Having spent nearly the last decade in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, I was recently invited to write a featured article called, “Insider’s Guide to Fort Lauderdale, ” which touches on the 5 Best of “The Venice of America” ranging from restaurants, bars, water sports, kid-friendly activities, and even day trips around South Florida. It is an ideal head start guide if you are planning a visit to Fort Lauderdale or even if you are a South Florida local that hasn’t gotten out of the daily grind for awhile. In either case, please enjoy my, “Insider’s Guide to Fort Lauderdale.”

Five new-to-the-scene- bars or clubs:

For those looking to be seen at a trendy spot among Fort Lauderdale’s good-looking, young downtown crowd, head to Vibe on Las Olas. The Ultra-style music, drinks and ambiance can be enjoyed at the bar, outside, or at private tables throughout the club.

Make your way to the Himmarshee Village in downtown and stop in at the bar on the corner, Tarpon Bend. During the day you’ll see the downtown business crowd grabbing great affordable lunches at Tarpon Bend, and, from happy hour on, it has live music, great drink specials and a casual mix of all ages.

If you are in the mood for a pool party, then Exit 66 is for you. Located right on the beach in Fort Lauderdale, it’s nestled through Rock Bar’s front patio in the very back of the building. There you will find the wildest pool party in Fort Lauderdale with a live DJ, young good-looking bartenders and staff, and 10 private cabanas located poolside.

Those venturing to Hollywood and its diverse downtown area must pop inWhiskey Tango. Typically with a wide range of ages, Whiskey Tango has good eats, both indoor and outdoor seating and bars, and live bands at night. This is an ideal casual spot for happy hour, late-night drinks and dancing, or even to catch the games.

Also in Hollywood on the same boulevard is a wine and beer locale called Open Plaza. Decorated as an eclectic, step-back-in-time, cozy living room, it offers great appetizers like empanadas and cheese plates to accompany your drinks. As an added bonus for those that like to shop: all the clothes and books on display are for sale at near rummage sale prices.

Five great restaurants that only locals would know:

Don’t leave South Florida without eating a burger at Le Tub in Hollywood. Le Tub is a no frills, Intercoastal restaurant and bar that is always busy. Be prepared to wait as service isn’t quick, but the burger is big enough to share and very juicy. Do order a side of fries, which are to die for as well.

Himmarshee Bar & Grille is a restaurant and bar that is located in the downtown Himmarshee Village close to the Fort Lauderdale nightlife and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. The menu is unique with items such as butternut squash purses for an appetizer, one-of-a-kind brick oven pizzas and fresh fish selections. Don’t miss the Side Bar, open later than the restaurant, which features awesome mixologist cocktail menu.

On the West side of Las Olas, the Royal Pig is a new gastro pub serving traditional pub appetizers and burgers with a definite foodie twist. Enjoy items like parmesan truffle fries, free-range turkey meatballs, or a variety of burgers like the Cactus Jack Burger.

Gran Forno is also on Las Olas with two locations. One, which is halfway between downtown and the beach, is where all the baking happens. The second is a café next to the Riverside hotel. The locals know that Gran Forno is the best bakery in town, offering great lunch sandwiches on fresh ciabbata bread as well as homemade pizza. If you have a sweet tooth, they have everything from tiramisu to Italian cookies and fruit tarts – plus excellent espresso and cappuccinos.

Orale is the best Mexican restaurant in the area. The location is not large, but the food is authentic. It isn’t Tex-Mex. The house margaritas are reasonably priced and just the right blend of tequila and lime. Plus, the chips and salsa are also fresh, delicious and addictive. For a bit of everything, try the Orale combination plates; you can’t go wrong.

To read my other recommendations, including 5 Great Kid-Friendly Activities, 5 Things to do on the Water, and 5 Day Trips to Take From Fort Lauderdale, visit my full article on CheapFlights.ca, “Insider’s Guide to Fort Lauderdale.”