35 Awesome Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Melody Pittman Avatar
Public mural in Ft. Lauderdale. Photo credit: Francesca Murray

This post is sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA, but the writer’s enthusiasm for Fort Lauderdale is all her own.

The palm-tree-lined landscape of Fort Lauderdale is lined with million-dollar mansions and opulent yachts. And this beautiful Atlantic Coast city is home to some of the most fabulous beaches in Florida. As a long-time Florida resident who lived just 90 minutes from Fort Lauderdale for nearly a decade, I spent many wonderful hours exploring all  Fort Lauderdale has to offer. Here are 35 awesome things to do in Fort Lauderdale on your next visit.

things to do in ft. lauderdale - beaches
Relaxing on the beach in Ft. Lauderdale. Photo credit: VISIT FLORIDA

Head Out to a Fort Lauderdale Beach

Schedule time to enjoy Fort Lauderdale’s incredible beaches, with 24 miles of golden sandy shores.

Here, you can relax, unwind and perfect your water sports skills with a snorkeling, kayaking, canoeing or paddleboarding adventure. Read a book, nap, jet ski, or just sit back and watch the tide roll in and out in the glorious beachfront sunshine.

Shop Sawgrass Mills

The mammoth Sawgrass Mills outlet shopping complex features 350-plus stores, including the newest additions, Christian Louboutin’s designer women’s shoes and luxury Australian fashion brand Zimmermann. The complex is in nearby Sunrise, Florida, about 20 minutes from Fort Lauderdale. You will have great stores to choose from and miles to walk around this enticing property.

Be prepared to see mall shoppers dragging suitcases filled with purchases; Sawgrass Mills is one of the busiest tourist destinations in Florida and the largest outlet shopping destination in the country.

Read More: Where to find the best spas in Fort Lauderdale.

things to do in ft. lauderdale - visit Hollywood Beach
Hollywood Beach, Florida. Photo credit: Stacy Hilton

Sightsee in Hollywood, FL

Hollywood, Florida, used to be considered a part of Fort Lauderdale. Lately, it has become a destination in its own right thanks to the beautiful beaches and fantastic arts scene. Hollywood has a great arts community, with offerings ranging from galleries and museums to jaw-dropping murals.

Many of the best murals are part of the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, a curated collection created by local, national and international muralists. A couple of my favorites are the Frida mural by Fabio Onrack, Hollywood by the Sea by Yuhmi Collective and flamingos (1948 Harrison Street) by Key Detail.

If you want to spend the night in Hollywood, we recommend the Diplomat Beach Resort. You can read our full review of the resort.

things to do in ft. lauderdale - airboat ride in the everglades.
Taking an airboat ride in the Ft. Lauderdale Everglades. Photo credit: VISIT FLORIDA

Take an Airboat Ride Through the Everglades

Ft. Lauderdale is the gateway to the Everglades National Park and there are several places to experience a one-of-a-kind airboat tour of the Florida Everglades. I prefer Sawgrass Recreation Park.

Here, you will take a thrilling airboat ride through the magical landscape with alligators inches from your boat. The photo-ops are amazing, and the guided tour explaining and showcasing the Everglade’s important ecosystem is fascinating. You might also see turtles, birds, snakes and crocodiles.

The Sawgrass Recreation Park attraction has several reptiles and a small zoo. Ear protection is provided for the airboat ride.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Consider taking a nighttime airboat ride for a much different Everglades experience.

Attend a Performance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts

When I moved to Florida, I thought I would suffer being so far from NYC’s Broadway scene. Little did I know that nearby was one of the most spectacular state-of-the-art theaters in the world.

The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is swanky, high-class and high-energy. It has a bounty of performances—700+ per year. The architecture and decor are beautiful—perfect for immersing you in a memorable theater experience with plays, dances, operas, lectures, concerts, ballets and Broadway musicals.

A concert at FLA Live Arena in Fort Lauderdale.
Checking off a bucket list item seeing ELO with Jeff Lynne in 2019. Photo credit: Melody Pittman

Catch a Concert or Panthers Hockey Game at FLA Live Arena

As someone who has been to hundreds of concerts and professional sporting events, I would rank seeing a concert or catching a hockey game here as one of the best in the country.

