Best Things To Do in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is a city made for beach bums and nature lovers. Case in point: Fort Lauderdale Beach and Sawgrass Recreation Park, home to alligators and other Florida wildlife. History buffs will find things to do here as well (we recommend a stop at the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens). And though the Venice of America may lack the rollicking nightlife adjacent cities are known for, downtown Fort Lauderdale has its charms. The Riverwalk, the arts and entertainment district along the New River, and Las Olas Boulevard host art exhibitions and concerts that might surprise you with their quality.
Updated August 2, 2018
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Want a beautiful Florida beach without a crazy party scene? Fort Lauderdale Beach may be just what you're looking for. Here you'll find a calmer and less chaotic version of Miami Beach – but with the same sugary sands and crystal clear water. There are still parties, but you're more likely to find families relaxing or leisurely walking the waterline than raucous groups of college kids. Backing the shoreline, the palm tree-lined promenade bustles with visitors looking to shop and dine in the many establishments along it. There are also beach chair and water sports equipment rentals near the shore.
Recent visitors loved Fort Lauderdale Beach for its wide, expansive shoreline, with some noting that even when there were a lot of people, it didn't feel crowded. Many were also impressed with how clean the beach is, adding that its calm waters make it a great place to bring kids.
- #2View all Photos#2 in Fort LauderdaleBeaches, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Located less than a mile south of Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale Beach Park beckons to families who want to spend their beach day doing more than just lounging and swimming. At this free beachfront park, visitors have access to all sorts of facilities, including volleyball and basketball courts, outdoor showers, restrooms, a playground and a picnic area with tables and grills. Plus, the park's sands are less crowded than nearby Fort Lauderdale Beach, and lifeguards are on duty daily during daylight hours.
Overall, recent travelers enjoyed their time at this park, citing its beautiful setting and top-notch amenities as highlights. Many also appreciated the property's proximity to various shops, restaurants and hotels, such as B Ocean Resort and the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa. However, some past visitors warned that additional charges apply for select services. Expect to pay about $50 for beach chair and umbrella rentals, and $6 to $8 per vehicle for parking, depending on the time of day. Parking is limited (especially on weekends and holidays), so consider arriving early.
- #3View all PhotosfreeLas Olas Beach#3 in Fort LauderdaleBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDBeaches, Natural Wonders, Recreation, Swimming/Pools, FreeTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
Head north from Fort Lauderdale Beach Park or east on Las Olas Boulevard and you'll find Las Olas Beach, a small stretch of sand that attracts beachgoers of all ages. Beach amenities are not as plentiful as those offered at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park; however, visitors have access to beach chair and water sports equipment rentals, restrooms and metered parking. Restaurants, bars and shops are also available across the street.
Reviewers rave about this beach's clean sand and clear water, although some cautioned that the area can get a bit rowdy at night, especially when college students are in town for spring break. Police officers are always present, though, and alcohol and loud music are never permitted. If you tire of sunbathing or swimming, a few travelers suggest taking a stroll along the paved esplanade up to Fort Lauderdale Beach.
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Located a few blocks north of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park's position between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean makes it a fun locale for all types of travelers. Those looking to get a little wet can canoe or kayak in the largest of the park's coastal dune lakes. Adventurers who want to get their adrenaline pumping can bike along the nearly 2-mile paved park drive. Meanwhile, visitors who prefer to explore by foot can hike the Coastal Hammock Trail, which snakes through a native maritime tropical hardwood hammock ecosystem, one of the last of its kind in the county. Fisherman can make a catch at the seawall, while birders can look for 250-plus species that live in and regularly grace the park.
Many past visitors were quick to call this attraction a hidden treasure that shouldn't be missed, no matter how long your trip to Fort Lauderdale is. Travelers found the park to be an oasis, citing its abundant flora and fauna and plentiful activities as highlights. Others appreciated the easy access to the beach, as there is a tunnel that brings visitors under the highway and directly to the shoreline.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Fort LauderdaleRecreation, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRecreation, Sightseeing, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
One of the best ways to take in your surroundings is to sign up for a boat tour. Fort Lauderdale boat operators offer a variety of ways to get out on the water, from traditional sightseeing outings to fishing charters to themed excursions in specialty boats. The following are a few traveler favorites:
Carrie B Cruises: For a standard narrated tour of Fort Lauderdale's waterways, consider booking a cruise with Carrie B Cruises. Lasting one-and-a-half hours, Carrie B Cruises' sightseeing excursions travel up and down the New River and Intracoastal Waterway, passing Port Everglades and Millionaires Row (a waterfront strip of mansions in the Las Olas Isles neighborhood) along the way. Each trip departs daily at 11 a.m., 1 or 3 p.m. from October through April, but cruises are not available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays between May and September. Adult tickets cost $23.95; passes for children ages 3 to 12 are $12.95, and kids 2 and younger ride for free; reduced rates are available for visitors who book in advance online.
