Quality of Life
Greater Fort Lauderdale is an ideal place to raise a family, make friends, pursue a personal passion and enjoy all the benefits of a welcoming and sophisticated community. In recent years, many municipalities have developed convenient walk-to-work downtown communities that attract young professionals, adding a new dimension to Greater Fort Lauderdale's appealing beachfront, urban and suburban neighborhoods.
With many miles of sandy beaches, hundreds of parks, golf courses and tennis courts, gardens, festivals, as well as boating and diving facilities, residents of Greater Fort Lauderdale can enjoy the outdoors any time of the year. Located at the center of a cosmopolitan urban region, Greater Fort Lauderdale residents can enjoy an abundance of music, art, sports, theater, dance and multicultural attractions. For instance, a typical weekend might include these kinds of inviting cultural and recreational options:
- Watching the Florida Panthers National Hockey League team at the BB&T Center in Sunrise.
- Taking in a Broadway musical at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
- Strolling through the Riverwalk Sunday Jazz Festival along the New River, listening to live bands and sampling local fare.
- Taking part in a 5k run, or competing in a half marathon, marathon, triathlon or other sporting event.
- Enjoying an art gallery walk in Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors or Hollywood.
- Jogging along the Atlantic Ocean on Hollywood’s historic Broadwalk.
- Shopping and dining along Las Olas Boulevard.
- Taking “family time” at a favorite bistro in Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Weston or Plantation.
- Playing a challenging round of golf.
- Heading out to the Gulf Stream for deep-sea fishing.
- Enjoying live music every night of the week at many local hotspots.
In Greater Fort Lauderdale, it’s easy to pursue favorite leisure-time pursuits or explore new and exciting activities.
In terms of lifestyles, Greater Fort Lauderdale encompasses a wide array of neighborhoods with their own distinctive characteristics. There are cozy bungalows near the beach, historic estate homes along the New River, family-oriented suburban neighborhoods, western-style ranches, and many LGBT-friendly communities.
Many Broward communities have been recognized nationally for their high quality of life, including “family friendliness,” top schools, recreational programs and housing programs:
- Fort Lauderdale has been named one of the top 25 best places to live and as having one of the top 10 downtowns in the U.S. by Livability.com, a comprehensive online resource on more than 500 of America's Best Places to live, visit, work, play and explore.
- Hollywood has been ranked among the best places to live in Florida, according to Livability.com.
- Fort Lauderdale – long known as the “Venice of America” for its canals and nautical ambiance – was recently ranked as one of the country’s “100 Best Places to Live and Launch a Business” by CNN Money. It also has been ranked number 7 for economic potential on a list of the Top 10 Small American Cities of the Future, according to fDi Magazine, and named the 2nd Happiest City for Young Professionals in the U.S. by FORBES magazine.
- Pembroke Pines, Sunrise and Tamarac were each U.S. Conference of Mayors City Livability Awards finalists.
- Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Lauderhill, Pembroke Pines and Pompano Beach have all been named “All-American Cities.”
- Coral Springs, Miramar and Weston have been named among the 100 best small cities in America by Money magazine.
- Money magazine named Pembroke Pines one of the best cities in which to live in September 2014.
- Cooper City has been named “One of the Ten Best Towns for Families” by Family Circle.
- Pembroke Pines, Tamarac and Sunrise were recognized by Businessweek magazine as best places to raise children.
- North Lauderdale and Plantation have been named among the “100 Best Communities for Young People” by America’s Promise Alliance, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to children and youth.
- Coconut Creek, Fort Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Lauderhill, Margate, Oakland Park, Parkland, Sunrise, Tamarac and West Park have all been named a "Playful City USA," an honor for cities and towns that make play a priority and use innovative programs to get children active, playing, and healthy.
With a wide array of housing options and a variety of recreational activities, Greater Fort Lauderdale residents clearly enjoy an exceptionally high quality of life.
One of the priorities of the Broward County Board of County Commissioners is the Greenways System. This is a countywide network of safe, clean bicycle and equestrian paths, nature trails and waterways that connect each neighborhood, from the Everglades to the Atlantic Ocean to conservation lands, parks and recreation facilities, cultural and historic sites, schools and business areas.
Another transportation initiative is Broward B-cycle, a fast-growing bike-sharing service with 22 stations in six cities. For a modest enrollment fee, members can use Broward B-cycle for an unlimited number of short trips. More than 26,000 people have explored Broward cities by B-cycle, which is one of the most affordable major bike-sharing programs in the country. For more information, go to www.browardbcycle.com.
