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Wondering, what the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale are? Ponder no more, we’re on hand with a list of things to do in town in this guide.
Located in the southeastern part of Florida, Fort Lauderdale is a city that offers incredible exploration opportunities and is a must-visit destination within the state. Unlike the more widely recognized destinations like Miami, Fort Lauderdale has its own unique charm and attractions that are worth experiencing. With so many things to do in Fort Lauderdale, you’ll be spoiled for choice, and our guide comes in handy.
Beaches and Outdoor Adventures
Discover the Serene Beaches and Waterways
A trip to Fort Lauderdale wouldn’t be complete without a refreshing dip in the water. If you’re in search of a stunning Florida beach with a laid-back atmosphere, away from the bustling party scene, Fort Lauderdale Beach is the ideal choice. This coastal gem provides a serene and peaceful alternative to the vibrant energy of Miami Beach, all while showcasing the same pristine sands and crystal-clear waters that Florida is renowned for. While there’s still room for beachside festivities, you’re more likely to come across families unwinding or taking leisurely strolls along the shoreline.
Once you’ve experienced the relaxed charm and beautiful shoreline of Fort Lauderdale Beach, let’s venture to another inviting spot just a stone’s throw away – Las Olas Beach! This smaller yet equally inviting stretch of coastline attracts beachgoers of all ages. Las Olas Beach offers an array of amenities, including an amphitheater and splash pad, ensuring enjoyment for the entire family. Beach chairs and water sports equipment are available for rent, and restrooms are conveniently accessible. Moreover, you’ll discover a diverse selection of restaurants, bars, and shops just across the street.
Fort Lauderdale is also known as the “Venice of America” due to its expansive network of over 300 miles of navigable waterways. Consequently, numerous residents and tour companies provide kayaking and paddleboarding tours along the canals of Las Olas Isles, the Intracoastal Waterway, the Middle River, and the New River. If you find yourself in this most scenic of beachfront cities, watersports and canals are consistently some of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park, recognized as one of the wonders of the world, holds prestigious titles like World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance. It’s often called a “River of Grass” due to its vast, shallow, and slow-moving water system that covers over 7,800 square miles. This national park is a critical habitat for various plants and animals, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. It’s a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy activities like bird watching, hiking, and canoeing, but it’s also essential for protecting the environment.
One of the most distinctive features of the Everglades is its sawgrass marshes, which stretch as far as the eye can see. These marshes are home to a wide range of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, and countless bird species.
Two primary entry points offer access to this unique natural wonder. The first entrance, located in Homestead, provides informative displays and convenient access to various walking trails. Alternatively, you can enter through the Shark Valley Visitor Center, a straightforward 40-mile drive from Little Havana’s Callé Ocho, proceeding west along the Tamiami Trail. From this gateway, you can embark on a 15-mile scenic drive, unveiling the Everglades’ winding waterways, towering grasses, and mangrove islets, often frequented by Florida’s iconic alligators.
Ticket Prices: Start from $25
Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show
The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (FLIBS) is one of the world’s premier boating events held annually in Fort Lauderdale. This boat show is a big deal for boating enthusiasts, featuring a wide range of boats and marine-related products. You can expect to see everything from luxury yachts to smaller boats, marine accessories, and the latest boating technology. It’s a hub for boat buyers, sellers, and those who simply love to admire the beauty of watercraft.
FLIBS is vast, spanning multiple locations and boasting millions of square feet of exhibition space. It typically takes place in late October or early November and draws crowds from around the world. Besides the boats and gadgets, you can also enjoy educational seminars and entertainment, making it a must-visit for anyone with a passion for boating or an interest in the marine industry.
Kids in Tow? Family Things to do in Fort Lauderdale
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Anyone looking for things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids can breathe a sigh of relief. There is no shortage of stunning and accessible nature on your doorstep. A short stroll away from beachside shops and condos lies Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. The park is named after Hugh Taylor Birch, a Chicago lawyer and philanthropist who donated the land to the state of Florida in 1941. It covers approximately 180 acres and offers a natural oasis in the midst of the urban environment of Fort Lauderdale.
You can rent a canoe here and paddle along a peaceful mile-long freshwater lagoon or try your hand at fishing from the seawall. Nature enthusiasts will love exploring two short hiking trails while learning about the local plants and wildlife. If you prefer biking or skating, the park’s smooth paved road is perfect. And for beach lovers, a sandy shoreline is just a short stroll away through the pedestrian tunnel under A1A. Picnic areas with lovely channel views are available, and if you’re planning a larger gathering, there are pavilions you can rent, complete with water and electricity.
