Four days of sunshine, sand and lots of bands in Fort Lauderdale while the still-not-entirely-spring rages on in Pennsylvania? Five of us (four of which share the same last name – HAHA!) for four days of no deadlines, no work and plenty of cocktails? YES PLEASE! After months of coordinating logistics and making reservations, we couldn’t believe it was finally time for TORTUGA!
DAY 1: Thursday, 4/11/2019
Flying from three different airports on Thursday morning, we all made it to our hotel – GALLERYOne – in Fort Lauderdale shortly after lunchtime. We spent the afternoon hanging out at the bar on the patio, drinking and enjoying some pretty incredible weather! There wasn’t a cloud in the sky on Thursday and it was easy to pass half the day just hanging out. (Note to self: Get the Lobster Cobb Salad again next time – it was expensive but it was FANTASTIC!)
Having spent a good many hours hanging out at the bar, we made friends with our bartender, Jennifer. Jennifer offered to show us around after getting done with her shift. We were pretty pleased to find out that we were within walking distance of a ton of bars and restaurants, just across the drawbridge from the hotel. We set out to get a taste of Fort Lauderdale by visiting two bars – the “World Famous” Parrot Lounge and McSorley’s. Neither bar disappointed. The Parrot Lounge offered up pool, Jenga and reasonably priced drinks and shots while McSorley’s offered three floors of hang out space, which included a pretty sweet rooftop lounge. It felt great to finally be outside, walking around well after dark without being bundled up in a winter coat. Most of us called it a night shortly before midnight and tried to get some sleep, amped and excited for Tortuga to start the next day.
DAY 2: Friday, 4/12/2019
Tortuga was finally upon us! We were all a bit slow to start on Friday. I’m going to blame it on the travel from the day before and since it’s my story, I’ll tell it how I want. 🙂 Hungry and hurting, we headed for the hotel’s breakfast buffet. After having paid $30+ per person for breakfast, we all agreed that we wouldn’t be eating hotel breakfast buffet again on this trip. Shortly after breakfast, Josh and I walked about 5 minutes to the Publix grocery store and loaded up on breakfast and lunch supplies for the rest of the weekend, which cost a total of $80 for the five of us. Breakfast buffet wallet assault averted!
Since the festival was a pretty significant distance from the hotel, we decided that we were going to take advantage of the water taxi that would take us from the hotel to the vicinity of the festival and back each day. The regular price was $28 per person, per day to ride the water taxi, but we scored three-day passes for $40 per person, saving us each over half of what we would have paid. Hurray for being cheap!
After a few drinks at the hotel bar, we got our water taxi wristbands, climbed on board and headed to the show around 1pm. It was an absolutely beautiful day to be one the water and the 20 minute water taxi ride was actually a really great way to experience some of Fort Lauderdale and the Intracoastal Waterway. It also didn’t hurt that the water taxi also contained a fully stocked bar.
After getting off the water taxi, it was a really short walk to the entrance to Tortuga. After we scanned our wristbands, we were met with a huge crowd and plenty of opportunities to grab some cocktails. We heard that drinks were on the pricey side before we got there, but I’m not sure any of us were really expecting to pay $13 for a beer or mixed drink. But, when at Tortuga, right?!
After grabbing some cocktails, we took some time to get the lay of the land, walking from one end of the venue to the next. There were three stages, one at the southern end of the beach, one in the middle and one at the northern end of the beach, with vendors, drink stands and educational stands mixed in between. Friday was, by far, the least crowded day and the cloud cover was a welcome relief from the Florida heat, intense sun and severely limited opportunities to grab some shade.
The two main “must-sees” on Friday for Josh and I were The Wailers and Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, but we spent a good portion of the day milling back and forth between the three stages, checking out as much live music as possible. There’s really no way to put into words how incredible both The Wailers and Joan Jett were. We are blessed to have had the opportunity to experience both, on the beach, in Fort Lauderdale. Shortly after Joan Jett’s performance, we grabbed the water taxi and headed back to the hotel for a nightcap. What a fantastically exhausting day!
