Planning a South Florida beach holiday? Carve out time to check out the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale, FL. Located 40 minutes north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is one of Florida’s ritziest destinations. It’s the perfect escape from Florida’s theme park bubble and Miami’s mega-city vibes.
While famed for its beautiful beaches, the top tourist attractions in Fort Lauderdale don’t end at its seaside pleasures. Roaming around the city, you’ll sweep past picturesque historic homes. Explore the waterways on airboat tours or shop & stroll along the glitzy Las Olas Riverwalk.
Not sure what to do in Fort Lauderdale? Extend your South Florida adventure with this guide to the best places to visit in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Best places to visit in Fort Lauderdale, FL
Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
Only visiting Fort Lauderdale in one day? Set your sights on Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. Located along Seabreeze Blvd, the park rings around a lovely sandy beach with crystal-clear water. For sun-worshippers, it’s one of the top places to go in Fort Lauderdale.
With its scenic location, Fort Lauderdale Beach is the perfect place to laze about. Rent a sun lounge chair and umbrella. Read a book as you the sea breeze brushes your cheeks.
Fort Lauderdale Beach Park offers a greater range of fun activities than other Fort Lauderdale beaches. The beach is famed among college students on spring break. The rest of the year, though, it’s surprisingly family-friendly, especially compared to Hollywood Beach to the south towards Miami. Kids will love frolicking at the beach’s children’s playground. Lifeguards are also stationed at the beach to watch over swimmers.
If you’re looking to get in some exercise, facilities include basketball and volleyball courts. Or take a jog along the water to beautiful sea views.
Built up an appetite? Take a stroll along nearby Seabreeze Boulevard to dig into its eateries. The area’s restaurants serve up everything from Southern comfort food to tacos.
To scale up the beach vibes, head south towards Hollywood Beach or Dania Beach. Or venture northward to glitzy Boca Raton or West Palm Beach.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Looking to bask in South Florida’s nature? Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is a lovely slice of wilderness within steps of the heart of the city. Located off East Sunrise Boulevard, the 180-acre park is Fort Lauderdale’s answer to Central Park. With its wide array of outdoor activities, it tops the list of what to see in Fort Lauderdale for nature lovers.
Locals visit Hugh Taylor Birch State Park to walk their dogs, swim, camp, and picnic. The park is crisscrossed by hiking trails and walking paths. On its nature trails, you’ll drift past butterflies and tree species. You can also take to its waterways in a canoe or a kayak to enjoy the views from the water.
After your adventure, cool off at the park’s outdoor restaurants. Enjoy delicious food and a refreshing drink to beautiful views over the coastal waters.
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale
Want to dig into Fort Lauderdale’s riverside charms? Take a stroll on the Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale. Following the New River, the mile-long downtown riverfront path is one of the most beautiful places to see in Fort Lauderdale.
Stroll along the Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale to admire its lush tropical landscapes. On the way, you’ll sweep past upscale boutiques, restaurants, bars, and lounges.
Add to the Riverwalk experience by popping into its shops for a luxury shopping experience. Or settle down at a waterfront eatery for delicious food, craft beer & cocktails to incredible views over the water.
Fort Lauderdale is known as the yachting capital of the world. See all its glitz and glamor in its full glory at Lauderdale Marina. Located on the inland waterway, the marina is one of the most interesting things to see in Fort Lauderdale.
At the marina, you’ll spot impressive yachts fuelling up and getting repairs for the next leg of their journey. Lauderdale Marina is also home to an award-winning restaurant, Fifteenth Street Fisheries. Pop in to savor a bite of seafood while soaking in the maritime charms.
After your visit, slink north to the Bahia Mar Yachting Center. The dock is the launching point for several popular day cruises and river cruises. Cruise options include Jungle Queen Riverboat and BlueFoot Pirate Adventures.
Las Olas Boulevard
Craving some retail therapy? Saunter down Las Olas Boulevard. The key shopping & dining street surges between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Central Business District. For shoppers & food lovers alike, it’s one of the top points of interest in Fort Lauderdale.
