I just read the following:
The city of Fort Lauderdale is preparing to go on a major spending spree in the latest effort to revamp the beach and ensure its future as a tourist destination.
As much as $63 million could be spent on a high-style makeover that also broadens the beach's appeal beyond simply sand, surf and sun. The expansion and remodeling of the International Swimming Hall of Fame is one possible target for aid. Other possibilities include a fishing pier, a more-impressive entrance to the beach, more public parking and a wider promenade on State Road A1A.
Actually, I'm not sure exactly how they'd spend that on the beach. My collegue, FtLauderdaleSun on Twitter, walks the beach every morning at sunrise. I've done that countless times too. Our beach is beautiful.
So they are going to spent money on the Swimming Hall of Fame. I like swimming. Lots of people like swimming, but let me tell you a secret - I have lived in Fort Lauderdale for sixteen years and I've never once been tempted to go to a swimming hall of fame. And if I had been, I would hardly be likely to go there again. I'm not really sure why 'they' think it's a tourist attraction.
Is a fishing pier a tourist attraction? I'm not the one to judge because I don't fish. Is that strange of me? Oddly, I don't think that a more impressive entrance to the beach would have a great deal of effect on me - or tourists either, actually.
The article goes on to say that the beach isn't family-friendly. The beach itself is very family friendly, actually. The Parks and Recreation department (I think) have people on the beach before dawn making sure it's clean and wonderful. I've spent time on the beach with my little granddaughter and it's lovely. Yes, it would be great if bathroom facilities were a little better and if we could be served food and drink on the beach it would be perfect, but it's certainly better than the Swimming Hall of Fame for spending time with the kids.
Here's another quote from the article, from a member of the public:
"If you're here with a family, it would be tough because there is not much to do other than the beach.''
Ahem. I'd firstly like to point out that for most kids, 'the beach' is what they want. Or are they suggesting that we have slot machines, bouncy castles, a roller coaster and MacDonald's on the beach? When I was a kid - a very long time ago admittedly - if we were at the beach, what more did we want? Nothing. Swim, surf, play in the sand, watch for birdlife, paddle, snorkel, sunbathe, watch the boats go by, build sandcastles ... that's what we did. Are kids today so spoiled that they don't do that? Then leave them in the hotel room watching TV if that's what they really want.
Secondly, right on A1A is the start of the most fantastic street. Did you know that? Up on Las Olas, and remember that Las Olas starts at the beach hence its name, we are very family friendly. If you don't want to walk up to the heart of Las Olas, get here by water taxi. Even the most jaded kids like a boat ride. The walk is lovely though. Walk over the bridge admiring the view of the intracoastal and all the magnificent boats. As you walk along the boulevard past the finger islands, you'll see even more boats moored outside the multimillion dollar homes.
When you get to where the shops start, call in at Barbara Young Bake Shop and have a coffee and some juice for the kids. Be prepared to get your wallet out though as they will certainly want some of the baked treats there. Continue west - it must be getting near lunchtime now. Most of our restaurants are kid-friendly - I bet if I asked ten kids their favourite food, nine would say 'pizza'. Well, Las Olas is a pizza-lover's dream. Or try the Floridian diner for great value; every kid will find something they like on the huge menu. (And so will mom and dad). Kids will love the drama of the flaming cheese at Trata Greek Taverna. Your kids like Mexican, Chinese, American, French, Thai, sushi? We have them all.
Most kids I know are fascinated with the ghost world - they love all things spooky! The Stranahan House is said to be haunted. Frank Stranahan, who built the house in the early 1900s, drowned himself in the river just outside the house and his ghost is said to linger on. Kids adore gory things like that. Take them ghost hunting at the house - far more interesting than than the TV. Take the earliest tour at 1pm.
After that, walk along the side of the river until you get to the Museum of Discovery and Science. The exhibitions and activities there would keep most kids occupied for days, let alone hours. And there's the IMAX theatre too. Just a little further west is the Broward Center for the Perforning Arts which often has kid-friendly shows. Check out our local art house theatre, Cinema Paradiso, too. They often have free films and events for kids.
Stroll back to the boulevard afterwards and eat at Mangos. This restaurant is a favourite with locals. They have live music most evenings which teens will love. Younger kids too - my nephew, then aged three, headed straight for the dance floor. Treat the kids - and yourself - to chocolate or ice cream from one of our three chocolate stores on the boulevard.
Even our stores are kid-friendly. I always take visiting children to the Seldom Seen Gallery - kids love to see the weird and wonderful goods on display there.
At the end of the evening, the water taxi back to your hotel makes a relaxing finale to a great day.
'The family', by the way, often includes granny and granddad (or even the greats) and believe me, we grandparents are also amply catered for on Las Olas - a true family venue.
Now if I was in charge of that $63 million (I wish!) I'd make sure that a measly little million or so was diverted to Las Olas Boulevard. We have the sun trolley to bring people from the beach to the boulevard but this needs to be promoted more. Or maybe it's time for a new free shuttle service to bring people from the beach to enjoy all we have to offer here? Maybe 'they' need to stop saying that Las Olas is a 'ritzy, swanky and upscale' area and tell visitors what we really have on Las Olas?
Yes, we have some great boutiques, antique shops, expensive retaurants and places where you can spend a lot of money but we're also very family-friendly. If I saw a place described as 'swanky' and 'trendy' and all those other silly words people use to describe our boulevard, I wouldn't consider it a kid-friendly place, would you? Maybe some of that enormous fortune can be diverted towards letting people know the truth about Las Olas? A fortune, by the way that - according to the article anyway - comes from the taxpayer. Um ... me.
Here's what the city of Fort Lauderdale's website says about Las Olas:
Known as the shoppers' paradise. Where else can you find such a wide variety of quality stores? And the ambience of the boulevard makes shopping even more of a pleasure. Have a leisurely brunch at a sidewalk café, browse and shop at fabulous boutiques, galleries, specialty stores and fabulous fashion houses and then spend a romantic evening dining at one of Las Olas' many wonderful restaurants!
Take a leisurely stroll, people watch, sip a cappuccino at an outdoor cafe or shop the chic boutiques along Las Olas Boulevard, a sophisticated mile of fashion, art and sidewalk cafes.
Does that sound family-friendly to you? It doesn't to me. And incidentally, I'm slightly surprised that they don't know that from number one East Las Olas (the Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale) to the Elbo Room (at the eastern end of Las Olas where it meets the beach) is 2.6 miles (according to Google maps) and not "a sophisticated mile". Just a bit of copywriting on the website could make all the difference to the illusion people have that the beach area isn't family-friendly. This could be done in ten minutes. No need to spend a penny of that $63 million.
Oh and by the way, I have no political affilations or agenda - I just love Las Olas and would like others to know just what we've got here for ALL the family.