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 and opulent mansions along Millionaires Row. Explore the waterways on airboat tours or go for a gondola ride along the Intracoastal Waterway canals that inspired the city’s nickname, the Venice of America. After a morning of fun in the sun, go shopping and take a 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-worshipping tourists, it’s one of the top places to go in Fort Lauderdale.
With its scenic location on the Atlantic Ocean, 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, the facilities include basketball and volleyball courts. For a burst of adrenaline, take part in high-flying water sports like jet skiing, parasailing, or kiteboarding. To get some fresh air, take a jog along the water to beautiful sea views. Cool off with a quick swimming excursion in the gentle waves.
Built up an appetite? Take a stroll along nearby Seabreeze Boulevard to dig into its many eateries. The area’s restaurants serve up everything from Southern comfort food to tacos. There’s also a handful of bars here to sip cold beers and cocktails to the sound of the waves lapping the shore.
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 and fun experiences, 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 routes 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 city’s most beautiful places to see.
Stroll along the Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale to admire its lush tropical landscapes. On the way, the route sweeps 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 or bar to enjoy delicious food or craft beer & cocktails to incredible views over the water.
For late-night vacation hijinks, there’s a cluster of bars and nightlife options, including the popular Club Euro Night Club and Booze Garden.
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.
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. Boat cruise options include the Jungle Queen Riverboat and BlueFoot Pirate Adventures.
Las Olas Boulevard
Craving some retail therapy? Shoppers and food lovers alike should saunter down Las Olas Boulevard, the key shopping & dining street surging between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Central Business District.
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 along the route 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, a popular public beach that’s loaded with even more restaurants, bars, 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 and is one of Lauderdale’s most exciting 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 tour captain will also share all sorts of interesting facts about the Florida Everglades and its local wildlife.
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The airboat rides here 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, featuring striking architecture and landscapes.
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens lies on land that once belonged to Hugh Taylor Birch. (Yes, the same Chicago attorney whose name graces the park to 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 Bonnet House Museum, 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 seven 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. Children 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-see buildings. 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 on route to your next destination. Opened by former NFL linebacker Stephen Tulloch, Circle House Coffee is a favorite cafe 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.
Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum
Up for an intriguing brush with history? Head over to the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum for a unique glimpse into this oceanside city’s history. Built in 1927 as the city recovered from the historic 1926 hurricane, the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum offers a fascinating look at the work of first responders nearly a century ago.
The former Fire Station No. 3 is no longer a functioning fire station. Now, it’s a one-of-a-kind educational center—and it’s a favorite with visitors of all ages. The children’s learning center teaches kids about fire prevention and safety through presentations and hands-on activities.
Explore this beautifully restored Mediterranean-style building and its carefully preserved contents. Take your time to view carefully preserved historic fire engines, equipment, and vintage uniforms—and browse the museum’s decades-old photos and videos for a deep dive into local firefighting history.
Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum
Heads up history buffs: You’ll want to put the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum on your Fort Lauderdale itinerary. A Florida Heritage site, this historic site commemorates Fort Lauderdale’s contribution to American homeland activity during the Second World War.
Built in 1942 as part of a 200-building naval complex, the Link Trainer Building is the last standing structure – and it’s now home to Broward County’s only military museum.
Step back in history as you browse galleries filled with thousands of military artifacts. Explore the past through vintage media and photos, or put yourself in the pilot’s seat at the Link Trainer Flight Simulator.
Get a taste of military life in the recreated soldiers’ barracks. Be sure to check out one in particular: the George Bush Room is a tribute to the service of former President George H.W. Bush, who trained here as an ensign.
Colee Hammock Park
Craving some serious downtime away from the hustle and bustle of busy beaches? Pack up a picnic lunch and head on over to Colee Hammock Park. Prepare for an idyllic day away from the crowds: Colee Hammock Park makes it easy to take it easy. (Heads up: Despite the name, there’s no on-site hammocks here – but you’re welcome to bring your own!)
You may just want to chill out on the beach. Or head for one of the many grassy, tree-shaded areas. Find a perfect spot to spread out your blanket, plunk down a lawn chair, or hang in a hammock. Enjoy a picnic and a beautiful view of the shores of New River. Take in the stunning mansions lining the shore, and watch the graceful yachts as they cruise the waterways.
