Whether you prefer your sporting activities on terra firma or want to spend an entire day on the water, Fort Lauderdale delivers. The sun-soaked city's proximity to the only extensive living reef in the continental U.S., the fish-packed waters of the aquamarine Atlantic and the stadium hosting 2010's biggest football events equals a sports enthusiast's dream destination.
The Big Games
Greater Fort Lauderdale provides a chic, affordable lineup of hotel choices just a few miles north of Dolphin Stadium, the venue for the National Football League's hottest tickets this year. On Jan. 31, the NFL's top stars face off in the Pro Bowl, and it's the first time since 1980 that a stadium outside Honolulu is hosting. Super Bowl XLIV follows on Feb. 7, packing in more than 75,000 fans for its record-setting 10th appearance in South Florida.
A three-tiered living coral reef system that comes within 100 yards of shore combined with more than 100 dive sites that have permanent mooring buoys makes Greater Fort Lauderdale one of the top dive destinations in the U.S. Excellent wreck dives cater to all levels, from the Copenhagen (15-30 feet), a State Marine Archeological Preserve, to the 130 foot-deep Jim Atria, with soft corals dotting its hull. The most accessible beach diving/snorkeling is found south of the fishing pier in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, an easy paddle from the sand.
On the Water
Leaving shore provides a fresh perspective on the 23 miles of palm-fringed, Blue Wave-certified beaches hugging the coastline and the 300 miles of waterways that have earned Fort Lauderdale the nickname "Venice of America." Area marinas from Deerfield Beach to Hallandale offer everything from yacht charters and sunset sails to WaveRunner rentals. For the ultimate bird's-eye view, try parasailing 300 feet above the Atlantic.
Catch of the Day
Deep-sea fishing fleets operate all along the coast, giving anglers a shot at a winter-season bounty that includes blue marlin, blackfin tuna and shark. It's also possible to cast lines from municipal fishing piers in Deerfield Beach (good for king mackerel), Pompano (snapper, pompano), Lauderdale-By-The-Sea (snook, mackerel) and Dania Beach (blue runners, snapper). Added bait: There are more than 200 species of freshwater fish in the county's lakes.
Off the Beaten Path
John U. Lloyd Beach State Park – located south of Port Everglades, Fort Lauderdale's cruise-ship nexus – rents canoes and kayaks for quiet exploration of the area's mangrove-lined waterways. The park provides sanctuary to wading birds, sea turtles and endangered manatees. Farther south, Hollywood's West Lake Park also caters to paddlers, with three different trails following brackish tidal channels through the mangroves.
Complement outdoor activity with a visit to The Museum of Art-Fort Lauderdale to see "American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell." On display through Feb. 7, 2010, the exhibition spans the artist's 65-year career and includes some of his most iconic oil paintings. Athletic fans should check out the showcase of all 323 of Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers, where they'll find football, baseball, swimming, fishing and other sporting pursuits represented in the visual mix.
This article is brought to you by the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. For more information about Greater Fort Lauderdale, visit www.sunny.org.