Greater Fort Lauderdale is a paradise for automobile tourists

One can cruise along the sunny seacoast. Or drive the variegated streets of this South Florida community, from the modern downtown area to the quaint, and oh-so-chic, shops area of Las Olas Boulevard. One can steer silently beside canals where manatees play or even the everglades with its colorful birds and other wildlife.

The maximum speed limit on the expressways of Greater Fort Lauderdale is 55 to 65 mph. Drivers must wear seatbelts. So, too, must passengers in the front seat. Children three years old and younger must ride in child-restraint seats in either the back seat or the front seat. Children four or five years old must be in a child-restraint seat or a seat belt in either the back seat or the front seat.

Traffic in Fort Lauderdale usually moves smoothly, facilitated in part by the freedom given to drivers to make right turns at red lights after coming to a complete stop. Certain intersections do not qualify for the right-turn-after-red rule and are identified by signs. At these locations, drivers must wait for the traffic lights to signal them on.

The logic behind the layout and designations of streets (streets, courts, lanes, etc.) in Greater Fort Lauderdale is precise but, when described in detail to a newcomer, also overwhelming. There are, however, certain fundamental facts that one must know in order to get around.

If one is driving in a north-south direction, one will be traversing an "avenue," or perhaps a "drive." Or a highway.

One travels east and west, however, by means of a "street" or a "boulevard" or a road.

There is more to Fort Lauderdale's street naming conventions, which one can learn after a little experience with the area.

The charm of the Fort Lauderdale area also carries with it the seeds of a transportation problem. Countless canals, lakes, and other waterways crop up everywhere in this "Venice of America." Unlike in many other regions, a driver usually cannot just point his or her car in a particular direction and expect to get very far. Inevitably, a picturesque waterway of one sort or another will bar one's path.

This problem is solved by learning the list of major east-west and north-south highways, a task every Fort Lauderdale driver -- resident and visitor alike -- accomplishes early.

If one is traveling in a north-south direction, Highway A1A can transport one gracefully and slowly in a winding path along the ocean's edge. A little to the west, the straighter, faster U.S. 1 is available, running through a continuously commercial area. Further west is I-95, with its curving exit ramps and speeding flow of steel bodies, slowed to a stall at rush hour. Further west yet is the north-south portion of I-75, which bends into an east-west direction after traveling northward from Hallandale to Plantation. Next reached in a westerly direction is the Florida Turnpike, which requires the payment of a toll. Westernmost of the north-south expressways, and also requiring a toll, is the Sawgrass Expressway, which begins in Plantation, where the north-pointing segment of I-75 ends, and reaches as far north as Deerfield Beach before veering into an easterly direction.

East-west travelers in the southern area of Greater Fort Lauderdale use Hallandale Beach Boulevard from the ocean's edge, which transforms in name as it speeds west, to become Hallandale Parkway. Next northward among the major east-west streets is Hollywood Boulevard, then more northward, Sheridan Street, still in Hollywood.

Farther north is Dania's Griffin Road. Just north of this is I-595, which travels roughly east-west (more exactly southest-northwest) and changes its name to I-75 when it reaches the western region of Greater Fort Lauderdale.

This is followed, in order northward, by the east-west moving Davie Boulevard, Broward Boulevard, Las Olas Boulevard, Sunrise Boulevard, Oakland Park Boulevard, and Commercial Boulevard, all in Fort Lauderdale. Then by Atlantic Boulevard, Copans Road, and Sample Road in Pompano Beach. Next northward is the east-west segment of the Sawgrass Expressway, then Hillsboro Boulevard, both in Deerfield Beach.

In the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, one pays the six percent sales tax on purchases and restaurant meals that is typical of most U.S. cities. This tax does not apply, however, to groceries or medicines. An additional three percent tax is paid on tourist accommodations.

Restaurants in Fort Lauderdale usually do not add a gratuity to the bill. One can leave a tip of 15 percent for service of good quality or 20 percent for excellent service.

The normal tip for doormen and parking attendants, as well as for valets, is 1 dollar.

The tip for a taxi ride is the same as for a restaurant meal; that is, 15-20 percent.

The Fort Lauderdale weather is the envy of the nation. The average temperature throughout the year is between 71 degrees Farenheit and 90 degrees Farenheit. Winter temperatures are usually in the mid-70s, though an occasional cooler spell does come along. The visibility condition to be expected is--sunny.

It's easy to underestimate the power of the sun when one is eager to tan. The best approach is patience and preparedness. More than ten or fifteen minutes of horizontal, largely bare exposure to the midday sun is an experience one will not want to repeat.

Sunscreen is generally recommended. The SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of a sunscreen signifies how many times longer one can stay in the sun with the sunscreen than without it.

Fort Lauderdale excels at making everyone feel at home. There are places throughout the area for every type of clothing--from casual shorts and shirt or blouse to the most formal attire.

Usually, Fort Lauderdale visitors and residents choose to dress informally. But one will need a jacket or a dress for the more exclusive restaurants or the more formal hotels. And in the winter, the temperature might even dip down below 70 degrees Farenheit, so one should pack a light jacket or sweater.

As in most resort areas, one should wear swimming suits only at swimming areas.

Traveling with athletic equipment can be awkward. In Greater Fort Lauderdale, one can often rent golf equipment or diving gear.


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