The Amerant Bank Arena (formerly the BB&T Center) is home to the Florida Panthers hockey team. The concert and performance scene is off the hook at this world-class Sunrise facility just west of Fort Lauderdale.

Pro Tip: To ensure Florida travel is accessible to people of all abilities, VISIT FLORIDA has three videos in its “Limitless Florida” series highlighting how people of different abilities can – and do – enjoy Florida’s experiences fully. For example, Kennedy Space Center offers a guide for families with autism to prepare for a visit. St. Augustine has a Braille Trail that lets visually-impaired visitors explore tactile art while listening to free audio descriptions via an app. New Smyrna Beach and Daytona Beach offer free non-motorized beach wheelchair rentals. Get all of the state’s accessibility resources at the VISIT FLORIDA Accessible Travel Hub.

Experience Las Olas Boulevard

Look for high-end shopping around nearly every corner in Fort Lauderdale, with an arsenal of boutiques and trendy shops.

Las Olas Boulevard has everything from locally owned shops to some of the most fascinating antique shops I’ve ever seen. A few of my favorite shops are the Guy Harvey Gallery (I was lucky enough to meet him in the Caribbean), Lilly Pulitzer and YETI Fort Lauderdale.

A plate of lobster rolls at Gigi's in Fort Lauderdale.
Gigi’s is not only a beautiful and tasty restaurant but also the place to catch a water taxi ride. Photo credit: Melody Pittman

Take a Water Taxi Ride

Kids especially will love taking a water taxi ride, a great sightseeing cruise opportunity. My favorite address for the water taxi is Gigi’s in Hollywood’s Sycamore District, with a waterfront patio overlooking the Intracoastal and killer key lime pie.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Consider doing a holiday lights tour with Christmas music via water taxi in the month of December.

Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale

things to do in ft. lauderdale - visit the Museum of Discovery
Visiting the Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Discovery. Photo credit: Spark

Wander the Museum of Discovery and Science

Be prepared to spend hours at the Museum of Discovery and Science, an educational facility visited by half a million people annually. The museum features temporary and permanent exhibits. Several displays will teach your children about Florida’s ecoscapes and natural resources while making it fun.

The Go Green! is my favorite part of the museum, explaining the importance of the three R’s: reduce, recycle and reuse. The Storm Center, outdoor Science Park and Dino Dana Adventures are other areas the little ones will love.

Don’t miss the North American river otters. Check out the daily programming for special events and activities: I held my first snake here.

Play at Flippo’s Fort Lauderdale

Flippo’s Fort Lauderdale is a family entertainment spot loaded with fun slides, a laser maze, games, climbing structures and sports courts. Ball Blaster may become your family’s favorite space and activity. There is also an onsite snack bar for snacks and drinks, plus a separate toddler area for ages 3 and under.

There’s an admission charge for kids, but adults are always free.

things to do in ft. lauderdale - visit the butterflies at Butterfly World.
Lacewing butterfly at Butterfly World. Photo credit: Butterfly World.

Glimpse the Beauty at Butterfly World

Where can you see 20,000 butterflies in a natural environment? Butterfly World in Tradewinds Park, that’s where.

This one-of-a-kind attraction will bring a smile to your face via the six screened aviaries filled with tropical birds and gorgeous butterflies. You can also hand-feed small parrots at the Lorikeet Encounter.

Butterfly World is 100% wheelchair accessible. You can rent a wheelchair there on a first-come, first-served basis for up to two hours.

Check Out the Murals at FATVillage Arts

One of the lesser-known points of interest in Fort Lauderdale is the FATVillage Arts District. This extraordinary art offering in the warehouse district has eclectic murals and is super cool.

Come on the last Saturday of the month for the monthly Art Walk featuring open galleries, yummy foods, local artwork and music.

things to do in ft. Lauderdale - snorkeling
Snorkeling in the Florida waters. Photo credit: SPARK

Get Underwater Snorkeling or Diving

There are several tour groups for scheduling a snorkeling or diving adventure within Fort Lauderdale.