On Las Olas Boulevard, small independent shops stock fashion, gifts, and accessories. Many stores deal in designer and high-end brands. Along Las Olas Boulevard, you could spend hours browsing art galleries or ducking into specialty food shops.
Three-mile-long Las Olas Boulevard is exciting day and night. Take a stroll to check out its upmarket alfresco dining. Grab a seat at one of its outdoor lounges to enjoy some delicious food and cocktails in the Florida sun.
Walk off your meal with a walk east along East Las Olas Boulevard. The street ends at Las Olas Beach. The popular public beach is loaded with more restaurants, hotels, and shops.
Everglades Holiday Park
Looking for a family-friendly escape from Lauderdale? Head to Everglades Holiday Park. Located west of the city on Griffin Road, the park is filled with fun outdoor activities for the entire family. It’s one of Lauderdale’s best places to visit with kids.
The star of the show at the Everglades Holiday Park is its airboat rides. You’ll get a thrill out of speeding around, watching alligators up close in their natural habitat. The airboat captain will also share interesting facts about the Everglades and its local wildlife.
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The airboat rides are insanely popular. Try to get to Everglades Holiday Park early in the day to avoid the biggest crowds. The park opens at 9 am daily.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
History buffs and art lovers will love spending time at Bonnet House Museum & Gardens. The historic home is set on 35 acres of spectacular sub-tropical gardens a block south of East Sunrise Blvd. For its striking architecture and landscapes, it’s one of the top Lauderdale points of interest.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens lies on land that once belonged to Hugh Taylor Birch. (Yes, the same Chicago attorney whose name graces the park the north!) Birch gifted the land to his daughter Helen as a wedding present.
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Helen and her husband, artist Frederic Clay Bartlett, built the home in the 1920s in Southern plantation style. Known as the Barlett Estate, the home & gardens were renamed Bonnet House after Barlett’s second wife, Bonnet Lily.
On a tour of the home, you’ll see Barlett’s collection of paintings along with other beautiful art pieces. The house will give you glimpses of the Old South, much like you’d find around Savannah, GA, or Charleston, SC, to the north.
Carve out time from your Florida trip itinerary to visit the home’s gardens. The garden is a paradise of tropical plants and lush palm trees, ringed by a lagoon.
Nature lovers will enjoy a tour of its maritime forest and mangrove wetlands. You’ll also find a quaint thatched roof bridge and animal sculptures. You may even spot monkeys in the trees and swans in the pond. To top it all, there’s an impressive orchid collection, a desert garden, and a hibiscus garden.
Museum of Discovery and Science
One of Florida’s most popular museums, the Museum of Discovery and Science is a Lauderdale must-visit for families. Open 7 days a week, the downtown museum is a great option for a family day out, especially if the weather calls for an indoor activity.
The kids will love the fun hands-on exhibits at the Museum of Discovery and Science. They can go on a virtual Everglades airboat tour, glide through the skies on a flight simulator, and even rocket to Mars. The IMAX 3D theater is a hit for both children and adults. Ogle at film adventures on a five-story movie screen, the biggest in South Florida.
Stranahan House Museum
The oldest surviving home in Fort Lauderdale, Stranahan House Museum is one of the city’s must-sees. The home was constructed in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, a prominent businessman and one of Fort Lauderdale’s pioneers.
Stranahan House first served as a trading post, later converting into a post office, community center, and town hall. The well-preserved home opened its doors to the public in 1984 as a living museum.
A tour of Stranahan House Museum walks through the history of Lauderdale itself. You’ll learn how the town developed and the house’s role in trade between settlers and the Seminoles.
At Stranahan House, you’ll also hear intriguing stories about Frank’s wife, Ivy Stranahan. She played an active role in women’s suffrage and the fight for human rights. Mrs. Stranahan was also the first teacher in the Lauderdale area.
Fancy a walk in the wild? Flamingo Gardens is one of the top Fort Lauderdale tourist attractions for outdoor enthusiasts. The 60-acre park combines a botanical garden and wildlife sanctuary. The non-profit aims to preserve and rehabilitate endangered birds and wildlife.
