Fort Lauderdale: a sunny year-round destination with plenty to do for all age groups

By Alexandra Cohen

With the weather having been so freezing lately here in Canada, I was thrilled to make my escape for a winter getaway in the sunny state of Florida. For the first time, I had the opportunity to visit Fort Lauderdale, which was a real treat (

Fort Lauderdale is the largest municipality in Broward County, which encompasses 1,197 square miles, with 24 miles of Atlantic Ocean beach. It has a resident population of over 1.95 million people.
While previously known as a quiet beach community, Fort Lauderdale has been known as a hot spot for Spring Breakers ever since the December 1960 film “Where the Boys Are,” which was shot on location in the Fort Lauderdale area. Outside of Spring Break, however, Fort Lauderdale is now known worldwide as a year-round destination with plenty to do for all age groups.

Fort Lauderdale has been nicknamed the Venice of America due to its 300 miles of inland waterways. There are plenty of ways to explore the Intracoastal, which is lined with impressive mansions and yachts – check it out on a paddleboard, water taxi, or even on a Las Olas Gondola.

The area is also known for its sea turtle nesting season, which takes place from March through October of every year. It is not unusual when going for a walk along the beach to encounter a nest – they will be well-marked due to a robust sea turtle conservation program in Broward County. We came across several signs raising awareness about sea turtles during our trip. These babies need lots of help and care, as sadly only approximately one in 1,000 survive.

If you are seeking out a free and sustainable method to get around town, look no further than the Micro Mover, which is a fantastic ride-share service available to those wishing to explore areas such as downtown, Las Olas, and the beach. Download the “Ride Circuit” app to book your ride.

For some family fun in the sun, you may wish to try out the local mini-golf experience. Pixar Putt is an 18-hole pop-up experience that will be open until March 26th. The experience features iconic characters from many of Pixar’s most beloved films, including Toy Story, Inside Out, Finding Nemo, Coco, and more. It is open 7 days a week and includes after-dark sessions for those 18+.

If shopping is something that you hope to do in Florida, look no further than Sawgrass Mills, the world’s largest single-story discount mall. Further discount shopping can be accomplished at the Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop, which is the largest indoor/outdoor flea market down South. For a more traditional shopping experience, The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale is a more upscale shopping mall with stores including Macy’s, Michael Kors, and much more.

COMING SOON: The Florida Panthers organization is revitalizing the War Memorial Auditorium and is constructing a new state-of-the-art practice and community ice facility in Fort Lauderdale. This is slated for a 2023 debut, though the exact opening date has yet to be announced. Upon its completion, the new 144,000 sq. foot sports and entertainment venue will house South Florida’s first-of-its-kind ballroom-style concert and performance venue, capable of accommodating up to 3,800 people for intimate live music and events. The redesigned theater will carefully preserve the iconic War Memorial Auditorium’s classic art-deco character, while new enhancements and technical upgrades will modernize the space to accommodate global tour productions and larger-scale events. The addition of a state-of-the-art practice facility will feature two regulation-sized indoor ice rinks, including a dedicated public rink that will host a robust variety of youth and adult hockey programs, public skating, and figure skating for those of all ages.  

INCLUSIVITY: “Visit Lauderdale”, the official Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for Greater Fort Lauderdale in South Florida, recently unveiled its new brand campaign “Everyone Under the Sun.” The vibrant campaign reflects Greater Fort Lauderdale’s welcoming and inclusive community. People from more than 170 countries speaking 147 languages call Greater Fort Lauderdale home. The brand campaign features plenty of surprising twists to not only highlight how different Greater Fort Lauderdale is from other destinations but to also invite “everyone under the sun” to enjoy its one-of-a-kind offerings. The new campaign showcases accessible beaches, thrilling outdoor adventures, immersive nature encounters, shopping, in-pool meetings, dock and dining opportunities, pampering, romance, and memory-making experiences.

WHERE TO STAY: There are close to 600 lodging establishments, with more than 37,000 hotel rooms in the area, ranging from luxurious high-rises to smaller boutique hotels and motels. The diverse mix of Greater Fort Lauderdale accommodations encompasses oceanfront and inland properties, specialized spa resorts, as well as meeting and convention facilities.

During my trip, I chose to stay at the B Ocean Resort (, which many people may remember as the former Sheraton Yankee Clipper.

The B Brand caters to the following aspirations through its signature elements and programming: B Nourished® as it relates to the mind, body and soul; B Adventurous by exploring the world and self-potential; and B Compassionate by actively caring for the community and the environment
Along with a fresh, contemporary design and a desirable beachfront location, B Ocean Resort offers a unique experience allowing both travelers and staycationers to fully immerse themselves in the destination from the second they step foot through the door. The resort is conveniently located in the heart of the city, around 15 minutes from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Port Everglades, downtown Las Olas Boulevard and along the famed coastal highway A1A.

Originally built in 1956 as the Yankee Clipper, named after its ship-like structure, the hotel quickly became a popular place to visit for American favorites such as Marilyn Monroe, Joe DiMaggio, and many more. As one of the few beachfront hotels in the city along the Atlantic Ocean, the B Ocean Resort has incorporated some historic elements and has blended them to create a more modern, sleek, and stylish feel.

The B Ocean Resort offers 481 spacious guest rooms and suites, ranging in size from 300 sq. ft. to a lavish 1,700 sq. ft. – all of which are inspired by the property’s serene oceanfront location. Guests can choose from room categories including the Chic Room, the Captivating Room, the Stunning Room, the B Enhanced Junior Suite, the Posh Suite, or the Master Suite. Along with the B Hotels & Resorts® signature Blissful Bed®, each room has sleek custom furnishings, a 55″ HD LED interactive flat-screen television, bath amenities, a coffee maker, an in-room safe and a mini fridge, as well as electrical power hubs equipped with convenient USB, USB-C, and international outlet plug-ins. We were very pleased with our accommodations.

Beyond the guestrooms, the B Ocean Resort features a spacious lobby and several meeting spaces. Guests may choose to relax at either of the hotel’s two outdoor swimming pools, one of which is a fairly large infinity pool conveniently located right on the beach. The private beach offers every guest two free beach loungers and towels per room, with the option to also rent umbrellas when the weather permits. Beach-side service is provided, with food and drinks from the beachside restaurant The Salty Siren being delivered right to your seat.

The hotel also includes a 24-hour state-of-the-art B Active® Fitness Center, two B Indulged® Spa Suites, and over 14,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space that has expanded onto the second floor. The second-floor Point Room offers floor-to-ceiling windows with an attached spacious outdoor beachfront terrace – it is an ideal venue for high-end corporate and social events.  B Ocean’s private beach, pool decks, and first-level ballroom are also available for large group events, meetings, or weddings.

The hotel has five restaurants on site. The Salty Siren, as mentioned, is the hotel’s poolside restaurant. Otherwise, the hotel offers seafood and Mediterranean cuisine at the Naked Crab, drinks and brunch with mermaid shows and burlesque shows at the Wreck Bar, more drinks and cocktails at the Florida Bar in the lobby, and the grab-and-go Clipper Express, which includes offerings such as bagels, croissants, muffins, juice, coffee, and chips. Come by in the evening for grab-and-go sushi as well!

A little bit more about the shows:

Mermaid Aqua Burlesque Show: Perfect for those seeking a unique, next-level nightlife experience, the adults-only Aqua Burlesque show produced by MeduSirena promises to be an unforgettable night. The show starts every Friday night at 8:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.), as well as every Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.) and 11 p.m. (doors open at 10 p.m.)

Aquamen Underwater Boylesque Show: The only underwater male burlesque show in the United States, the adults-only Aqua Boylesque show produced by MeduSirena is also part of the Wreck Bar’s line-up. This show starts every other Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. (doors open at 6:30 p.m.)

Mermaid Elle & Friends: For an exciting mermaid encounter that the whole family can enjoy, the all-new, interactive Coral Reef Mermaid show follows the story of South Florida mermaids who need to find their magical gadgets in order to return back home. The show aims to both entertain and educate as it demonstrates how pollutants harm the ocean’s delicate ecosystems and explains how recycling aids in the continued protection of coral reefs. This exciting adventure starts every Saturday afternoon at 12 p.m. and includes lunch (doors open at 11 a.m.). During my stay, I overheard a little girl exiting the show with her mother, enthusiastically proclaiming “the mermaid was real!”

Mermaids & Mimosas Sunday Brunch: During B Ocean Resort’s signature Sunday brunch, guests can enjoy a delicious meal with bottomless mimosas, while watching mermaids swim in the background. This takes place every Sunday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Yoga, Mermaids and Mimosas: Every Sunday morning, B Ocean Resort offers a relaxing and restorative one-hour yoga class by the Atlantic Ocean. After the class, yogis are invited to join the Mermaids & Mimosas Sunday Brunch at the Wreck Bar. The class takes place every Sunday from 10 a.m. – 11: a.m.

Splash Into The Past: which takes place every Wednesday at Wreck Bar, is the newest show. Presented by Tropical Sirens Entertainment and directed by Leydis Castillo, the live, interactive show takes visitors on a voyage back in time through the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, and 2000s. Travelers can experience an unforgettable night of trivia, games, singalongs and dancing alongside the magnificent mermaid. Costumes are welcomed and encouraged, with prizes given to the most creatively dressed guest of the night each week. Doors open at 6 p.m. for drinks and/or dinner, and the show starts at 8 p.m.  Admission is $45 per adult (guests must be 18+) with a $35 credit toward food and beverages purchased during the show. Advanced reservations are required for all mermaid shows. For more information or to reserve tickets, visit

See our interview with Leydis in costume:

In terms of accessibility, the hotel has ramps at the pool, as well as connecting the pool to the beach. There is also a ramp available to connect the hotel’s different towers. Both pools feature ADA Pool lifts. The resort offers valet parking at the main entrance to the lobby. There are guest rooms available that feature roll-in showers or accessible bathtubs.

The CEO and founder of B Hotels & Resorts are Ayelet Weinstein, who started working in multi-family and condo conversions in 1996. In 2004, she became interested in a local building that she assumed to be an apartment building. After pursuing the building and learning it was, in fact, a hotel, she discovered a passion for the hospitality industry and has remained involved ever since.

“I was immediately intrigued,” Weinstein told Lodging Magazine. “I was fascinated by the hospitality business model and the industry’s depth and complexity. During the economic crisis in 2008 and 2009, InSite Group, where I was a senior vice president, started to look more into hotels and basically switched its focus from multi-family to hospitality.”

“B Hotels creates an environment that encourages living life to its fullest potential. It’s in our blood,” Weinstein described. “Life in general is a collection of experiences. Travel and work play major roles in that experience, and we were able to bring these components together.”

