Moving to Fort Lauderdale, FL: A Bellhops City Guide

Before Panama Beach became a spring-break destination for high-school and college students—this is still a thing, right? we’re not dating ourselves, are we?—Fort Lauderdale was the place to go for teenagers to party. And it stayed that way until the mid-’80s, when the city began passing laws discouraging the kind of behavior that often comes with high-school and college spring-break trips. Now Fort Lauderdale has become much more family-friendly and caters to older crowds who prefer the resort lifestyle, with plenty of upscale dining and shopping.

For those considering a move to Fort Lauderdale, we’ve gathered information and resources to help make the decision easier. We’ve also reached out to folks who live there to find out what they love about the city and what they think it could improve upon. Also, if you're interested in Florida, but not sure if Fort Lauderdale is right for you, check out our guide on moving to Florida.

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Living in Fort Lauderdale: The Basics

  1. A Brief Overview of Fort Lauderdale

    Although this coastal city is relatively small, with a population of about 180,000, Fort Lauderdale is often grouped within the larger Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metropolitan area, which has grown rapidly and now consists of more than 5.5 million people.

    For this reason, Fort Lauderdale has traditionally existed in the shadow of Miami, but now, thanks to a development boom spurred in part by Miami’s skyrocketing real estate market, Fort Lauderdale is experiencing significant commercial and residential growth of its own.

    It has 23 miles of beaches, which one might expect from a town situated along the Atlantic Ocean, but it also has an expansive canal system that runs more than 500 miles and has earned it the nickname “Venice of America.”

  2. The (Rising) Cost of Living in Fort Lauderdale

    Fort Lauderdale is the seventh-most-expensive city in Florida, and the cost of living is 37 percent higher than the national average, according to SalaryExpert.

    According to Zillow, the average listing price for homes is $495,000. When it comes to renting, apartments tend to range from $1,470 to $2,053, depending, of course, on where you want to live.

    If you would like a more thorough review of the cost of living in Fort Lauderdale, Expatistan is a great site that will provide you with an extensive list of expenses such as health care, groceries, clothing, and pretty much anything else you can think of.

  3. Jobs in Fort Lauderdale

    Fort Lauderdale’s population, much like other parts of Florida, fluctuates with the large number of people who live there on a seasonal basis, which helps boost the economy during the slow times for tourism.

    In addition to the strong tourism industry, Fort Lauderdale has a robust job market that employs people in a wide range of fields. Here are the current salaries for the most common jobs:

    • Accountant: $70,000/year
    • Registered nurse: $79,000/year
    • Human resources manager: $90,000/year
    • Web developer: $90,000/year
    • Mechanical engineer: $106,000/year
    • Paralegal: $64,000/year
    • Real estate agent: $57,000/year
    • Electrician: $57,000/year
    • Photographer: $54,000/year

  4. Getting Around the City

    For some, it’s possible to live in Fort Lauderdale without a car, but it’s definitely not ideal for most people. Now that you’ve been advised, if you choose to go without a car, here are your best options:

    • Broward County Transit (BCT): With a total operating fleet of 300 buses serving 1,600 stops, BCT covers more than 4o0 square miles of the city.
    • Brightline: A privately owned, operated, and maintained passenger rail system that provides express service that connects Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach, and Orlando.
    • B-Cycle/AvMed Rides: This bike-sharing program was created as a means of reducing traffic congestion and has 16 stations within the city limits.
    • Sun Trolley: The Sun Trolley offers six different routes in Fort Lauderdale and works on a wave-and-ride system—meaning if you see a Sun Trolley and want to ride it, just wave it down and it will pick you up along the route.
    • Tri-Rail: A commuter rail line that links Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach, this 71-mile-long system has 19 stations along the coast of Southeast Florida and connects directly to Amtrak at numerous stations. A second Tri-Rail line, on the Florida East Coast Railway corridor, extends service north to Jupiter and south through Downtown Fort Lauderdale.

  5. Crime in Fort Lauderdale

    As with any major American city, crime is a factor, but it varies based on which part of town you live in. This interactive crime map is a handy resource for determining the level of safety in particular areas.

