ChicagoSteve saidWhen you go on vacation and want to get away, do you prefer a beach vacation or are you more interested in exploring a city or going on a cruise?
For me, a beach wins hands down. Sand, sun, salt water all adds up to the ultimate relaxing experience.
I love Ft. Lauderdale and am going to try and go again in February. Was there last in FEB 2010 and it was great. Sebastian Street Beach (gay beach) is pretty cool.
We enjoy all of the above, PLUS country, contrasting with kew1's reply. Sebastian is still mostly gay, mainly because of its nearness to the gay guest houses. For an even more basic sand experience try Haulover, about 20 miles south of Sebastian.
Legally clothing optional, a largely gay section at its north end, not overbuilt like Fort Lauderdale beaches, very fundamental with only a few vendor trucks allowed on the sand. But the sand is combed and they have county lifeguard stations identical to other beaches, the staff wearing regulation red suits on duty, but often stripping naked between shifts.
Fort Lauderdale can give you all 3 of your criteria in one location, do it all. In addition to beaches, Port Everglades is home to the largest cruise ships in the world. Miami and Miami Beach are 30 miles away for your city component, with lots to do in each. Of course Miami Beach/South Beach have Art Deco architecture to explore, and naturally, more sand. And though no longer heavily gay, SoBe still has a few nightspots and is generally friendly, PDAs possible.
So my husband & I do them all, just did a cruise in February, and we go up to New England for the country part. Please let me know when you're back down in Fort Lauderdale. paulflexes is returning to Hollywood, FL shortly, and he should be able to advise you about that beach, another of my favorites.