On a municipal level, many Broward cities have signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement to reduce greenhouse gases. Other recent “green” initiatives being embraced in area communities include:
- City incentives to encourage residents to adopt energy-saving practices
- Creation and preservation of public green spaces and wetlands
- Earth-friendly building designs
- Energy-efficient programs
- Environmentally friendly town centers
- Green city advisory boards
- Incentive programs for developers of sustainable buildings
- LEED-certified office buildings and residential properties
- Mandatory environmentally friendly standards for building construction and renovations
- Municipal hybrid car fleets
- Projects receiving Florida Green Building Coalition Certification
- Recycling requirements
- Solar-powered lighting requirements
- Trees, shrubs and planting projects and requirements
- Water reclamation programs
Parks in Greater Fort Lauderdale
It’s almost always a great day to go to a park in sunny Broward County. Local municipalities – as well as county government – operate hundreds of parks offering a wide range of activities including aquatics, nature walks, batting cages, boat rides, racquet centers, water skiing, horseback riding, target ranges, skate parks — you name it!
Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill hosts some of the nation's most important professional cricket matches, supported by Greater Fort Lauderdale's large Caribbean communities. The regional park is also home to the new Lauderhill Performing Arts Center and Library, a 47,585-square-foot facility which opened in early 2016.
Broward County Parks and Recreation Division manages almost 6,500 acres, encompassing nearly 50 regional parks and nature centers, neighborhood parks, and natural areas at various stages of development. Facilities include water parks, campgrounds, a target range, a stadium, a skate park, an observatory, mountain bike trails, an educational farm with stables, and a velodrome and other sports facilities.
The division is a past winner of the National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management. The division also offers classes for many leisure activities. For information about any county facilities, classes or activities, call the park directly or contact:
Broward County Parks and Recreation Division
950 N.W. 38 Street
Oakland Park, FL 33309
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale (www.goriverwalk.com) is a nonprofit organization that oversees Riverwalk Linear Park, a lush tropical oasis in the city's downtown center with a year-round calendar of events and activities, in partnership with the City of Fort Lauderdale, Downtown Development Authority, Broward County and local area associations, businesses and organizations that are integral in the success of our downtown.
Golfers of all skill levels can choose from more than 40 courses, including exclusive private clubs, premier municipal facilities and leading resort courses. For more information, contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.sunny.org. Click on Sports, then Golf, for a directory of courses and a free Greater Fort Lauderdale Golf Guide.
ARTS AND CULTURE
As the local arts agency for Broward County, Broward Cultural Division supports a countywide network of artist entrepreneurs and their audiences through grants funding, arts education, a nationally renowned public art and design program and an award-winning marketing and media development portfolio.
In 2015, Broward County celebrated its 100th birthday, which the Cultural Division honored with a yearlong calendar of events of local talent as well as international arts initiatives (Inside Out), County-wide murals (VisualEyes) and a special anniversary calendar of sanctioned events (Calendar 100).
Each year, Greater Fort Lauderdale residents can enjoy hundreds of local festivals that celebrate various themes, anniversaries and cultures. In 2015, the Broward Cultural Division added “Duende” as the signature event for arts and culture in Broward County, aimed at showcasing local talent. Other cultural festivals include Maroone HispanicFest, Seminole Tribal Festival, Orange Blossom Festival, Broward Caribbean Carnival, Inc., Unifest multicultural event, and Sistrunk Historical Festival.
The Broward County Fair (www.browardfair.org) is an annual event that includes headliner concerts, more than 100 rides, games, concerts and other attractions. Other major events include the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale Air Show and Tortuga Music Festival.
For many residents, one of the highlights of the December holiday season is the Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade (www.winterfestparade.com), which features an evening parade of lighted boats along the Intracoastal Waterways and has become renowned as the “World’s Most Watched Boat Parade.”
Arts lovers throughout South Florida flock to the Las Olas Art Fair (www.artfestival.com), one of the state’s most popular outdoor festivals for the arts.
Each year the Florida Renaissance Festival (www.ren-fest.com) offers a reenactment of Renaissance life in February and March.
Fort Lauderdale’s Day of the Dead Festival is the South Florida region’s tribute to the Mexican celebration Día de los Muertos, as well as a unique puppetry festival central to the entire South Florida region. This procession of oversized skeletons and nocturnal beings from beyond the grave, create a festive and unique parade through the city streets in early November, ending in a carnival-like atmosphere at its final destination, usually a local and well-known location in the downtown area.
For a listing of festivals, visit www.broward.org/arts and click on Cultural Directory and then on Festivals.
