It is the time of year when winter sun destination thoughts slowly start to creep into the minds of travellers. And when word of a new non-stop destination out of Winnipeg seeps out, interest piques dramatically.
Such is the case this year, as I received many enquiries about Fort Lauderdale after WestJet announced flights to this south Florida city in their new weekly winter schedule.
What are the beaches like? Is it expensive? How accessible is it to other areas of the state?
These are the kinds of questions I hope to answer in this column.
Many cruise enthusiasts will already be aware of Fort Lauderdale. It is often the selected overnight option for Canadians who will be boarding ships embarking from nearby Port Everglades.
More than 5,300 ships use this port every year and the port has become a major economic generator for Fort Lauderdale and the entire south Florida area.
While it is a significant maritime commercial port, over the past decade it has competed strongly with the Miami port for cruise departures. For many it is much preferred because of the smaller perceived size of connecting cities such as Fort Lauderdale.
It is promoted as the world's best cruise port and there are enough accolades from professionals to back that up.
Fort Lauderdale itself has been a popular tourist spot for decades. However, in previous years it was often publicized for the negative things that seemed to occur during spring break, as thousands of young people flooded the bars and streets, often raging through the night on and off the roadways.
While it still holds attraction for young revellers, it is no longer the hot spot to meet. City fathers have worked hard to clean up the previous image the city seemed to wear around its neck like the proverbial albatross.
A strong police presence keeps things in proper balance so the energy of the city is enhanced while families can enjoy the tranquility they seek as well.
More than 37 kilometres of beautiful beach make it a wonderful place to vacation. Best of all, the beaches are within easy walking distance to a wide range of hotels and restaurants.
The beaches are excellent for people of all ages. Wide, with fine sand, they are perfect for walking and sporting activities, while the water is shallow enough close to shore to make it excellent for children's play.
When it comes to food, and not just along the beaches, Fort Lauderdale boasts more than 4,000 dining choices from casual to elegant.
I should provide one note of caution relating to hotel and beach accessibility. I made my first trip to Fort Lauderdale many years ago when both of my children were small. We researched accommodations and found a brochure that showed a hotel on a beautiful sandy beach that looked magnificently attractive and well-priced.
We arrived to discover the photograph had been taken from the water at a low angle showing the property in its best light.
What was not evident, because of the camera angle, was a highway between the beach and the hotel, which during the days was extremely busy. The crosswalk was a couple of blocks away from our hotel, which made going back and forth with young children a bit of a chore.
That road still exists but is well controlled for access. Nevertheless, hotel location may be important in your choice should you visit.
Off the beach, Fort Lauderdale's long series of inland canals have often seen descriptors highlighting it as the Venice of America.
Many of the condos along the canal are available for long-stay snowbirds. Fort Lauderdale is fairly small with a population of just under 200,000, but as a part of Greater Fort Lauderdale, it offers all the amenities for short and long visits.
There is no shortage of things to do in and around Fort Lauderdale.
To get a peek at some of the richest homes that dot the canal as well as gain an appreciation for this unique inter-coastal way, take the water taxi tour. It is an excellent way to see the city since your ticket allows you to jump on and off the tour at various points.
There is no doubt you will also see some of the biggest personal and corporate yachts you will find anywhere since Fort Lauderdale, in addition to cruise ships, offers one of the largest and best boat yards for visitors and residents alike.
Butterfly World is a 10-acre preserve where more than 10 million butterflies are born annually. It is also the home of the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the United States.
Along the same vein, the 60-acre Flamingo Gardens offer visitors a tour that includes thousands of rare and exotic plants and animals.
Perhaps because of its ocean and watery surroundings, Fort Lauderdale is also home to the International Swimming Hall of Fame where you can relive the Olympic dreams and achievements of the greatest swimmers in history.
Given its reasonable proximity to the launch site of so many spacecraft of the past century, it is also natural to expect the Museum of Discovery and Science would be a popular attraction.
All in all, with the attractions, location and consistently fine weather that surrounds Fort Lauderdale, I have no doubt the decision by WestJet to give us a new destination option will be successful.
Forward your travel questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Ron Pradinuk is president of Journeys Travel & Leisure SuperCentre and can be heard Sundays at noon on CJOB. Previous columns and tips can be found at www.journeystravelgear.com or read Ron's travel blog at www.thattravelguy.ca.