The B Hotel and Resort is located at 1140 Seabreeze Blvd. For more details go to or call 1-954-524-5551. B Hotels also has locations in the Florida Keys and in the Disney Springs area in Lake Buena Vista. Visit

BOUCHER BROTHERS ON THE BEACH: We were thrilled to discover that The B Hotel & Resort partners with the award-winning Boucher Brothers Management ( in order to pamper guests while at the beach.  I have had the pleasure of experiencing their fantastic work before during previous stays at hotels in the Hollywood and St. Petersburg areas.

Boucher Brothers is a Hospitality Management Company that specializes in a variety of outlets including pool, beach, food and beverage, water sports and team-building activities.  They are a forward-thinking and proficient hospitality company expanding across North America. The company currently owns a portfolio of over 100 hotels and condominium properties, 45 blocks of public beach throughout Florida’s east and west coasts, 50 blocks of public beach in Virginia Beach, and four beaches around Lake Michigan in Chicago. They also do corporate team building and team events.

The Boucher Brothers know that when you come to the beach, you want to relax and feel pampered – their courteous and friendly staff does just that. The Boucher Brothers team provided excellent service during my stay. Upon your arrival at the beach, they will set you up with your free beach chairs, as well as an umbrella if you wish. Further, you have the option to rent the more luxurious sun loungers, with comfortable cushioning and unobstructed views of the ocean. Servers from the hotel restaurant, The Salty Siren, come right to your seat to take your order, further enhancing your relaxation.

In terms of beach sports, the Boucher Brothers have collaborated with BouYah Watersports. If you wish, you can arrange for jet skis, kayaks, banana boat rides, or paddle boards. The closest BouYah Watersports location to the B Ocean is at the Marriott Harbor Beach, which is a six-minute walk from the hotel. Guests can reserve their adventure directly online at

In terms of special needs, the Boucher Brothers have teamed up with the City of Miami Beach in offering immobile guests an easy transition to the beach. The Miami Beach Ocean Rescue team is considered the best in the United States. With them, they are able to partner up and offer beach-friendly wheelchairs, which are equipped with large wide wheels that can roll across the sand at ease without sinking. “We take the Americans with disabilities act very seriously and that’s why we have joined forces with the city to help everyone enjoy their experience at the beach,” the company states. If you are in that area, make sure to call ahead and reserve your beach wheelchair since quantities are limited. The number is (305) 673-7714 and you can pick it up at the Beach Patrol Headquarters located at 1001 Ocean Drive.

DINING OUT: There are more than 4,000 wining and dining establishments and 132 nightclubs in Broward County. The culinary scene is filled with rising star chefs, exciting restaurants, breweries and pubs, coffee houses and scenic dock-and-dine eateries, along with many great hotel restaurants.

I experienced a few places during my stay.

The Naked Crab Seafood Kitchen + Cocktail Bar

Let’s start off with the Naked Crab Seafood Kitchen + Cocktail Bar, which was conveniently located right in our hotel lobby at the B Ocean Hotel and Resort. It was the most convenient place to dine after checking in right at dinnertime. The Naked Crab embodies authentic, local dining on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Executive Chef David Morales conceptualizes slightly different menus every season and blends together fresh ingredients and spices in order to create contemporary Mediterranean dishes influenced by the flavors of Europe, and North and South America. The menu is sourced locally using fresh seafood and produce from local farms.

To sample some items on the menu, I tried the crab cake as an appetizer, as well as the scallop risotto and the particularly tasty branzino. This was capped off with some tiramisu for dessert, which was also delicious.
Open for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a weekend seafood brunch, locals and guests can relish in a seafood tower to share with the table or take advantage of the dry-aged prime steak. For breakfast, guests can enjoy a full menu of traditional staples and specialties, including lump crab benedict and crab avocado toast.

Matchbox Restaurant

We also experienced Matchbox Restaurant (, part of an American chain that first opened in 2003. Matchbox currently has 15 locations, including Washington, Maryland, Virginia, and of course Florida. Matchbox is part of Thompson Hospitality, one of the largest retail food service management companies in the USA.

The Matchbox in Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale, opened in early 2022. It is located in a particularly trendy area that features dining and entertaining on the New River, with lovely water views.
Since its debut, Matchbox has become known for brick oven pizzas, mini burgers, fresh salads, and chef-inspired entrées, like Miso salmon and chimichurri steak frites. Diners can enjoy elevated American bistro fare crafted from high-quality ingredients. I particularly enjoyed their delicious cocktails, including the strawberry rose margarita and the peach lemon drop, as well as the spinach and artichoke dip, the aforementioned Miso salmon (a menu highlight!), as well as the chicken pesto pizza.
Warren Thompson, President and Chairman of Thompson Hospitality, started the company in 1992. It is built on values gained from 30 years of client, customer and community relationships. Veterans in the hospitality industry, the company currently owns and operates over three dozen restaurants. Other company-owned restaurants in the area include Big Buns and Willie T’s Seafood Shack.

The restaurant offers several handicap-accessible tables and a lowered bar area, as well as compliant restrooms. In order to enter, as you come out of the parking area, the sidewalk/courtyard has a ramp.
Matchbox is located at 221 SW 1St Avenue. You can call 954-751-5959 for a reservation. Visit

The Lobster Bar and Sea Grill

When seeking out places to eat in Florida, one would be amiss to forget about the fantastic local seafood scene. I had the privilege of enjoying a meal at the Lobster Bar Sea Grille while in Fort Lauderdale ( The restaurant, located at 454 East Los Olas, offers an extensive selection of seafood, including, as mentioned in its name, a large array of lobster dishes.

The dining room features soft white herringbone subway-tiled walls and arched ceilings. Warm custom lighting creates an intimate and inviting ambiance. Clusters of sofas are located near the bar for cocktails before or after dinner, making it the perfect place to meet friends or business associates. Adjacent to the lounge is a fully covered outdoor patio with cushioned furniture, ideal for cocktails and light dining. Walls can be brought down in this outdoor space as well on a windy day to preserve client comfort.

During my meal, I had the opportunity to taste some oysters, the restaurant’s famed lobster morsels (lightly fried lobster with Greek honey-mustard aioli), Dover sole served with brown butter and a side dish of quinoa mixed with kale, the decadent Whole Lobster & Black Winter Truffle risotto dish, as well as some profiteroles to end the meal on a sweet note. Everything was delicious!

General Manager George Mollas notes how the restaurant presents freshly caught, both locally and internationally, whole fish. “Our seafood is as fresh as fresh can be; 48 hours from the water to the table,” he said. “The atmosphere of the Lobster Bar Sea Grille is a very swanky, upscale and sexy environment”

Mollas says that his team’s goal “is to exceed our guests’ expectations. We go the limit for our guests. Whatever they need we can deliver. As guests leave the restaurant, they let me know how much they enjoy the food we prepare for them and the wonderful atmosphere. In particular, they love our attention to detail.”

The restaurant is fully code-compliant with regard to handicapped accessibility.

It seats about 175 indoors and 50 outdoors and also features two private rooms (one seating up to 60 and one seating up to 80).

The Lobster Bar Sea Grille is part of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, which also owns eight other restaurant brands. You can purchase the Ultimate Dining Gift Card, which never expires and can be reloaded.

For reservations call (954) 772-2675. The restaurant is open for lunch on weekdays and dinner seven nights a week.

On the famous Fort Lauderdale boulevard that leads to the beach, you will find the Friendship Café, which is situated right next to the Las Olas Chabad Jewish Center. Part of The Friendship Circle, a local non-profit here in Montreal, the kosher Mediterranean restaurant and coffee bar serves lunch and dinner options, from falafel hummus plates and salads to kebab pita sandwiches and vegetarian shawarma. They offer training and employment opportunities to people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. 

The exceptional Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida

By Alexandra Cohen

HOLLYWOOD, FLORIDA:  A number of years ago, my family joined friends for dinner at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida (  Looking around at the beautiful facilities, I distinctly recall hoping to experience the hotel in its entirety one day.

Recently, that wish came true, our visit coming soon after the completion of a $100 million transformation of this oceanfront, all-encompassing destination resort offering a fresh new take on vacationing for all business and leisure travelers. From the Atlantic coast to the Intracoastal, the reinvented resort pays homage to the hotel’s storied past as a social hub, with a modern take on design and amenities, including a luxurious spa and more than 10 new culinary concepts.

Upon entering the Diplomat, the first thing that you notice is an open concept lobby with sweeping views of the ocean via the floor-to-ceiling windows of The Hotel Bar- the property’s wraparound indoor-outdoor bar.

ACCOMMODATIONS: The Diplomat is now part of Curio Collection by Hilton, a global set of upscale hotels handpicked for their unique character. We stayed in a gorgeous Oceanview Double Deluxe Room with a balcony, providing a beautiful and completely unobstructed view of the ocean. Wonderfully appointed, this retreat is both original and modern, with a gracious lounge area and workspace as well as a generous bath with both a glass-enclosed shower and a separate deep-soaking tub. In-room indulgences – luxe robes, plush bedding and Bigelow bath amenities – enhance the experience of Florida beachside living at its finest.

With 1,000 guest rooms – including a Presidential suite, 515 king rooms, and 484 double rooms, with 96 being suites – The Diplomat is the largest hotel in Broward County. Designed by the world’s leading hospitality interior design firm, Hirsch Bedner Associates, the resort’s stylish and thoughtfully designed rooms offer sophisticated spaces, befitting the prime beachfront location in Hollywood. A strong sense of place is woven throughout, reflecting a glamorous oceanfront design that nods to the storied history of the Diplomat Hotel of the 1950’s. Carefully selected artwork throughout the property highlights the local-regional lifestyle, with modernized spaces harkening back to the hotel’s vibrant past.

All rooms feature unobstructed ocean or Intracoastal vantage points, while most suites boast 180-degree views of the tropical surroundings, including a variety of premier suites, the Governor and Presidential suites. Suites exude a mixture of midcentury elements with refreshing ocean tones, creating the perfect backdrop to relax and recharge completely with hand-tufted rugs, natural wood furnishings, crisp white bedding backed by driftwood headboards, and nautical touches that speak to the location. Guestrooms at the property depict two separate design schemes: Sunrise and Sunset. Sunrise rooms are modern, vibrant and refreshing with earthy tones that provide a soothing, calm atmosphere accented with blue ocean colors. Sunset rooms conversely present a subtler, more modern and organic design scheme with views overlooking the famous South Florida west horizon, giving guests a front seat view to stunning sunsets.

DINING OPTIONS: The Diplomat has no shortage of exceptional dining options. We were there for four nights, and via the “Diplomat Restaurant Group” (DRG) there were no less than 10 innovative and surprising culinary destinations to choose from. Guests are welcome to Dock & Dine at Diplomat Landing’s 7-slip marina with 350 feet of linear dock or park complimentary valet and self-parking for up to four hours when dining on property. Unique dishes and drinks highlight ingenuity and variety, using locally sourced ingredients and fresh mixes for cocktails created on-site. Each destination is rooted in strong culinary sensibilities and exudes brand individuality, creating distinct spaces and experiences.

