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Fort Lauderdale provides a respite for convention attendees

By eijnews

By Yasmeen Smalley
The Working Press

The Jungle Queen cruise boat waits at the dock to go out on the afternoon cruise tour.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

With every Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) convention comes a new location. This year’s event provides journalists the opportunity to network while also enjoying a sunny locale. Whether you plan on returning home with souvenirs or sunburn, there are plenty of attractions to guarantee a memorable stay in the “Venice of America.”
Attractions near the hotel and beyond provide SPJ and Radio Television Digital News Association (RTDNA) members and guests a chance to soak up the scenery and savor the culture of South Florida. Enjoy the amenities at the swanky Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa or peer over the private backyard beach for a great view of the Atlantic.

Rebecca (left) and Hans-Joachim Grobosch enjoy sunrise on the beach.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

Thanks to the prime beachside location for the EIJ conference, there’s no need for long-distance travel to take in the shores of Florida. If you’re looking to step away from the host resort, you can explore Florida’s pristine beaches while walking along the beachfront promenade. Stroll along the brick-paved path with the beach on one side, and shops, galleries and restaurants on the other. The promenade is within minutes of the hotel, along Fort Lauderdale Boulevard, and offers the perfect stroll for a view of the sunrise.
Take a ride on the self-proclaimed “World Famous Riverboat,” the Jungle Queen. Enjoy a leisurely three-hour sightseeing or dining cruise, as you tour the New River and the Tropical Isle. Sightseeing tours are available everyday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. and dining cruises leave every evening at 6 p.m. For more information and to book a cruise, visit www.junglequeen.com.

Airboats at the Everglades Holiday Park wait to be taken out on tours.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

For a closer view of the local wildlife, hop aboard an airboat at Holiday Park in the Everglades. Offered seven days a week, these one-hour guided tours allow you to get up close and personal with nature and her famous residents, including exotic birds, fish and alligators. If you’d like a closer view at the fish, you can rent fishing equipment and fish off the dock. Call 945-434-8111 to make an appointment.
Discover the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District, which is rife with restaurants, galleries and museums. Take a tour of Old Fort Lauderdale with the Historical Society, or enjoy the aquatic life from the dry side with the SHARK Exhibition at the Museum of Art. The Riverwalk District is a five-minute drive from the hotel, and is located on 1 E. Las Olas Blvd.
Head to the marina to test your fishing prowess in the deep seas. The dock is packed with deep sea fishing boats all vying for your attention. When you get back from the five-hour fishing expedition, watch as the fishermen fillet your catch and feed the scraps to the giant Tarpin lurking below the dock. The fishing boats can be found at 801 Seabreeze Blvd., a five-minute walk from the hotel.

Flags fly in the wind at the Swap Shop flea market.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

Located only 10 miles away from the conference hotel, the Swap Shop — originally a 14-screen cinema — now doubles as a drive-in theater and the world’s largest flea market. Escape the heat in the enclosed area with a movie or try your luck finding deals.
If you’re looking for a more refined shopping experience, Las Olas Boulevard may be right up your alley. The commercial district is approximately a mile long and is known as the Riverfront district. Look for the “twinkling lights” strung around trees and stroll along the 22 blocks of galleries, boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs.

The Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall, a 30-minute drive from Fort Lauderdale, is the largest outlet mall in Florida.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall is another home for bargain shopping. With 350 stores and 35 restaurants, this retail heavyweight is the largest outlet mall in Florida. The outlet mall is located in Sunrise, Fla., and is a 30-minute drive from Fort Lauderdale.
Mangos Restaurant & Lounge
Enjoy fine dining in the heart of the Riverfront district. Located at 904 E. Las Olas Blvd., this restaurant hot spot is popular among the business and tourist crowd and offers live music and outdoor dining.
Oasis Café
Smell the sea air and gaze at the Atlantic while enjoying dinner at Oasis Café, located at 600 Seabreeze Blvd. in Historic Fort Lauderdale. Voted “The Best Outdoor Café” by the city in 1998, the café is family-owned and operated, and features an outdoor patio with an oceanside view.

YOLO restaurant’s most popular appetizer is the calamari plate.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

Live it up at YOLO (you only live once), a chic new restaurant and lounge. The combined seating totals 300, with features including an open kitchen, two bars and a garden patio with a fire pit. YOLO also features a separate “O Lounge” for late-night dining. Find YOLO at 333 E. Las Olas Blvd., and don’t be afraid to venture out late; the kitchen is open until 11 p.m. during the week, and until midnight on the weekends.

YOLO restaurant’s Martini Flight is one of its special drinks.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

Still not tired? The South Florida SPJ chapter can point you in the right direction. “Ask a local,” the group says, by tweeting your questions to @SPJSoFla using the hashtag #EIJ12.

Karen Foley (left) feeds large fish waiting below the dock.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

Patrons of the Everglades Holiday Park return from an airboat tour.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

Sunrise on the Promenade creates the perfect picture of a Florida vacation.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

Vendors at the Swap Shop try to relax in the heat.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press

The dock and beach at Fort Lauderdale are places where visitors and residents alike enjoy time on the water.
Yasmeen Smalley/The Working Press