DAY 3: Saturday, 4/13/2019
While we were at the hotel bar on Thursday and Friday, we got a recommendation for a “straight up dive bar” called the “Elbo Room” that we were pretty interested in checking out. Elbo Room was described by other guests at our fancy hotel as “disgusting” and “pretty rowdy” and we knew that we had to check it out! After doing a bit of research, we found out that Elbo Room isn’t new to the party scene. In fact. Elbo Room was established in 1938 and has remained in the same location since then. It was also featured in the 1960 movie “Where The Boys Are.” Cocktails AND character?! We’re in!
We figured Saturday would be a good day to give Elbo Room a shot, anticipating that it may be a bit busier than normal since it was located so close to the Tortuga venue. We hopped on the water taxi and rode it to the Tortuga stop. From the Tortuga stop, Elbo Room was a short walk and really easy to find. It was pretty hard to miss – a two-story building, completely and utterly packed with people, spilling out onto the sidewalk. We headed to the second floor and discovered a pretty young crowd, rap music that was deafeningly loud and cheap drinks. A round of drinks for the 5 of us only cost $30.
We retreated to the first floor as soon as we could make our way down the stairs and felt a bit more “at home” – classic rock, 90’s grunge and an open seat at one of the bars. I quickly took possession of the open seat at the bar to get us access to drinks. There was a pretty good band playing so we spent the rest of the day and evening at the Elbo Room; drinking, singing and dancing. This was definitely our kind of bar! Elbo Room doesn’t serve any food, so, we had to take a break to grab some pizza from the pizza shop next door, which was really convenient. Elbo Room is a cash-only bar, too, which made things pretty simple. We headed back to the hotel well after dark, hot, sweaty, exhausted, missing voices but completely happy.
DAY 4: Sunday, 4/14/2019
Sunday was definitely a slow to start day around our hotel room! It was pretty quiet, too, since two of us had no voices resulting from our sing-along with the band the night before. We got our shit together around lunchtime and decided to head to Tortuga to check out some more of the festival. We spent the afternoon and evening at Tortuga, topping the experience off with seeing Kenny Chesney perform live at the end of the night. I learned two important things on Sunday: (1) the availability of Miller Lite makes me a really happy person and (2) I should not be in charge of ordering mixed drinks because I have no idea what I’m doing. We all headed back to the hotel pretty early that evening to hang out on the hotel’s patio, stuff ourselves with some food we picked up from Primanti Brothers a few blocks away and reflect on the weekend.
DAY 5: Monday, 4/15/2019
Since our flight back to Harrisburg wasn’t until late evening, we took it easy on Monday and checked out of the hotel around 11am. Since we had a few hours to kill, we figured we’d take the water taxi loop and check out Fort Lauderdale by water.
It was a pretty beautiful day for a boat ride and we took the water taxi to the end of it’s northern route. The homes along the water taxi route were absolutely stunning! The water taxi staff were really knowledgeable about who owned what homes, how expensive they were and some other quirky details about the waterfront mansions.
After a few hours on the water taxi, we hopped off at one of the southern stops and headed toward Las Olas Beach for some lunch. We found a Hooters on the 3rd floor of a beachfront plaza and got the “best seat in the house,” overlooking the beautiful Las Olas Beach. Lunch was good (and really reasonably priced for the area). After lunch, we headed back to the water taxi to resume our water tour of Fort Lauderdale.
Shortly after boarding the water taxi, our travel plans started to hit the fan – QUICKLY! I’ll save you the incredibly long (and extremely aggravating) story of the next 13 hours of our lives. Here are the highlights (more like lowlights): flights out of Fort Lauderdale were infinitely delayed due to the weather heading north; flights were booked, rebooked and rebooked again for hours; we ended up having to rent a car in Philadelphia after midnight and drive the rest of the way home; Adam’s bag got lost and had to be delivered to his house by American Airlines; and we finally got home around 3:30am.
Overall, we had a fantastic weekend and much appreciated break from the daily grind! If we do Tortuga again, I’ll be picking up a few cases of beer from the hotel and pregaming at the hotel much more than we did this time to limit the $13 per drink expense at the venue. Taking the water taxi was an absolute win for us, as we would have spent much more money and time if we had taken Ubers all weekend. Josh has also made it a standing rule that we (1) never fly American Airlines again and (2) avoid booking flights after 12:00 noon if we have any choice. But, what great story starts with “Our adventure was completely uneventful,” right?!