Fort Lauderdale Beach: The Strip
Drive time from Downtown Miami: 40 minutes
Why it's worth the trip: A lower-key beach scene with a dose of the raging '80s
Miami is cool... until last call, then the lights come up to reveal too much truth: the drink-stained carpets, the "surgical enhancements," the bar tab so steep you'd swear it's in pesos. Nearby Fort Lauderdale provides the antidote with a dose of normalcy.
The city once renowned for spring break debauchery and wet T-shirt contests is now renowned for its yachting industry. And its once-seedy, mile-long strip along Fort Lauderdale Beach has transformed into a just-right mix of working-class watering holes, mom-and-pop ice cream shops, and fancy hotels. In the daytime, it's a family-friendly destination with lifeguards and body surfing. Nights and weekends, it's a people-watching bonanza, with jugglers, souses, and flip-flopped cuties from all over the world bar-hopping. The beach's ground zero: the Elbo Room, made famous in the '60s film Where the Boys Are.