Let us certainly recommend breakfast at Point Royal, a coastal restaurant also open for lunch and dinner. This is a large dynamic buffet filled with almost every breakfast option imaginable, from house-made pastries and an inventive cereal bar to egg dishes, salads and grains. The salad bar, for instance, includes arugula, mix greens, cherry tomatoes, chickpeas, shaved radishes, cucumbers, pickled onions, parmesan cheese, poppy seed vinaigrette, cumin-lime vinaigrette and seasonal daily selections. You can choose from Florida smoked salmon, red onions, whipped cream cheese, capers, hard boiled eggs, assorted bagels, the Breakfast Reuben (corned beef, pickled cabbage, gruyère, scrambled egg, and comeback sauce), crispy breakfast potatoes, and much more. It is conveniently open from 6:30 am to 11:30 am.

Our first dinner was also at Point Royal (, part of famous chef Geoffrey Zakarian’s approachable American cuisine, complete with indoor/outdoor seating and a grand yet modern Raw Bar. We had previously experienced Zakarian’s excellent cuisine at his restaurant Georgie in Beverly Hills, so it was a given for us to pursue a reservation at Point Royal for dinner as well.

Complimentary parking is offered for guests who dine at Point Royal.  There were a variety of hand-crafted cocktails to choose from, and my dining partner opted for a satisfying rum passion fizz. While we looked at the menu, our fabulous server brought us some delicious cornbread and smoked honey butter (smoked in-house). Next, there was no question that we wanted to sample a seafood platter, so we opted for The Diplomat, featuring six oysters, six clams, an eight-ounce king crab, three pink shrimp, and half a Maine lobster. This was absolutely superb. We then shared some tossed heirloom lettuces, which included shaved carrots, radish, and aged sherry vinaigrette. The yellowfin tuna tartare, with avocado and chili-sesame seed vinaigrette, was next, followed by an order of roasted Maine diver scallops, which included baby turnips, fennel, herbs and smoked fish chowder. All in all, it was an amazing meal, which we capped off with the most decadent of desserts, a Black Forest meringue pie. The rich, dark chocolate pie crust was filled with a layer of sharp cherry curd, topped with light meringue rippled with dark chocolate.

We simply cannot wait to return and try some of the many other signature dishes, including the Pomegranate glazed short rib, steaks, the local black grouper, the grilled Spanish Octopus and the marinated baby kale just to name a few.

The next night, we also enjoyed a superb meal at Monkitail (, which won the top spot for Best Hotel Restaurant in USA Today’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards. After eating there ourselves, we no doubt understand why it was selected for this honor. Celebrity chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson is at the helm; Monkitail is his seventh restaurant. The menu is a contemporary take on the classic izakaya, featuring shareable small plates and sushi as well as an array of specialty cocktails and saké. Surrounding an open robatayaki kitchen in the heart of the restaurant is a private dining area overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Tucked away beyond Monkitail’s main dining room is Nokku, a discreet cocktail lounge with four private rooms, each having full karaoke capabilities.

What an absolute treat this was! My dining partner started off with a blooming blossom drink from the cocktail menu.  We then proceeded to allow the chef to make a series of outstanding suggestions. This began with the hot Hamachi, toro caviar, and the big eye tuna special. The Edamame dumplings were specifically recommended to us, having won the nod for Best Bites of 2017 by noted South Florida food critic Michael Mayo. To say that this dish exceeded our expectations is an absolute understatement. As Mayo explains: “The dumplings are delicate and plump, round and dimpled, and resemble tortellini. They shimmer and almost float in a broth of sake and brown butter. They are stuffed with a delectable mix of pureed edamame, cream, truffle and caramelized scallion.”

The tasting continued with some Robatayaki lobster tail, skirt steak and short rib skewers, a duck scrapple bao bun, a tempura shrimp taco, an aged New York strip, and broiled sea bass with aioli and snap peas.  Just when we thought that the meal could not possibly get any better, our server brought us two excellent desserts. First came the fruit loop ice cream and almond joy, which came in mini cones. Next was a chocolate mousse with miniature brownies, cherries, and ice cream on top. What a meal! If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Hollywood, Florida, you must come to the Diplomat to dine.

Other food choices at the hotel include Bristol’s Burgers, Candy & Cones, Counter Point, Diplomat Prime, Nokku, Playa, Portico Beer & Wine Garden, and the Canteen, which includes snacks and ready-made sandwiches and salads. There is also the Diplomat Restaurant Delivery, providing room service from any of the dining establishments on the property.

For kosher food in Hollywood, you can try Sara’s, Big Apple Pizza, the Grand Café Espresso Bar, Hummus Factory, La’Chaim Meets China, Levinsky Roasting, Levy’s Kosher of Hollywood, Mizachi’s Pizza Kitchen, Mozart Cafe,  Pita Star,  Redwan’s Pita Bakery, Sylvia’s Kosher Place, Yum Berry Cafe and Sushi.

ACTIVITIES: The Diplomat is also perfect for family-focused guests, providing a variety of activities and amenities for all ages, meant to create happy, genuine and memorable vacation experiences.

In addition to the two beachfront pools, there is also jet skiing, ocean kayaking, paddleboard rentals, and the property’s newest addition, the Dip + Slide water play area. Designed with an interactive water bucket that playfully tips over when full, the area entertains young travelers and is strategically located to give parents a direct line of sight from the lagoon pool so they can still relax poolside. Pool amenities include complimentary towel service and full-service poolside lunch and spa services.

We marveled at panoramic views of the ocean from the edge of the infinity pool, which features a porthole bottom, and two waterfalls that cascade into the 240-foot lagoon pool below. You can cool off in the lagoon pool surrounded by lush tropical landscaping and sweeping views of the ocean. Conveniently, both pools are open from sunrise to sunset.

From sandcastle building and free arcade and poolside games to bounce houses and behind-the-scenes resort tours, guests aged four to 12 are always entertained and supervised at the fun-filled kids club, Ocean Ambassadors.

At The Diplomat Spa + Wellness Center, guests can recharge at the expansive 24-hour fitness center or get pampered at the new, full-service 14,000 square-foot spa overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. From healing massages and cleansing facials to energizing body treatments, a full-service spa experience awaits you. Before and after treatments, you can clear your mind in the relaxation room with a mesmerizing rain wall that invites calm. I had the opportunity to experience a 50-minute Diplomat Signature Spa Treatment, which I must strongly recommend. Be sure to make your spa reservations well in advance as space is limited. You can do so by calling the spa Concierge at 954.602.8400. A credit card is required to secure your appointment.

THE CABANA EXPERIENCE: Exclusively designed for The Diplomat, specialty cabanas created by fashion designer Trina Turk are available for rent on the lower floor of the pool deck, providing a relaxing and stylish oasis for the day. We were fortunate to spend an entire day in a private poolside cabana where we were pampered by the pool concierge and spoiled with generous amenities and a comfortable haven. Fourteen spacious poolside cabanas surround the lagoon pool and eleven upper cabanas offer a more secluded experience with sweeping ocean views from the upper deck. Located on the Lagoon Pool deck, poolside cabanas are equipped with flat-screen HD televisions, ceiling fans, mini-refrigerators stocked with six waters, interior seating with a table, a sun umbrella, two chaise lounges outside, and towel service. The cozy upper cabanas also come with amenities and services, which include interior seating with a table and sun umbrella, four chaise lounges outside, and towel service. Advanced reservations are recommended and are available to guests with a room reservation. Up to six guests may occupy an upper or lower cabana, both of which are open from 9 am to 6 pm.

While spending the day in our poolside cabana, we ordered lunch from Playa, a Beachfront Nuevo-Latina restaurant and bar featuring an extensive rum and tequila selection.

There is also The Diplomat Golf Club, The Diplomat Tennis Center and the Diplomat Marina. With 209,000 square feet of flexible function and meeting space, The Diplomat continues to serve as the premier location for business travel and large-scale conferences, weddings, and milestone celebrations.

BOUCHER BROTHERS ON THE BEACH: We were thrilled to discover that The Diplomat partners with the award-winning Boucher Brothers Management to pamper guests during their day on the beautiful Hollywood Beach.   We got to spend a day lounging in private daybeds and relaxing on a chaise for a luxurious take on ‘fun in the sun’. The team from the Boucher Brothers team could not have been nicer in setting us up, and they in fact came back several times during our stay to adjust the umbrellas and make sure everything was okay. Lunch and drinks were available right at our chairs. This service is available daily from 9 am to 6 pm. To reserve, call (954) 602-8690. When lunchtime came around, we started off with some drinks, followed by our burgers and chips. The orders were delivered in large plastic containers, with serving plates and cutlery inside.  In terms of beach rentals, run by the Boucher brothers and its BouYah Watersports Division (, there are full and half day rates for chaise lounges, sand chairs, umbrellas, cabanas, and luxury queen and king beds. BouYah also rents out jet skis, kayaks and paddle boards. You can book your choice experience right at the hotel or call in advance and ask to be connected to someone from the Boucher Brothers team. This is an established firm with over 26 years of experience providing hospitality management solutions for resorts, hotels and condominiums.  They service dozens of hotels across Florida.  Kenny Gonzalez is the regional general manager covering Hollywood, Hallandale and Miami, and his team does a top-notch job.

LOCATION: Nestled between the aquamarine shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the peaceful Intracoastal Waterway, The Diplomat stands in the very heart of Hollywood. With an ideal location, the property’s transformation caters to those looking for seamless travel and local experiences with easy access to key destinations. The hotel is only 10 minutes from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport, five minutes from Hollywood’s historic oceanfront Boardwalk, 10 minutes from world-class shopping at Aventura Mall, and 30 minutes from South Beach. Starting room rates in low season begin at $189/per night and $249/per night during high season (based on availability at time of booking). For reservations please call 1-954-602-6000. For more information, visit

DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hollywood Beach

By Alexandra Cohen

We have always enjoyed staying at  DoubleTree Resort by Hilton properties. After enjoying a nice experience last summer in Santa Monica, we were excited to find a newly branded addition to the chain in Hollywood Beach, Florida.

Checking in to a DoubleTree hotel always starts on a sweet note thanks to their signature, warm chocolate chip cookies.

Owned by Sotherly Hotels and managed by Chesapeake Hospitality, DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hollywood (   is located at 4000 South Ocean Drive, approximately eight miles from the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport. The hotel opened with its new identity last October after undergoing an extensive $7 million facelift.

