I've been to Ft. Lauderdale a half dozen times over the last couple years. Mostly because I find Ft. Lauderdale is always cheaper to fly into than Miami. Miami Beach is only about a 30-40 minute drive from Ft. Lauderdale, directly south. Ft. Lauderdale might not have quite the appeal that Miami Beach does, but it still has great beaches, restaurants, shopping and you won't get hit with the high prices like you do in Miami Beach.
If you're looking for a great place to grab a bite and a couple drinks, try the Downtowner Saloon (10 South New River Dr East). They constantly have cheap drink deals or half price appetizers. The place is always busy with a great atmosphere.
The beaches in Ft. Lauderdale might not be quite as good as Miami, but they're still great and not nearly as busy. It also helps that you can land a hotel in Lauderdale for a fraction of the cost of one in Miami. Overall, Ft. Lauderdale is a good chance of pace if you're looking for a more affordable, quieter place to hang you hat.
Having lived in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida most of my life and recently moving away from there I truly miss it. I often refer to it as my paradise on earth.
With the warm sunny days and the ocean breeze it was like living on an exotic island. There is always something to do there whether it's a drive to the beautiful beach or shopping at the huge Sawgrass mills mall where busloads of people come for great deals. Downtown Ft. Lauderdale offers many attractions for the entire family include the IMAX theater and the Museum of Discovery And Science where kids get to interact with exhibits. The Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art is also located downtown. Riverwalk is a good place to visit with many different restaurants and you can even take a boat ride and tour the beautiful mansions along the New River intercoastal waterway. Ft. Lauderdale comes to life at night with many clubs, bars and restaurants, many with live entertainment.
I truly love Ft. Lauderdale and always will. Sometimes especially in the winter months when the snowbirds arrive, the traffic can be hectic but other than that it's a great place to visit and an amazing place to live.