It's just about that time of year again — and no, we don't mean Halloween. Instead, we're talking about the 56th-annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Starting Thursday, November 5, and lasting through Monday, November 9, thousands upon thousands of people will descend upon the marinas and beaches of Broward County for the 2015 boat show. It takes place across six locations in Fort Lauderdale and covers more than 3 million square feet of exhibition space where luxury yachts, high-end designers, and coastal-minded businesses will be on display.
Of course, the people-watching will be phenomenal, and with so much ground to cover, we're guessing you want to know where the best places to eat, drink, and rub elbows with the yachties who will be in Fort Lauderdale (AKA the "Venice of America"). So we lined up a number of spots we think are the best for mingling and boating-related debauchery during this year's Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
10. Tap 42
1411 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-463-4900, or visit tap42.com.
For South Floridians, it's one of Broward County's best beer bars. For yachties, it's becoming the new hangout spot when the boat is in town. The wall of beer includes 42 taps sourced from around the country, and the creative menu is casual enough to bring the crowds from happy hour to the weekend-long brunch. While the boat crews will no doubt be busy keeping their floating vessels spotless for the boat show, this is one spot you'll be able to find them after the sun goes down and they're able to get on dry land to let loose.
429 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-2421, coconutsbahamagrill.com.
Located just steps from one of Fort Lauderdale's many docks, this
8. The Pelican Grand Resort
2000 N. Ocean Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-568-9431, or visit PelicanBeach.com.
If the owners (or prospective owners) aren't staying on a yacht, they'll be staying at one of Fort Lauderdale's nicer hotels. While the Ritz-Carlton's main restaurant is undergoing a major revamp, one of the next best spots to find all the boat show's out-of-town tourists would be the 02K Lounge at Pelican Grand Resort, imbibing customizable adult beverages come brunch. In true South Florida fashion, the beachfront spot has a build-your-own mojito bar. Start by choosing a specialty rum, and then combine it with your choice of one of eight fruit flavors. Then throw in some final touches, including infused sweeteners, fresh fruit, herb essences, and even a little bubbly. Need some food to soak up all that liquor? O2K has a Taco Tuesday special during which guests can choose any three of the menu's specialty tacos for $10, including pulled pork, tuna, fish, steak, and chicken.
7. McSorley's Beach Pub
837 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-565-4446, or visit mcsorleysftl.com.
This watering hole is a haven for anyone looking for that perfect blend of bar and beachfront chill. And thanks to a few renovations, you can even hang out in an area that offers more of an upscale lounge feel. The rooftop patio and sundeck areas have been remodeled with large flat-screen TVs, disco balls, and color-changing LED lighting, giving the whole space more of a club vibe come late night. Downstairs, however, McSorley's is still all dive, complete with tables for beer pong and a jukebox that will let you pick your own cheesy songs to sing along to. Best of all, as is the case with Irish pubs across the world, this place attracts large crowds of tourists and locals alike. Come the boat show, that means plenty of yachties too. Its beachfront location, multiple levels, selection of Irish beer, and jukebox or DJs churning out Top 40 and classic pub songs make this place a prime target for anyone looking to get her drink on.
6. B Ocean Resort Fort Lauderdale
1140 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-564-1000, or visit boceanfortlauderdale.com.
Formerly the Yankee Clipper, the hotel reopened in early 2010 as a Sheraton after a renovation that left the space looking sleek and modern. More recently, it was bought out by B Ocean. Spread over four towers, the resort boasts two pool decks, a private stretch of sand along the public beach (complete with free lounge chairs and daybeds for rent), and an outpost of the trendy Dos Caminos Mexican restaurant serving modern Mexican cuisine in a vibrant atmosphere (think lots and lots of pink). Signature dishes include made-to-order guacamole, snapper ceviche, and chorizo fundido. The bar at Dos Caminos serves some tasty margaritas and cocktails as well as more than 150 varieties of tequila, and seating options range from the spacious dining room inside to an outside patio next to the beach. Not quite your style? The hotel's famous Wreck Bar has been drawing crowds (and yachties) since its inception in the 1950s; the bar features massive aquariums, nautical decor, and porthole views into the resort's main pool, which features live mermaid shows every Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
5. The Wet Deck and Whiskey Blue at W Fort Lauderdale
401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-414-8300, or visit gerberbars.com.
