Fort Lauderdale Las Olas Blvd.
Boulevard St. Germain in Paris, New York's Fifth Avenue, Rodeo Drive in Beverly
Hills...Every great city has a particular place where the chic shop, fashion trends are set, strolling window shoppers chat in a
dozen languages, and visitors young and old gather to please their palates, to be entertained and delighted.
So, make way for the latest place to be, the newest of the "great streets" -- Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. Appropriately
named (Las Olas means "the waves" in Spanish), this city's most charming street is suddenly at the forefront of everything from
fashion boutiques and art galleries to world-class cuisine, sidewalk cafes and jazz houses.
Like many American neighborhoods undergoing a renaissance, Las Olas is not actually new; the elegant, newly expanded 220-room
Riverside Hotel, a destination landmark, has been entertaining Broward County's movers and shakers since 1936 and Fort Lauderdale's
old money still gathers there to be pampered with gracious hospitality. The hotel recently transformed its restaurants, to include an
outdoor dining area and two new restaurants, Indigo, an Indonesian dining experience and The Grill Room.
Even older, the historic Stranahan House, just steps away from the Riverside Hotel, built in 1901 as a home and trading post by one
of the region's pioneers, dates back to when much of South Florida was still uninhabited swamp. Here the Seminole trappers came to
sell their pelts, spending the night sleeping under the stars on the porch that surrounds the house before trekking back into the
wilds of the Everglades.
Here too, Frank Stranahan planted the seeds of a community that today boasts a population of 1.5 million. The Stranahan House is now
a museum with exhibits and furnishings of the turn-of-the-century.
Running almost parallel to Fort Lauderdale's New River on its way to the Atlantic Ocean, Las Olas is a broad avenue divided by a
wide, landscaped median of flowers and towering shade trees. To the east is Fort Lauderdale's famed beachfront with its $26-million
promenade. Las Olas' western most point is anchored by the Museum of Art and gateway to a downtown area of cultural activity known as
the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District featuring Las Olas Riverfront, Fort Lauderdale Historical Museum, the Museum of
Discovery & Science/Blockbuster IMAX 3D Theater, the Broward Center for the Performing Arts plus many dining and nightlife
Along the way toward the ocean, one encounters the picturesque "finger islands," snug, block-long residential communities that harbor
luxury homes and yachts. The visitor in the know will also find a selection of intimate, 50-room or less, owner-operated hotels --
like the ten-room Banyan Marina on the Isle of Venice -- that belong to the destination's Superior Small Lodging program that offers,
under the banner "guaranteed quality and personalized service," accommodations in distinctive settings.
On the main, Las Olas Boulevard presents the elegance of the area's glamorous origins; the architecture of its shops, restaurants and
cafes are a rich reflection of South Florida's Spanish heritage. Horse-drawn carriages still transport sightseers and shoppers from
one end of the boulevard to the other. But don't be fooled by Las Olas' historic charm; this center of entertainment, dining and
shopping for Greater Fort Lauderdale is also on the cutting edge.
From morning until far past moonlight, young people, old people, visitors from the capitals of Europe as well as the small towns of
America gather here to enjoy the sidewalk cafes and restaurants of Las Olas.
Given its weather, one might assume that dining and entertainment al fresco has been a fixture in South Florida. In fact, it has only
been recently that locals and visitors in Fort Lauderdale have adopted a lifestyle that Europeans have thrived on for generations.
O'Hara's Pub, with its nightly jazz entertainment, and Sidewalk Café began the trend on Las Olas. Shortly after, others followed
suit, like Mangos which offers a perfect viewing spot to watch the parade of shoppers, window watchers and boulevard strollers.
Indoors or out, Las Olas Boulevard has a restaurant to treat any taste and a cuisine to please any palate. The boulevard is the home
of Mark's Las Olas, featuring the trendsetting 'Floribbean' cuisine of award-winning South Florida chef Mark Militello. Contributing
to the continental ambiance are Brasserie, Jackson's, Le Café de Paris, Las Olas Café, La Bonne Crepe Café and The French Quarter,
while Timpano satisfies the appetites of diners yearning for Italian and Samba Room specializes in Latin dishes. For those with a yen
for Japanese cuisine -- raw or cooked -- the Japanese Village offers a variety of fine dishes just like Mama-san used to make. Man
does not live by vinegared rice alone, so for a meal with a taste a little closer to home, Cheeburger, Cheeburger offers that most
American of sandwiches along with a selection of traditional accompaniments like fries, onion rings and milk shakes. Or stop into
Café Europa for a refreshing iced cappuccino and dessert.
From classy thrift shops to designer fashions, the shopping scene is another major reason Las Olas has become South Florida's newest
old place to be. While many of the "shops of Las Olas" offer the very latest in men's and women's fashions, such as Moda Mario for
men and Zola Keller for women, the boulevard also offers antique shops that feature everything from collectibles to investment-
quality pieces; art galleries, including the New River Gallery, Call of Africa, and Shades of Light Gallery, feature subjects ranging
from wildlife to one-of-a-kind lamps to fine examples of Haitian and African art.