Exploring Fort Lauderdale’s opulence |

Fort Lauderdale has elegance but with a nice sea breeze and a small town feel.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Chuck’s Big Adventure is traveling to Florida. His adventure will take him to some amazing beaches, beautiful homes, mermaid encounters and the fountain of youth.

Fort Lauderdale

If I say, “Fort Lauderdale” – what comes to mind?

Your answer may be related to your age. 

If you are a baby boomer, then, without question, the famous 1960 Connie Francis film, “Where The Boys Are,” may be top of mind. You remember that film, don’t you? Four college girls went to spring break only to discover the perils of parties, too much alcohol and looking for love in all the wrong places.

For others, it may be an upscale vacation destination, free of the crazy nightlife of Miami but still jam-packed with enough potential vacation memories for a lifetime.

Fort Lauderdale has changed. A lot. Gone are the nine people to a room spring break days. The shabby beachfront hotels have been replaced with luxury lodging like the Ritz Carlton and the W hotel. Gone too, are many of the small homes that lined along Fort Lauderdale’s many canals. They have been replaced not only with multimillion dollar homes, but yachts, even more expensive than the homes they are docked next to.

Ryan Park makes his living taking people on the famous Water Taxi tour of these magnificent homes and yachts, giving guests a rare look at life for the 1% of the 1%.

“Fort Lauderdale is such a small city, it really is for the volume. From this side of it, really, it’s so hard to see. It’s like a small gem just sitting right in the middle of it downtown,” Park said.

According to Park, people are absolutely shocked at the opulence here, and there are some obvious questions everyone asks.

“Some of the obvious ones are going to be, ‘How much are some of these properties worth?’ That’s one of the biggest ones because, I mean, we’ll have houses anywhere from $20 to $50+ million,” Park said. “Some of the yacht brands, they will vary. We’ll get, all sizes of yachts, $300+ million sometimes in the port. These yachts are $100, $200+ million. We’ll drive right by them. It really is an awesome experience.”

Haven’t been to the city in years? Be prepared. Many of the homes here for nearly 100 years are gone. Park said it’s part of the ever changing, ever more expensive Fort Lauderdale.

“Some of the properties we’re looking at now five years ago weren’t even standing here at all. They get knocked down and built new again,” Park said. “It’s just really amazing to see these.”

The homes are such a shock to the senses that they have to be seen to be believed. The yachts, however, garner the most questions, especially since some of them take $1 million to $2 million a year just for upkeep.

“Currently, there’s a lot of famous yachts we’ll see come in town because a lot of the big yachts or charter boats are not run everyday by the owner. So they’ll come down to Fort Lauderdale. We’re one of the yachting capitals of the world,” Park said. “They come down here just to be chartered out, going down to the Caribbean islands, the Bahamas. You’ll see we’ve had Steven Spielberg’s yacht, J.K. Rowling’s yacht – she bought it from Nicolas Cage back in the day.”

Why have so many wealthy people flocked here? No state income tax is a huge draw, but so is the fact that Fort Lauderdale is truly the best of both worlds — unrivaled elegance but with a nice sea breeze and a small town feel within a big city. There are restaurants, wonderful boutiques and lodging just a short walk from the Atlantic Ocean.

Our Chuck’s Big Adventure team loved the two-hour Water Taxi tour, seeing the homes of famous people and the 20-staff yachts they docked, but also seeing areas where “Cape Fear,” “Scarface,” “There’s Something About Mary” and other famous films were shot. 

We also enjoyed the quiet and wonderful Gondola rides that fit right in with the “Venice in America” theme that the city works so hard to maintain. 

From the huge decks of the water taxi to the small, intimate gondolas, the downtown area is a treat for star-crossed lovers enjoying the beauty and the elegance of this south Florida legendary community.

Absolutely, but unlike in “Where The Boys Are,” I’ll have to pack some extra cash. Nobody is allowing nine in a room anymore.

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