FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The snowbirds are gone, and now we locals in South Florida can take a deep breath and enjoy the many reasons we live here. That usually includes summers with fewer crowds and lower prices on hotels, attractions, theme parks and restaurants. However, this year may be different.
There’s a new trend on the horizon: Summer may no longer be our slow season. Thanks to the pandemic, many from other states have moved here permanently, which explains the persistent post-season traffic congestion. And people who postponed cruises are now taking them, creating demand at restaurants and other attractions that would normally be desperate for visitors around this time.
Since business owners are not as incentivized to offer discounts as in the past, summer specials may be harder to come by. Still, there are establishments that want to promote their open status and demonstrate that they survived the worst of COVID-19. Some of these discounts are for Florida residents only, while others are open to anyone who walks through the door. Check out our sampling of creative offerings, which include family outings to historic sites and hotel packages to help you build a sandcastle masterpiece.
Did you know sommeliers do more than recommend wines? At least they do at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa in Fort Lauderdale, which has launched the “Sandcastle Sommelier” package for families who want to bond on the beach. The hotel will give you sandcastle molds, tools, buckets, a cabana and a beach bag. Cost: $549 a night, based on four to five nights. Available June 1 to Sept. 30.
The Boca Raton, which has had so many names in the past few decades (I’ll always think of it as the Boca Raton Resort and Club), is offering 50% off a second room through Aug. 14 and a $500 dining credit on a minimum two-night stay through Sept. 30. Rooms in June range from $399 to $599 a night.
Florida residents can get summer discounts at Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort. In June, a room with a king-sized bed is $365 a night before taxes and other fees, compared with $436.50 for a non-Floridian. The resort is also planning a weekend of festivities called Summerfest that begins June 11 and includes live bands, henna tattoos, hair braiding, food vendors and a very appropriate Margarita-making demonstration.
There are also summer rates for Florida residents at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, which is offering 15% off and upgrades depending on availability this summer and fall. A recent check showed a room with a king-sized bed is $296 with the Florida discount on a weekday before taxes and other fees. The Hillsboro Beach Resort is also luring Floridians with 15% off; a discounted room mid-week goes for $178 before taxes and fees.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, a 35-acre estate near the beach at 900 N. Birch Road in Fort Lauderdale, wants families to explore its historic grounds this summer. From June 1 to Sept. 4, they can get a special deal: Admission for self-guided tours is $20 for adults (normal price) but free for youths age 6 to 17 (normally $8 each).
You can also check out three South Florida attractions with a Summer Savings Pass. The pass allows unlimited visits to Zoo Miami, Lion Country Safari in West Palm Beach and the Cox Science Center & Aquarium in West Palm Beach. It’s good from May 27 to Aug. 31 and costs $60 for adults and $50 for kids age 3 to 12.
Another option is the South Florida Adventure Pass, which gets you unlimited admission to four Broward County attractions through Sept. 30: the Museum of Discovery & Science in Fort Lauderdale, Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, Sawgrass Recreation Park in Weston and Flamingo Gardens in Davie. Cost: $50 for adults, $40 for kids age 3 to 12.
If you prefer to escape the heat, check out Silverball Retro Arcade (19 NE Third Ave., Delray Beach), which has more than 100 vintage pinball, arcade and skeeball games, as well as three bars and a boardwalk-style restaurant. Happy hour includes a $6 food menu and 50% off all alcoholic beverages from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Fridays.
The slow season for dining, August and September, means deals for us locals who love Fort Lauderdale’s restaurants. Restaurants participating in Dine Out Lauderdale will offer a minimum three-course meal for $35 or $45. Participants haven’t been announced yet, but last year’s slate included Steak 954, Boatyard, 3030 Ocean and Lona Cocina & Tequileria.
Some restaurants are already getting the summer going with a new roster of specials.
Prezzo, an Italian trattoria with locations in Palm Beach Gardens (4520 PGA Blvd.) and Boca Raton (5560 N. Military Trail), is launching a Summer Date Night Menu for two for $100 starting June 1. Available Sundays through Thursdays, the menu will include wine, choice of one appetizer to share, two entrees and dessert.
At Burt & Max’s (9089 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach), kids eats free Mondays through Wednesdays this summer with an adult entree purchase. From Sundays to Thursdays, guests can get half off any bottle of wine with the purchase of an entree.
Max’s Grille (404 Plaza Real, Boca Raton) has begun its summer promotions with a Daily Wine & Dine deal from 4 to 6 p.m. You get a free bottle of house wine if you order two entrees. The grille also offers an extended Summer Happy Hour, daily from 3 to 7 p.m.
Pagoda Kitchen (14917 Lyons Road, Delray Beach) is offering a summer Early Dining Deal ($18.95 for eggroll, soup or salad, and drink) from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Sundays to Thursdays and 4:30 to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. There’s also Pack the Bar from Sundays to Thursdays, when guests receive happy hour pricing all night long at the inside bar with a $20 food purchase per person. Kids eat free every Sunday through Thursday all summer with purchase of an adult entree.
Starting June 1, Deck 84 (840 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach) will have extended happy hours on weekdays, with specials on wine by the glass and half price on beer and spirits from noon to 6 p.m. Wine Wednesdays are also back for the summer (half-off any bottle with the purchase of an entree).