mermaid show, and I can honestly say I’ve never experienced anything like it!
It was a delight to dine on steak and lobster (as an added bonus, Wreck Bar also serves delicious food) and enjoy perfectly crafted cocktails as I peered through porthole shaped windows to the resort’s pool where gorgeous mermaids were elegantly flitting through the water. A word to the wise – the mermaid show is very popular, so make sure you arrive early if you hope to grab one of the few coveted bar stools for a front row seat.
After the Wreck Bar’s mermaid show, I had to leave Fort Lauderdale and to head to a Miami, but I was sad to leave the city so soon. Fort Lauderdale had surprised and impressed me. I didn’t have enough time to fully explore the city, but I guess that just means I’ll have to return soon. On my next visit, I’d love to experience the city’s craft beer scene, as well as F.A.T. Village’s garage galleries and street performers. I also plan to partake in some fun water-sports and hop a water taxi to explore more of the city’s bars, restaurants and shops.
I’m going to be 100% honest with you – I wouldn’t have booked a trip to Fort Lauderdale had the conference not been located there, but I’m truly glad I did. I would absolutely go back. (Not to mention, I’m also looking forward to seeing B Ocean Resort’s “finished look” once their renovations are complete this May).
Fort Lauderdale has a lot to offer travelers. (And, now I know the city is not just for retirees).
Have you traveled to Fort Lauderdale, Florida? What would you recommend doing or seeing while visiting?
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Although I was a guest of B Ocean resort, I was not paid to write this post and the opinions expressed within are my own. CC image credits from Flickr: Fort Lauderdale Sailaway-13 by John Cook, Fort Lauderdale, Florida by Daniel Piraino, Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida by Timothy Wildey.