For a unique adventure, head to the SS Copenhagen shipwreck, a popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Learn About South Florida’s Ecosystem

Kayak around South Florida’s mangroves for another enticing activity. It is a great way to learn about Florida’s incredible ecosystem.

Besides the educational aspect, you will be amazed by the importance of protecting and preserving this dynamic habitat for fish, insects, reptiles, algae, mollusks and crustaceans.

Palm trees at the beach, as seen from a segway tour.
I saw parts of Fort Lauderdale on my Segway tour that I could never have imagined in a metropolitan city area. Photo credit: Melody Pittman

Segway Fort Lauderdale

Segway Fort Lauderdale owner Jon is sure to make your visit and Segway adventure in Fort Lauderdale memorable and entertaining.

I took one of his tours a few years ago and saw some incredible things. My tour was the Hollywood Beach Tour, which goes 4.5 miles along the Broadwalk, historical backstreets and the hour-long tour even stops for ice cream on the beach. It was super fun! Longer Segway adventures are available.

things to do in ft. lauderdale - paddleboarding down Venice of America canal.
Paddleboarders traveling down Venice of America canal in Ft. Lauderdale. Photo credit: Spark

Be Entertained at the Riverwalk

One of Fort Lauderdale’s most intriguing places is the Riverwalk, “Venice of America,” a lovely mile-long area with 10 parks on the tropical banks of the New River.

The Riverwalk is dotted with museums, shops, a 911 monument and restaurants. Plus, this entertainment district gathers a great crowd. Besides this, you can also sign up for an activity, such as bike and Segway tours, kayak and paddle board rentals, yoga, photography and dog training classes.

The Riverwalk is where you’ll find the historic gem of Fort Lauderdale—Stranahan House Museum. There are also exercise stations for use by the general public in the area.

Take in the Dania Beach Pier Photo Ops

For the best photo ops, head to Dania Beach Pier; it is one of the most Instagram-worthy natural settings in the Fort Lauderdale area. The wooden pier is 900 feet long, offers primo fishing and costs $1.50 to access, more if you want to fish.

Dania Beach is an award-winning Blue Wave Beach, a prestigious clean beach certification.

things to do in ft. lauderdale - bicycling along the Hollywood Beach boardwalk.
Bicycling along the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk. Photo credit: Emergent Media

Visit the Awesome Hollywood Beach Broadwalk

Hollywood also has excellent beaches and is home to the ever-popular Broadwalk. Here, you can stroll on a wide pedestrian walkway with shops and restaurants on one side and the lovely Atlantic Ocean on the other.

Bike rentals and all sorts of other fun things (i.e., tandem bikes, scooters, etc.) are available through Sun & Fun Cycles for seeing a more significant portion of the Broadwalk and getting in some exercise. It is also worth noting that Sun & Fun offers electric scooters, wheelchairs and JOB (Joy on the Beach), an innovative wheelchair that can roll onto a sandy beach and even into the ocean.

Three other things I recommend along the Broadwalk:

  • Sample the conch fritters at Ocean Alley Restaurant and Beach Bar
  • Have a dip of ice cream at Surf N Spray
  • Watch the brave souls on the FlowRider surfing simulator at the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort. That’s also a fun place to stay if you want to be right in the heart of the action!

Enjoy the Outdoors at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Walk, hike or bike ride around Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, one of Florida’s beautiful state parks. It’s where the locals go to explore, have a picnic and maybe even spot an alligator. In-line skating and bicycling are other popular draws.

The state park is described as a “tropical area with diverse wildlife.”

Explore Fort Lauderdale’s Art Galleries

Spend more time learning about Fort Lauderdale’s growing art scene by popping into some of the stunning art galleries throughout town. Favorites include the Seldom Seen Gallery, National Geographic Fine Art Galleries, NSU Art Museum, Gallery Mavruk and MAC Fine Art.