Opening Hours: Daily from 8 a.m. until sundown
Ticket Prices: Start from $2
Museum of Discovery & Science
The Museum of Discovery & Science stands as an exceptional destination, perfect for families with children and science enthusiasts alike. It boasts a wealth of hands-on exhibits and interactive displays that will keep your little ones engaged for hours. From The Hangar, where they can fully immerse themselves in aviation-themed activities, to the inviting Science Park and the Early Childhood Learning Lab, there’s something to pique their curiosity at every twist and turn.
As your children explore, they’ll get up close to live animal ambassadors, uncover interesting facts about the magnificent Everglades in the Florida EcoScapes exhibit, and embark on virtual journeys to Mars or pilot an FA-18 cockpit simulator.
One of the absolute highlights of this museum is the five-story IMAX 3D Theater, which puts you at the heart of the action. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the world of cinema while also delving into scientific topics like space exploration and nature.
For some real excitement, head to the Storm Center and feel the power of hurricane-force winds. Plus, you can dig for fossils alongside a massive prehistoric megalodon, get up close to a saber-toothed tiger, and even meet a playful North American river otter. If you’re looking for some education in a fun environment, here lies one of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday – 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday – Noon to 5 p.m.
Ticket Prices: Adults – $19, Seniors- $18, Children (2-12) – $16, Children (under 5) – free
Butterfly World, located in Coconut Creek, is a delightful and educational attraction that holds the title of being the first butterfly house in the United States, and the largest in the world. As you step inside, you’ll find yourself surrounded by lush gardens adorned with colorful flowers and, of course, an abundance of beautiful butterflies. The park features open-air aviaries where you can witness a breathtaking display of 20,000 exotic butterflies from around the world. These lovely creatures might just decide to pay you a visit, landing gently on your shoulders or hands, creating sweet moments.
In addition, the park is home to various other wildlife, including birds and koi fish, making it a unique and natural experience. Plus, you can learn all about the life cycle of butterflies and why they’re so important for our world.
Opening Hours: Daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ticket Prices: Start from $22.50
Flamingo Gardens, just 17 miles west of bustling downtown Fort Lauderdale, is far from your average botanical garden. This place is a nonprofit powerhouse, on a mission to protect endangered animals in habitats that mimic their natural homes while giving you a crash course in South Florida’s history and its incredible plants and creatures.
On-site, you’ll find a range of animals, including sea otters, rehabilitated Florida panthers, a rescued black bear named Josh, alligators, numerous bird species, and the stars of the show – those elegant Caribbean flamingos that inspired the park’s name.
The park also offers a narrated tram tour for a comprehensive overview of its attractions. While visiting, be sure to explore the Wray Home Museum, a restored house built in 1933, providing a glimpse into 1930s South Florida life and the history of Flamingo Gardens.
Opening Hours: Daily from 9.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Ticket Prices: Start from $15.95
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale, located along the New River’s banks near Las Olas Boulevard, is a historic spot with a modern twist. It used to be a trading spot for Native Americans and is now a charming green space. You can walk through lush gardens and enjoy shops along Las Olas Boulevard.
One highlight is the monthly “Jazz Brunch” on the first Sunday. People bring their own seating and food to enjoy some local jazz. But any time you visit, you’ll find something to enjoy.
You can explore Riverwalk on foot along a nice path with benches, taking in views of high-rise condos and the Stranahan House. Or, you can see it from the water. There are two options: a free water trolley with limited space, and a water taxi that lets you hop on and off at different spots. Either way, you’ll see impressive homes and yachts while experiencing the best of Florida.
Museums, Arts & Entertainment
Stranahan House Museum
The Stranahan House Museum is a significant historical site that provides valuable insights into the city’s early development. This beautiful house, built in 1901, is the oldest surviving structure in Fort Lauderdale and serves as a testament to the region’s pioneer history. It was once the home of Frank Stranahan, Fort Lauderdale’s “Founding Father,” and his wife, Ivy Cromartie Stranahan, the area’s first school teacher. It has served as a trading post, post office, town hall, community center, and residence for the Stranahan family.
The house is a wooden-frame vernacular building featuring spacious porches and an impressive vista of the New River. It has withstood numerous challenges, including hurricanes, fires, and floods, making it a resilient symbol of South Florida’s heritage.
The museum offers guided tours, allowing visitors to step back in time and explore the beautifully preserved rooms and furnishings of the Stranahan family, offering a unique perspective on Fort Lauderdale’s history.
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Friday – 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Ticket Prices: Adults – $12, Seniors- $11, Students– $7
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
This historic estate, built in the early 20th century, served as the winter residence of the accomplished artists Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett, known for their contributions to various forms of visual art. The house itself is a masterpiece of architectural design, featuring a blend of Mediterranean Revival and Caribbean plantation styles. Once inside Bonnet House, you’ll discover a vast collection of art and personal belongings that offer a window into the world of the Bartletts, allowing you to step back in time and picture the lifestyle of a 1930s and 40s beachfront estate.
