A full 24 hours is not enough time to explore all that Fort Lauderdale has to offer, but if one day is all you’ve got, this guide will highlight every must-have experience in the city to help savor every minute before your next flight.
The legendary American diner, open since 1937, promises a hearty meal of omelets, pancakes, sausage and powdered-sugar French toast that are sure to fuel you with energy for the busy day ahead. Pull up a chair by the dining tables under the shade of the tropical blue awning, and watch pedestrians go by. It may be touristy, but the comfort food here is delicious. (It’s open 24 hours, and breakfast is served around the clock if you happen to be craving hotcakes at midnight.)
After breakfast, simply walk along Las Olas Boulevard for a little dose of shopping. The strip is lively, lined with coffee shops, bars, restaurants and posh boutiques to entertain you for hours. Peek into one of their fine art galleries, such as Sienna Fine Art or Wyland Art Gallery; the latter houses oceanic artwork and sculptures made by the marine life artist Wyland if you want to take a piece of the sea with you.
Hail a cab (or walk a few miles down Las Olas Boulevard) to Fort Lauderdale Beach. White sands and turquoise waters narrowly stretch along the island dotted with gangly palm trees that exude serenity. Stroll along the beach towards Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. Families traveling with children will enjoy the swings and slides at the kids’ playground, while teens can squeeze in some fun at the sand volleyball or basketball court. Grills for barbecuing are also on-site as well as convenient restrooms.
Also relaxing is the LGBT-friendly Sebastian Street Beach. Just a few blocks north, the beach lies near most of the gay resorts and offers a low-key vibe. Rent an umbrella and lounger here to unwind and soak up the sun in good spirits.
While at the beach, walk on over to Seabreeze Boulevard and order a platter of coconut shrimp, French fries, and coleslaw at the waterfront Coconuts Restaurant. The beachy restaurant features an outdoor deck that offers scenic views of the ocean; it’s a perfect spot to relax and feast upon fresh conch fritters, grilled Mahi sandwiches and lobster rolls that are sure to excite your taste buds. The gentle sea breeze waving in from the coast is not too bad either.
Named after the beautiful bonnet lily, the Bonnet House is a 1920s historic landmark that was once the home of two artists. The plantation-style home features their art collection and enchanting gardens that are worth a visit while in the city. The property grounds contain a Desert Garden, a hibiscus garden and a courtyard with tropical vegetation, making it a haven for migratory birds. Look around at the estate’s Boathouse Canal to spot occasional manatees swimming about.
Watch the sun sink under pastel-colored skies while paddleboarding along the river. Visitors can rent paddleboards at Sunrise Paddleboards for $25 for a one-hour rental. Enjoy the quiet tranquility of the sunset along the Middle River as you get some exercise just before dinner.
All that sightseeing may have worked up an appetite. Indulge in some fiery tacos and tequila shots at Rocco’s Tacos. Perched along Las Olas Boulevard, this famous eatery cooks delicious Mexican favorites, from chicken to chorizo tacos and burritos filled with black beans, red rice, cilantro and red sauce over pulled pork. Wash it down with a shot or two of Herradura Blanco tequila, and you’re ready for an evening of dancing at Exit 66 (the tri-level oceanfront nightclub with an outdoor terrace along Fort Lauderdale Beach). You can also call it a night and settle into your cozy hotel bed for a good night’s sleep if you have to take a flight in the morning.