Take a Peek at the Charming Lauderdale-By-The-Sea

This darling 1.5-mile seaside area is located between the Intracoastal and the Atlantic Ocean on Florida’s Gold Coast, north of Fort Lauderdale. It is known as Florida’s “Beach Diving Capital.” Besides hotels and restaurants, you’ll also find Anglin’s Square, great for shopping, and Adirondack chairs and boat benches for people watching or admiring the ocean.

The beach in this area, 100 yards away, has a natural coral reef system.

Soak Up the Nightlife

Fort Lauderdale has an excellent food and beverage scene and vibrant nightlife. Some of the hotspots for after-dark socializing and adult libations are:

  • Hunter’s, for an energetic vibe and mainly gay clientele
  • Culture Room, where you’ll find standing room only for excellent musical acts
  • Backyard, which serves a primarily collegiate crowd and hosts killer DJs.

Gamble at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

Choose between overnights, gambling, an elaborate nightlife scene, concerts and one of the best cocktail lounges in South Florida at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

Better known as “The Guitar Hotel,” the Seminole HRH is a fun-filled place with high energy and lots of things going on…all the time. With 3,100 slot machines, video poker and roulette, plus nearly 200 table games with live dealers (three-card poker, Texas Hold ’em, blackjack and more), the Hard Rock is Florida’s premier entertainment and gaming destination.

Learn About Nature

You can learn more about nature and Florida wildlife, native plants, birds and flowers at the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, Flamingo Gardens and the Anne Kolb Nature Center, which my Vero Beach Garden Club visited annually.

Explore the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, a historical offering with substantial botanical gardens, sits on 80 pristine acres. My favorite part of this point of interest is the fragrant and picture-perfect orchids collection. Make sure to save time for a house tour, too, with lovely artwork, attractive furnishings and stunning marble.

Don’t miss the cute gift shop.

things to do in ft. lauderdale - Flamingo Gardens
Flamingo Gardens is a wildlife sanctuary with alligators (and plenty of them), exotic birds, bobcats, eagles, otters, panthers, and, yes, brilliantly-colored flamingos. Photo credit: Peter W. Cross

Have Fun at Flamingo Gardens

You may be surprised that Flamingo Gardens is not just a place to see flamingos. This 60-acre property also has the Everglades Learning Center, Wray Home Museum and South Florida Wildlife Sanctuary, with a free-flight aviary that is home to 250 birds. There is a separate Birds of Prey exhibit housing owls, vultures, hawks, eagles and falcons. Though the flamingos are graceful and lovely, I prefer the cute river otter habitat.

Flamingo Gardens’ botanical garden has cycads, pollinators, a live oak hammock, tropical ferns, heliconias, orchids, butterflies, Champion trees and much more.

A guide at the Anne Kolb Nature Center giving a close up of a crab.
Hands-on activity directors give the Anne Kolb Nature Center a leg up from the competition. Photo credit: Melody Pittman

Get Educated at the Anne Kolb Nature Center

You will probably learn more about Florida’s diverse agritourism and ecosystems at the 1,500-acre Anne Kolb Nature Center than anywhere else in the state.

This unique attraction, a place for education and hiking, contains coastal mangrove wetlands, plus walking and paddling trails amid the natural setting. I found the staff super friendly and eager to show off their aquarium finds and the great observation tower overlooking the urban park.

Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale: Marriott Pompano Beach

Accommodations are primo in Fort Lauderdale, with choices ranging from hotels and motels to luxury guest houses and Airbnb properties.

I really like staying at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa. It’s off the beaten path and away from some of the Fort Lauderdale traffic. The oceanfront Marriott Pompano Beach has incredible beach views and beach-chic rooms.

Overnight stays are typically less than $200 a night, an absolute steal in South Florida.

Unfortunately, pets are not allowed at this hotel.

Don’t-Miss Forth Lauderdale Restaurants

fish tacos in Ft. Lauderdale
15th Street Fisheries as the idea behind every Jimmy Buffet lyric. Photo credit: Melody Pittman

Eat Uber Fresh Seafood at 15th Street Fisheries

The landmark 15th Street Fisheries at the Lauderdale Marina on the Intracoastal Waterway is an iconic address for excellent seafood and the South Florida vibe. Enjoy fish tacos, smoked fish dip, live music amid a setting of boaters, fishermen and high-dollar yachts, complete with a vast list of cold beer and cocktails. I prefer dining dockside, but there are indoor options too.