Situated along Fort Lauderdale Beach, the estate also has beautiful natural surroundings. It boasts lush and well-maintained gardens filled with a diverse array of tropical plants and wildlife.
Opening Hours: Wednesday to Tuesday – 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday – Closed
Ticket Prices: Adults – $25, Children (6-17) – $8, Children (under 5) – free
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts stands as a vibrant cultural hub, bringing the enchantment of live performances to the community. Consistently ranked among the top ten most-visited theaters globally, the Center hosts over 700 annual performances, drawing in more than 600,000 patrons.
Nestled alongside the picturesque New River in downtown Fort Lauderdale, this modern, well-equipped venue plays host to a diverse array of artistic events. These include Broadway musicals, operas, concerts, plays, ballets, multi-cultural performances, workshops, lectures, and educational events. Additionally, it boasts one of the most extensive arts-in-education programs in the United States, serving over 150,000 students each year. Through its education and outreach programs, it not only fosters a deep appreciation for the arts but also nurtures the talents of the next generation.
Pro tip: You can join free behind-the-scenes tours on the first Sunday of each month, which are scheduled during the Sunday Jazz Brunch.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Just on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale stands the iconic Guitar Hotel, and it’s safe to say you won’t come across another building quite like it anywhere in the world. This architectural wonder takes the form of an enormous guitar, with a brilliant beam of light serving as its central axis.
The interior of this building is as impressive as its exterior, evoking the ambiance of a vibrant city rather than a conventional hotel. Inside, you’ll discover a bustling array of the best of Fort Lauderdale nightclubs, shops, restaurants, and concert halls. The hotel also boasts a renowned casino, offering thousands of slots, table games, live poker, and an extensive collection of music memorabilia to delight and entertain guests. On the outside, the hotel is surrounded by an expansive lagoon that features its very own island bungalows.
When it comes to unique places to stay in Fort Lauderdale, the Guitar Hotel is unquestionably a memorable choice
Sawgrass Mills, located in Sunrise just west of Fort Lauderdale, is a colossal shopping and entertainment complex renowned as the largest outlet and value retail shopping destination in the United States, catering to a wide range of tastes and budgets. This alligator-shaped mall has been a cornerstone of South Florida’s outlet shopping scene since its construction in 1990, boasting over 2.4 million square feet of space encompassing more than 355 stores, including 70 luxury outlets, and 16 restaurants. To put its immense size into perspective, it’s larger than 41 football fields.
Sawgrass Mills offers a diverse selection of brands, such as Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and value retailers like Saks OFF 5th, Target, Marshalls, and the electronics superstore BrandsMart USA. For those seeking exclusive outlets not found elsewhere in South Florida, The Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass Mills features over 70 premium options, including Burberry, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Prada, and Versace.
Conveniently located just 30 minutes from Miami International Airport and 15 minutes from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, this enclosed, air-conditioned, and climate-controlled mall provides daily deals and a variety of full-service restaurants, including bars that stay open late, ensuring a delightful shopping and dining experience.
Las Olas Boulevard
Las Olas Boulevard is the heart and soul of Fort Lauderdale. Stretching from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beautiful beaches along the Atlantic Ocean, this palm-lined street is a hub of activity and a popular destination for both locals and tourists. Along Las Olas, you’ll find a wide array of shops, boutiques, restaurants, and cafes, making it a vibrant spot for shopping and dining.
In addition to its shopping and dining options, Las Olas is known for its lively atmosphere and cultural events. The boulevard hosts various festivals and art fairs throughout the year, bringing the community together and showcasing local artists and musicians.
How to Get Around Between Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale
The list of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale is extensive, and navigating the city with ease can greatly enhance your experience. For convenient in-city travel, you can easily book a Blacklane ride, ensuring hassle-free navigation within the town. With Blacklane, you can enjoy a relaxed ride, while taking in the sights and sounds of the city. As a result, you don’t have to worry about anything from driving to parking, leaving you free to enjoy your trip to the fullest.
If you’re planning to explore more of Florida or need to travel between different cities within the state, our City to City ride is the perfect choice for you. With our door-to-door rides, you can avoid waiting in lines or switching between various modes of transportation. In addition, alongside the usual booking in advance, we have just launched a new on-demand Chauffeur Hailing Service in Miami, allowing you to enjoy a comfortable chauffeured ride within minutes.
And finally, when traveling to and from Florida, why not rely on Blacklane airport transfer service to provide seamless transportation to airports such as MIA and West Palm Beach Airport? With our service, you can avoid parking and traffic hassles, ensuring a smooth travel experience and arrive at the airport on time.