A Weekend in Fort Lauderdale

Not gonna lie- my current trip to Fort Lauderdale started out rough. I’ve had a lot of fun, but there have also been quite a few challenges along the way!

The trip started off decently enough. Our flight sat on the runway for 45 minutes before taking off, but we made good time from Chicago to Fort Lauderdale and our rental car experience was one of the easiest we had.

On our way to our first hotel, we got stuck 20 minutes on a drawbridge, which wasn’t a big deal, but the bridge shook a lot and the scene was quite chaotic. One car reversed all the way down the shoulder, and another kept inching closer and closer to the side of our car. A number of people got out of their cars and looked over the rail – I’m not sure if this is normal, but being new to the area, it was quite confusing.

Our first hotel, Sea Breeze Hotel, felt more like an AirBnB, which wasn’t a bad thing. Our room was quiet and cool, and check in was easy, even arriving close to midnight. I always enjoy getting a room key out of a coded dropbox- it feels a bit like a teaser for an escape room.

The morning of our first full day was a disaster. A few urgent questions came up for work that I had to field, and I had to rush to take care of it, pausing to take Christina to the resort where we would stay for her work event. We tried stopping at a few coffee shops, but every one of them was within a hotel, so we gave up and headed to the resort.

The GPS took us to a quiet alley and told us we had arrived at the Westin Beach Resort South Tower. I drove a full square around the block. Now that we had an idea of the area, I pulled into the valet parking area for the resort. We asked the valet where the south tower was, and he told us it was the next building over. We had to wait five minutes for the valet area to clear before we could continue on our quest.

Back on the roads, we circled the block again, and once more confirmed that the south tower had no obvious entrance. There was one recessed dining area with a door, but it didn’t look like a typical entrance.

We pulled into a parking space in the alleyway next to the hotel. Christina called the hotel’s front desk and asked them where the south tower entrance was. The receptionist asked why she wanted to know. Christina told the receptionist she was going to be staying at the hotel, and the receptionist started asking for details about her reservation. After a few minutes going through details, we gave up trying to get the answer.

While Christina was on the phone, a semi-truck parked on the street behind the parking spaces, blocking us in. Thankfully it moved after only a few minutes, but the delays were starting to get frustrating.

Finally, we looped back around one more time, and I dropped Christina off at the north tower’s valet area. It ended up being the right place- all guests enter at the north tower. I just wish someone had told us that earlier!

I headed back to the Sea Breeze Hotel, now with only about 30 minutes before my required checkout time, and responded to a few outstanding messages on my work computer. I didn’t reach a great stopping point, but time was up, and I headed to my car.

Now I was in Fort Lauderdale with zero plans for the day. One of Christina’s colleagues had sent a list of things to do- I quickly narrowed my list down to three things, each corresponding to a compass direction (excluding East, since I was already on the Atlantic coast).

North: Blowing Rocks Conservancy – a beach park known for its interesting rock formations

West: Everglades – a sprawling tropical wilderness known for its wildlife

South: Key Largo – an island area known for its snorkeling and diving activities

On a whim, I headed north. I parked at the visitor center at Blowing Rocks Conservancy, following a lagoon boardwalk path before heading for the main attraction.

The beach was niceā€¦ but there were no rocks! Apparently, the rocks at Blowing Rocks can get covered up by sand depending on the time of year, and I visited at the exact time none of the unique features were available! It was still a nice beach, and very quiet. I grabbed two geocaches and touched the ocean water before calling it a day at the park.

Looking at my GPS, I found a nearby escape room – Time Travel Escape in Jupiter, FL. I signed up for their mineshaft room and headed over.

My first interaction was with a little dog named Asparagus- a very cute pug who clearly loves guests. One of the owners greeted me next and set me up with the game.

The mineshaft game was neat, spanning a few rooms and involving an interesting variety of unique gadgets and tools. I got out with a little time to spare, and with nothing particularly on my agenda, I asked if I could play another of the games. Midday on a Thursday, availablity was good, so I got to try the pirate game next.

There was a lot I really enjoyed about the pirate game. The room required a bit more physical gusto than most rooms, and while it’s probably a deterrent for many players, I LOVED it. Going up and down through multiple levels of a pirate ship was a blast.

Time Travel Escapes also conveniently offers slushies, so after climbing around a pirate ship for an hour, I gladly got a cherry / blue raspberry mix for the road. It really hit the spot.

I headed south to Fort Lauderdale for the night. Traffic was awful, but when I got back, I was still up for one more adventure. I had received a recommendation on the Morty app’s Discord server to try Nexus Escape Room, just south of Fort Lauderdale. We picked Cryptic Cay.

Cryptic Cay was really neat. It had a LOT of unique elements I had never seen in escape rooms before. I wont spoil too much, but just to tease it a little, I was really excited by how the game used turrets. It’s also one of the handful of games I’ve played that uses a copious amount of sand to make a convincing island, and the only one to use a particularly fun gadget that works well in that type of space.

Day two, I decided to check out Loggerhead Marinelife Center- a rescue facility for injured sea turtles. It had the distinction of being almost exactly in the same place as Blowing Rocks, so for the second day in a row, I headed north. Surprisingly, Friday traffic was much lighter than Thursday’s.

Loggerhead was small but neat. A few dozen large sea turtles were being kept in shaded pools, just out of the reach of visitors. All of the turtles had been injured in some way, whether by shark attack or boat propeller. The facility nurses them back to health and then rereleases them into the wild. It’s wild how large these turtles get, with a number of them over three hundred pounds.

The facility also has a variety of other interesting fish on display, including one of my favorites- the pufferfish, whose dopey look always makes me smile.

I grabbed a locally made key lime pie popsicle from the facility’s cafe and enjoyed the weather- with the shade and the breeze, it was quite pleasant. I stopped in the gift shop and grabbed a hat before searching for a few geocaches near the parking area. When I realized they all required bushwhacking, I called it a day.

My next stop was another visit to Time Travel Escapes. This time I played their Jurassic-themed game. It’s only been a few weeks since the last time I played a Jurassic theme (60 to Escape in Schaumburg, IL), but the premise was quite different- this time involving the exploration of a primitive jungle. In particular I was impressed by one of the game’s big setpieces- a bridge over flowing lava. The set was quite dynamic and fun to work with.

I thanked Time Travel Escapes for indulging a solo player several times and hit the road back to Fort Lauderdale. Christina had a chance to step away from work, and we played one more escape room- Mayan Ruins at Think Escape.

The room was probably our best performance of the trip so far. We almost got stuck a few times early on but pushed through and cleared the game without using any hints. The set used a few tricks I’ve never seen before which led to some neat surprises as new spaces were revealed throughout the game. It was really enjoyable.

That pretty much wraps up our trip! Five escape rooms, two geocaches, a natural park where the big feature was buried, and a cool turtle rescue facility. Not too bad for a two day trip in which our schedules are heavily governed by Christina’s work schedule. The trip has been fun, but I admit, it’s also been a little exhausting!

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