There are many monthly art walks located throughout Greater Fort Lauderdale where residents and visitors can explore artists’ studios and galleries, attend black box theater productions, enjoy spoken word poetry or experience an art installation in oversized warehouse spaces.
- Downtown Hollywood ArtWalk is held on the third Saturday of each month. For more information, call 954-924-2980.
- The FAT/Flagler Village Arts District ArtWalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale is presented by FAT (Flagler Arts and Technology) Village, MASS District and Sailboat Bend Artists Lofts and regularly draws hundreds of residents and visitors to this creative Saturday night showcase of arts, community and neighborhood collaboration. It is held the last Saturday of the month (except December) and is connected by free trolleys with a hop-on/hop-off system. For more information, call 954-760-5900.
- NOBE Artwalk on Galt Ocean Mile features a dozen galleries in the North Beach Arts District. It is held the first Saturday of each month. For more information, contact the Broward Art Guild at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Art Fallout, an evening of support for contemporary art in downtown Fort Lauderdale, celebrates October’s National Arts and Humanities Month. Visit Artfallout.blogspot.com.
- Third Avenue Art District Annual Art Walk in Fort Lauderdale is held annually on the first Saturday of February to let the public engage in the creative experience of each artist’s studio setting. A free trolley service helps guests move between each stop. Visit thirdavenueartdistrict.com.
- Magnetic Pompano, held on the last Friday of every month, includes a Creative Clash competition of multiple visual arts disciplines from fine art to graffiti, and an artists’ reception. Visit magneticpompano.org or call 954-839-9578.
- The Wilton Manors Art Expo takes place on the third Saturday of every month, November – April and attracts hundreds to the Wilton Manors Arts & Entertainment District. Visit wmae.org.
Arts and Cultural Institutions
Since the 1990s, more than $200 million has been invested in new cultural facilities serving Greater Fort Lauderdale. Recent capital project activity includes a $25 million Museum of Discovery and Science expansion project, $14 million Lauderhill Cultural Center and Broward County Central Broward Branch Library project, $25 million Young At Art Museum and Broward County Library project, and a $5 million Amphitheater at the ArtsPark at Young Circle. The Lauderdale Lakes Library and Educational and Cultural Center also recently opened. Here is a closer look at several key venues and institutions.
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts (www.browardcenter.org) is a large, multivenue arts and entertainment complex featuring the 2,700-seat Au-Rene Theater, the intimate 590-seat Amaturo Theater and the flexible 250–400-seat Abdo New River Room. Internationally recognized as one of the ten most-visited theaters in the world, the Center presents more than 700 performances each year to more than 600,000 patrons.
A $44 million remodeling and renovation project was completed in 2014, including theater renovations, a new Huizenga Pavilion for special events and parties, and the Rose Miniaci Arts Education Center with classes, performances and arts-in-education activities for students of all ages. Guests are now able to enjoy a casual walk down the hillside, grab a bite in the New River Bistro, relax or dine with friends in a courtyard on the Wendt Terraces, and enjoy an outdoor performance by the river.
South Florida Symphony Orchestra
Led by music director and conductor Sebrina María Alfonso, the South Florida Symphony Orchestra (www.southfloridasymphony.org) brings world-class musicians and performances to the region. Founded in 1997 as the Key West Symphony Orchestra, the organization expanded in 2010 to include the entire South Florida region. The symphony's goal is to provide an enriching cultural experience and to provide educational programs that build an appreciation of classical music in the next generation of performers and concert-goers.
Through its education and outreach activities, the South Florida Symphony Orchestra touches many lives. Providing music education programs has been a key objective of the South Florida Symphony Orchestra’s mission since its inception. These programs are designed to provide an enriching cultural experience that is uniquely different from opportunities provided by other local sources and to develop future audiences and performers to ensure the survival of this great art form.
Symphony of the Americas
Founded in 1987, Symphony of the Americas (www.symphonyoftheamericas.org) has experienced continuous growth, bringing the best of classical music blended with new Latin compositions to the multi-cultural population of South Florida. SOTA provides a subscription concert series in its performance home at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, offers educational experiences, and performs on three continents during its summer music festival. Dr. James Brooks-Bruzzese, the founding artistic director of SOTA, is a winner of the prestigious National Hispanic Heritage Arts Award presented annually at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. SOTA programming includes internationally recognized guest artists, world premieres of new works by Latin American composers, and a European chamber orchestra summer residency program. Its educational concert experiences serve 20,000 South Florida students, with summer educational experiences for 10,000 Latin American students.
NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale (www.nsuartmuseum.org), founded in 1958, is well-known for its exhibitions, which have ranged from Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs to the Norman Rockwell Exhibition and the Latin American Artists Exhibition. It also houses a highly regarded Artist in Residence Program, which broadens the sphere of conversation about contemporary art. The museum, which is affiliated with Nova Southeastern University, also offers courses in painting, drawing, design and other disciplines taught by professional artists, along with an active performing arts program.
Museum of Discovery and Science
Museum of Discovery and Science (www.mods.org) is one of the largest museums of its kind in Florida, and has the most visitors or any museum in the state. The museum features is own AutoNation IMAX Theater and “ecoscapes” in its EcoDiscovery Center, a 31,000-square foot addition that includes interactive technology exhibits and a new habitat for river otters. Some of its favorite attractions include a simulated airboat ride in the Everglades and a MaxFlight airplane simulator.
Young At Art Musuem
Two decades after its founding, Young At Art Museum (www.youngatartmuseum.org) opened a new 55,000-square-foot Gold LEED-certified museum for children, teens and families. Located on I-595 in Davie, the facility includes four galleries, painting, drawing and ceramics studies, as well as video and recording centers, outdoor gardens, and a new Broward County library.
For details about other art venues and events, including a list of museums in Greater Fort Lauderdale,visit www.broward.org/Arts and click on Cultural Directory under Resources.
Public Art & Design Program (PAD)
For 40 years, Broward County’s Public Art & Design Program has enhanced airports, ports, roadways, libraries, parks and other county buildings. PAD is an internationally recognized program that is listed among the world’s finest public art, according to Australia’s Images Publishing in Designing the World’s Best Public Art.
Today, more than 262 artworks are installed at 100 locations, with more projects in the works. Visit Broward.org/Arts for a Public Art Tour to see the collection of artworks such as a new entryway for Port Everglades Eisenhower Boulevard.
This year, local dancers and photographers are creating unique Counterpoints (contrasting elements in a work of art) in a cross-media pairing, creating a dramatic artistic union with 12 noteworthy artists located throughout Broward County.
Other noteworthy initiatives include:
- The Songs of the Everglades installation, celebrating the beauty of wildlife found in the Florida Everglades National Park. The birds are suspended 14 feet high on solar-powered light posts located in the parking lot of Terminal 4 at Port Everglades.
- Ocean's Footprint is a painted mural that represents underwater life around Port Everglades. The mural is located in the embarkation hall of Port Everglades’ Terminal 29 and depicts manatees, sea turtles and other underwater life.
- Into the Pixel: An Exhibition of the Art of the Video Game at Port Everglades Cruise Terminal 21 is sponsored by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences to showcase visual storytelling created for video games from 2004 through today.
Greater Fort Lauderdale has a number of facilities and enclaves that support artists and other creative professionals. One example is Studio 18 in the Pines, an 11,000-square-foot renovated 1950s hospital laundry in Pembroke Pines that reopened as studio space for fine artists through a juried process. Also in Fort Lauderdale is Sailboat Bend Artist Lofts, a 37-unit artist live/work space close to the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District offering monthly gallery exhibitions of residents and special guest artists.
Just north of downtown is Wilton Manors, an LGBT-friendly city with a thriving art community that is always jumping with activity whether it is a parade, festival or gallery night walk.
For a fun, off-beat evening, Cinema Paradiso offers year-round screenings of independent films from around the globe highlighted by filmmaker lectures and international festivities.
In the City of Hollywood, one can enjoy a Symphony of the Americas concert under the stars in the ArtsPark at Young Circle, catch a contemporary art exhibition at the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood, experience live theater at the Hollywood Central Performing Arts Center or stroll along the historic downtown Hollywood Boulevard monthly art walk and experience live music, mid-Eastern dancing and a myriad of gallery openings.
The Bailey Contemporary Arts (BaCA), located in the heart of Pompano Beach’s new Creative Arts District, is a place for artists, residents and business to come together and use the power of the arts to uplift, revitalize and build a stronger community. The center offers the experience of pairing new artists with established professionals, as well as offering a space for residents to explore their creative expression through an array of workshops, studio visits and exhibitions.
To keep your finger on the pulse of the arts scene, visit www.ArtsCalendar.com.
Broward County Library
As the ninth-largest library system in the United States, Broward County Library (www.broward.org/library) touches the lives of the public once every second during its regular operating hours. With 38 locations, more than 3 million items and 2,000 computers for public use, Broward County Library places a strong emphasis on literacy, after-school programs and electronic access. In addition to circulating materials and information access, Broward County Library brings a rich and diverse selection of programs, special events and classes throughout the year. Each year, the community looks forward to annual library events such as the Children's Reading Festival, Pan African Bookfest and Cultural Conference, Literary Feast and StoryBook Festival.
