A strong bid for mature travelers is being made by Ft. Lauderdale on Florida's Gold Coast.
For years the city attracted attention when thousands of disorderly college students flocked there for spring break, an event commemorated by both a popular song and a hit film, "Where the Boys Are."
To combat the negative image created by the boisterous collegians, the community passed and strictly enforced strong laws that have effectively limited the rowdy behavior.
While large numbers of young people still enjoy the long stretches of white beach, the city also appeals to a wide range of age groups, the mature traveler in particular.
Broward County, which includes the cities of Ft. Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach, Hollywood and Pompano Beach, boasts 23 miles of clean, white Atlantic Ocean beach, where water temperatures average 75 degrees and visitors can expect 330 days of sunshine annually.
Beaches are handsomely landscaped and offer nicely maintained picnic areas, public restrooms, open-air showers and lifeguard stations that also serve as information centers.
Some hotels and many attractions now offer incentives to the mature traveler. The Embassy Suites Hotel in Deerfield Beach was among the first to offer discounts for seniors. All suites have a living room, bedroom, complimentary coffee and tea service, refrigerator and bar. A full breakfast is included daily, as well as a two-hour cocktail hour each evening.
Until Dec. 15 the hotel is offering a $10-a-day room discount for seniors, which means ocean-front suites for $150, ocean-view suites for $109 and Intracoastal Waterway views for $89. (Because of the Intracoastal Waterway and the many man-made canals for houses, some have dubbed Ft. Lauderdale the "Venice of America.")
For a brochure, information or reservations, write to Embassy Suites, 950 S.E. 20th Ave., Deerfield Beach, Fla. 33441, or call collect: (305) 426-0478.
Most major hotel and motel chains in the Ft. Lauderdale area also offer discounts. Sheraton has two beach properties--the Yankee Trader and the Yankee Clipper--and one in the city center that offers seniors a 25% discount.
Ramada Inns has properties in the nearby communities of Deerfield, Pompano Beach and Sunrise, all of which also offer a 25% senior discount.
Days Inns, at the airport, in downtown Ft. Lauderdale and at two beach locations, have 10% discounts available for seniors.
At Marriott Hotels, senior discounts vary. For the Harbor Beach resort the regular rate of $130 is reduced to $80 for two persons if they are members of AARP. Marriott's Ft. Lauderdale Intracoastal Hotel and Marina offers a $69 rate for seniors for a room that lists at $120. At Marriott Cypress Creek in the wildlife preserve the rate is $59 for two, down from $124.
Best Western properties are individually owned, so prices vary. The Marina Inn & Yacht Harbor in Port Everglades quotes a room and full breakfast for two at $57.60, while the Oceanside offers room and breakfast for $49.50 per couple.
Holiday Inns have nine properties in the area, all of which give a 10% discount off the published room rates for AARP members.
Hilton Hotels has two properties in the Ft. Lauderdale area that offer the Hilton Senior Honors program, which provides discounts for senior travelers.
Variety of Activities
Broward County offers a wide range of activities, including sports events, art, sightseeing, music, dance and theater. Some of the places that offer discounts for seniors are:
--Pompano Harness Race Track, which charges a nominal 75 cents for seniors.
--Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art, with frequently changing exhibitions.
--Buehler Planetarium, offering shows on the solar system.
--Butterfly World, a center for butterfly breeding where you can take a tour or stroll among the many beautiful species in screened aviaries while enjoying the lavish gardens.
--International Swimming Hall of Fame.
Discounts are also in effect for Sea Escape, which offers one-day cruises to the Bahamas that include three meals, entertainment, all shipboard activities--casino, swimming, dancing or bingo--plus hotel pickup and return.
Other cruises are day "Cruises to Nowhere" and daytime or evening "Sampler Cruises." Senior prices for Sea Escape cruises range from $44 per person. Details and descriptions of these and other cruises are available from travel agents or by calling toll-free (800) 327-7400. Reservations can usually be made while in Ft. Lauderdale.
Festivals and Shows
Festivals and special events are scheduled throughout the year, and many offer senior discounts. A typical month might include a boat show, horse and buggy show, festival of the arts, sidewalk fairs, fishing derbies, arts and crafts shows and traditional holiday celebrations and observances.
Illustrated brochures on Ft. Lauderdale and environs are available at no charge. Also offered is the "Greater Ft. Lauderdale Vacation Guide," which includes a listing of hotels and motels and price ranges.
You can also ask for the Ft. Lauderdale calendar of events and a theme map showing the location of all major tourist attractions, including golf courses, tennis courts, state and regional parks and reef sites for snorkelers and scuba divers.
For a set of these brochures, write to Greater Ft. Lauderdale CVB, Department MT, 500 E. Broward Blvd., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. 33394.