Fort Lauderdale may come in as the smaller south Florida city when it’s compared to Miami, but this cultural hub is pulsing with an array of museums, galleries, shopping, casinos and its fair share of mangrove-covered parks. Read our guide to the must-visit attractions while in the city.
Las Olas Boulevard
You can’t tick Fort Lauderdale off your bucket list without a stroll down the famous Las Olas. The long strip offers an excellent dining scene, bars, shops and a several art galleries. A stroll down Las Olas, which means The Waves in Spanish, is sure to put a smile on your face. Famous for being the road where many celebrities live in waterfront properties, you never know who you might bump into while you’re grabbing an iced coffee. Break for lunch at Rocco’s Tacos for a hearty Mexican meal with killer tequila shots
NSU Art Museum of Fort Lauderdale
Airboat ride in the Everglades
Get an adrenaline rush with a full-speed boat ride through the swamps of the Everglades. Just a short drive from Downtown, the tour offers a look at the national park that boasts a lush ecosystem and beautiful scenery. You’ll experience up-close encounters with Florida wild birds, alligators, and, if you’re lucky, the Florida panther. Thrilling yet safe and comfortable, there’s really no better way to see Florida than from a boat.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
A treat for nature lovers, this mile-long freshwater lagoon is perfect for kayaking, canoeing, and fishing. The park also features two hiking trails and picnic areas. You can even easily access the beach via the pedestrian tunnel under the A1A. A vibrant center for the community of Fort Lauderdale, the shady trees provide cool spots to read and relax, and you can take part in activities such as inline skating and for younger visitors, playing in the playground.
Stroll the grounds of the historic waterfront Stranahan House along the New River. The landmark, built in 1901, was home to one of Fort Lauderdale’s founding fathers, Frank Stranahan. The stunning structure, complete with a wraparound veranda, features a wooden porch where Mrs. Stranahan sat with the children of the Seminole tribe to give them English lessons during the settlement. The oldest surviving structure in Broward County, it’s an incredibly important piece of history.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Take a dip in the warm waters of the Atlantic Coast. Go roller-skating along the winding sidewalk. Go souvenir shopping along the boulevard, or enjoy some waterfront dining. Fort Lauderdale Beach is too stunning to pass up. This strip of sand is the place to see and be seen, so don’t forget to take a stroll down the beachfront promenade. Otherwise, one of the many hotels such as The Westin, the W and The Ritz-Carlton offer an ideal place to grab a cocktail and relax.
Take the family for an afternoon of butterfly gazing. Butterfly World boasts three acres of butterfly aviaries, botanical gardens, and a farm and research center. They keep 20,000 butterflies on display, and you can spot up to 50 species at any time. Founded by Dutch immigrant Ronald Boender, Butterfly World started as his hobby but developed into the spectacle and attraction that it is today. Our tip? Don’t miss stopping in at the aviaries to see the rainbow birds.
Topeekeegee Yugnee Park
Literally meaning ‘meeting and gathering place’ in Seminole, the Topeekeegee Yugnee Park is home to Castaway Island Water Park. Take the kids to swim in the pool with a waterfall or the kiddie pool for children five and under. There’s also an expansive RV Campground with Wi-Fi for those looking to enjoy nature without completely disconnecting (though you should). Attracting walkers, picnickers and athletes as well as kids looking for the swim lagoon, it’s a great place to escape the Florida heat.
Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum
Visit here for a look at aircraft models, vintage ships, and World War II artifacts, along with medals and uniforms that represent all branches of the military. It was one of 257 air stations during World War II and served as a speciality school for training pilots to fly specific aircrafts. Don’t miss the memorial dedicated to the infamous Flight 19 that flew out of the station in 1945 and disappeared while in the Bermuda Triangle. There’s also a recreated soldier’s barracks and WWII torpedoes from a submarine to see.
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale
Just along the banks of the New River, the Riverwalk snakes through rows of sprawling mansions, the Stranahan House as well as numerous bars and restaurants, making for a fun night out in Downtown Fort Lauderdale. With many calendar attractions such as runs, jazz brunches, dog training, photography classes and bicycle tours, it’s a vibrant part of the community and is a great way to spend a weekend afternoon.
Museum of Discovery and Science
Indulge in a family-friendly activity with a visit to the Museum of Discovery and Science. Test your pilot skills in a simulated cockpit or pet some alligators and iguanas while learning about species that inhabit the Everglades. Visitors can also see the largest Atlantic coral reef in captivity at the museum, as well as an IMAX theatre and a science camp for kids who love discovering things about the world. One thing you shouldn’t miss is the Great Gravity Clock, which tells time through the medium of rolling balls.
International Swimming Hall of Fame
A shrine to renowned swimmers and water polo players, the International Swimming Hall of Fame features a collection of memorabilia and Olympic Gold medals of famous swimmers. Anyone with even a passing interest in watersports will love learning about swimming from this official repository for aquatic history. Today, it aims to be a focal point for recording and sharing the history of aquatics and promoting swimming as the essential life skill it is. There’s also a shop where you can stock up on all the swimming-related gear your heart desires.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
Boasting 35 acres of land on a coastal barrier island, the Bonnet House sits on five ecosystems, including the Atlantic Ocean beach, mangrove wetlands and forest, among others. The 20th-century house was home to two American artists and boasts a generous art collection. The grounds here have witnessed 4,000 years of Florida history, so pay attention because you might just learn something. You can also see the one of the finest orchid collections in the US and see glimpses of wading birds and even manatees.
