Editor's Note: This article originally ran on August 16, 2013 on Cruising Squared. It was one in a series on the historic hotels of Florida.
By GERRY and PAMELA BARKER
FT. LAUDERDALE -- As you may know, we are on a mission to visit the famous historic hotels of Florida. Partly because we're history buffs and also, because they preserve the classic lifestyle Florida is famous for. Previous stops have included The Biltmore in Coral Gables and the Don CeSar on the beach at St. Petersburg. Our latest stop is here, at the famous Riverside Hotel on Las Olas Boulevard.
The hotel's beginnings can be traced back to the 1930s, when the Wells family arrived here from Chicago. Long a focal point on the bustling entertainment, shopping and dining scene that is Las Olas Boulevard, the Wells brothers opened it for business in December, 1936. Three stories tall, with 80 rooms, its first name was Hotel Champ Carr, after its first general manager. It became The Riverside Hotel in 1947.
Situated along the Intracoastal waterway, it is lushly landscaped and classically appointed. It has also been expanded several times over the years, adding an executive tower and major refurbishments to the lobby and rooms. We stayed in the "classic" wing, which retains much of the charm of the original, updated with modern touches in the bath and featuring technology that wasn't around in the 30s, like free Wi-Fi.
The first thing that impressed us was the overall friendliness of the staff. From the check-in desk to housekeeping and restaurant personnel, all smiles and how can we be of service. So refreshing!
The hotel boasts a number of dining options, including Indigo, where you can choose to dine inside or al fresco on the boulevard, the Golden Lyon Pub, which serves a mean French martini, and the Wild Sea Oyster Bar. The open-air breakfast at Indigo was not only delicious, but served with very ample portions.
Don't miss the swimming pool. Located across the street on the Intracoastal, it's a great place to relax, sip a drink and watch the world (and boats) go by.
Overall, that's the operative word at the Riverside: Relaxation. You have so many options on Las Olas to people-watch, join them, or just kick back and soak it all up. We give it four pineapples and the Cruising Squared Seal of Approval.
For more news on the Riverside, of its fascinating history, go here. -- Pam and Gerry
Photos: Gerry and Pamela Barker