Through its multi-million-dollar transformation, the property features 311 oversized guestrooms and suites, all with furnished balconies overlooking the property’s attractions. Along with a 24-hour business center, it houses 10,000 square feet of meeting space, including a stylish boardroom and an outdoor pavilion for up to 250 guests.

Each room comes with complimentary WiFi, a 37-inch HDTV, premium cable, a vanity area, a work desk, and a kitchenette, which includes a microwave, mini-refrigerator, and coffeemaker. We were able to open a sliding glass door and enjoy the view from our private and furnished balcony.

Situated near the ocean waves and white-sand beaches, the resort allows easy access for guests to hop on the Hollywood Trolley to tour Ocean Drive or to set off on the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi.   Family-friendly activities and outdoor recreation are at guests’ fingertips from walks along the beach to people-watching on the nearby Hollywood Boardwalk.

“This idyllic seaside resort is located between two of Florida’s biggest cities and travel hubs, Miami and Fort Lauderdale, making it easy for travelers to reach major airports, cruise terminals and to explore South Florida’s famous beaches,” said Dianna Vaughan, global head and senior vice president of DoubleTree by Hilton.

Guests will find American cuisine with Caribbean flair across the resort’s restaurant and bars. Its lobby nook, Made Market, offers Starbucks coffee, ice cream, snacks, and more. Port South Bar and Grill is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, featuring Caribbean Fusion and local seafood in an indoor and outdoor setting. The Port South Lounge serves tropical cocktails, domestic and imported beers, and fine wines. Just steps from the Intracoastal Waterway, guests can enjoy live music, cocktails and snacks from the poolside Lava Tiki Bar.

The resort’s spectacular amenities include an outdoor infinity pool and whirlpool, daily room service, and a 24-hour Fitness Center and Business Center.  We were beyond impressed with the beautiful and spacious pool area, with plenty of lounge chairs available. The Tiki Hut serves drinks, including different specials of the day, and we had a fabulous view of the intracoastal waterway, with boats passing by and music playing.  For lunch, we enjoyed some grilled quesadillas and shrimp tacos.

“The resort promises to make any vacation memorable – from breathtaking beaches to family-friendly attractions like the famous Boardwalk, Anne Kolb Nature Center or a jaunt to Fort Lauderdale or Miami,” said  General Manager Joseph A. Ruiz.As a local landmark, we look forward to welcoming guests under the trusted DoubleTree by Hilton brand.”

DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hollywood Beach is also part of Hilton Honors, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 14 distinct hotel brands. Members who book directly have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of Points and money to book a stay, an exclusive member discount, free standard Wi-Fi, and access to the Hilton Honors mobile app.

Diamond and Gold members will enjoy free Wi-Fi and space-available upgrades to the hotel’s exclusive Hilton Honors floor. Additionally, Diamond members will receive the complimentary Wake Up DoubleTree BreakfastTM and 1,000 Bonus Points per stay. Gold members will have the option of a complimentary, continental breakfast or 1,000 Bonus Points per stay.


Saddlebrook Resort (Tampa)

Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Florida

WESLEY CHAPEL, FLORIDA– Some 25 years ago I was part of a press tour to Tampa.  Our group was hosted at spectacular place called the Saddlebrook Resort ( in the suburb of Wesley Chapel – a half hour drive from downtown Tampa. I could not believe my good fortune when I was given the keys to my own private town house condominium.

I never forgot my experience at Saddlebrook, so when we recently set our sights on another trip to Tampa I targeted this 480 acre property for a return visit. We were fortunate to spend five nights there. The three of us booked a 950-square-foot two-bedroom suite. It included a spacious living room, separate dining area and a fully-equipped kitchen with a serving bar. The master bedroom boasts a King bed as well as a separate dressing area and elegant marble bathroom. The second bedroom is thoughtfully-appointed with a Queen bed, as well as an additional dressing area and marble bathroom. Both bedrooms offer complete privacy. These spacious two-bedroom suites also feature a private patio or balcony that is accessible from the living room.  There were two in-room safes.

Saddlebrook formally opened in 1981, with a unique car-free Walking Village design that allows guests to easily walk throughout the resort without the need of a transportation system while providing sanctuary to nature. Thomas L. Dempsey, who was chairman and CEO of Penton Publishing, a subsidiary of the Fortune 500 Pittway Corporation, developed the resort. He envisioned a spot that would allow guests to experience a side of Florida many had never seen, an abundant wildlife that thrives because of the preservation of surrounding lakes and woodlands. The resort itself is located within a gated and secure nature preserve that is home to colorful birds such as Sandhill Cranes, Wood Storks and Great Blue Herons to Snowy Egrets and even gators, along with verdant vegetation that exists in harmony with the natural layout of the hotel grounds.

Dempsey purchased the resort from his employers, Pittway in 1988, and remains chairman and CEO as well as a full-time resident. Saddlebrook now operates as an independent family-owned resort in the grand style and tradition typified by the nation’s finest properties. Over the years, the resort has continued to flourish, becoming an acclaimed destination for Tampa conferences and events as well as a nationally-recognized training center for golf and tennis. In 1992, the Saddlebrook Preparatory School was founded designed to offer student athletes a comprehensive educational experience with concurrent enrollment in either the Saddlebrook Tennis Program or Saddlebrook Golf Academy. Saddlebrook Prep is fully accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Florida Council of Independent Schools.

Saddlebrook Resort is a certified Florida Green Lodging property. As you walk, jog, or bike along pathways of this eco-friendly Tampa Bay resort, be sure to take in the tropical landscaping and views that surrounds the property.

During your stay, you may catch a glimpse of the area’s colorful wildlife, which includes an array of birds from Sandhill Cranes, Wood Storks and Great Blue Herons to Snowy Egrets, and wildlife, even alligators. Fragrant flowers compliment the swaying palms and stately cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss beckoning guests to explore and convene with the elements.

Saddlebrook recently completed a nearly $2 million renovation on its signature Arnold Palmer-designed golf course, which included the addition of an advanced irrigation system. This computer-controlled system uses only a fraction of the water required by a typical Florida golf course.

The resort’s eco-friendly laundry facility features an extremely high temperature wash cycle and use only mild biodegradable detergents in all of our processes.

Saddlebrook maintains some exceptionally beautiful natural corridors, which not only enhance the guests’ enjoyment, but serves to protect several plant and animal species indigenous to the area. This includes the Great Egret and the Bald Cypress Tree, two key endangered species of flora and fauna that are fighting for a place in the local wetland ecosystem.

With over 40 percent of electrical energy consumption associated with climate control, Saddlebrook has installed active climate control systems in guest rooms and meeting facilities. The conference center is computer-controlled to cool only the rooms that need it, at exactly the right levels. Similarly, when guest rooms are unoccupied, thermostats are turned down to a predetermined setting, which keeps the room fresh, but does not cool excessively.

When it comes to guest room transportation, resort maintenance and golf course use, the majority of the carts in the Saddlebrook fleet run on rechargeable electric batteries. Not only is this better for the environment, but also results in less noise pollution so you can fully enjoy your resort experience. By using a model of central parking and providing bus transportation for  team members, it is calculated that on average about 200 miles per day of cars being driven on the open roads is saved.

This Florida hotel and conference center is completely self-contained, with restaurants, spa, golf, tennis, fitness facilities, three pools and an outdoor team building course all on-site.

The restaurants at Saddlebrook offer both fine and casual award-wining dining served by our signature hospitality. Whether you are entertaining executives at Dempsey’s Steak House, enjoying a post-game lunch while overlooking the 18th green at, or enjoying a fresh breakfast with the family at Tropic’s Restaurant, options are sure to delight every palate. The hotel also   offers In-Room dining services 24 hours a day.

Regarded as one of the best steak houses in the country, Dempsey’s   serves prime beef and fresh seafood in traditional setting.  Enjoy a hearty Aged Porterhouse, Bone-In Filet Mignon, or market fresh seafood including Colossal Shrimp or Pan Seared Wild Salmon. Don’t forget to try our famous table-side Caesar Salad.

When you need to clear your mind and rejuvenate your senses, treat yourself to a day of pure pampering at The Spa at Saddlebrook. This 7,000-square-foot European-style spa has 12 treatment rooms, separate men’s and women’s dressing rooms, each with a steam room.  Sauna, and whirlpools feature a full menu of spa and salon services as well as whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, and a courtyard terrace for lounging, sunbathing and dining. The professionally trained and licensed practitioners at the spa are skilled in a variety of therapies including traditional Ashiatsu, and as massage techniques ranging from sports recovery to reflexology and hot stone treatments.

In addition to the world-class golf courses and tennis courts, the fitness facilities at Saddlebrook cater to every interest and skill level. The Sports Village features grass and sand volleyball courts, a regulation-size basketball court and a Field Turf sports field. The refreshing waters of the 500,000-gallon free-form Superpool are a highlight of any stay. There are two additional pools at the resort, including the adults-only Serenity Pool.

Bicycle rentals and fishing poles are available at The Swim Shop, and the resort also offers a variety of scheduled activities from morning power walks and group fitness classes to poolside games. Families visiting the resort can take advantage of S’Kids Club, a fun-filled program for guests.

To reserve your stay today at Saddlebrook Resort or contact a Reservations Agent toll-free at 800.729.8383 or locally at 813.907.4401. You might enjoy the place so much you will consider buying a unit. The sales office is located right next to the registration center.

SUPERB SHOPPING NEARBY: Located just 10 minutes from the resort, The Shops at open-air village with 800,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment Wiregrass is an options. Stroll through well-known department stores like Macy’s, as well as over 100 specialty and designer shops in this pedestrian-friendly destination. Five minutes from The Shops at Wiregrass the new Tampa Premium Outlet Mall is anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, plus 110 shops including Calvin Klein, Coach, J. Crew, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.  Thirty minutes away, International Plaza and Bay Street is home to Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Tiffany’s and nearly 200 specialty stores as well as “Only at Bay Street,” an open-air village with unique restaurants and boutiques. We went to this locale a number of times and really enjoyed the experience.

HELLO RUBY TUESDAY:  We were thrilled to find a fantastic Ruby Tuesday Restaurant about 20 minutes from Saddlebrook at 17520 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard.  Being from Canada, with no Ruby Tuesday locations to enjoy, this is a real treat for us which is why we went there twice. We like the menu and especially appreciate the generous salad bar.  There are so many different selections. The staff were very nice. Right next door is a large AMC Movie Theatre, which we took advantage of right after dinner. Just over a year ago Ruby Tuesday closed nearly 100 under performing locations. Happily, this was not one of them.




St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Florida

Over the years my family and I have had many enjoyable trips to Florida. In most cases, we stayed in the Miami Beach area. However, working with the Canadian office of Visit Florida (, I was encouraged to consider a trip to the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area ( and over the Christmas holidays we did just that.