Rent a paddleboard and take a tour of the Fort Lauderdale Beach or the Middle River. Sunrise Paddleboards offer rentals for $25 for one hour or $40 for two hours. The best way to see Florida really is from the water. With many kinds of tours on offer from sunset tours to canal tours to even James Bond themed tours, it’s guaranteed to be a fun-filled time. You can even rent jetskis and kayaks if you don’t want to risk standing up on a paddleboard.
Antique Car Museum
Car enthusiasts rejoice! The Antique Car Museum hosts a collection of historic automobiles from the Packard Motor Company. Peruse their models and engine pieces as well as their pre-war memorabilia. One of the best collections of vintage Packard cars found anywhere, the 30,000 square foot museum lets you glory in some of the industrial age’s greatest achievements. You can even see old gas station signs, hood ornaments and other memorabilia, including an entire exhibit dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Aside from its iconic lighthouse, the Hillsboro Inlet in Pompano is known for its deep sea fishing. Book a charter at the Hillsboro Inlet Fishing Centre and be prepared to catch mahi, wahoo and more. With its warm waters and many different varieties of fish, you can even go drift fishing here. And the fishing centre has a sea tow boat if you ever get stuck and need a hand getting back to shore. Now, what’s for dinner? Fish, of course.
Sebastian Street Beach
Are you looking for an LGBT-friendly beach? Drive to Sebastian Street Beach and enjoy a relaxing, low-key vibe. Lounge chairs and umbrellas are available for rent, and the beach rarely becomes too crowded. The beautiful sandy shore of the Atlantic looks its best here, and the beach is welcoming to all. With many restaurants and shops nearby, it’s a convenient and safe place to enjoy a day spent stretched out on the sand.
West Lake Park
Home to the largest mangrove ecosystem in the urban coastal zone between Miami Beach and Palm Beach, this park is famous for its waterway route to the east known as Whiskey Creek, where bootleggers would smuggle in liquor during the Prohibition era. The park offers fishing on Tarpon Lake, kayak rentals, and long hikes in the wild. Pets are allowed while on a leash, but beware of alligators, snakes and other animals in the area – you don’t want to bite off more animals than you can chew.
Taste LauderAle Beer
You have to include this on your Fort Lauderdale adventure. Local’s favorite LauderAle beer can’t be missed. Settle in for some beer tasting at their lounge at LauderAle Brewery & Tap Room. The brewery also offers a complimentary tour of the site so that visitors can learn the ins and outs of the beer-making process – while drinking the stuff, of course. With a beer garden, 30 rotating taps of the good stuff and daily food trucks providing snacks to hungry drinkers, there’s no better place to spend a night.
27 Bar & Lounge
So many musical greats died at age 27 that there’s a whole bar in Florida dedicated to them. When you enter this restored warehouse in Flagler Village you’ll see Janis Joplin, Amy Winehouse, Jimi Hendrix and many others painted onto the wall in pop-art style. Inside, there’s a ceiling lined with black and white photos of musicians and stars and a spacious outdoor patio that comes equipped with retro games such as Connect Four. The beer on tap is delicious and you get to drink in while basking in the knowledge that you’re amongst rock and roll royalty.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
Try your luck at Hollywood’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. With over 2,000 popular slot machines and 100 poker tables, plus rowdy karaoke bars, this is the place to be any night. The many pools and other amenities make it a great place to relax and have fun. Whether you think the wheel will land on black or red, trust us when we say that if the hotel casino doesn’t have a swim up bar for you to order a pina colada at, it’s not worth going to. You’re sure to have a great time at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Circle House Coffee
The owner of this coffee shop might turn a few heads – he’s former Miami Dolphins player Stephen Tulloc. But that’s not the only reason this coffee place is great. Along with a drive-through window to pick up your brew, it has an eye-catching mural on the exterior. Inside, there’s a magical machine which can print anything you want onto your morning cappuccino, from your cat’s portrait to a selfie to the logo of your workplace. Plenty of seating, board games to borrow and a lovely patio complete the picture.
Despite the slightly obscure name, the local artists, cool hangout spots, bars and coffee shops at FATVillage make it definitely worth visiting. Lots of artists rent studio and gallery space here, giving it a bohemian, interesting vibe. There are also lots of experimental events and exhibits going on at any one time, and any doorway or hidden bookshelf might lead to a pop-up bar. No matter which corner you turn, you’ll find something buzzing going on.
925 Nuevo’s Cubano’s
If you can’t get to Cuba, the next best thing is to eat Cuban food. This brightly coloured shack has been around since the 1970s and they really know their way around a Cuban sandwich. Also on the menu are midnight sandwiches and steak sandwiches, plantains and ropa vieja. Colourful artworks, Cuban flags and a fun atmosphere make this an ideal place to hang out for an hour and grab some tasty lunch. There’s nothing Florida does better than eating in the sun then kicking back and watching the clouds for a while.
The Yard is anything you want it to be. Found on Northeast 13th Avenue, you can check out the antique store, shop for vintage dresses, pick up some artisanal soap and fresh flowers – and that’s before you even have a chance to get hungry. To a French crepe from The Wander Shop Coffee, to a cold brew from The Alchemist to other food and drinks from Voo La Voo Café and La Frutera Garden Bar, you’ll never run short of things to do, eat and drink.
Additional reporting by Alice Johnston
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