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Diverse restaurants, 10 international art galleries and dozens of retail options line Las Olas Boulevard. But while casual walkers and window shoppers enjoy soaking in the Floridian atmosphere and overall aesthetic of the boulevard, the more intent consumer may not find this commercial street as appealing due to the high price tags. However, travelers recommend grabbing a bite to eat above all else, as many were impressed with the quality of food and the amount of alfresco dining options available. Our advice would be to make a stop here if you're planning to visit the nearby Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale or local museums like the Museum of Discovery and Science.
In terms of parking, there are both on-street and private lots available to customers. Street parking is metered starting at 11 a.m. in most locations, and city and private lots can be found on the side streets that run parallel to the boulevard. The Riverside Hotel also offers a seven-story parking lot. For visitors without cars, the water taxi's No. 2 stop is next to Las Olas Boulevard. Additionally, the No. 11 bus and Sun Trolley's Las Olas Link pick up and drop off along the thoroughfare.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Fort LauderdaleMuseums, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
This house sitting between the Intracoastal Waterway and Fort Lauderdale Beach has a long romantic history. In 1919, a wealthy settler gave the 35-acre property (named after the bonnet lily flower that grew on the grounds) as a wedding gift to his daughter Helen and her husband Frederic. In 1920, the newlyeds began construction of Bonnet House, hoping to build a winter getaway where Frederic could pursue his art and Helen could work on her music and poetry. But construction soon stopped when Helen unexpectedly died in 1925. Frederic didn't resume property renovations until 1931 when he married Evelyn Fortune Lilly. The new couple continued decorating the house until Frederic's death. Several decades later in 1983, Evelyn donated the house to the state's Trust for Historic Preservation, opening it to visitors for guided tours.
Previous travelers said Bonnet House has something to keep every type of traveler satisfied: Art lovers, horticulture enthusiasts, animal lovers and history buffs will enjoy this attraction. The plantation home is ornately decorated and filled with artwork (all three residents of the house were artists of some kind), but the estate's grounds are also well worth the visit. The campus is lush and beautiful for a nice walk through nature and even sometimes accompanied by monkeys. However, some noted that not every room in the house has air conditioning, so bring a fan if you're visiting during the summer months.
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Take an airboat tour of the Florida Everglades at Sawgrass Recreation Park and prepare to be amazed (or scared) by the close-up vistas of alligators and other creatures. You can even reserve an airboat tour for nighttime runs to see nocturnal animals in their natural state. Or, arrange for a private tour, which is twice as long as the standard 30-minute ride.
Past travelers raved about their airboat rides at Sawgrass Recreation Park. In fact, many were surprised at how close they were able to get to the gators and found their tour guides to be knowledgeable and entertaining. The only thing that made some visitors uncomfortable (aside from being an arm's-length away from wild gators) was the small, dirty cages in which the attraction's animals reside.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Fort LauderdaleMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDRead More
If it's a rainy day and you need an indoor activity that will appeal to the kids, take them to the Museum of Discovery and Science. The museum is filled with so many activities, animals and exhibits, your kids may never want to leave. Get introduced to river otters, take a simulated airboat ride through the Everglades or learn more about Florida weather patterns at the Storm Center. Other must-visit spots in the museum include an aviation station, where kids can climb into the cockpit of a World War II fighter plane, and the fossil-filled Dino Boneyard. If that's not enough, guests can catch a flick at the 300-seat Imax theater, buy a souvenir at the gift shop or pick up a sandwich at the theater's snack stand.
Whether you're traveling with or without kids, recent museumgoers highly recommend a stop at the property. However, some felt slighted that select parts of the already pricey museum cost extra to visit. Others noted that certain exhibits were outdated and in need of an upgrade, as some interactive features didn't function as promised.
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