The W Fort Lauderdale Hotel & Resort will be the place to spot the hottest off-duty yachties and buyers come
1555 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-7400, or visit boatyard.restaurant.
When the original Bimini Boatyard Bar & Grill opened off SE 17th Street in 1989, Fort Lauderdale diners, especially yacht crew, anointed it the new hot spot, a laid-back waterfront restaurant that attracted all ages with its seafood/steak menu and busy bar scene. At the time, Bimini was best-known for hedonistic happy hours served from three bars, a bustling buffet-style Sunday brunch, and its swanky waterside setting with megayacht views right smack dab in the middle of the city's busy boating community. Today, the newly opened Boatyard off the 17th Street stretch is guaranteed to be one of the best places to find yacht crews, brokers, and owners rubbing elbows. Everything is new, including outdoor patio complete with the Restaurant People's signature fire pit and expanded dockside dining area lined with super high-end vessels. Inside, there's an open kitchen, custom-designed nautical-chic decor, and a beefed-up staff of 150. The three bars are still there, one inside, one at the edge of a covered outdoor patio, and one outside near the docks and fire pit. Each is a great spot to enjoy signature cocktails, the roaming raw bar table, and even some fresh catch. Here, the seafood is so local, it's been dubbed "hook to table."
3. The Treasure Trove
2933 SE Fifth St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-522-8385.
This beachside bar makes the list due to its proximity to boat-show central. The Trove has been a longtime hangout for yachties wanting to escape life onboard, as well as Florida locals looking to do the same. It's no frills, just a dive with cold beer, ocean air, and a laid-back crowd. It's a piece of Old Florida that can rarely be found. That's the reason everyone loves the Treasure Trove. And the spot's Taco Tuesday is an institution. Who doesn't like tacos sold for just a buck? During the boat show, this place takes on a life of its own. Want to pick up a hot foreigner? Head down to the Trove shortly after the show shuts down its velvet ropes. You're bound to overhear those accents sharing horror stories from the boats.
2. Bahia Cabana Beach Resort
3001 Harbor Drive, Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-524-1555, or visit bahiacabanaresort.com.
South of the commotion at Beach Place, Bahia Cabana is an oasis of local Fort Lauderdale culture. Not to be confused with Bahia Mar Resort, the Bahia Cabana Beach Resort is the small, divey spot with a more relaxed vibe (but just as close to the boat-show brouhaha). Tucked away between docks, the Bahia Cabana bar boasts strong drinks and a ceiling littered with knickknacks, such as street signs and Florida license plates. It was even named the World's Best Dockside Patio Bar & Restaurant by Boating Magazine. Indeed, with fantastic views of the majestic yachts and boats in Fort Lauderdale’s largest marina, superb happy-hour specials, and exciting nightlife, Bahia Cabana offers a waterfront gathering spot unlike any other in South Florida. For those arriving via water, dock space is free for bar and restaurant patrons. A three-minute walk from Fort Lauderdale Beach Park — and less than four miles from the Port Everglades cruise terminal — means it's also just steps away from all the action. Tourists: You can't leave without ordering a few specialty drinks like the World's Best Frozen Pina Colada or the Frozen Pink Lemonade.
1. Waxy O'Connors
1095 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-9299, or visit waxys.com.
Founded in 1997, Waxy's has long been hailed as one of Fort Lauderdale's preeminent yacht crew bars. The place is discussed in ports across the globe. In 2008, New Times even dubbed it the Best Yacht Crowd Bar. Since then, Waxy's has obviously kept up its reputation for keeping a good stock of attractive, multinational yacht crew around. Its prime location puts it right in the middle of the 17th Street community, the yachting center of the universe, and its authentic Irish-pub feel makes a perfect combination for crew searching for a taste of home — hey, Irish Pubs can be found all over the world. Today, there are nine more locations across the country. But Florida was the first (and, in our opinion, the best). Head there any night of the week for a chance to pick up some of that Irish luck and maybe a stewardess/deckhand.
Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.
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