The Ritz-Carlton Fort Lauderdale
1 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale
The Ritz-Carlton gets it right in Florida, and the Fort Lauderdale property deserves its own—from the rooftop—shout-out. This hotel is as close to perfect as a big, showy resort gets. First of all, rather than going over-the-top, the Ritz is understated with a gentle blue-and-cream nautical theme throughout. There are no loud, dazzling colors competing with the view. The swimming pool is elevated on the seventh floor, so all you see while swimming laps is the turquoise ocean, not a parasol in sight. The Everglades are just twenty-five minutes away, and there’s a kids’ program to keep the littles entertained, while parents can grab a drink on the balcony or settle into the (incredible) spa for a lazy afternoon.
Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes
4012 Central Florida Pkwy., Orlando
“Less than twenty minutes from Harry Potter World” isn’t our typical opener for a hotel, but in Orlando, every minute in the car is a minute wasted. The city’s Ritz-Carlton is a classic, splashy, sophisticated resort done well. Really well. Within the fourteen floors and 500 acres that make up the property are a pond for fly-fishing, vegetable gardens (much of which ends up on your plate at dinner in one of the eleven restaurants), tennis courts, a golf course, and a 40,000-square-foot spa. There are also activities especially for kids, like arts and crafts and nature walks (free for each child for the first two hours). Service across the board is flawless, and guest rooms are airy and relaxing in quiet creams and pastel blues.
Ariola Dr., Pensacola
There are plenty of hotels in Pensacola, but we would argue a beachside rental is the way to go. The options here are easy, family-friendly, and luxurious. Ariola Drive faces the emerald surf of the Gulf and is home to several picture-perfect beach homes with private pools and rooftop decks for blasts of that warm, salty air. We loved this one with its classic white clapboard exterior and huge dining area for family feasts. A few doors down, this three-story, modernist property has floor-to-ceiling windows and a porch that runs the length of the house—convenient for keeping one eye on the kids on the sand below without having to leave the house.
The Don CeSar
3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach
The Don CeSar is a flamingo-pink palace masquerading as a hotel. Situated right on St. Pete’s powdery white beach, the building’s blend of Mediterranean-meets-Moorish design wouldn’t look out of place in Morocco or southern Spain. For families, reserving one of the self-catering beachside suites is a good idea—the experience is comparable to moving into your own, gorgeously outfitted house on one of Florida’s prettiest beaches (cerulean water, clean sand that runs through your fingers like fine sugar…it’s beyond). For the kids, it’s nirvana: game rooms, seashell hunts, sandcastle building, even their own all-day camp. The two swimming pools—overlooking that glassy, emerald sea—are as captivating for the adults as they are for children. Once the kids are tucked into bed (with one of the hotel babysitters keeping watch), parents can unwind and grab a drink in the lobby bar.
4441 Collins Ave., Mid-Beach
The soaring white monolith that is the Fontainebleau dwarfs its corner of South Beach. The hotel is staggering in size compared with nearby properties, and the space is filled with not only guest rooms but several clubs and a few restaurants, including London favorite Hakkasan. An ideal hotel for a weekend of letting loose, you hardly need to leave the property (though we suggest you do). There’s a nightclub, Liv; two cocktail bars; five restaurants; a spa; and an adjacent marina should you care to arrive by sea. While staying here with children doesn’t seem like a good idea (it is loud), the kids' program is excellent and includes day camps, scavenger hunts, sports, and a babysitting service.
1717 Collins Ave., South Beach
Though it’s in close proximity to the glitzy hotels of South Beach, the Surfcomber is unpretentious and relaxed. It’s right on the beach but not super scene-y. The pool is shaded by the surrounding palms and close enough to the waves to catch that essential sea breeze and none of the sand. The décor abandons the all-white concept adopted by so many hotels in the neighborhood and instead goes for bright geometric patterns that complement the Art Deco aesthetic of the property. The surfboards nestled in corners around the lobby and heaped out by the pool are a further nod to the mellow, amiable vibe the Surfcomber is going for.
1700 James Ave., South Beach
A hotel, restaurant, and private club imply a scene. However, out-of-towners can barely get in the door given locals have taken all the best seats. Casa Tua—which translates to “your house”—resembles a beautiful, homey Mediterranean villa. The four-poster canopied beds are made up with the silkiest white sheets, and the bathrooms have deep tubs for long soaks after days at the beach. The food is some of the best in the city, and the patio is perennially packed with locals, all diving into bowls of rich, peppery truffle tagliatelle at tables illuminated by the Moroccan lanterns that drop from the surrounding trees. Hang out in the lobby during Art Basel—this is where all the deals go down.
4525 Collins Ave., Mid-Beach
The Eden Roc is on the beach—but you might not even know it given the hotel’s four infinity pools. The building itself dates back to the 1950s, though décor-wise, it’s modern, with neutral colors and floor-to-ceiling windows that not only suffuse the space in light but capture as much of the ocean as possible. Rooms are comfortable, with all the creature comforts you’d want: Nespresso machines, the softest robes, rainfall showerheads, and powerful blow-dryers. Evenings at the lobby bar see locals and visitors alike crowding in for the excellent cocktails whizzed up by expert mixologists.
The Raleigh (Closed)
1775 Collins Ave., Mid-Beach
Life magazine named the Raleigh’s pool the most beautiful in America in 1947, and more than half a century later, it’s not difficult to see why—it’s certainly not the most extravagant pool in Miami Beach, but it does have old-school Art Deco charm (and a great pool bar). The hotel’s rooms are fashioned in the same image, with vintage furniture and large windows to take in views of palm trees and sunsets. You can order locally sourced food through room service anytime; Jose Icardi of Katsuya overhauled the Raleigh’s restaurant a few years back, so that’s an option, too. Plus, the Raleigh is home to one of the city's best watering holes: Martini Bar.
2001 Collins Ave., Mid-Beach
The minute you pull up to the Setai, it's obvious that this is a place with history. The original hotel (called the Dempsey-Vanderbilt, for boxer Jack Dempsey) was designed and built in the 1930s. Eighty years later, the gorgeous old Art Deco hotel is best known for over-the-top luxury: think beach attendants who move your lounge chair to the perfect angle, bring just-cracked coconuts, and have a way of keeping loud partygoers away. The temperature-controlled infinity pools (plural)—a seventy-five-degree lap pool, a ninety-five-degree family pool, and an eight-five-degree central pool—all overlooking the private beach, are a major part of the allure.
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