The library system encompasses a Main Library, and regional, branch and specialized libraries like the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center and the Alvin Sherman Library, Research, and Information Technology Center at Nova Southeastern University (the largest library in Florida). The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center is one of a handful of libraries of its kind in the nation, and houses over 85,000 books, manuscripts, artifacts and documents with special emphasis on the history of people of African, African-American and Caribbean descent.
The Place for Entertainment!
Top acts and shows appear regularly in Greater Fort Lauderdale at venues such as the BB&T Center, Hard Rock Live and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Following are a few recent examples:
- Alton Brown
- Toni Braxton
- Mary Chapin Carpenter
- Kristin Chenoweth
- Classic Albums Live: Purple Rain
- Delta Rae
- The Doobie Brothers
- Florida Grand Opera: Carmen
- Ina Garten: The Barefoot Contessa
- Arlo Guthrie
- The Hip Hop Nutcracker
- Janet Jackson
- Patti LaBelle
- Ladysmith Black Mambazo
- Jay Leno
- Jillian Michaels
- Kenny G
- The Nutcracker
- Dolly Parton
- Itzhak Perlman
- Bonnie Raitt
- Kenny Rogers
- Sesame Street Live: Elmo Makes Music
- Second City
- Neil DeGrasse Tyson
- Carrie Underwood
- Chris Young
- ZZ Top
The 2016-2017 lineup of Broadway shows at Broward venues includes:
- Titanic The Musical
- The Little Mermaid
- Big River - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
- Something Rotten!
- Matilda The Musical
Leading Shopping Venues
Shopping is a favorite activity for Greater Fort Lauderdale residents and visitors. While every neighborhood has its retail centers, the largest mall in the region is Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, one of the state’s most popular shopping destinations. Other major suburban centers include Coral Ridge Mall, Westfield Broward Mall, Pembroke Lakes Mall, Weston Town Center and the Pompano Square Mall. In the eastern part of the county, The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale is an upscale shopping center, while Las Olas Boulevard is a favorite location for outdoor dining, shopping and entertainment. Along the New River, the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District includes cafés, boutiques and outdoor entertainment in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
Professional and Spectator Sports
Professional football, baseball, hockey, basketball and soccer are readily accessible to Greater Fort Lauderdale sports fans. In Sunrise, the BB&T Center is home to the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers and Fort Lauderdale is home to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers professional soccer team.
Just to the south, the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins play at SunLife Stadium. A short drive down I-95 in downtown Miami is American Airlines Arena, home court for the Miami Heat, who captured the 2006, 2012 and 2013 NBA championships. Fans can also enjoy the Miami Marlins baseball team (World Series champions in 1997 and 2003).
Gaming and Pari-Mutuels
Greater Fort Lauderdale residents and guests can enjoy harness, thoroughbred and greyhound racing, as well as jai alai, “the world’s fastest sport,” in a variety of pari-mutuel facilities. In addition, these venues offer fast-paced gaming action, including slot machines, table games and poker.
Health and Human Services
Numerous non-profit organizations provide health and human services to those in need in Broward County, improving the overall quality of life in the community. Here are a few examples of agencies serving the needs of Broward residents:
- Since 1995, 2-1-1 Broward has been providing individuals and families with critical connections to health and human service agencies and programs they need in just one call. Trained and degreed 2-1-1 counselors assist hundreds of individuals daily with support, information and referrals.
- The Nonprofit Executive Alliance of Broward consists of 64 members representing a broad array of nonprofit organizations that collaborate, learn, network, collectively advocate, and stay ahead of the curve in rapidly changing times for nonprofit organizations.
- MISSION UNITED, a program of United Way of Broward County, supports U.S. military veterans and their families in Broward County by helping them re-acclimate to civilian life. Key focus areas include employment readiness, education, health, legal assistance, emergency financial aid, and housing.
- Henderson Behavioral Health is the oldest and largest, community-based not-for-profit behavioral healthcare system in South Florida. Since 1953 Henderson has helped hundreds of thousands of children, adults and families.
- Founded more than 30 years ago as a haven for immigrants and refugees, Hispanic Unity of Florida has grown to serve diverse and multicultural working families from the United States as well as more than 25 other countries. The agency provides a diverse range of wrap-around services to more than 20,000 clients of all ages, from preschoolers to adults, helping them successfully transition to a productive new life.
For more on the region’s health system, see Healthcare chapter.