Please Your Palate With Latin Dishes from Chimney House

In the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, you’ll find Chimney House Grill and Cafe. This trendy circa-1924 eatery does Latin-fusion dishes with a twist and has amazing menu creations. Sit indoors in the homey, cozy house or outdoors in the cute courtyard.

For me, the standing order is the Ropa Vieja (Cuban-style beef with rice, black beans, and sweet plantains), with a glass (or pitcher) of house-made sangria.

Chimney House also serves brunch beginning at 11am.

Drink Margaritas at Rocco’s Tacos

We go to Las Olas Boulevard for people-watching and to have margaritas and tacos from Rocco’s Tacos. Don’t stop there; the famous guacamole (made and served tableside), Austin queso and sizzling molcajete bowls are other great choices at South Florida’s favorite local Mexican/Tex-Mex chain restaurant.

Rocco’s Tacos has eight locations around Florida.

Eat Like A Local at The Floridian

Fort Lauderdale locals adore dining for breakfast, lunch and dinner at The Floridian Restaurant. It isn’t fancy like a large portion of Fort Lauderdale eateries, but the hearty food portions are plentiful. There’s a reason TV chefs like Rachael Ray endorse it.

My go-to order at The Floridian is the 222 Special: two eggs, two pancakes (or toast), sausage or bacon, coffee and small juice. It’s a great deal, especially in this ritzy ZIP code.

Eat a Decadent Dessert at Boatyard

The Boatyard at the marina is a fabulous place for dinner or celebrating a special occasion, but it’s also a terrific stop for just a gourmet dessert. Years ago, I had Peanut Butter & Jelly, a peanut butter mousse with a graham cracker crust, raspberry jam and vanilla ice cream. It still ranks as one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten.

Today, the S’mores dessert is calling my name.

things to do in ft. lauderdale - visit the Palm Beaches, including West Palm Beach.
Strolling along West Palm Beach. Photo credit: 500PX

Take a Day Trip

If you are considering a day trip from Fort Lauderdale, I always suggest the Palm Beaches to the north.

Take time to explore the Northwood Village in West Palm and grab a bite, explore the West Palm Beach GreenMarket and Clematis Street, and tour Whitehall, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach.

Jot Down a Future To-Do List

I keep a “to-do” list of the things I want to do on my travels. I haven’t yet done two things in Fort Lauderdale, but they are on my list: take a Jungle Queen Riverboat cruise and visit the Historic Stranahan House Museum.

Where is Fort Lauderdale?

Fort Lauderdale is 45 minutes north of Miami in South Florida (you’ll pass the Hard Rock’s Guitar Hotel) and three hours southeast of Orlando.

Melody Pittman of Mesquite, NV, is the creator and owner of Wherever I May Roam Blog, an established blog focusing on cruising (54 thus far), small towns, great food, and travel, plus syndicated on MSN. She is also a digital influencer and freelancer, writing for print and online publications. Born in West Virginia, Melody loves showcasing her beloved Mountain State. She recently published her first book, 100 Things to Do in West Virginia Before You Die, through Reedy Press. She has social channels and a podcast (100 Things WV) to accompany it. Melody and Taylor Hardy, her daughter, have hosted an annual travel conference (Southern Travelers Explore or #STE), which brings CVBS and travel writers together from around the country since 2020. Melody loves and promotes the concept of buying and shopping locally and “be better, do better.” She can find fun no matter where she travels and prefers sunsets over sunrises. Melody is an animal lover, will brake for cows, and puts family first over anything else. Being a GB (what her granddaughter calls her) is her favorite hat she wears! Never at a loss for words, Melody has never met a stranger and says that meeting amazing people from all corners of the world is the best part of her job. She also shouts out to those her age (over 50) who can juggle the ever-changing social media trends and stay relevant in today’s society.
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