Bright shiny deals in S. Fla. summertime
Hotels offer package rates you'd never see in winter. Tourist bureaus tempt you with twofers. Upscale restaurants beckon with discounted prices. In South Florida, summertime is deal time.
Most of all, it's affordable.
Plus you can try out a clutch of new hotels, clubs, restaurants and attractions.
Broward CountyGreater Fort Lauderdale offers an array of off-season two-for-one deals it calls its "Summer of Discovery." The program covers a variety of activities, including cruises, diving, golfing, museums, spas and night entertainment, good until Sept. 30. A Summer of Discovery coupon is required. For a list of deals and to download the coupon, click on www.sunny.org/summer or call 1-800-227-8669.
The huge Isle of Capri gaming complex opened in April at the Pompano Harness Track with 1,500 Vegas-style slots, a 34-table poker room, a high-tech sports bar, dining options, and a water feature made from more than 4,000 sheets of cut glass. 1-800-843-4753,
The former Hollywood Dog Track, renamed the Mardi Gras Racetrack and Gaming Center, features live greyhound racing, simulcast horse racing, and a poker room, plus 1,100 slot machines. 1-877-557-5677, www.playmardigras.com.
The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino recently introduced Hard Rock Live, an arena that seats 5,500. Concerts scheduled this summer include Tony Orlando, Mary J. Blige, and the B.B. King Blues Festival. 1-800- 937-0010, www.seminolehardrockhollywood.com.
Gulfstream Park, the Hallandale horse-racing venue, has been extensively renovated and now offers luxury suites and restaurants. Its casino has more than 500 slot machines and plans to add 700 more. 954-454-7000,
In Hollywood, the first phase of more than $120 million in improvements, including gas lamps that cast a glow over the newly bricked pavement, has been completed at the venerable Hollywood Beach Broadwalk.
Also new in Hollywood is ArtsPark, an $11 million transformation of Young Circle to include new gardens, promenades, studios for martial arts and dance, an art gallery, theater, classrooms, and an amphitheater. The complex opened in April.
Two notably upscale hotels have begun hosting visitors in Fort Lauderdale.
Florida's first St. Regis Resort opened May 1 on the beach. The elegant $240 million hotel features butler service, a gourmet restaurant, a spa and fitness center, and 166 guest rooms starting at about $282. 954-465-2300, www.stregis.com.
Also new is the 25-story Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, with 373 rooms starting at about $170, cabanas, beach concierge, a spa, golfing at Parkland Golf and Country Club, and three dining options. 954-414-2222,
Miami-Dade CountyFor the sixth consecutive summer, during Miami Spice Restaurant Month (August-September), participating restaurants will serve an appetizer, entree and dessert for a fixed price of $22 for lunch, $35 for dinner. That's 25 percent to 60 percent off the regular rate. www.ilovemiamispice.com.
Among the new hotels is the Regent South Beach, which opened in February. Features include a glass-panel pool with mosaic waterfalls, spa treatments, direct-dial pocket butler phones, and signature food and beverage venues. 1-800-545-4000, www.theregentsouthbeach.com. Rooms from $345.
Last month, the 49-room Angler's Boutique Resort, a member of the Preferred Hotel Group, opened in a renovated 1930 building on South Beach. There is a special room rate of $290 until November. 305-534-9600,
And the Regent Bal Harbour, with a view of Baker's Haulover and the Atlantic Ocean, is scheduled to open in Miami Beach in late fall. It will have the country's first Guerlain Spa, a 10,000-square-foot facility. 305-866-4633,
Miami Seaquarium has opened a Swim With Our Dolphins program in a new $5 million dolphin habitat. A two-hour dolphin interaction experience that includes one day's admission costs $189. Observers are charged $10-$40. 305-361-5705,
Monroe CountyIf you love Key West but dread the drive, a new alternative is high-speed ferry service. Key West Express' Big Cat Express departs from Miami at 8:30 a.m. Thursdays through Sundays, arriving in Key West about four hours later. Departure from Key West is at 5:30 p.m. Passengers can return the same day or on a later date.
The jet-propelled catamaran has onboard television, food and bar service. It can travel up to 40 m.p.h. and can hold 370 passengers. Fare is $98 round trip for adults, $66 for children 12 and under, $79 for senior citizens and college students. All one-way fares are $49. 1-866-593-3779;
Yellow Air Taxi joins the Key West air fleet with two flights per day Thursdays through Mondays from Fort Lauderdale. One-way fare starts at $99 plus taxes and fees. 1-888-935-5694 or
If you're driving, you may want to check out a huge new mural of a coral reef just completed in Key Largo at Mile Marker 99.2. The panorama by the famed marine artist Wyland wraps around a four-story building.
In Key West, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's $6 million Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center has opened at Truman Annex. Admission is free to the 6,400-square-foot center, which showcases the Keys' underwater and upland habitats. 305-292-0311, www.fla-keys.com/keywest/ecodiscovery.