A Fort Lauderdale Classic

The Lago Mar Resort & Club has a long history of beach-meets-big-city refinement.

Fort Lauderdale, with its golden beaches, crystal waters and swaying palm trees, reminds me of a classic scene from a postcard. Indeed, this city on Florida's southeast coast proves time and again that it has three key ingredients that make it the perfect luxury getaway: plenty of shopping, delectable cuisine and relaxing resorts.

On a recent trip, I browsed designer boutiques on Las Olas Boulevard and savored succulent scallops at a chic restaurant. And just minutes from the lively city scene, I found the ultimate place to relax: the award-winning Lago Mar Resort & Club, a boutique-style hotel on the Atlantic Ocean.

In a city with a changing landscape, this family-owned resort is a Fort Lauderdale gem with a long history of beach-meets-big-city refinement.

Unwinding in Style

Surrounded by lush gardens and sandy beaches in a tony residential area, Lago Mar is a tropical oasis. The hotel has been in the Banks family for three generations.

Today, the founder's son, Walter Banks, runs the resort with help from his son and daughter. Their personal touches are seen throughout the casual yet elegant resort, which blends upscale style with authentic Florida charm. The lobby features exquisite mosaics, a limestone hearth, an aquarium and a brass chandelier shaped like a pineapple.

The AAA Four Diamond property is consistently rated as one of the best resorts by Zagat. Because the resort has just 204 rooms and suites, employees are able to offer personalized service to guests, making it feel more like a private club. Here, it's common for a resort server to remember your name – and your drink preference.

I took advantage of the valet before heading upstairs to my spacious suite, which featured a balcony, pillow-top mattress and Tommy Bahama-inspired furniture.

The weather was beautiful, so I kicked back in a lounge chair by one of the resort's two swimming pools and ordered a cool drink from a poolside server. Surrounded by palm trees and orchids, I felt like I was in the islands.

As I strolled the walkway to the resort's private beach (the largest in Fort Lauderdale with 500 feet of sand stretching into the Atlantic Ocean), I passed recreation options for everyone – a putting course, a giant outdoor chessboard, tennis courts, shuffleboard and a playground.

For a truly relaxing experience, the resort also features a full-service spa with six treatment rooms and a state-of-the-art fitness center.

Though secluded, Lago Mar is still conveniently located to the area's notable attractions.

Retail Therapy

Lago Mar is a tropical haven, and another type of paradise awaits its guests: shopping. With boutiques, art galleries and specialty shops galore, Fort Lauderdale is the place to indulge in retail therapy.

At Lago Mar, The Resort Shop is a sophisticated boutique that offers names including Lilly Pulitzer, Tommy Bahama and Brighton. Pick up a chic bikini, fine costume jewelry or Costa Del Mar sunglasses. The shop even has a special children's room with sandals, T-shirts and toys.

In the heart of Fort Lauderdale lies Las Olas Boulevard, a charming riverfront thoroughfare with boutiques, galleries and sidewalk cafes. I perused Vogue Couture for Gucci and Dior sunglasses and other designer fashions such as Just Cavalli. At Grand Central Stationery, I found an eclectic gift – a mermaid bottle opener.

For a sweet treat (and a heavenly aroma), don't miss Galler, a Belgian chocolate and Italian gelato shop.

Another popular option, The Galleria Mall, offers world-class shopping just steps from the beach. Stores include Swarovski, J. Crew, Pottery Barn and more.

Sophisticated Tastes

Discerning palates find bliss within this city's eclectic restaurants, and resort guests don't even need to venture off property.

At Acquario, the hotel's signature fine-dining restaurant, take a "trip" to northern Italy with homemade risotto and seafood. Acquario also serves Black Angus steaks and Tuscan potato soufflés.

For breakfast, I had an oatmeal muffin from the resort's Soda Shop, which offers everything from cafe lattes to Hawaiian pizza. Or guests can indulge with a gourmet buffet at the resort or lunch at the beachfront Ocean Grill or Promenade Bar.

If exploring is in your veins, stroll Las Olas Boulevard to Mark's Las Olas or Johnny V, a sleek spot known for bold cuisine and acclaimed chef, Johnny Vinczencz.

I checked out Mango's Restaurant & Lounge, where a live band had the dance floor hopping. Other popular nightspots include the cozy Trina Restaurant & Lounge and Nikki Marina, a Hollywood restaurant that turns into a nightclub as DJs spin house, dance and other tracks.

Feet aching, but still smiling, I returned to Lago Mar – the perfect place to rest, day and night.

For more information on planning a luxury getaway to Lago Mar Resort & Club, call 800-LAGOMAR or visit www.lagomar.com.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners


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