il Lugano Suite Hotel
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Three blocks from il Lugano, the white-sand beaches and tropically warm waters of the Atlantic Ocean draw seaside revelers like an ineluctable force of nature. As children run by waving shovels, scores of sunbathers lay out in neat rows, and parents collaborate with their progeny on feather-embellished sandcastles. In addition to classic beach activities such as bobbing for kelp, adventurers can explore a less conventional pastime by buying a one-hour standup paddleboarding lesson from Precision Paddleboards, a two-minute walk from il Lugano. Ashley, the bubbly and patient instructor, guides newbies in the art of propelling themselves through the warm turquoise surf. As the sun glints off water droplets on newly hardened shoulder muscles, paddlers catch glimpses of sea turtles and astonishing ocean sunsets, with Fort Lauderdale's impressive skyline forming a backdrop behind.Away from the beach, two blocks up the street from the hotel, the boisterous Greek Islands Taverna sends authentic Greek dishes sailing toward blue-checked patio tables aboard the arms of white-aproned waiters. Tinkling Greek music weaves through the ivied outdoor canopy as diners sip chilled glasses of dry, bitter yet sweet retsina or other selections from the astonishingly large wine list. As the night heats up, throngs of 20-somethings in bikini tops and miniskirts emerge from their siestas and head out to the brilliantly lit clubs and throbbing bars hugging the sand strips. Sun-bleached hair caresses browned shoulders, and newly shined rides roll slowly down North Ocean Boulevard. For those seeking respite from the heat day or night, a meltingly cool cup of lemon gelato at the nearby Pan'e Dolci, open until 9 p.m., can seem exactly, tartly right.Further from the hotel, in Fort Lauderdale's Riverwalk neighborhood, palm trees rustle overhead, coastal waters lap up to the docks, and sidewalks glisten with the tiny fragments of seashells crushed underfoot. The neighborhood includes Historic Old Fort Lauderdale, where a stop at the Old Fort Lauderdale Museum makes for an engaging hour or so of local history, complete with docent-led building tours, photographs, and furniture from the city's turn-of-the-century founding. Afterward, wanderers can slake thirsts and gear up for the day steps away at Brew Urban Cafe, a hip, thoroughly urbane coffee shop peddling perfectly crafted Intelligentsia espresso drinks surrounded by walls tiled in vintage rock albums. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, a narrated 90-minute riverboat tour on the Carrie B allows passengers to float lazily past the grandiose waterfront homes of multimillionaires, letting ocean breezes caress their faces while celebrity-homeowner gossip is spilled in full, scandalous detail by a gleeful tour leader.Though il Lugano Suite Hotel sometimes features a discounted price online, this Groupon still offers the best deal available.