White-sand Florida beaches with crystal-clear water, a foodie and arts scene praised by Travel & Leisure, and glittering nightlife options that range from craft beer bars to New York-style dance clubs—in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area, the options are endless for whatever kind of vacation you’re yearning for, be it rejuvenating or exhilarating.

Along with award-winning beautiful beaches, St. Petersburg is home to the world-renowned Salvador Dali Museum, top-rated restaurants and beautiful Fort De Soto Park. This waterfront escape is a perfect family getaway with so much to explore. The city, which glimmers between the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay, is known for its warm weather and for holding the title of “most consecutive days with sunshine” at 768. Downtown St. Petersburg is the city’s heart, home to great shopping, restaurants, bars and attractions. We spent some real quality time there and enjoyed excellent meals at Ruth’s Chris Steak House and 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House.

After making a stop to check out the largest collection of Dali’s work outside of Spain, swing by the Chihuly Collection on picturesque Beach Drive to witness mind-blowing glasswork. Beach Drive anchors downtown shopping, dining and entertainment districts that include outdoor cafes and restaurants, world class museums and a dazzling array of shops, galleries, businesses, hotels and bed and breakfasts that line the city’s pedestrian-friendly streets. Grab a sweet treat at Kilwin’s Chocolate or browse along the many galleries and jewelry shops.

We went to the Dali Museum ( on a Thursday evening. Located in the heart of   downtown St. Petersburg, this is home to an unparalleled collection of Salvador Dali art. It features more than 2,000 works, comprising nearly 100 oil paintings, over 100 watercolors and drawings and 1,300 prints, photographs, sculptures and art objects. The building is itself a work of art, featuring 1,062 triangular-shaped glass panels—the only structure of its kind in North America. Nicknamed The Enigma, it provides an unprecedented view of St. Petersburg’s picturesque waterfront. The Museum has attracted the world’s attention, and was listed by AOL Travel News as “one of the top buildings to see in your lifetime.”

I was thoroughly impressed with the experience and definitely list this as a “must see” for anyone in the area. Make sure to take advantage of the audio tour, available in several different languages. Many of the art work is labelled by numbers, so it is easy to pick up the commentary of relevant background information. I definitely acquired an increased fascination with Dali when I completed the gallery.

The museum recently announced two new permanent installations for the public to enjoy: a breathtaking new outdoor sculpture of Salvador Dali’s memorable mustache, and, inside its galleries, the awe-inspiring and globally award-winning Dreams of Dali virtual reality (VR) experience. First introduced as a component of the special exhibition Disney & Dali: Architects of the Imagination (January-June 2016), Dreams of Dali allows users to go inside – and beyond – Dali’s 1935 painting Archeological Reminiscence of Millet’s “Angelus” and explore the world of the Surrealist master like never before. The VR experience and its component 360-degree video received visitor acclaim, online praise and international recognition through a multitude of industry awards, including the prestigious 2016 Cannes Cyber Lion Gold; a 2016 Webby People’s Voice award; Facebook Silver award for Innovation, among many others.

Visitors to the museum are engulfed by art in every form – from the magnificent works of the talented Salvador Dali on display and installations in the outdoor Avant-garden. The Garden was inspired by local flora and Dali’s fascination with duality in art and nature, and is home to a tree where visitors can share their wishes, a meandering labyrinth, a tranquil “melting clock” bench, and myriad mathematical environmental elements. One of the most popular attractions in the Garden, known as the ideal spot to take photos and share via social media, was a colossal three-dimensional mustache that over time began to deteriorate.

Through April 17, 2017, the Dali is presenting the work of one of the most celebrated female artists of all time, Frida Kahlo. Her works have achieved significant importance in art, popular culture and the politics of personal identity. The exhibition features more than 60 pieces, including 15 original paintings – many of them among Kahlo’s own favorites – seven drawings, and more than 45 of her personal photographs.

The exhibition celebrates the beautiful yet tumultuous life of the iconic artist. There are, in a sense, two Fridas we learn: the suffering, pain-wracked Frida and the Frida alive to the joys of the universe. The exhibition demonstrates that despite her troubles, Frida’s legacy is her redeeming art and indomitable spirit.

The Dali Museum is located at One Dali Boulevard. For additional information contact 727-823-3767. The museum’s galleries are wheelchair accessible. There are four wheelchairs for public use, available on a first come, first serve basis, and cannot be reserved. There are designated accessible parking spaces located in the blacktop parking lots immediately adjacent to the museum’s south and west sides. The building was designed and constructed according to current ADA standards. In the course of planning for future expansions and renovations, The Dali is committed to a building providing full access to all.

Downtown St. Petersburg is known for its urban art scene, where you can see dozens of painted murals on a stroll down Central Ave. The St. Pete Mural Tour takes you on a guided journey through the colorful streets of the city with tours led by local artists who uncover the vibrant stories of the creators behind the murals.   You might also want to check out the Museum of Fine Arts or the Florida Holocaust Museum.

There are some live theatre options here. Visit the Sunken Gardens, a botanical paradise in the midst of the city. As St. Petersburg’s oldest living museum, this 100-year-old garden is home to some of the oldest tropical plants in the region.

We met some people with young kids who really enjoyed the Great Explorations Children’s Museum.  Designed for children 10 and under, the 24,000 square foot museum is filled with exhibits and activities to stimulate learning through creativity, play and exploration. The museum is a learning playground where children can make a discovery, make a mess, and even make a new friend.

In terms of downtown parking, there are private valets. If you are going to one of the restaurants connected to a specific valet, there is generally validation where you can save half the price. One night I choose a public lot, which was double the price but unlike the valets there was no curfew to worry about.

Check out Fort De Soto Park at 3500 Pinellas Bayway South. This is 1,100-plus acres, made up of five interconnected islands, featuring two fishing piers, a historic fort, seven miles of paved trails and iconic North Beach.  Explore the two piers at Fort De Soto Park. Visitors can enjoy two piers at Fort De Soto Park. One is on the bay side and the other is on the Gulf. The Bay Pier provides an awesome view of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the left and to the right you will see an island with a lighthouse on it – that is Egmont Key. The Gulf Fishing Pier is the longest at more than 1,000 feet and with no charge to fish on the pier; it has become a popular spot for locals and visitors alike!

Interested in kayaking through the mangroves at Fort De Soto Park? Stop by the Topwater Kayak Outpost to explore the calm waters that weave through the mangroves. Manaphins and dolphins are a common sighting in these waters.

During our stay we were steered towards   Pass-A-Grille Beach. Located at the southernmost end of St. Pete Beach, historic Pass-A-Grille is a quaint, laid back beach town where you can park your car and walk to the beach, boutiques, ice cream shop, outdoor art market, restaurants, tennis courts and fishing piers. There were many road repairs going on when we visited.

St. Petersburg is actually the physical home of the Tampa Bay Rays, the Major League Baseball team that many hope will one day relocate to Montreal. They play out of Tropicana Field near the downtown area.

If you’re traveling with kids, you’ll find family-friendly things to do to keep your whole group entertained. Outdoor lovers won’t be disappointed with all the sporting adventures that abound: from boating, sailing, stand-up paddle boarding and other watersports, to horseback riding on the beach, to highly rated golf courses and hiking and biking trails.

The events calendar is always full, and features everything from big-name concerts and performances to Saturday art walks and annual seafood and music festivals.

What I liked most about St. Pete was that even though we visited during a very busy period, tourist stops, shopping malls, restaurants and even the highways were not overly congested like we have seen too many times in the South Florida area. We only had nine days to explore, so a second trip to St. Pete/Clearwater is definitely on our wish list.

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, the city of St. Petersburg recently began the process of updating its ADA Self Evaluation and Transition Plan to ensure that its public facilities, services, and programs are accessible to people with disabilities.

CAPI (The Committee to Advocate for Persons with Impairments) is a group of residents appointed by the Mayor with advice and consent of City Council. The function of CAPI is to advise city council on issues and to advocate on behalf of persons with disabilities. CAPI provides the city with guidance relative to the concerns, rights, special needs and dignity of persons with disabilities to ensure their full participation in and enjoyment of the city’s facilities, programs, and services.

CHECKING OUT CLEARWATER: Clearwater is about 45 minutes away. The Clearwater Marine Aquarium is the home of Winter and Hope, stars of the sequel to box office hit “Dolphin Tale.” Clearwater Marine Aquarium operates as a marine hospital with its main mission to rescue, rehab and release.

Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill in Clearwater was started by a Quebecer. We passed by but did not have time this trip to indulge in a fresh-caught Grouper sandwich just feet from the white sands of Clearwater Beach. Frenchy’s, which has five local restaurants, is a staple of Clearwater Beach.

Consider a Dolphin Cruise aboard the Sea Screamer. Soak in the sunshine aboard a dolphin cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. Watch as dolphins play in the boat’s wake by wowing everyone with playful jumps. This area is home to the largest pod of Atlantic bottlenose dolphins.

Named the number one beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor this year, you’re sure to find your perfect spot in the sand on Clearwater Beach. Rent a cabana and beach umbrella from a local vendor, or walk toward the more residential north side of the beach for a little serenity away from the bustling scene of Pier 60 and Clearwater Marina.

Take a stroll to Sunsets at Pier 60 festival- a local institution in Clearwater Beach. This free, family event takes place 365 days a year, weather permitting. Next year, the daily festival will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Explore the various artisans, crafters, street performers and musicians and take in a great sunset.

Visitors can enjoy the best of all worlds in St. Petersburg/Clearwater, from award-winning beaches to theme parks and everything in between. A dazzling array of world-class museums, galleries and performing arts have made St. Petersburg/Clearwater the cultural gem of Florida’s west coast, including the world-renowned Dali Museum.

Along with the areas many pristine beaches and barrier islands, a wealth of parks and preserves offer a fascinating look at nature. Outstanding fishing and scores of water sports and eco-tours are popular activities along the area’s 35 miles of coastline. Back on land, golfers can tee off at more than 40 courses.

The area’s eclectic mix of beach and downtown communities provides diverse options for hotels, dining, shopping and nightlife, from sophisticated resorts and nightclubs to casual beachside dining and surf shops. Numerous year-round events add to the fun including art and music festivals and professional sports games.

In Clearwater, disabled persons can enjoy the city with more ease, thanks to continuing efforts to make the confines and attractions accessible to everyone.

WHERE TO STAY: We were very fortunate to obtain accommodations at the Beach House Suites by Loews Don CeSar ( The hotel debuted its total room renovation in February 2016, introducing 70 brand-new all-suite accommodations. The resort, located directly on St. Pete Beach and just one-half mile from the iconic and posh Loews Don CeSar Hotel, is perfect for extended stays, smaller groups and families. Each suite includes a separate living room with sofa bed, washers and dryers and a kitchenette with mini-refrigerator, dishwasher, Keurig coffeemaker, microwave, toaster and induction stove top. Special details such as spectacular views of the Gulf of Mexico, private balconies and stellar Loews-style service complement the new suites and make vacations at Beach House Suites that much more memorable. We felt very much at home.

