A masterpiece of an itinerary that’ll please both art enthusiasts and beach bums.
By Emily Schlorf
Some of the most renowned paintings by the art world’s greatest creators have a fascinating connection to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Yes, you read that right. From Vincent Van Gogh’s pale violet–walled “The Bedroom” to Georges Seurat’s pastel pointillist strokes that form “Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte” and Pablo Picasso’s blue-tinged “The Old Guitarist,” these profound canvases connect a dotted line to the South Florida city better known for a raging spring break.
And in addition to this rich history, contemporary artists of all mediums — muralists, glassblowers, musicians, and more — have found inspiration in the city’s tropical landscape, diverse population, and lively energy. You can too, with the help of VIP ConciergeSM, a 24/7 personal assistant and local market expert dedicated to making Interval Gold® and Interval Platinum® members’ vacations even more memorable.
Day 1: Soak Up the Sun
I don’t make the rules: the first day of a Fort Lauderdale escape must be spent at the beach — after all, there are turquoise waves to float upon, sandy stretches to stroll, and sandwiches with a cult following to savor. Complete the day with a flavorful seafood feast and a special perk only available through VIP Concierge.
You’ll know you’ve made it to Fort Lauderdale Beach when you see the 2-mile-long (3.2 kilometers) signature wave wall that squiggles playfully down the beachfront promenade. Its spirals serve as a place for kids to climb on, a stop for parents overladen with beach equipment to sit down for a breather, or a photo op for out-of-towners capturing their day at the beach.
If you’d prefer to lose yourself in nature rather than people-watching, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park may be a better fit. Nicknamed Fort Lauderdale’s Central Park, the 180 acres (73 hectares) were donated to the state by a nature-loving lawyer-turned-businessman (who we’ll learn a bit more about on Day 2’s itinerary). Birch, who purchased each acre for a few bucks in the early 1900s, sold the land to the state on the condition that it remained untouched by development. Today, visitors enjoy those unspoiled visages, from a gargantuan banyan tree with intersecting branches and roots to peaceful coastal trails.
Regardless of which beach you choose, be sure to do as the locals do, and pick up a personalized Pub Sub — a sandwich from Publix Supermarket’s deli counter — to enjoy once you arrive at la playa. Any South Floridian will agree there’s no better beach delicacy than a toasted chicken tender sub blanketed in melted cheese and honey mustard.
For dinner, celebrate your first night on vacation in style at Rivertail. Helmed by five-time James Beard Award–nominated chef José Mendín, the menu impresses with its combination of globally inspired seafood and the finest in local produce. With dishes ranging from brioche donuts smothered in spicy honey, sprinkled in flaky sea salt, and filled with crab meat to crispy whole snapper accompanied by kimchi and garlic, the hype here is well deserved.
Inside, the relaxed coastal decor is enlivened by neon signs and tropical flora, but there’s no better seat than on the patio overlooking grandiose yachts gliding across the New River. And even better: Interval Gold and Interval Platinum members who book their reservation through VIP Concierge can toast to the start of a remarkable vacation with a free cocktail.
Day 2: Art History (and More) at the Bonnet House
Remember that state park we visited yesterday? Day 2’s agenda includes a visit to the artful home and gardens that were first owned by the park’s namesake, Hugh Taylor Birch, as well as uncovering the details connecting Fort Lauderdale to those beloved masterpieces!
The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens’ story began when Birch gave the land for the home as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen, a poet and musician, and her groom, Frederic Bartlett, an up-and-coming muralist. And as for the paintings: the works were purchased by the art-collecting couple and eventually donated to the Art Institute of Chicago in memory of Helen, who tragically passed away from breast cancer in 1925. This donation, once seen as unconventional, ended up supplying the first major collection of post-Impressionist works exhibited by a museum in the United States.
Years later, Frederic remarried, and soon the home became enlivened by a newfound vibrancy: Frederic’s third wife, Evelyn (pronounced Eev-lyn). Together, the pair adorned every wall, hallway, and ceiling in bright coats of paint, whimsical designs, and amusing pieces like carousel animal statues and paintings of men riding giant roosters. Aside from the Wi-Fi, the house is almost identical to how it looked in its prime, serving as a cheerful step back in time.
Hear more stories of the home while you traverse the grounds’ five ecosystems on a guided paddleboard or kayak tour (complete with museum and house access, a walking tour, and complimentary photos and videos). The special tour package can be set up by calling your VIP Concierge.
After wrapping up the tour, toast to the Birches and Bartletts and their artistic endeavors at Evelyn’s bar and restaurant. Located just minutes away on the second floor of the Four Seasons Hotel and Residences Fort Lauderdale, the upscale eatery enjoys dreamy ocean views and a sophisticated and sparkling interior.
