Fort Lauderdale may be the smaller South Florida city when 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
Bar, Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
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, and a handful of art galleries. Insider Tip: Break for lunch at Rocco’s Tacos for a hearty Mexican meal with killer tequila shots.
Make a pit stop at the NSU Art Museum while on Las Olas. Boasting one of the most extensive collections of 19th- and 20th-century paintings by the American surrealist William Glackens, this art museum contains more than 6,000 works by international artists as well as those by post-World War II avant-garde artists, all in a modernist building designed by renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes.
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 up-close encounters with Florida wild birds, alligators, and, if you’re lucky, the Florida panther.
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. Insider Tip: Access the beach easily via the pedestrian tunnel under the A1A.
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.
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.
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. Insider Tip: Don’t miss the aviaries for rainbow birds!
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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).
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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; there is even a gallery dedicated to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
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!
End your Fort Lauderdale adventure with the local’s favorite, LauderAle beer. 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.