Hollywood, FL…Who knew?!
We recently spent a family vacation laying low in sunny Florida and I am back relaxed, tanned, and with a million good things to say about Hollywood, the often overlooked city smack dab between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. Whether you are looking to spend a week at the beach, or just need to find the perfect spot for an overnight stay before a cruise leaving from the Port of Miami or Port Everglades, Hollywood fits the bill. I always recommend to cruising clients that they arrive to their embarkation city a day early, and from now on, I will definitely be adding a few choice hotels in Hollywood on my list of recommendations, especially for families.
The beach in Hollywood is the same gorgeous coast found in Fort Lauderdale or down on South Beach but with less people, more laughing kiddoes, and more family friendly bathing suits than you will find in Miami. There are private beach areas owned by resorts and condomuniums – the area in front of the Westin Diplomat has waiter service, a kids play area, and lounge chairs/umbrellas for guests. But there are huge stretches of public beaches as well – some especially festive areas are around the Hollywood Boardwalk.
The Boardwalk is made up of beach front shops, ice cream stands, and restaurants, with a sprinkling of playground equipment. Not to be missed is the Hollywood Beach Theatre that features music on weekends from a variety of performers and occasionally a Family Fun show. I enjoyed watching a few couples dancing together to the one man show and my son loved showing us his moves. Each Monday the Theater Under The Stars Series features music from the Big Band Era. Tuesday Dancing Under the Moonlight Series highlights line dancing and audience participation. Wednesdays, the On The Broadwalk Concert Series presents a variety of entertainers from country and classic rock to rhythm and blues. A schedule for the theatre can be found here.
Another great outing (when you aren’t soaking up the sun and sand) is at ArtsPark. The ArtsPark is located in Youngs Circle towards “downtown” Hollywood. This Park features the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood. This is the perfect place to spend some adult time with modern art exhibitions and progressive dance and musical performances. For families, they have a great playground with an interactive fountain kids can keep busy in for hours. If they tire of the water, there are great play structures and awesome trees for climbing (for the bigger kids). The Hollywood City website describes the playground,
The Children’s Play Area offers creative playground equipment, manufactured in Europe, with names like The Beans, The Dishes, Cat Tails, and Space Net in a well-designed, safe area. Using multiple colors of changing surface materials poured in geometric shapes — from natural grass, to textured and fossilized, to soft and colorful — this area is a sensory environment for dynamic movement engaging the imagination and creativity of children and adults. Embossed shapes in the concrete riser are there for children to trace.
After you spend some time in ArtsPark, be sure to hit up downtown Hollywood, the walkable streets offer six blocks of unique boutiques, shops, art galleries and dozens of excellent restaurants. For those travelling without kids, the bar scene comes alive here in downtown Hollywood after dark. We enjoyed A La Turca (amazing!) and Pizza Rustica (good pizza, great prices) while on our vacation. Downtown offers something for every palette at every price point.
One of my favorite things about Hollywood, was the city-wide old fashioned trolley car. For $1 each way, you can make it from the outskirts to the boardwalk or the boardlwalk out to downtown. One our first full day in Florida, we spent one afternoon riding the trolley around the whole loop, hopping off in each location and exploring. Later, we used it as our main source of transportation once we knew where we wanted to go for our meals and activities. The drivers were so pleasant and helpful and knew a lot about the city (and all sorts of interesting topics!).
The last thing to cover – the accomodations. One thing I really liked about Hollywood was that there was a great lodging option at every price point. There were kitschy motels right on the ocean- try Driftwood Motel or complete apartment-style rooms within walking distance of the Boardwalk – Marine Villas is rated the number one location on Trip Advisor! If you are looking for luxury, the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa will not disappoint, the pool is amazing, the dining options are all scrumptious and the daily activities will keep you and your kids busy the whole vacation through. For a taste of luxury on a budget, I recommend the Crown Plaza. Its one block from the beach with the amenities you would expect from a four-star property. The infinity pool pours into the Inter-coastal Waterway and the drinks by the pool don’t disappoint.
So, the next time you are heading to Florida, I would avoid the party-scene in Miami, or the prices in Fort Lauderdale and give Hollywood a try. This awesome little city does not disappoint.
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