Fort Lauderdale, known as the "Venice of America" due to its expansive and intricate canal system, is a city in Broward County, Florida, United States. The city's population is described as metropolitan, where diverse culture is commonplace. According to 2006 U.S. Census Bureau estimates, the city had a population of 185,804. It is the county seat of Broward County. Fort Lauderdale is a principal city of the South Florida metropolitan area, which is home to 5,463,857 people.
The city is a major tourist destination, with 10.35 million visitors in 2006. The city is a major yachting center, with 42,000 resident yachts and 100 marinas and boatyards. Fort Lauderdale and its suburbs host over 4100 restaurants and 120 nightclubs.
Fort Lauderdale is named after a series of forts built by the United States during the Second Seminole War. However, development of the city did not begin until 50 years after the forts were abandoned at the end of the conflict. Three forts named "Fort Lauderdale" were constructed; the first was at the fork of the New River, the second at Tarpon Bend, in what is now known as the Sailboat Bend neighborhood, and the third near the site of the Bahia Mar Marina. The forts took their name from Major William Lauderdale, who was the commander of the detachment of soldiers who built the first fort.
According to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau, Fort Lauderdale is "America's top gay resort area." In 2006, members of gay-interest site, PlanetOut, named the city as the "best gay resort town"; the city actively pursues gay and lesbian tourists. The city is also home to a large year-round population of gay residents. The city's Stonewall Library & Archives is the largest-circulation LGBT library in the southeastern United States. Neighboring Wilton Manors was the second city in the country (after West Hollywood, California) to elect a gay-majority city council.
As is true of many parts of Florida, the city's population has a strong seasonal variation, as snowbirds from the north spend the winter and early spring in Florida. The city is also sometimes referred to as "Fort Liquordale" because of its beaches, bars, nightclubs, and history as a spring break mecca for hundreds of thousands of college students. However, the city has actively discouraged college students from visiting the area since the mid-1980's, passing strict laws aimed at preventing the mayhem that regularly occurred each year. The city had an estimated 350,000 college visitors for spring break 1985; by 2006, that number had declined to about 10,000.