Beach House Suites is a non-smoking property and welcomes pets ($45 per night pet fee applies). There is a daily resort fee of $25 per room. This  entitles guests to all the amenities and activities at Loews Don CeSar Hotel: complimentary shuttle service to each hotel and downtown St. Pete, high speed Wi-Fi (thumbs up to this service in the room and at the pool), a 24-hour fitness center access, yoga and aerobics classes daily, non-motorized watersport rentals (8 am to 10 am), half-day access to Camp CeSar for the little ones, history tours and complimentary tastings, two bottled waters daily, pressreader access, in-room  coffee, turn down service upon request, poolside pampering, pool and beach games, airline boarding pass printing and 24-hour shoe shine.

Pet-friendly rooms are available on the first floor only, so one must call 866-728-2206 to check availability.

When we first booked this place we were excited to know that we had full access to the Don CeSar. You can get there by walking, via the shuttle or taking your own vehicle. I was even provided with a neat book upon checking in about the hotel’s history. They even provided guided tours each day. We quickly discovered that lounging by the pool at the Beach House Suites was a solid option. For one thing, the pool area was never overly crowded. The pool attendants set up our chairs and umbrellas each day. We swam in the nicely heated pool and took advantage of the warm and soothing Jacuzzi. Nice music plays on the speaker system. You can play a game of ping pong, shuffleboard or check out the giant chessboard. There is a full bar where you can get some great smoothies and food items – the latter delivered within a half hour from the Don CeSar. And of course it is a nice option to be able to go back to your own room when you wish for a rest, collect some snacks or make a sandwich.

Manager Andrew Isherwood and his staff do pay close attention to everyone’s needs. I was impressed with how quickly Andrew remembered the names and room numbers of each guest. During his daily walkabouts he’d stop me near the pool or lobby to find out how everything was going. It is this type of individual attention I truly appreciated about the Beach House Suites.

We did take advantage though of  the full resort privileges at the Don CeSar, aka the Pink Palace, where room charging options are available  at Spa Oceana, shops, and restaurants, including the award-winning, Four-Diamond Maritana Grille and the newly opened Rowe Bar.

There are two beachfront heated pools. The poolside concierge provides everything from cucumber hydration to tropical smoothies.  With programs like Loews Loves Kids and Loews Loves Pets, everyone in the family is sure to have a great time at the Pink Palace. And that includes your favorite four-legged friend.

For those who are physically disabled, the pools and whirlpools at both complexes have special lifts.

Loews Don CeSar Hotel partners with the award-winning Boucher Brothers Management to pamper guests during their day on the beautiful St. Pete Beach. Take a walk from the pool deck and have some fun on the Gulf of Mexico, seeing the beautiful pink castle from a different view while cruising on wave runners or exploring on ocean kayaks. We got to spend one day lounging in private daybeds and chilling out on a chaise for a luxurious take on fun in the sun at the Loews.  Lunch and drinks were available right at our chairs via the Beachcomber. In terms of beach rentals, run by the Boucher brothers, luxury beach lounges cost $10; Beach Sand Chairs, $8; Large Umbrellas, $15; Deluxe Beach Cabanas, $30 and those Luxury Beach Beds, $100.

We also took advantage of the Jet Ski rentals. It is $120 per hour or $60 for a half hour after lunch time. You will save some money if you book it in the morning. The staff will sit you down in the Jet Ski in the water, provide a series of guidelines and then allow you to start the motor and go on your merry way. This was a real “rush” for my family and an activity I would strongly recommend. You can book your choice experience right at the hotel or call in advance and ask to be connected to someone from the Boucher Brothers team.

Lunch at the Don CeSar’s Sea Porch is another option. The Chef de Cuisine ensures fresh catches, comfort food, and local coastal flavors that cater to all appetites. This seaside location, with both indoor and outdoor seating, is the perfect place to enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Groups can enjoy the upper level, Gatsby’s, with sliding doors, a great choice for exclusive, private functions for up to 30 people.

The signature Loews Loves Kids programs are designed to make it fun—and easy—for families to travel with children and teens. No matter how old your kids are, they are guaranteed to have as good a time as you do. From lending libraries of games to childproofing kits, they have everything to make your family’s travel as seamless as possible. A “Kids Closet” offers items available for guests to use during their stay. These include toys, books, car seats, strollers, nightlights, potty seats, baby bathtub, baby blankets, outlet protectors, self-contained DVD players with age-appropriate DVDs—and more. There are children’s menus, with healthy options, plus fun books with crayons. Cribs and roll-away beds are also available for in-room use.

There is a list of nearby tourist attractions and activities recommended for children, as well as nearby pharmacies, pediatricians and bonded babysitting services. For babysitting needs, simply contact the concierge for arrangements and fees or more information.

Each summer, families can make a splash in the pool and enjoy a family-friendly “dive-in” movie.

As for things to do at the hotel, don’t miss a trip to Uncle Andy’s Ice Cream Parlor for some homemade ice cream.  One morning I enjoyed a quick small breakfast there.  You can also go shelling on the white powder beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, take part in hourly games and activities for children of all ages, including sand-castle building, treasure hunts and obstacle courses or heck out the indigenous fish in the aquarium off lobby.

Kids from aged four to 12 can spend the day exploring the beaches and garden surroundings of the Don. Exciting and kid-friendly activities include beach crafts, seashell hunting, and castle contests, pool games and special Kids Night Out events. You must provide 24-hour advance reservations by calling 727-360-1881 x2233.

For teens the Loews Don CeSar offers a combination of entertaining, fun and educational activities to occupy your hard-to-please teens and tweens who receive music download cards, a list of nearby tourist attractions, activities and shopping geared to teens and access to a lending library of Gameboys, DVD players, board games, and more.

The hotel has several ADA (American Disability Act) sanctioned rooms. There are eight at the main resort, including one of the Penthouse suites, and four ADA sanctioned rooms at Beach House Suites. These rooms include roll-in showers and in the Beach House Suites the washer and dryer units are next to each other, rather than stacked on top of each other.

THE MARITANA GRILLE: It turned out that one of the more outstanding restaurants in St. Pete was right at the Don CeSar. The Maritana Grille exudes fine dining. Our meal there was a true experience, thanks very much in part to our superb server Tim who guided us perfectly through each portion of the meal. There is a reason why this made it as a USA Today 10 Best acclaimed restaurant. It features food sourced from local farms, dairies, and fishermen and includes traditional contemporary favorites prepared with a creative twist.  The menu is accented with an extensive wine list, first-class service, and a stunning setting, graced by dazzling salt water aquariums. Ask about the private Chef’s Table, where your entire dinner experience is specially created and presented by the talented culinary team—the perfect setting for special occasions or whenever the mood strikes. In this case you are seated right in the kitchen.

We began with some drinks, the pink pearl consisting of chopin vodka, Chambord, champagne sparkle and fresh raspberry. On this night, a fabulous seafood platter was available. It consisted of some crabs, large shrimp and six kusshi British Columbia oysters, with champagne mignonette and cocktail sauce.   In addition, we ordered some delicious tuna sashimi (with ginger vinaigrette, lemongrass aioli and ginger crunch) to share while one member of party selected the roasted carrot bisque. This literally tasted like candy it was so good, featuring toasted coriander, lime and chili oil.

For the main course, Tim went over the many sumptuous options. We took some time before settling on three dishes: Maine lobster, with hand cut pappardelle, asparagus spears, trumpet mushrooms and lobster cream; an extraordinary serving of Chilean sea bass, with confit potatoes, asparagus, oyster mushrooms, herb foam and port lemon reduction; and an Anderson Ranch Lamb Rack, with celery root purée, sweet pea gnocchi, carrots and mint pesto. Tim would also make a great sommelier, for he matched different glasses of wine with each of our dinners to absolute perfection.

The dessert options were tantalizing to say the least. We opted for the olive oil cake (white chocolate ice cream, vanilla custard, black pepper strawberries and olive oil powder), the key lime semi fredo (graham cracker whipped cream, crushed blackberry sauce, meringue kisses and blackberry sherbet) and mocha spheres (dark chocolate espresso, coconut ice cream, caramel cream and cocoa toast). This was definitely an opportunity to share, so we dove into each one at a time. Needless to say, there was not a crumb left on any of the plates.

Open for dinner daily at 5:30 pm, reservations are strongly recommended. You can call 727-360-1882, email and log on to the full menu on the hotel website.    Hats off to chef Mouhssine Benhamacht and his team.

HAROLD SELTZER’S STEAKHOUSE:  Canadians in particular will want to visit Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse. I quickly learned that Harold is a native Montrealer whose grandfather Sam was one of the city’s most legendary butchers.

Upon arriving at the St. Pete locale, I felt right at home. There was the well-lit up sign no passing car could miss, several model cows near the entrance, a packed parking lot accompanied by a sizable lineup for tables and a menu which looked oh so familiar.

Harold Seltzer was only eight years old when he started to work at his grandfather’s iconic butcher shop in Montreal for 75 cents an hour. As he grew up, he learned the business inside out and put himself through school by waiting on tables and working in management for different restaurants. While he chose a different career path and became a commercial tax real estate lawyer, the food industry remained close to his heart.

Sam Seltzer (1905-1997) began working as a young boy delivering packages of meat on the streetcars of Montreal. He worked for the butcher shop of the man who would become his father-in-law and eventually opened up one of his own, which he became deservedly famous for more than 60 years.

Harold’s father Nelson and his uncle Norman took over the family business and grew it to greater heights, serving the finest cuts of aged and marbled beef to individuals, as well as the better restaurants, hotels and private clubs in Montreal. Nelson also owned and operated many restaurants in Canada, before returning to the meat and wholesale food business and still works full time.

In 1995 an opportunity presented itself to launch a steakhouse concept in the Tampa-St. Petersburg, Florida area and Harold jumped at it. He called the restaurant Sam Seltzer’s Steakhouse, after his legendary grandfather, and from the first 1,000 seat dining establishment in Tampa it grew into a chain of 30, with other locations in such places as Clearwater, Orlando, Sarasota, St. Pete, Port Richey and Fort Myers.

Harold sold his interests in Sam Seltzer`s Steakhouse in 2004. One night, six years later, he was watching the news and saw that the entire chain was shutting down. He was shocked and felt particularly bad for the staff who would be out of work. A few days later he purchased the contents of the St. Pete and Port Richey locales and reopened under the new name of Harold Seltzer`s Steakhouse.