Although Evelyn’s possesses a prolific wine list and indulgent menu items, what’s particularly attractive to Bonnet House visitors is the cocktail list. Head mixologist Matthew Dress worked in tandem with the museum to dream up tasty and tongue-in-cheek delights like the Two Left Feet. With tequila, date syrup, and spiced bitters, the name references a mural of Evelyn — with two left feet — painted by Frederic to poke fun at his beloved wife’s dancing skills (or lack thereof!). Another storied swill is the Cookie Jar. Garnished with a ginger molasses cookie, this cocktail alludes to Hugh Taylor Birch’s favorite treat that Evelyn was always sure to have on hand for his visits. While all drinks are inspired by the socialite, the citrusy Rangpur Daiquiri cut with spiced maple syrup came from Evelyn herself.
Day 3: Art for the Senses
Feeling artistically inspired by yesterday’s trip to the Bonnet House? Today you’ll get the opportunity to put those creative juices to work, but first, a study in the art of breakfast at Hatch.
A breakfast spot brimming with brightness, Hatch differentiates itself from others in the city by offering a full brunch menu available every day of the week, instead of just on the weekends.
Sweet tooths will be spoiled with choice when they arrive at “The Griddle” section of the menu. Does one go with classic chocolate chip pancakes or something more adventurous like lemon cream cheese–filled blueberry hot cakes or a caramelized pineapple stack dripping in vanilla rum custard? For those who just can’t decide, an epic “flight of the pancakes” option empowers guests to taste a combination of any three pancake flavors.
The art doesn’t stop at the abstractly drizzled pancakes — Hatch’s walls spotlight hand-painted murals by Jeremy Fish, a nationally recognized painter, and Eduardo Mendieta, a local muralist known for his public art installments across South Florida.
After brunch (or following a post-brunch nap), we’re heading to a private glassblowing class in Fort Lauderdale’s sister city, Hollywood, which can be booked through VIP Concierge as well.
Founded by Netflix show Blown Away contestant, Brenna Baker, Hollywood Hot Glass opened in 2013. Upon arrival, students choose a design — from a simple table weight to more intricate sculptures like a pumpkin or jellyfish — as well as colors. Then, with the help of a skilled instructor, it’s time to heat the glass to temperatures over 2000°F (1093°C) and start shaping your masterpiece. Twenty minutes later, you’ll have a one-of-a-kind memento of your artistic adventures.
To finish off an artful day for the senses, treat your ears — or funny bone — to a show at the neon-lit 450-foot-tall (137 meters) guitar-shaped Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. From the funniest comedians to some of the most well-known musicians and bands, the Hard Rock maintains a packed calendar of entertainment, so the odds of catching a showstopping act while in town are in your favor.
And to ensure you don’t go to the show on an empty stomach, book a 2- or 3-course fixed-price Hard Rock Cafe meal voucher through VIP Concierge, which provides members with priority seating. After the meal, browse the hotel and casino’s vast collection of music memorabilia (including Madonna’s iconic white tulle “Like a Virgin” dress) before enjoying an evening of electrifying live entertainment.
Day 4: Shopping, Strolls, and Scenic Sights on the River
Today’s main event is a flavorsome food tour and scenic cruise on the New River, another incredible activity available through VIP Concierge. End the day with a stroll down elegant Las Olas Boulevard, the heart of Fort Lauderdale replete with posh art galleries, ice cream shops, and boutiques.
Before hopping onboard, sip some liquid energy at charming Ann’s Florist & Coffee Bar. Family-owned and operated since opening in the 1970s, the delightful spot on Las Olas serves quality coffee, pastries, wine, and floral-inspired cocktails. On the other side of the shop, upscale flowers and gifts are sold, so convenient for last-minute souvenirs.
During the food tour, sample light bites from Las Olas’ premier restaurants. Onboard, enjoy sun, shade, or air conditioning as you listen to your guides’ thrilling accounts of the rich and famous residents of Millionaires’ Row, and see why some call Fort Lauderdale the Venice of America. After disembarking, celebrate one last tasting — a delicious dessert made sweeter by some last Las Olas strolls — as you reminisce on the memorable times had in Fort Lauderdale.
Get VIP Treatment With VIP Concierge
Don’t waste precious vacation time on hold — pass the phone to VIP Concierge instead.
Interval Gold and Interval Platinum members have access to their own personal and savvy assistant through VIP Concierge. In addition to previously mentioned perks such as a complimentary cocktail at Rivertail or the Hard Rock Cafe meal voucher with priority seating, other Fort Lauderdale activities available through VIP Concierge include a 90-minute Jungle Queen Riverboat sightseeing tour, a two-hour kayak or paddleboard rental, and an Atlantic Ocean snorkeling experience. But VIP Concierge isn’t just for vacations.
At home, delegate daily tasks to your Concierge: Have them make restaurant reservations, request golf tee times, book tickets to shows, provide directions, set reminders, and more. With setup available online or over the phone, it’s never been easier to take time-consuming tasks off your plate and onto your VIP Concierge’s.
Here’s how: As an Interval Gold or Interval Platinum member with access to our VIP Concierge service, you can start enjoying the benefits today. Click Contact Your Concierge for personalized assistance, 24/7.
Interested in upgrading your membership so you can start living life as a VIP? Click View Your Benefits to see what makes each Interval membership tier special.