Book the morning cruise on the Jungle Queen, one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Sailing out of Bahia Mar Yachting Center at 11 am, you'll understand why Fort Lauderdale is "The Venice of America" as you drool over mega yachts and mansions and explore New River where the city began at the turn of the 20th century.
Drive up A1A, passing the Elbo Room, the perennial spring break favorite, and Fort Lauderdale's iconic beach. When you reach Oakland Park Boulevard, turn left towards the Intracoastal Waterway to lunch at at the laid-back Shooters, a waterside favorite since the 1980s. Dining (and drinking) with a water view is a longtime Lauderdale tradition. As you lunch on burgers, an apple-brie chicken sandwich or fresh mahi mahi, you can watch the yachts cruise by - or pull up at the Shooters 340-foot (104 m) dock.
After lunch, return to A1A and go south to Sunrise for a stroll in the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park which has nature trails, a spectacular walk along the Intracoastal and the home of the man who created a resort from the wilderness. Terramar, Birch's house, is now the visitors' center. For a better feel of how luxurious resort living could be before AC, go across Sunrise to the Bonnet House, a beautifully landscaped 1920s estate and one of the first buildings on the beach. Birch gave the land to his daughter as a wedding present. Check to see if any concerts are scheduled in the garden.
Return to the hotel for a close-up view of a Fort Lauderdale historical site you heard about on your river cruise. Right around the corner is Stranahan House, the Seminole trading post Frank Stranahan established on New River at the turn of the 20th century. It is now a museum with guided tours in the afternoons.
Catch the Polynesian dinner show at the Mai Kai, a kitschy but incredibly entertaining tiki heaven since 1956. No water views, but you'll feel you're cast away on a Pacific atoll. After, you can always swing by Wilton Drive to hit more contemporary hot spots in Wilton Manors that has made its own history since the 1980s as a gay-centric community.