Eight Ways Fort Lauderdale Has Changed for the Better

The people of Fort Lauderdale need a pep talk.

Our city may not be perfect. It's humid, our cops have been racist, and a dumb law tries to keep us from sharing food with the homeless. There are also cringe-worthy stereotypes about rowdy spring breakers, orthopedics-wearing snowbirds, and aloof Canadians. But hey, at least we're not Miami!

That's right. We're the Venice of America! We have canals and craft beer and Uber. Here are eight ways Fort Lauderdale has changed for the better — and eight new ways to brag about your hometown at college orientation:

8. The Fort Lauderdale Air Show is back for the first time in three years
The Fort Lauderdale Air Show is a time-honored tradition. But in 2014, runway construction canceled the show. The following year, the reconstruction of A1A was right in the middle of the main viewing area. Let's not forget when federal budget cuts prevented the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds from attending. In 2012, it rained on the second day. But that string of bad luck is all going to change this May, when the air show returns to its original spot and in all its glory. 

7. Uber is here to stay
Uber has attracted a cult following among the hip, smartphone-wielding crowd nationwide. Sure, Miami got it first. But the mobile ride-sharing service landed in Fort Lauderdale in August 2014. Last summer, Uber and Broward County commissioners squabbled over specifics like background checks and other regulations, and service was suspended for nearly three months. But it returned this October. (For good this time.) Think of all the drunk drivers it got off the streets. 

6. Fort Lauderdale has become more bike-friendly
There's a bike crowd in Fort Lauderdale. They meet every month for a Critical Mass bike ride, raising awareness of bikers' rights as they pedal their way through the city streets. They've certainly had their run-ins with the law — one cop tackled a cyclist, and then another knocked a cyclist off his bike. On the upside, though, Fort Lauderdale is putting in more bike lanes and buffers between cyclists and drivers to make it a safer ride. Plus, a little over a year ago, a bike mechanic opened up Two&, a unique bike and beer/wine shop on Las Olas Boulevard for local cyclists. 

5. The spring breakers no longer flock here
Fort Lauderdale Beach is a shell of the spring-break mecca it once was. In the late ’80s and early ’90s, Fort Lauderdale Beach could easily anticipate half a million kids per spring-break cycle, one veteran lifeguard recalls. That number has plummeted in recent years to 50,000 to 80,000 kids more recently. Panama City has usurped the spring-break title from Fort Lauderdale Beach. No one seems to mind. 

4. Brunch is now a thing 

Since the first spring breaker stumbled upon Fort Lauderdale Beach, the people of Fort Lauderdale have rallied around (and mastered) day drinking. So naturally, the people of Fort Lauderdale embraced the concept of bloody marys, mimosas, bellinis — and, of course, brunch, the meal that has immediately elevated the weekend culinary scene. From Himmarshee Public House to Tap 42 and American Social, you no longer have to look far to find a poached egg on a menu. Amen.

3. People actually care about art
The Wynwood art walk in Miami is a circus: Murals are blocked by hordes of obnoxious selfie-takers, vomit cakes the street, and the food trucks outnumber the galleries. But the art walk in FAT Village is different. It's not nearly as crowded, and you're never more than 15 feet from someone having an in-depth conversation about the piece of art hanging in front of them. There are local artists too!

2. People care about social justice
If there's a societal ill, we'll point it out: fracking, racist cops, homeless hate laws. The number of activists in Broward County is growing. The Black Lives Matter movement is especially pronounced in Fort Lauderdale, with activists protesting police brutality outside the Fort Lauderdale Police Department multiple times last year. When officers posted racist video and comments on social media and then when an officer slapped a homeless man, activists where there ready to hold Fort Lauderdale Police to account. When a municipal ordinance banned sharing food with the homeless — and then when Fort Lauderdale Police arrested a 90-year-old man and two pastors at a food sharing — activists fought back. One activist even lost 33 pounds on a 24-day hunger strike in protest of the sharing ban. It's shame that there is so much fodder for these activists to protest, but they're fearless in their civil disobedience, unflinching even when cops pull out the handcuffs.

1. We got 99 problems, but craft beer ain't one 
Fort Lauderdale prides itself in its selection of craft beer. And it's quite the selection. In fact, it can be dizzying for any Miamian venturing north. Tap 42 boasts 42 taps. Forty-two! And Funky Buddha has all types of beer, from peanut butter-flavored to punny-named IPAs, served in growlers and hip tulip glasses. So yes, the people of Fort Lauderdale are craft-beer snobs, and we raise our noses upon the ridiculous Miamians sipping on apple martinis and teetering in their Louboutins.  

"Lets go to Miami for beer," said no one ever.  
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Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson