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Why Fort Lauderdale, FL is a Top 100 Best Place to Live

The Venice of America is as idyllic as it sounds.

By Cheryl Rodewig on February 18, 2022

Fort Lauderdale waterfront
iStock/Sean Pavone

South Florida is an unusual place. With the ocean to the east and the Everglades to the west, it could only grow north and south along the coast, and grow it did. Over 6 million people live in Florida’s urban southeastern strip — and in the center of it all is the vibrant city of Fort Lauderdale.

Part of the Miami metropolitan area, which is the seventh-largest in the country), Fort Lauderdale is less than an hour north of the bigger city. Still, it has enough cosmopolitan energy of its own to keep you busy 24/7, should you choose. That and its seven miles of shoreline make this grown-up beach town a great place to call home. Here are just a few reasons it’s one of our Best Places to Live.

iStock/Sean Pavone

Life on the Water

Water sports, the beach and boating are sort of a big deal here. Stroll the oceanfront promenade, bordered by the city’s iconic white wave wall. Enjoy surfing, snorkeling, scuba and deep-sea fishing, all close at hand, or visit Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, Fort Lauderdale’s “Central Park,” for paddling and wildlife watching right in the middle of town.

And if you dream of owning a boat (or having a friend who does), this is the place to be. Dubbed the Yachting Capital of the World, Greater Fort Lauderdale boasts over 50,000 registered yachts, 100 marinas and 300 miles of navigable waterways. Each October, superyachts and boating enthusiasts descend on the city for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, the world’s largest in-water boat show.

Those who don’t have their own boat can easily charter one or join one of the several sightseeing cruises that ply the Intracoastal Waterway, the ocean and the New River, including the famous Millionaires Row. Even public transit is water-based. The Water Taxi has 11 stops and also operates a free Riverwalk Water Trolley.

When residents aren’t on the water, they’re near it, with beachside events ranging from the legendary Tortuga Music Festival to the winterfest boat parade.

Those looking for luxury waterfront living have options, thanks to the dozens of canals interlacing the “Venice of America.” Top picks include Las Olas Isles, Rio Vista and Harbor Beach, or get a condo for a room with a view at a fraction of the price of a house.

There’s also a very different kind of water in Fort Lauderdale — the “river of grass” where you can skim along the surface of the Everglades on an airboat, a world away from city life.

The Jungle Queen Riverboat cruising past mansions in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Courtesy of The Jungle Queen Riverboat

A Sense of Style

Whatever your style, Fort Lauderdale has it.

Known as Fort Lauderdale’s “Style Mile,” Las Olas Boulevard is famed for its excellent shopping, trendy sidewalk cafes and art galleries. At one end, find the weekly artisan and antique market in Las Olas Oceanside Park. On the other, the NSU Art Museum showcases thousands of artworks.

West of downtown, the attractive campus of Nova Southeastern University is popular with residents for its library featuring kids’ programs, exhibitions, a massive Dale Chihuly sculpture and a prayer wheel blessed by the Dalai Lama. The private research university is one of 35 colleges in the county.

Bargain-hunters will appreciate the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop, supposed to be the world’s largest daily flea market. If country clubs and golf courses are more your speed, you’ll find those in town too. By contrast, neighborhoods like Colee Hammock and Victoria Park offer a quiet charm with historic homes dating to the early 20th century.

iStock/Sean Pavone

Going Local

Local culture thrives here in Fort Lauderdale. The FATVillage ArtWalk is your monthly destination for art exhibits, artisan wares, music and murals. Nearby the MASS District offers indie stores, coffee shops and more murals.

Have kids? Fort Lauderdale makes the most of its sunshine with acres of green space. Head to the Riverwalk District for multiple playgrounds and family events. Avoid the hassle of parking in town by taking advantage of the free community shuttle.

But in Fort Lauderdale, “local” can still mean international. County residents speak over 90 languages, and nearby airports provide quick access to the rest of the world.

Meanwhile, its thriving economy (of which marine is the second largest industry, no surprise) includes some 200 corporate, regional and global business headquarters. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment in the area is almost 10% less than the national average.

And along with the other Florida cities on our Best Places to Live list, there’s no state income tax, meaning more money in your pocket to enjoy the daily luxuries of life in Fort Lauderdale.

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