boat shrunkNo you won’t have a white Christmas, but sunny Fort Lauderdale, Florida, shines during the holidays with its own traditions.

Fort Lauderdale is often called the “Venice of America” for its many canals and waterways. It’s a boater’s paradise and each December you’ll see everything from tiny sailboats to multi-million dollar yachts getting in the holiday spirit at the Winterfest Boat Parade. Over 100 boats parade down the Intracoastal Waterway for the 1 million spectators who can’t wait to see them decked out for the holidays. It’s Florida’s biggest boat parade and one of Fort Lauderdale’s most popular annual events.

Fort Lauderdale’s historic Stranahan House is another festive attraction worth a holiday visit. Want to step back in time to get a glimpse of “Old Florida”? Stranahan House is Fort Lauderdale’s oldest house and served as the city’s first trading post. Over the years, it’s served as a post office, bank and town hall meeting space. Built in the early 1900’s by Fort Lauderdale’s first pioneer, Frank Stranahan, it’s now a historic museum with original furnishings and photos of Stranahan and local Seminole Indians. Over the holidays it gets beautifully decorated in traditional Victorian trimmings. The home is open daily from 1-3pm, admission is $12 for adults, $7 for students and children.stranahan shrunk

What better way to lift your spirits after a history lesson than a margarita, followed by a stroll down posh Las Olas Boulevard? Stranahan House is just off of Las Olas, the Rodeo Drive of Fort Lauderdale, filled with chic boutiques, sidewalk cafes and trendy restaurants. One of the hippest additions to this upscale pedestrian shopping strip is Rocco’s Tacos, a vibrant spectacle of Mexican food, art and furnishings. They have an extensive list of specialty margaritas to really make you feel like you’re on vacation.

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While in Fort Lauderdale, a great hotel choice is the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach, which underwent a multi-million dollar renovation in 2009. There’s a kid’s club, a beautiful pool and an enclosed pedestrian walkway linking the hotel to the ocean. It makes being a beach bum a breeze!

westinAndrea Guthmann is a freelance journalist focusing on family travel. She spent many years as a writer/producer for WTTW-TV, the PBS station in Chicago. Her travel stories have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Parent and on-line travel sites.

A native Floridian, Andrea’s now a big (windy) city mom of 3, who range in age from tot to teen. She loves sailing Lake Michigan and visiting the world class museums and restaurants in her sweet home Chicago. Being a scenery starved city girl she loves escaping to the outdoors during vacations and is working hard to raise 3 happy campers.

Disclosure: The Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau hosted the author to research this story.