Casually Chic Fort Lauderdale

Having welcomed a string of sleek high-end hotels to its beachfront boulevard – including the W Hotel, the Westin and the Ritz-Carlton – Fort Lauderdale has a whole new look and is welcoming a tourist audience who likes to shimmy to a sexy, albeit low-key vibe.

“I really believe that what sets us apart,” says Nicki Grossman, president of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, “is that we are chic, but we are casually chic. We are luxurious, but we are affordable luxury.” In fact, she adds, “The greatest thing about this place is that we have gone from a college Spring Break crowd, to the first St. Regis hotel in Florida [the St. Regis is now the Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale], the first W Hotel in Florida, and not much has changed…like I said, it’s casually chic.”

So for clients who think they need to head to South Beach for a fabulous getaway—a la Khloe & Kourtney Kardashian—tell them to look north and head to Fort Lauderdale’s beach boulevard, where the oceanfront accommodations are a definite must for a 2010 Florida getaway.

build it and they shall come And tell your clients now is the time to get a taste of this new luxe Fort Lauderdale, because, as Grossman points out, “Our rates—like every place else around the country—are really reflective of the economic downturn, although our occupancy has held pretty well. People are really curious about this new Fort Lauderdale and they’re coming. Fortunately for them at this time, they’re coming to great, great deals.”

And that’s the important thing, she adds, because, “We are getting them here and when they see the kind of luxury we’ve got and the kind of amenities and attractions we can offer them, they’ll be back and they’ll be [willing] to pay $100 more per room per night, in some cases, an extra $200.”

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One of the properties bringing in those visitors is one of the destination’s newest—the W Fort Lauderdale with two 23-story towers accommodating 517 guestrooms, including 35 luxurious suites (we’ll get to those in a second), a gorgeous pool deck with private cabanas, the Bliss Spa, and more than enough places to mingle and be seen. And “be seen” is key here as those having a cocktail at the Living Room—one of the hotel’s lounge spots—can watch swimmers above on the oceanfront pool deck, through slivers in the ceiling. As if that’s not enough, there’s also a glass-enclosed stairway leading from the Living Room, “through” the pool and onto the deck, which, by the way, has a VIP section.

Speaking of VIP, the property’s Extreme WOW Suite is definitely a must for those luxury-angling clients. This 3,657-sq.-ft. hedonistic playroom boasts floor-to-ceiling windows opening up onto a sprawling wraparound terrace, a Bang & Olufsen entertainment system, a full kitchen and a dining nook for up to 10 people. There’s also a master bedroom with a king-sized, custom-designed opium bed and a 42-inch LCD flat-screen TV, a master bathroom with a chromatherapy whirlpool-soaking bathtub and a rainshower that opens up to the terrace, as well as a guestroom—also with ocean views—featuring a free-standing concrete cast tub surrounded by river rocks. Rates for the suite start at $3,500 per night and very depending on season. Regular room rates start at $249.

Another Starwood property opening its doors this past year was The Westin Beach Resort, Fort Lauderdale—the former Sheraton Yankee Trader Hotel. The resort, which once housed skating troops and their competitions (complete with indoor skating rink), offers 433 spacious rooms, each with the company’s signature Heavenly Bed and Heavenly Bath. Most of the rooms, of course, boast stunning views of the Atlantic or the Intracoastal, although the focal point of any Westin, including this one, is “to restore the mind and refresh the body.” That means smoke-free rooms, a Heavenly Spa by Westin, a “sensory welcome” with fresh botanicals and calming scents, an opportunity to enjoy regional food—including seafood such as Florida snapper and citrus fruits—as well as superfoods rich in nutrients and antioxidants at Shula’s on the Beach and guided runs led by a Westin running concierge, helping guests maintain a fitness routine while experiencing running on Fort Lauderdale Beach.