The Best Things to See and Do in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale is Miami’s laid-back sister city with plenty to offer
Fort Lauderdale is Miami’s laid-back sister city with plenty to offer | © Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 2+ / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Laurence Kidd
9 September 2020

Welcome to a city famous for its spring-break party scene. You’ll find beaches, yachts, mansions, museums and everything in between in Fort Lauderdale, Miami’s northern, laid-back sister city. From the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens to the Funky Buddha Brewery, here are the top places to go and things to see while you’re in the city.

Museum of Discovery and Science

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Founded in 1976, Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science has been educating and entertaining all who venture inside. It’s not just a place for kids to have fun and learn about science – adults can also appreciate the interactive exhibits and multiple state-of-the-art simulators there. This museum features its own IMAX theater as well as a number of “ecoscapes”, a simulated ride to Mars, a simulated airboat ride in the Everglades and a MaxFlight airplane simulator. Among the more popular aspects of this museum are the quantity and variety of Floridian animal species on display.

The Stranahan House

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Florida, FL, South, Broward, Ft. Fort Lauderdale, New River, Stranahan House, pioneer historic home, city skyline cityscape, office, high rise rises s
© Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 6+ / Alamy Stock Photo
Welcome to the home of Fort Lauderdale pioneers Frank and Ivy Stranahan. Built in 1901 as a trading post and converted into a residence for the Stranahans in 1906, this house is the oldest surviving structure in Broward County – you can practically feel the history when you walk inside. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974, it operates as a historic museum today. The house is open for guided tours from 1pm to 3pm daily and hosts special events throughout the year.

Lauderdale by the Sea

Architectural Landmark, Natural Feature
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You can’t visit Fort Lauderdale without planning a trip to the beach, and there are plenty of wonderful options to choose from – you’ve got Sunrise, Oakland Park, Las Olas and everything in between. But for the authentic Lauderdale beach experience, it would have to be the small town of Lauderdale by the Sea. Everything here is just a little bit more laid back and has a genuine feel of a small community that loves to live life simply by the ocean. Some great local restaurants to check out while you’re here include Blue Moon Fish Co., Keese’s Gourmet Mediterranean American and Aruba Beach Cafe.

Funky Buddha Brewery

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This microbrewery in the town of Oakland Park started out as an idea to turn an empty warehouse into one of Fort Lauderdale’s most iconic hangouts. Funky Buddha is dedicated to creating new and bold flavors and is never scared to try something unexpected. Whether you get a pint of their flagship Hop Gun IPA or want to try a seasonal brew, such as the Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, you won’t be disappointed. There’s even a food menu, so you can snack while you enjoy your craft beer.

The Jungle Queen

Natural Feature
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Florida, FL, South, Broward, Ft. Fort Lauderdale, Intracoastal Waterway, Jungle Queen, replica riverboat, boat, water, Lake Mabel, sightseeing visitor
© Jeffrey Isaac Greenberg 10+ / Alamy Stock Photo
Fort Lauderdale is often referred to as the Venice of America due to its seemingly endless miles of waterways and intracoastal canal system. There’s no better way to see Fort Lauderdale’s beautiful yachts and grandiose mansions than by taking a tour along its water highways.The Jungle Queen offers a unique sightseeing experience where passengers enjoy a fully narrated cruise down Millionaires’ Row, and when they arrive at Tropical Isle, they’re treated to an all-you-can-eat dinner featuring barbecue baby back ribs, chicken, shrimp and all the fixings.

Broward Center for the Performing Arts

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Broward Center for the Performing Arts is a large multi-venue theater and entertainment complex located in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Designed by award-winning architect Benjamin C. Thompson, the Broward Center is considered the cultural heart of Broward County. The City of Fort Lauderdale shows that it is truly committed to the development of the performing arts. There’s nothing like catching a popular show on a Friday night or a Sunday matinee to inspire your artistic spirit.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

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giant Ficus lofty fig at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale, Brower County, Florida, USA
© Peter Schickert / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle, you can’t beat getting back to nature – especially if you can’t quite face another day picking sand out of your sandwiches at the beach. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is Fort Lauderdale’s Central Park – it’s peaceful and green and always has space for you to spread out a blanket and hang out. You can hire a bike to explore the trails here or even try out kayaking. And when you’re tired out, head to the nearby eatery Park & Ocean to enjoy some tacos while you gaze out at the ocean. It doesn’t get more picturesque than that.

Notorious Creamery

Dessert Shop, Ice Cream Parlour, Dessert
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If you love both rap and ice cream but have previously found it hard to combine your two passions, you have a treat in store. Notorious Creamery was founded by Grammy-nominated rapper Tory Lanez and local lounge bar legend Bobby Velez, who also owns the popular spot Rhythm and Vine. Ice creams come in all shapes and sizes, including vegan options, and you can also try ice cream sandwiches (our pick), cookies, brownies and gigantic slices of cake. If you really need a sugar rush, try the milkshake that is topped with a slice of cake, which is so delicious that it should be illegal.

Casa Sensei

Restaurant, Asian, $$$
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Taking a gondola ride? Super fun. Eating Asian fusion? One of our favorites. Combining the two? Well, now we’re getting somewhere. If you’re dining at popular restaurant Casa Sensei, you can book a tour with Riverside Gondola Tours to see the sights. Choose from a pre-dinner ride with an aperitif or have your dinner packed up to be eaten aboard. Up to six people can enjoy the ride. If you’re in the area at Christmas, the gondola ride is a fabulous way to enjoy the lavish Christmas lights in this area.

MASS District

Art Gallery
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MASS stands for Music and Arts South of Sunrise [Boulevard], and that’s certainly what you get here. As the newest arts area of Flagler Village, the MASS district is stuffed full of cute boutiques, adorable food spots, tempting bars and fascinating galleries. Whether you end up taking a yoga class, buying some artwork or discovering a new favorite cocktail, you absolutely must end up at Glitch, a bar famous for both its craft beer and its large selection of classic arcade games, including Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and Skee-Ball.

Wreck Bar

Bar, American, $$$
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Did you ever believe in mermaids as a child? Did you never truly stop believing? Wreck Bar is the spot for you. More than 60 years old, this bar is a classic Floridian hangout – with mermaids that you might just believe are real. Spend more than $30 (£22) on food and drink, and the show is free. With shows with titles including Sirens and Sailors, Aqua Burlesque, and Mermaid and Mimosas Brunch, these mermaids can sometimes get a little bit naughty. But fear not; there are family-friendly shows on Friday and Saturday nights at 7pm. You might just get inspired to don a tail and live your very own high-sea fantasies.

Bonnet House Museum and Gardens

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The Bonnet House (also known as the Bartlett Estate) is a historic home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, United States.
© Amy Cicconi / Alamy Stock Photo
A slice of Florida history, this home is a century old. Set on 35 acres (14ha) of land, it’s far from the madding crowds on Fort Lauderdale beach. You can explore sand dunes, wetlands and even a maritime forest, and the wildlife includes manatees, monkeys and migratory birds. Inside the house, the Caribbean architecture will have you never wanting to return to colder climes. You can also see art and the personal belongings of the original owners, who arrived back in the 1920s. A true time capsule, the site is well worth spending an afternoon exploring.

Additional reporting by Alice Johnston.

These recommendations were updated on September 9, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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