Harold Seltzer’s Steakhouse is reputed to have the best prime rib in town and I can personally attest to how good it is. He buys all of his beef in bulk and ages it for five to six weeks to make it more tender. They make their own dough each day in order to serve homemade dinner rolls and croutons and house-made dressings and they have strict meat handling approaches. From the time the meat is produced, Harold’s has control over it. It is cut in-house and aged a minimum of 35 days.

Besides the prime rib, members of our party also ordered the 10 once rib eye and the filet mignon. We began our meal with delicious house salads and bowls of another speciality, the lobster bisque.

The St. Pete restaurant seats about 350 people.  It was impressive to watch Harold in action. For one thing he stopped at every table to chat and most customers spoke to him on a first name basis. He cleared dishes and when I went to the washroom there he was cleaning the sink counters. A little later I saw him circulating in the kitchen.

The St. Petersburg restaurant is located at 3500 Tyrone Blvd. while the one in Port Richey is at Gulf View Square Mall.  Log on to

FOX RENT A CAR: Booking a rental car from a good agency represents an important component to any holiday. On our recent trip to St. Petersburg, we had our first experience with Fox Rent a Car ( Our Air Canada flight landed at the airport in Tampa. A free shuttle brought us to their area headquarters where we drove away with a Chrysler 300. I really liked this vehicle.  It even came with Sirius XM Satellite Radio. At Fox you’ll find economy cars, family-size cars, SUVs, mini-vans and luxury or sport vehicles available for your discount rental.

The shuttle pickup was very smooth. Our driver Robert was a real gentleman, loading and unloading all of our luggage. It is a pleasant 10 minute drive from the airport, where a friendly staff awaits and checks you in promptly. The gentleman at the desk signed me in and then walked me to the Chrysler, loading our luggage and giving me an overview of the car’s features. We brought our own GPS, but Fox will provide you with one.  Our return to the airport was just as smooth

Fox is the fifth largest car rental company in the US and it continues expanding globally   with new locations now open for reservations in the popular tourist markets of Belfast, Northern Ireland, Merida, Mexico, Auckland, New Zealand, Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada and Istanbul, Turkey.

“We are very happy to expand with our new airport partners in Canada, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Turkey and Mexico to bring the Fox value and brand experience to travelers in these growing leisure rental markets” said Jack Wetzel, Director of Fox Affiliate Division for Fox Rent A Car. “We continue to seek out new partners and business location opportunities to expand our car rental service to loyal Fox customers around the globe.”

The addition of these new locations enables Fox to now reach an additional 52 million international travelers and expand its value-based rental service around the world through. Overall Fox has more than 12 locations in 29 countries and territories, including the United States and with an available fleet of over 60,000 vehicles worldwide.
Fox Rent A Car, Inc. was founded in 1989, as a value-based car rental brand catering to airport travelers. Actively managed and owned by its founders, Fox has enjoyed robust growth for over 25 years. Fox Rent A Car offers consumers great value, convenience and superior service at 20 major corporate owned airport locations cross the US plus more than 90 affiliate locations and a growing roster of international partner locations at

With 20 major airport locations across the US, Fox offers the consumer the same selection of foreign and domestic vehicles at a significant discount from the larger rental operators in the market. As the 21st century traveler becomes more discerning and cost-conscious, the Fox brand will continue to gain acceptance and a loyal following, founded on the principle of consistently offering value and superior service to the customer.

I was very impressed with the Tampa operation, managed by Johnny Hubner. The airport is currently undergoing major renovations. When completed in early 2018, there will be a new rental car facility at which point Fox will relocate.

Fox has been in Florida for five years now, with locations in Tampa, Orlando, Fort Myers, Miami and Fort Lauderdale. Their prices are significantly better than the competition. “Pricing is obviously a big factor when renting a car,” says Hubner. “That and of course the reputation of the company. I believe we stand out on both counts.”

The Tampa location is open 24 hours a day.

For more information call (800) 225-4369 Ext. 1 or (310) 641-3838 Ext. 1

For customer service call toll free (800) 225-4369 Ext. 9 Fox does assist with reserving vehicles with hand controls. Fox cannot provide hand controls on every make or model of vehicle, and cannot confirm a reservation for a particular make or model of vehicle on any rental. Please call (800) 225-4369 at least 72 hours in advance to make your reservation.

For assistance with a wheelchair-accessible shuttle, you can call (800) 225-4369.

I strongly recommend this company. Great service and none of the competition can beat their prices.

Sunny Isles Beach, Florida

My family and I returned to beautiful Sunny Isles Beach, Florida recently and had the good fortune to spend some time at the fabulous Acqualina Resort & Spa. This venue has been awarded one of the highest honours in the hospitality industry,  the Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Award.  It is one of 76 hotels to receive this recognition throughout the world and the only hotel and resort on Miami Beach.

PIAZZETTA: The one of a kind Il Mulino New York  Restaurant was ranked as an exceptional dining establishment while the Acqualina Spa by ESPA earned top marks as well. We had our first taste of the Piazzetta, a modern marketplace and beachfront Italian restaurant concept which transports guests to a town square set in South Florida Riviera amidst the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The Tuscany-inspired marketplace and beachfront restaurant offers light dining options, bottled wines, olive oils, sauces, caviar, brick oven pizzas, crostinis, paninis, salads, meats, teas and a coffee corner boasting twenty one specialty coffees in a relaxed and inviting setting. Guests and residents get  to enjoy the luxurious surroundings of Acqualina’s indoor and outdoor spaces while savoring in an assortment of signature dishes and offerings. Daily specials include roasted marinated chicken and grilled wild tiger shrimp. The menu is curated by Acqualina’s executive chef Christopher Blum and Chef Michael Mazza of Il Mulino New York.

At Piazzetta, guests can enjoy dine-in or take-away the finest fresh, prepared and gourmet foods, as well as purchase a variety of merchandise, including Il Mulino’s famous pasta sauces. This Italian market also offers a wine corner featuring a wide variety of wines from around world with an emphasis on private vintages.  Piazzetta at Acqualina is open to the public Monday  to Sunday from 11a.m.  to 11 p.m.  .

THE RESORT: The Acqualina boasts 4.5 beachfront acres with 400 feet of stunning Atlantic coastline, 188 residences, 97 impeccable guestrooms and suites, the 20,000 square-foot ESPA oceanfront spa, oceanfront restaurants, four swimming pools and an innovative marine biology-based children’s AcquaMarine program. Next door construction is underway on a brand new complex called The Mansions of Acqualina.

The Acqualina is owned by ‘the other Trumps.”  Brothers Jules and Eddie, the sons of a South African tailor known as “Willie,” have no financial, philosophical or even familial ties to Donald Trump. Over the years they have quietly built an empire on luxury real estate development, one which includes Williams Island (named after their dad), an 82-acre posh preserve for the rich in Aventura and Luxuria in Boca Raton, seaside condos that include flat-screen televisions in the bathrooms.  .

For more information on Acqualina Resort & Spa on the Beach, log on to For reservations, please call 305-918-6777 or 888-804-4338.

IL MULINO: Il Mulino New York ( by far ranks as my number one dining experience anywhere each year. Renowned for its bustling and energetic atmosphere, market fresh daily specials, extensive selection of fine Italian wines and an impeccably polished wait staff,  this is one of  more than a dozen (and counting) Il Mulino locations. It has already become  a much sought-after establishment, frequented by both locals and visitors in the know.    

The 110-seat indoor restaurant spreads onto a 24-seat veranda overlooking the ocean.  Service here is absolutely spectacular. Experienced Maitre ‘D  Tino Ponticorvo is there to greet you while regional director of operations Jason Rodriguez  is often on site and your contact to book private functions.

The menu draws upon the rustic and hearty Abruzzi region in Italy. From the moment you walk into the establishment, your party is showered with attention as Tino and several severs bring you complimentary antipasto tastings of soppresatta, bruschetta, reggiano parmesan, fried zucchini. mussels and garlic/cheese bread sticks.  There is such a wide variety of selections to choose from, it is no wonder they have regulars who come here several times a week. We arrived at 7 p.m. and the place was a bit quiet. Within a half hour there was not an empty seat in the house. Our party began by enjoying the appetizers and ordering some salads and their signature tortellini soup.  For the main course, we needed a lot of time to decide.  Would it be the veal, some fresh fish, langoustines, pasta, chicken, steak or lamb chops? One person opted for the dover sole, giving a huge thumbs up. Two of us shared the generous portion of lamb chops, accompanied by the best rosemary potatoes I can remember in a long time. Two others feasted on the langoustines, with risotto.

The wine list includes over 200 selections of Italian varieties and guests are offered a complimentary glass of signature house grappa prepared by Tino himself. This year’s newest creation was coconut and I must say I found it quite tasty. Also on the dessert menu, the flourerless chocolate cake, the cheesecake and the tiramisu are to die for. Ask for the sampler, which includes a tasting of all of their desserts on one tray.   Il Mulino New York is right by the main lobby of the Acqualina. There is valet parking. The address is  17780 Collins Avenue. Be sure to make a reservation by calling 305-466-9191. You can view the menu on their website.

SUNNY ISLES: The beautiful community of Sunny Isles Beach, known as Florida’s Riviera, is  located on a barrier island in the northeast corner of Miami-Dade County, bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the east and the Intracoastal Waterway on the west.  Located midway between downtown Miami and Fort Lauderdale, with easy access to business centers, Sunny Isles also includes entertainment, sports and recreational facilities, and tourist attractions.

Almost one million vacationers visit Sunny Isles Beach annually to enjoy the two and a half mile-long fine sand beach and outdoor amenities such as water sports, boating, fishing, and tennis as well as the abundant shopping, dining and entertainment options nearby. The landmark fishing pier is a local favorite while the beautiful Samson Oceanfront Park provides a children’s play area and space to relax; meet friends and enjoy the sunrise. The city is experiencing a major redevelopment renaissance on the east side of Collins Avenue, the main thoroughfare. Zoning laws ensure that view corridors and beach access pathways will always offer residents a life with a view. To the west of Collins Avenue, the City is building parks, improving the infrastructure and laying the groundwork for future redevelopment.

JEWELRY EXCHANGE: I experienced something new during this trip to Florida – the International Jewelry Exchange on Biscayne Boulevard in Aventura. This well secured venue features an endless array of kiosks with some of the nicest jewelry you have ever seen. The novelty here is that you can shop around for the best quality and price. Our family’s search stopped at Station 19 and Jewelry by Marsha ( Marty Yoskowitz has been in business here for 37 years and by far offers the best deals.  You can email him at

Miami: The South Beach China Grill Experience

South Beach is the section of Miami Beach, Florida that encompasses the southernmost 23 blocks of an island separating the Atlantic Ocean and Biscayne Bay. This area was the first section of Miami Beach to be developed, starting in the 1910s, thanks to the development efforts of Carl G. Fisher, the Lummus Brothers, John S. Collins, and others. The area has gone through numerous man-made and natural changes over the years, including a booming regional economy, increased tourism, and the 1926 hurricane, which destroyed much of the area.

