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What You Should Know About Living in Fort Lauderdale

aerial view of water and buildings in Fort Lauderdale

Your future includes moving to Fort Lauderdale, and you're thinking: What is this place REALLY like? You've heard stories about alligators in pools and spring break shenanigans, but what is living in Fort Lauderdale really like?

More than 180,000 people make Fort Lauderdale their home, and Broward County has a total of 1.93 million residents. Add the 2.75 million people in Miami-Dade County, less than an hour to the south, and the 1.47 million people in Palm Beach County to the north, and you realize that Fort Lauderdale is in the heart of a thriving and exciting metro area.

That means you can find music and art, professional sports, sophisticated shopping and all kinds of recreation just a short drive away. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts downtown presents touring Broadway shows, concerts and local productions. Small theater companies and smaller venues also are host to musicians, plays and other cultural events.  The BB&T Center arena to the west is the site of major concerts as well as the Florida Panthers Hockey team.

If you're thinking about or planning a move to Fort Lauderdale, here are some things to know.

Fort Lauderdale is just one of 31 municipalities in Broward County

Fort Lauderdale is the seat of county government, and it is home to a number of cultural venues, including the Broward Center and the Parker Playhouse. If you're looking for a hipster downtown lifestyle or a condo on the beach, you may want to choose Fort Lauderdale – providing you can afford it. The city also has a number of attractive single-family-home neighborhoods. But if you're looking for big yards, the best schools, a place to ride horses or a more suburban environment, you might prefer some of the suburbs to the west, such as Coral Springs, Weston, Plantation or Pembroke Pines.

You can (and should) hang out at a beach bar

view of the beach from Bamboo Beach Club & Tiki Bar in Fort Lauderdale
Image via Bamboo Beach Club & Tiki Bar/Facebook

Fort Lauderdale Beach is part of the city of Fort Lauderdale, and it's not the only place where you can enjoy a drink with your toes in the sand, or very close to it. The Bamboo Beach Club & Tiki Bar bills itself as the only tiki hut bar on Fort Lauderdale Beach. It's a spot for sports enthusiasts as well as beach lovers. The Aruba Beach Café in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and the Ocean Grill in Pompano Beach are popular oceanfront eateries. And, yes, the Elbo Room, which appeared in the 1960 spring break movie "Where the Boys Are," is still operating. Insider tip: You can also find some great bars and restaurants overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, on the west of the barrier island and the east side of the mainland.

Traffic matters, and there is a lot of it

cars in a row in traffic

When you're choosing a place to live, keep in mind where you will need to go, and at what times of day. The west-to-east commute is difficult in the mornings, and the east-to-west commute is difficult in the evenings. The north-to-south commute is difficult both times. A 10-mile drive to work or school can easily take an hour. Florida's Turnpike is one of the major local commuter roads, and you'll want to get a SunPass for the automatic toll gates. Using GPS apps, even when you know where you're going, can help you avoid the biggest traffic tie-ups.

Each Florida county is a school district

Unlike many states, Florida does not have small city school districts. That doesn't mean, sadly, that all schools in Broward County are equal, but they are all part of one big school district. You can find out which schools serve different neighborhoods by entering an address on the school district's locator page.

You can’t fight Mother Nature

Florida presents both the best and the worst of the natural world. Fort Lauderdale does indeed have giant flying cockroaches, iguanas and alligators, but it also has miles of coastline and beautiful beaches, as well as lakes, rivers and multitudes of flower trees and plants. Broward County, Fort Lauderdale and the other cities have a plethora of public parks, offering canoeing, kayaking, camping, nature trails and activities. You'll be so much happier if you embrace the bounty of Florida nature rather than fight it. If you're a gardener, you will love Florida, though note that the vegetable growing season is in winter. If you're trying to avoid mosquitoes, stay inside at dusk.

You will never run out of things to do

couple dancing outside at Fort Lauderdale
Image via Visit Fort Lauderdale/Facebook

It's easy to think of Fort Lauderdale as being in Miami's shadow. But Fort Lauderdale and the rest of Broward County have a vibrant culture life. We have film festivals, food festivals and performing arts center in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Coral Springs, Pembroke Pines and Lauderhill. Many cities put on free evening concerts. Ethnic festivals abound (reflecting Broward County's diversity of cultures), and the number of neighborhood art walks is growing. Add to that the opportunities for outdoor sports and recreation, and your list of places to go and things to do will grow longer than you could ever imagine.

When you're ready to make a move, keep your new space clutter-free with the help of Fort Lauderdale self storage and enjoy getting to know your new city.

About the author

Teresa Mears

Teresa Mears is a website publisher, writer, blogger and editor in South Florida who was raised to be frugal. After working as a newspaper reporter and editor, she moved her career online. In addition to running Miami On The Cheap, Florida On The Cheap, Fort Lauderdale On The Cheap, Palm Beach On The Cheap, Living on the Cheap and other websites, she writes about personal finance for U.S. News & World Report and other publications.

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