Visiting Flamingo Gardens, you’ll see sea otters, alligators, and colorful flamingos. Explore the crocodile lagoon, aviary, and bobcat habitats to see majestic animals in their native habitats. Of course, you’ll want to save time for its claim to fame, the flamingo pond, to watch the beautiful pink birds in action.
Home to over 3,000 plant species, the botanical gardens are also quite stunning. Hop onto a free 25-minute tram tour. It’ll transport you to parts of the park that you can’t walk to. On the way, you’ll enjoy the sight of peacocks strutting about as well as geese, ducks, and ibises.
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On your visit, fit in a stop at the Wray Home Museum. Constructed in 1933, the restored property offers a glimpse into life in South Florida in the 1930s.
Fort Lauderdale Historical Society & Museum
The small but well-presented Fort Lauderdale Historical Society & Museum is one of the city’s top stops for history buffs. The complex comprises a historic inn, schoolhouse, and home. The museum aims to give visitors a glimpse of early-20th century life in Lauderdale.
Visit the turn-of-the-century schoolhouse to experience a typical classroom of the era. On the second floor of the inn, you can scan an enchanting photo and archive gallery. The collection features Seminole, archeology, and military exhibits. In the home, you’ll see period artifacts, antique furniture, and doll and toy collections.
Besides its architecture, the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society & Museum enjoys a lovely setting. The grounds’ native flora, fauna, and birds add a delightful ambiance to your visit.
Once a rundown warehouse district, Flagler Village is one of the city’s most impressive urban developments. The area has undergone a remarkable transformation. Today, it’s one of the trendiest places to hang out in Fort Lauderdale.
Flagler Village is home to a smattering of cool art galleries, classy boutiques, and restaurants. Art lovers should spend time exploring the FATVillage Arts District. Besides its galleries and studios, the district also offers monthly street art walks with local artists.
Need a rest in Flagler Village? Stop off at Circle House Coffee. Opened by former NFL linebacker Stephen Tulloch, Circle House Coffee is a favorite pit-stop for locals to get their morning java fuel. Circle House Coffee also has an outdoor seating area to enjoy your coffee, beer, or wine in the hot sun.
For craft beer and a dash of classic rock, check out 27 Bar & Lounge. The popular hangout spot celebrates the musicians of the “27 Club.” On the walls hang funky pop art and murals honoring the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, and others.
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Need to throw a little more culture into your itinerary? Catch a show at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Located in the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District, the Broward Center opened its doors in 1991. Since its “Phantom of the Opera” maiden performance, the Broward Center has become one of the ten most-visited theaters in the world.
The Broward Center offers a variety of events, including plays, concerts, operas, ballets, and Broadway shows. Check out the venue’s official site for more information on upcoming events.
NSU Art Museum
Art lovers roaming around downtown should carve out time for the NSU Art Museum. The popular art museum features an extensive collection of over 6,000 works of modern art.
Among the most famed exhibits at NSU Art Museum is its tribute to illustrator & painter William J. Glackens. The museum is home to the largest collection of Glacken’s work in the United States. Some of his finest work will be on display until Spring 2022 in the “From Pencil to Paint” exhibition.
Best places to stay in Fort Lauderdale for sightseeing
For travelers, the best places to stay in Fort Lauderdale ring around its Central Business District. From here, you’ll be within walking distance or a short ride of many of Fort Lauderdale’s top attractions.
Located in the Intracoastal waterways, this popular hotel offers some of the best value in the area. You’ll love the lush garden terrace and luxurious outdoor pool.
One of Lauderdale’s top mid-range picks, this 4-star hotel is the perfect choice for families and couples. After your sightseeing adventure, soak up the sun in the colorful pool area.
For a luxury beach stay in Fort Lauderdale, look no further than this 4-star resort. The menu of luxurious amenities includes a fitness center, outdoor pool, and a hot tub. Upgrade to a sea view room to enjoy glorious views over the Atlantic.