In both daytime and at nightfall, the South Beach section of Miami Beach is a major entertainment destination with hundreds of nightclubs, restaurants, boutiques and hotels. The area is popular with both American and international tourists (mainly from Europe, Latin America, Canada, Israel, the Caribbean and within the United States), with some having permanent or second homes. The large number of European and Brazilian tourists also explains their influence on South Beach’s lax and overall tolerance of topless sunbathing, despite it being a public beach.

The reflection of South Beach’s residents is evident in the various European languages, as well as Semitic languages and many other languages spoken. As of 2000, all of Miami Beach residents, including those of South Beach, spoke Spanish as a first language, which accounted for 54.89 percent of residents, while English made was spoken by 32.75 percent of the population. Reflecting the European and Brazilian community, Portuguese (mainly Brazilian Portuguese) was spoken by 3.38 percent of residents, while French (including Canadian French) was at 1.66 percent German at 1.1 percent Italian 0.99 percent and Russian was 0.85 percent of the population. Due to the large Jewish and Israeli community, Yiddish made up 0.81 percent of speakers, and Hebrew was the mother tongue of 0.74 percent of the population.[5]

Another unique aesthetic attribute of South Beach is the several colourful and unique lifeguard stands, still used today by South Beach’s lifeguards. After Hurricane Andrew, Architect William Lane donated his design services to the city and added new stops on design tours in the form of lifeguard towers. His towers instantly became symbols of the revived City of Miami Beach.

On a nice night, there is nothing better to do than find a good parking lot and spend some time walking the streets of South Beach.

Lincoln Road is an open-air pedestrian mall, considered South Beach’s premiere shopping area. It is home to many restaurants and several night clubs, such as Score and Funktion, as well as many retail outlets. While Lincoln Road was one time rather downtrodden, with its unique boutique shops and restaurants, since the 1960s it has had “an esoteric chic that maintains its trendy appeal.” It is located in between 16th Street and 17th Street and spans the beach in an east-west direction.

Ocean Drive is the easternmost street in South Beach, and stems from south of First to 15th Street, running in a north-south direction. Ocean Drive is responsible for the South Beach aesthetic that most out-of-town visitors expect. It is a popular Spring Break and tourist area, including the famous, yet predominantly local, Pearl and Nikki Beach night spots.

Washington Avenue is one of the best-known streets in South Beach. Running parallel with Ocean and Collins. Washington is notorious for having some of the world’s largest and most popular nightclubs, such as Crobar and Mansion. During “season” (October 15 to May 15) the street is jammed with traffic until early in the morning (as late as 6 am) every night of the week. In the 1990s explosion of South Beach as a nightclub venue, its nightclub moguls included Ingrid Casares, whose investors included the singer Madonna Ciccone.

JEWISH MUSEUM OF FLORIDA: If you’re vacationing in South Florida anytime soon and it begins to rain, here is a great indoor activity. The Jewish Museum of Florida chronicles the little-known nearly 250-year history of Jewish life in Florida as an example of the immigrant acculturation process of all people in Florida – and in America.

The Jewish Museum of Florida opened in April 1995 when a group of visionary Floridians rescued an abandoned art deco historic synagogue on Miami’sSouth Beach from demolition. They restored and transformed the building as a place to house the growing collections and as a bright and sunny showcase for an award-winning historical exhibit, MOSAIC: Jewish Life in Florida. This core exhibit project was begun in the mid-1980s in a statewide grassroots effort to collect and preserve photos, artifacts, documents and oral histories of thousands of Jewish families throughout the state of Florida. The Museum received accreditation in 2002 by the American Association of Museums, an honor granted to only 3% of the nation’s museums.

Florida hosts the nation’s third largest Jewish community – 850,000 people, but is perceived to have a “new” Florida Jewish history starting after World War II. In reality, Jews have been allowed to live in the state only since 1763 when Florida was taken from the Spanish, who permitted only Catholics, and turned over to the British in the Treaty of Paris following the French and Indian War. The first Jews settled in Pensacola that year. The man who brought Florida into statehood and served as its first U.S. senator (and the first Jew to serve in the U.S. Congress) was a Jew, David Levy Yulee.

The Jewish Museum of Florida has been heralded as a cultural jewel of Miami Beach and in 1980 earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places. The building, with a unique copper dome, was completed in 1936. It was designed by noted Art Deco architect Henry Hohauser as an Orthodox synagogue for Miami Beach’s first Jewish congregation. Rabbi Moses Mescheloff, who served the congregation from 1937 to 1955, designed the marble Torah-reading bimah and 80 colorful stained glass windows, which are still intact. The Museum is located at 301 Washington Avenue. For more information call 305-672-5044 or log on to It is open Tuesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Mondays and civil and Jewish holidays .

CHINA GRILL: Prominent American restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow’s commitment to the idea that serious food and dazzling spectacle are not mutually exclusive has led him produce some of the most original, critically acclaimed and wildly popular dining hotspots across the globe. Today, Chodorow’s China Grill Management and its affiliates operate 26 restaurants in the US, UK and Mexico. His global restaurant group consists of an impressive array of first-class dining spots. CGM and its affiliates own, operate, create concepts, and /or consult in creating some of the most acclaimed and innovative restaurants in Miami, New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, London, San Francisco, Chicago and Mexico City. His organization’s phenomenal reputation is a result of his culinary ingenuity and unyielding commitment to excellence. It is this combination of uncompromising vision and gourmet expertise that has enabled China Grill Management and its affiliates to provide the public with restaurants of the highest quality. CGM’s flagship restaurant, Manhattan’s venerable China Grill, opened in 1987. Without sacrificing China Grill New York’s distinctive atmosphere or the quality of its cuisine, a sister property in Miami was opened to rave reviews in 1995.

Instantly anointed the place to “see and be seen,” China Grill has become celebrity central for the international set in South Beach. Oprah Winfrey is crazy about the low fat cuisine and dines there whenever she’s staying at her Fisher Island home. Madonna, a really big fan, got a thrill dining there the same night as Miami Heat coach Pat Riley. Will Smith and Jada Pinkett enjoyed a honeymoon dinner following their New Year’s nuptials. Michael Caine dines there when in town. George Clooney had to be escorted in through the back door due to the many paparazzi trying to get a photo of him. Jack Nicholson likes to enjoy a cigar after a meal befitting a Hollywood legend. Supermodels Cindy Crawford, Nikki Taylor, Naomi Campbell, Daisy Fuentes and Vendela, superstars from Sly to Cher to Prince, Brooke Shields, Eddie Murphy, Jeff Goldblum, Lenny Kravitz, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, Julio Iglesias, Enrique Iglesias, Anna Kournikova, director Oliver Stone and actor/director Sean Penn, sport ‘s stars Ken Griffey Jr., Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, Livan Hernandez, Wayne Gretzky, and Emerson Fittipaldi have all wielded chop sticks here. Senator Bob Kerrey, Magic Johnson, Donald Trump, Placido Domingo and George Stephanopolous fill out the list of the legendary and the distinguished.

My family and I made our first visit to the China Grill South Beach location and I must tell you it was an experience to remember. This was an entire evening out. Our server, Stepha Diamond, has been with the place for three years. She is a walking encyclopedia of the menu. More importantly, she gives excellent suggestions and what to order and share.

Virtually every dish at China Grill is prepared on the grill or in a wok, using sauces strictly for flavor. Portions are generous, and artfully presented on bold, oversized plates, and above all, meant for sharing. We started off with some fabulous crab cake, some salads (crackling calamari and confucius chicken) lamb spareribs and regular calamari) and perhaps the best sushi rolls I have tasted in a long time – the kaleidoscope (salmon, tuna, cream cheese and spicy mango) and crunchy tuna.

Spectacular entrees, large enough for two to three people, include Shanghai lobster with ginger, curry and crispy spinach, Korean kalbi rib eye with truffled artichoke-potato hash, wild mushroom profusion pasta with sake Madeira cream sauce, duck two ways, sweet soy marinated skirt steak, tempura sashimi with hot mustard-champagne sauce, lobster pancakes with wild mushrooms and red chili and coconut milk. A selection of nine popular side dishes include wasabi mashed potatoes, crispy spinach, and five vegetable fried rice among others. Do not worry about over ordering. The staff will package any of the leftovers up so you can continue to enjoy the China Grill experience. Save some room for dessert. We receommend the cheesecake pot stickers (with the five spice chocolate raspberry, mango and ping sauce), the Great Wall (vanilla, chocolate and caramel ice cream, toasted meringue, fresh berry and whipped cream) and the hazel nut chocolate torte (blackberry and orange cream and anglaise sauce).

In an area known already for it’s architecture and design, China Grill stands out. Spectacular from the outside, breathtaking on the inside, the restaurant captures the pulse and energy of Miami. The landmark glass, onyx and limestone building encompasses three separate dining and drinking areas. A 250-seat main dining room pulsates at the center. Interiors designed by noted architect Jeffrey Beers include passages from Marco Polo’s travel diaries emblazoned in marble mosaics that run the length of the restaurant’s imported Egyptian limestone floors. One of the most striking features of the restaurant is Beers’ signature — almost ethereal custom light fixtures that hang from the restaurant’s soaring ceilings like clouds.

One of Florida’s most highly acclaimed restaurants, China Grill has twice received from the Miami Herald their highest rating, EXCEPTIONAL. The restaurant has been featured as one of the region’s “hot new restaurants” in the March 1996 issue of Esquire and hit the cover of New York Magazine’s February 12, 1996 edition, accompanied by a story that tracked the migration of chic from New York to Miami Beach. The April 6, 1997 issue of The New York Times’ travel section, China Grill was praised for its invigorating, light and inventive food. The October 1997 issue of Travel & Leisure deemed the restaurant’s Shanghai lobster a to-die-for dish. Voted one of Miami’s most popular ( top 40s) restaurants by the ZAGAT Survey.

Special Needs: The China Grill offers valet parking. This establishment is handicapped accessible. If any member of your party is in a wheelchair, ask to be seated at the main level. There are special handicapped accessible washrooms for males and females. For those with vision problems keep in mind that the restaurant is very dark, with candles at each table. The servers will be happy to provide you with a small flashlight to help you better navigate the menu.

China Grill is located at 404 Washington Avenue in Miami Beach, with easy access directly off the MacArthur Causeway from 1-95. Dinner Sunday through Thursday from 6:00 p.m. – midnight, Friday/Saturday from 6:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. Major credit cards accepted. For reservations, call (305) 534-2211. You can see their entire menu at

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