Thanks to The Vacation Gals’ partnership with Sage Hospitality, a friend and I enjoyed a lovely three-night escape to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, earlier this month. The timing was perfect, as we were just coming off a bleak stretch of unusual spring rain and cold in the Colorado Rockies. Tropical weather, lounging poolside and exploring a bit of Fort Lauderdale without kids sounded great to these two busy moms of school-age children!
Indeed, our long weekend away allowed us to rest and recharge before the end-of-school-year-madness began (not to mention the craziness that is getting kids to summer camps and packing for lengthy family vacations). Here are the highlights of our stay at Il Lugano.
Location on the Intracoastal Waterway: To be honest, I was a bit wary of Il Lugano’s location a few blocks from the beach. After all, this land-locked mama loves to dip her toes in the sand on a Florida vacation! However, it turned out that we absolutely loved the hotel’s position right on Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway. Fort Lauderdale sits on a network of canals — it’s sometimes called the “Venice of America” — that sees a ton of boat traffic.
We very much enjoyed waking up each morning to savor coffee on our 8th-floor balcony, with views of multi-million-dollar mansions and their docked luxury sailboats, not to mention the dozens of upscale yachts, fishing vessels and sleek cigarette boats that passed by. Plus, Fort Lauderdale’s water taxi — which brings passengers to restaurants, shopping and other attractions along its route — stops right at a dock in front of Il Lugano, when you call ahead (otherwise, the main taxi stop is a 5-minute walk down the street).
Roomy accommodations with kitchen: We stayed in a one-bedroom Lugano Suite, which featured a bedroom with king bed and its own small balcony, plus a separate living room with larger balcony. Also key to this gal’s vacation happiness: the full kitchen with refrigerator, microwave, stove and dishwasher. The fridge was great for storing leftovers from our dinners out, and we also stocked up on healthy snacks (hummus and crackers) and breakfast foods (bananas and oatmeal) when we first arrived to help save on eating out all the time. We could have booked a standard-sized room with two double beds, but opted for the larger space and took turns on the king bed and sleeper sofa.
Poolside cabanas and champagne: With the Il Lugano Getaway Package, we were pampered with a bottle of champagne and fresh fruit delivered to us poolside in our shaded lounge chair. These cabanas are typically first-come/first-serve, but with the package, we were able to have one reserved for us at a specified time (we chose Saturday morning). We loved our cabana facing the waterway, just steps from the hotel pool, where we cooled off a lot — it’s hot in Fort Lauderdale in mid-May!
Paddleboarding on the Intracoastal Waterway: The Il Lugano Getaway Package also includes an hour of stand-up paddleboarding or an hour of private yoga by the pool or dinner and a movie for two. We opted for paddleboarding with Precision Paddleboards. We could have sampled paddleboarding in the ocean, just blocks from the hotel. However, as novices, we chose to go on the gentler Intracoastal Waterway, launching at Esplanade Park, a few miles away.
Our brief lesson and tour with friendly, knowledgeable college student/guide Joel was one of the highlights of our weekend! After just a few minutes, we got our balance, maneuvering from the busier, wavier Intracoastal, into a more mellow channel. It was so fun to see a residential neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale from the water.
Dining at da Campo Osteria: Il Lugano’s fine-dining, on-site restaurant is a true gem. Of all the spots we ate at in Fort Lauderdale on our four-day getaway, this Italian eatery was by far our favorite. We devoured the Crispy Eggplant, Arugula and Artichoke Salad and Lobster Tagliatelle; while my vegetarian friend passed on the Jumbo Meatball, I give the savory dish two thumbs up! But the highlight by far was the fresh, hand-pulled Buffalo Mozarella prepared tableside. Served with pesto, olive oil and balsamic vinegar it was absolutely delicious; we didn’t leave a piece of cheese on the plate!
Here, in this (dark) video, da Campo Osteria Chef Steven Acosta narrates as fromagier Phillip pulls our mozzarella – such fun!
Thank you to Sage Hospitality for teaming with The Vacation Gals and showing us several hotels across the United States. Read more: Highlights of the Renaissance Chicago Blackstone Hotel and Rennaissance Pittsburgh: A Family-Friendly Hotel. Also, follow our tweets on upcoming trips to San Diego and Denver at #SageWanderer.