The "middle city" of Florida's Gold Coast, Fort Lauderdale, is located between Miami in the south and Palm Beach in the north. The city blends nicely with its metropolitan neighbors, and the chic atmosphere elements of Miami and the affluent nature of Palm Beach are recognizable. But Fort Lauderdale is a destination itself. Running one of North America's most active cruise ports - more than three million people pass through every year - helps define Fort Lauderdale as a benchmark for tourism For decades, Fort Lauderdale has been synonymous with spring holidays - and the dizzying exuberance that accompanies this rite of passage - until an effort by the city's leaders in the 1980s came into effect, seriously, to mitigate it. These days, Fort Lauderdale's fastest-growing market is the trend spending that once could have gone south, north. Hotels in the area include Ritz-Carlton, Trump International Hotel and Tower, and W Fort Lauderdale, and since it lost its "turbulent, spring school" reputation, the city has grown into a more refined, family and passenger-oriented community. Beyond the canals and the Intracoastal Waterway that runs through the city, major development projects have redefined Fort Lauderdale. Downtown - especially around the center of Las Olas Boulevard, with its cafes, galleries, and boutiques - exudes an atmosphere from Miami Beach. Big Fort Lauderdale's 23-mile waterfront has also undergone a major overhaul, with a lush landscape and vibrant lighting that complements the wide expanses of sand. In fact, since 1999, Fort Lauderdale's beaches have been Blue Wave Beach certified by the Clean Beaches Council, a designation given to the nation's cleanest and safest beaches, and beyond surfing, sand, and the role of Fort Lauderdale as a cruise embarkation center, there are enough activities to persuade travelers to spend a few days there before or after a trip.