Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
- Explore Like a Local
- Shop Sawgrass Mills
- Sightsee in Hollywood, FL
- Take an Airboat Ride Through the Everglades
- Attend a Performance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts
- Catch a Concert or Panthers Hockey Game at FLA Live Arena
- Experience Las Olas Boulevard
- Drink Margaritas at Rocco’s Tacos
- Eat Like A Local at The Floridian
- Get Caffeinated at Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar
- Take a Water Taxi Ride
- Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale
- Wander the Museum of Discovery and Science
- Play at Flippo’s Fort Lauderdale
- Glimpse the Beauty at Butterfly World
- Check Out the Murals at FATVillage Arts
- Head Out to Fort Lauderdale’s Beaches
- Get Underwater Snorkeling or Diving
- Learn About South Florida’s Ecosystem
- Eat Uber Fresh Seafood at 15th Street Fisheries
- Segway Fort Lauderdale
- Be Entertained at the Riverwalk
- Take in the Dania Beach Pier Photo Ops
- Visit the Awesome Hollywood Beach Broadwalk
- Enjoy the Outdoors at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
- Explore Fort Lauderdale’s Art Galleries
- Take a Peek at the Charming Lauderdale-By-The-Sea
- Soak Up the Nightlife
- Gamble at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
- Eat a Decadent Dessert at Boatyard
- Learn About Nature
- Explore the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
- Have Fun at Flamingo Gardens
- Get Educated at the Anne Kolb Nature Center
- Relax and Unwind at the Marriott Pompano Beach
- Please Your Palate With Latin Dishes from Chimney House
- Take a Day Trip
- Jot Down a Future To-Do List
Having lived 90 minutes from Fort Lauderdale for nearly a decade, I never tire of visiting the beautiful Atlantic Coast city that is home to some of the most fabulous beaches in Florida.
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. Fort Lauderdale’s palm-tree-lined landscape is filled with flirty yachts along the Intracoastal Waterway and inviting sandy beaches by the sea.
Here are 35 awesome things to do in Fort Lauderdale when visiting.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by VISIT FLORIDA, but the writer’s enthusiasm for Fort Lauderdale is all her own.
Explore Like a Local
Fun things I like to do in Fort Lauderdale include shopping at Sawgrass Mills, sightseeing through Hollywood and its incredible mural scene, taking an airboat ride through the world-famous protected Everglades and seeing Broadway shows at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Of course, the concert scene and hockey games at FLA Live Arena are primo, too.
Shop Sawgrass Mills
The mammoth Sawgrass Mills outlet shopping complex features 350 plus stores in 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.
You may recognize a few store names: Frette, Burberry, David Yurman and Rag & Bone. Sawgrass Mills is one of the busiest tourist destinations in Florida and the largest outlet shopping destination in the country.
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.
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.
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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.
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 FLA Live 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.
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.
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 for under $10. That’s a great deal, especially in this ritzy zip code.
Get Caffeinated at Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar
You won’t want to miss grabbing an espresso or glass of wine at Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar on Las Olas Boulevard. Yes, it’s a flower shop, too, but much of the traffic is there for a delicious coffee, a glass of vino or a bottle of bubbly from the champagne vending machine.
Don’t miss the Instagram-worthy neon and flowers wall.
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
Family-friendly activities range from exploring the Museum of Discovery and Science, Flippo’s Fort Lauderdale and the Instagram-worthy Butterfly World, a wondrous botanical garden with dozens of butterfly species.
A sit-down experience would be to take a break in an air-conditioned setting at the AutoNation IMAX 3D Theater.
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.
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.
Head Out to Fort Lauderdale’s Beaches
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dania Beach is an award-winning Blue Wave Beach, a prestigious clean beach certification.
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 a 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Relax and Unwind at the 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.
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 11 AM.
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.