By Betsy Cribb
August 13, 2015

You think you know Fort Lauderdale, Florida? Think again:

I made my first visit to that well-known spring break destination last week, and am here to report that Fort Lauderdale makes a great summer (or anytime) getaway. Let's begin with the layout itself. With glittering waterways meandering under bridges all over town, it's easy to see why the Florida city has been called the "Venice of America."

My hotel, the newly-renovated Pelican Grand Beach Resort, was the perfect base camp for local adventure. First off, Pelican Grand sits on a beautiful stretch of grand (and white-sand) beach -- an ideal perch for a blissful hour under an umbrella that matches the opulence of the Atlantic beyond those gentle waves.

The most blissful hour of my time in Fort Lauderdale, however, wasn't even spent on the beach. Rather, it was spent 11 stories above the beach in Pelican Grand's new PURE Spa, where I indulged in the Maria Åkerberg Luxury Facial, a soothing treatment that included more than 50 organic oils, cleansers, and cremes.

Taking cues from light-filled Swedish spas and its tropical location, PURE Spa also offers papaya body scrubs, sea-salt pedicures, and incredible views of the ocean.

But if that's not enough to convince you that Fort Lauderdale is a must-visit, a glimpse of the city's most charming thoroughfare might do the trick. Lined with boutiques and eateries and dotted with trees, Las Olas Boulevard is a shaded, charming place to wander... and discover some outrageous food and drink. And speaking of drink, let's start with a cocktail.

Newsflash: Florida in August is H-O-T, hot. With vines spilling out of hanging plants above tables in the restaurant's shaded patio and bar, and a savvy, creative bar program, meet your perfect afternoon watering hole.

With 12 house-made syrups behind the bar, Sweet Nectar knows a thing or two about crafting a cocktail. Try the popular Drunken Dragon, a sweet, refreshing twist on sangria -- complete with nectarine vodka and dragon fruit.

Now that we're cocktailed up, let's find a bite. As in tacos. As in fish tacos.

Lanterns made in Mexico and an eclectic collection of masks adorn this Fort Lauderdale hotspot, which serves up tableside guac and fish tacos any way you like them - blackened, grilled, or fried (or if you're me, one of each).

Come back at night, and you just may catch Rocco himself, who owns all six Florida locations and a newly opened Brooklyn outpost, donning the white platforms that hang above the bar to do his famous "tequila dance."

Dessert? Dessert.

While this South Florida institution has been making chocolates for 40 years, my summer find was of a slightly chillier variety. As in unbelievable ice cream. Deliciously tart Key lime pie ice cream with big buttery bites of pie crust? Yes, please! (And come to think of it, maybe a morning run on that beautiful beach might be a wise idea...)

What's your favorite Florida beach town? Share your top picks by leaving a comment for me on Instagram (@betsycribb) or writing a quick note in the comments below!