Living in Fort Lauderdale: The Lowdown on the Best Neighborhoods for You

Fort Lauderdale’s neighborhoods are diverse and ever-changing, so we’ve tried to simplify things by briefly highlighting some of our favorites. If you’re interested in a more extensive review, make sure to check out our other guides: “Best Suburbs in Fort Lauderdale,” “Best Neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale,” “Best Neighborhoods for Families in Fort Lauderdale,” and “Best Up-and-Coming Neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale”.
  1. Colee Hammock

    Located in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, Colee Hammock is one of the area’s oldest—and coolest—neighborhoods. Many of the older houses—think of two-story wraparound porches—have been completely restored, and there is also a nice mix of condos, apartments, bungalows, and Cape Cod–style homes. The area is also known for its boutiques, restaurants, and highly rated schools.

  2. Tarpon River

    With a working-class vibe and convenient proximity to supermarkets, shopping centers, parks, and the water, Tarpon River is great for families and young professionals.

  3. Victoria Park

    Victoria Park is one of those neighborhoods that hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves, and because of that some lucky buyers found beautiful homes for well under $100,000. But that’s not the case anymore. Since the 1990s, people have been flocking to this area, and now it’s a fairly tight-knit community consisting of mostly upper-middle-class families and senior citizens.

  4. Harbor Beach

    Harbor Beach is a gated community tucked behind the southern end of Seabreeze Boulevard, complete with a marina and a private beach club. It’s one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Fort Lauderdale and features some absolutely stunning architecture. Pier Sixty-Six is a short walk away and offers waterfront dining and one of the best spots in the city to view the sunset.

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Fort Lauderdale Culture and Nightlife

  1. Restaurants, Nightclubs, and Art

    Fort Lauderdale is home to more than 4,100 restaurants and 120 nightclubs, many of them located in the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, which runs from east to west along Las Olas Boulevard, from the heart of Downtown to the beach. The district includes the Broward Center for the Performing Arts and the famous Elbo Room.

    Other popular bars and restaurants include Rocco’s Tacos, Royal Pig Pub & Kitchen, YOLO, and Shooter’s Waterfront.

    For fans of live music, we recommend you check out the Escape Lounge and the Culture Room. And the annual Tortuga Music Festival is a great way to see a wide variety of acts all in one place. For those with more refined tastes, check out the South Florida Symphony Orchestra.

    Finally, when it comes to museums, Fort Lauderdale has no shortage of them. Art enthusiasts will want to visit the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale, Museum of Discovery and Science, Coral Springs Museum of Art, and the African American Research Library and Cultural Center.

The Pros and the Cons: Things You’ll Love—and Perhaps Learn to Love about Fort Lauderdale

We’ve mostly focused on the pros of moving to Fort Lauderdale, and that makes sense because there are a lot them. But like any city, living here has its share of drawbacks as well. We’ve reached out to locals to discuss a few of those—along with the top benefits—to help you decide whether a move to Fort Lauderdale is the right choice for you.
  1. Pro: The Food

    According to Lynda Balfour, the food is amazing, especially when it comes to Central American and South American cuisine.

  2. Pro and Con: The Weather

    It might seem like cheating if we rank this as both a pro and a con, but for every person who loves how the temperatures in winter remain above 40 degrees, there is someone who will complain about the extreme heat in the summer. The area is also prone to torrential downpours and hurricanes, which is worth keeping in mind, especially in the fall.

  3. Pro: The Beaches

    With eight beaches covering 23 miles, this can’t possibly be a con.

  4. Con: The Traffic

    The traffic, according to Lynda Balfour, is awful. She says it’s worse than Atlanta, New York City, and Washington, D.C. While our experience there says it's not quite that bad, Lynda's other advice should not be ignored: “Be prepared to shell out about $60 a month, per car, on Sunpass fees [toll roads], depending on how often you use the highways and their fast lanes.”

Additional Resources for Moving to Fort Lauderdale

For all the things we didn't cover, and for more of what we did, here are some other sites that will help you with your decision on moving to Fort Lauderdale, FL:

  1. Three Helpful Links

    • City of Fort Lauderdale's Official Site: The name says it all. Geared more toward residents, this site will teach you everything you need to know about living in the city.
    • Greater Fort Lauderdale: This site is geared more toward those who plan to visit—offering ideas for things to do, restaurants to visit, and places to stay and shop.
    • South Florida Sun Sentinel: A reliable source for local news relevant to Fort Lauderdale and South Florida.

Good Luck with Your Move to Fort Lauderdale

And that’s it. Our job is done. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your potential move, that’s OK. It’s all part of the process. Hopefully, what we’ve provided will help alleviate some of your anxiety and enable you to decide if Fort Lauderdale is the right place for you. If you decide to take the plunge, get in touch. We know some people who might be able to help.