Clear your schedule and pack your bags, because you’re going on a girls’ trip. If your boss balks or your family whines or your dog gives you sad little puppy eyes, tell them that you’re doing it for your health—and it won’t even be a lie. Science says an occasional mini break with your friends is good for you.
While we all love our families, it has been proven that friendship can extend life expectancy, lower chances of heart disease, and even help us better tolerate pain. Really! Psychologists were able to predict the size of someone’s social network based on how much pain they were able to withstand. Friendships also make us feel good. In 2016, researchers found researchers found evidence that hanging out with friends can increase production of oxytocin, the feel good cuddle hormone that our bodies make when we’re happy.
Science has shown that oxytocin can make people more trusting, more generous, and friendlier, all the things you look for in friends.
Conversely, according to the clever folks at Harvard, people who don’t have strong friendships tend to be more depressed, have later-life cognitive decline, and, frighteningly enough, were more likely to die at a younger age. One study, which looked at the lives of 309,000 people, found that a lack of strong social ties increased the risk of premature death from all causes by 50%, which was about the same effect as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day. A 2012 study found that the risk of dementia increased depending on how lonely people felt.
Having friends is scientifically good for your health, but it can be hard to maintain those friendships. People move, jobs change, kids graduate, and maintaining friendships can be difficult and the annual Christmas letter or occasional Facebook update doesn’t always suffice.
While there is some research showing that distance doesn't have to dampen a friendship, it can be hard to balance busy lives with keeping up with long-distance friendships. Plus, in a series of studies, psychologist William Chopik from Michigan State University, found that in older adults, friendships are a stronger predictor of health and happiness than relationships with family members. "Keeping a few really good friends around can make a world of difference for our health and well-being,” he said. “So, it's smart to invest in the friendships that make you happiest." He also noted that friendships may be more influential on our happiness and health than other relationships, so it’s worth taking the time to make plans to be just with friends. Hence the girls’ weekend.
So clear your schedule and start planning your weekend away—for your health. Here, our guide to the perfect girls getaway weekend in Fort Lauderdale.
There’s no question: You have to stay on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, and there are plenty of options (with more to come in 2019 when the Four Seasons Hotel and Private Residences Fort Lauderdale debuts).
We recommend The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale for its nautical design—the tiered, 24-story hotel channels the look and feel of a glossy Art Deco ocean liner, inside and out—and ubiquitous floor-to-ceiling windows, intended to showcase the city’s ocean blues. A seventh-floor, ocean-view pool deck with heated infinity pool and private cabanas may make you forget about the beach just below, and the Club Lounge spans the width of an entire floor; you can watch the sunrise over the ocean and sunset over the Intracoastal, champagne in hand.
Alternatively, the W Fort Lauderdale is fresh from a $55 million facelift in December. The hotel’s two most iconic venues have been redone—the Wet Deck with its “see through” swimming pool and the nightlife-friendly “Living Room” lobby—as well as the 430 guestrooms and suites.
DAY ONE: SAIL AWAY
After check-in and a welcome cocktail at your hotel, see why Fort Lauderdale is the so-called “yachting capital of the world.” Hop on the Water Taxi—the “Beach Place (Beach)” stop is a five-minute walk from the W and Ritz-Carlton—and cruise a portion of the 300-plus miles of inland waterways that lend to the city’s Venice moniker. Multimillion-dollar homes line the finger isles with water toys docked out back, representing a microcosm of Fort Lauderdale’s 50,000-plus yachts. Head down the New River to the “Stranahan House” stop, where you’ll catch a glimpse of the historic 1901 trading post-cum-residence of Fort Lauderdale founder Frank Stranahan. From there, wander down Las Olas Boulevard, the heart and soul of Fort Lauderdale, known for its restaurants, shopping, art galleries, and people-watching.
How to choose from the 75-odd stores and galleries? We always stop by New River Fine Art, a gallery that’s frequently commissioned to decorate top yachts in the industry, and plan a meal at one of the boulevard’s two-dozen original restaurants. Luigi’s Coal Oven Pizza is a low-key affair with bragworthy pizza napoletana margherita—so authentic, toppings aren’t allowed (and so good, you won’t miss them). Sweet Nectar does al fresco dining and beach-conscious shared plates, charcoal grilled, with some pretty amazing craft cocktails. Try the tequila-forward Deez Smoked Pineapples with smoke charcoaled pineapple syrup and ancho chili.
DAY TWO: BEACH DAY & SPRING BREAK REDUX
Keep things simple today with unapologetic beachside R&R. If you hadn’t noticed already, you’ll be struck by just how pristine Fort Lauderdale’s beach is. The city takes great pains to be the model “Blue Wave Beach,” a certified accolade of Florida’s Clean Beaches Council; and the W and Ritz-Carlton happen to occupy some of the state’s most beautiful sand.
Lunch by your hotel pool, or, if you’re the type that doesn’t like to linger, Uber a mile and a half south to eat outdoors at the seafood-centric Sea Level restaurant. It’s not the easiest to find (set your location as the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa, where you will enter and then walk down toward the beach), but it’s the best waterfront view and some of the best food and drink in Fort Lauderdale. Pick from the chalkboard of daily specials featuring just-caught seafood, or stick to the tried-and-true menu favorites like the Florida rock shrimp ceviche. Wash it down with a “Garden to Glass” cocktail, made with fresh squeezed juices, house-infused liquors, and herbs from chef Jason Connelly’s organic garden.
In the late afternoon, channel your inner spring breaker on a beachside pub crawl. Start at the legendary Elbo Room, which dates to 1938 but remains delightfully stuck in the 1970s (with decent live music). From there, head to fire pits of S3 (which stands for sun, surf, and sand) and order the conversation-worthy S3 cocktail sampler: a tray with miniature versions of the bar’s dozen-or-so signature drinks.
For dinner, inch over to Steak 954, a Stephen Starr restaurant that delivers on surf as well as its turf; the lobster and crab coconut ceviche and the butter-poached Maine lobster are both perfection. For dessert, gorge on the trio of ice cream sandwiches, made with an ever-changing selection of homemade cookies and homemade ice cream. Book ahead to secure an outdoor table—though sitting in front of the jellyfish tank indoors is pretty unreal.
Finish the night at Stache, a 1920s speakeasy-inspired drinking den that’s the adult-friendly diamond in the rough of teenage-infested downtown. Or hedge your bets on some Las Vegas–style gaming and entertainment at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in neighboring city, Hollywood.
DAY THREE: BRUNCH & BAKE
Sop up Saturday’s alcohol with a hearty brunch at the Old Fort Lauderdale Breakfast House (O-B House for short), hands-down the best Sunday morning fix in the city. Enjoy pillow-y, just-baked, six-grain bread and cheesy grits, super thick Buttermilk and Florida Corn Pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, omelets stuffed with peppery local mahi mahi, and salads with ingredients from regional farms and house made dressings. After, head back to the hotel for one last tan top off before heading to back to colder climes.
If last-minute baking doesn’t interest you, explore Fort Lauderdale’s history at Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, the estate that once belonged to great American artists Frederic and Evelyn Barlett. The historic 1920s home, art gallery, and pocket of environmental preservation—the 35-acre estate is one of South Florida’s final patches of native barrier island habitat—is one of the few places that has managed to evade destruction in the name of high-rise development (thank you, Florida Trust for Historic Preservation). Expect to see a model of Old Florida architecture; Frederic’s imaginative murals across the house’s ceilings; and Evelyn’s unconventional collection of monkey art (her pet monkeys still live in the estate’s trees). It’s Fort Lauderdale at its most eclectic—spring break notwithstanding.