It’s the perfect spot to savor some quality “me time”!
Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park
Want to experience Florida’s southern coast in its natural state? Head along to Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park for a taste of the “real thing.” Tucked away just south of Port Everglades on a barrier island, this natural treasure is home to Broward County’s last undeveloped coastal ecosystem.
With two boat ramps, there’s easy ocean access at Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park. There’s plenty on offer for all outdoor lovers—whether it’s pier or open water fishing, boating, sunbathing, or birding. Slip into a kayak for a kayaking adventure on the water, or test your paddleboarding skills.
Underwater enthusiasts will find their bliss: this beach offers one of the best reef dives in the region. Pack your scuba and snorkeling gear, for an unforgettable snorkeling or scuba diving excursion.
Want to stay above water? Paddle a canoe or kayak through a waterway lined by mangrove stands. Bring your camera to snapshots of local wildlife. When you’re ready to take a break, fire up the barbecue and set yourself down for a picnic. Want to linger? Stay on and enjoy the park’s festive nightly bonfire.
Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino
Want to catch some equine action? Trot on over to the Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino to take it all in. Up and running since 1939, Gulfstream Park has become one of the most-visited racing destinations in the United States. Set between Fort Lauderdale and Miami International Airport in Hallandale Beach, the park has been home to some of the world’s top thoroughbred Triple Crown contenders.
The action doesn’t stop at the track. For a change of pace, head over to the casino and try your hand at a slot machine or poker table. Looking for other attractions to explore around Hallandale Beach? You’ve got plenty! Browse the impressive Village at Gulfstream Park, one of South Florida’s premier visitor destinations.
This breezy open-air mall features signature home design stores, art galleries, boutiques, restaurants—and even a bowling alley. Enjoy a buffet of attractions, kid-friendly activities, live music, and in-store classes and workshops. The day will race by!
Want to enjoy the energy and fun of a live performance? Reserve a seat at the Parker Playhouse, one of South Florida’s most popular theatrical venues. The neo-classical Playhouse, set in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment district, has been bringing the arts to life for nearly 50 years.
The Parker Playhouse hosts performances ranging from lively Broadway productions to standup comedians to formal orchestral offerings. After a night of entertainment, explore the restaurants, museums, and shops located just steps away along the Riverwalk.
This lively community hub also offers programming for educators, kids, and families to promote learning through the arts. Perfect for any aspiring thespians in your family!
Want to walk the red carpet beach-style? Strut yourself down to Hollywood Beach, where you’ll find plenty of room to move. Tucked between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Florida, is renowned for its stunning stretch of beach and retro-cool vibe.
The one-of-a-kind Hollywood Beach Boardwalk is stretched out 2.5 miles along the Atlantic coastline. It’s the perfect way to take in awesome ocean views, not to mention unique boutiques, quaint inns, beachfront restaurants, live music, and nightlife.
Jog, bike, or rollerblade your way along this unique thoroughfare. Stop off along the way to enjoy other Hollywood Beach attractions like the Hollywood Beach Theatre, a children’s water playground at Charnow Park, and plenty of others.
If you’re craving some after-dark city action, just hop on the trolley, and you’ll be whisked to downtown Hollywood within minutes.
Secret Woods Nature Center
Want to get in on a Sunshine State secret? Put Secret Woods Nature Center on your list of Fort Lauderdale must-sees. The state’s first designated “urban wilderness,” this is a unique floodplain preserve that’s home to mangroves, a Cyprus strand, and a tropical hammock.
And—surprise!—it’s just over a mile from the hustle and bustle of Fort Lauderdale. It deserves its name: it’s hidden under such a thick canopy of foliage that most passersby have no idea it’s there. But it’s definitely worth a stop, especially if you have youngsters on board.
Secret Woods is a great place for families to discover nature together. Follow the interpretive trail to get up close and personal with local flora and fauna. Watch giant land crabs scurrying beneath mangroves or cormorants cruising along New River. Stop along the way, explore the nature center, and check out the Nature Play area. Digging around is strongly encouraged!
Everglades National Park
Want to take in Southern Florida’s natural wonders up close? There’s no better place than Everglades National Park, set on the southern tip of the Sunshine State. This renowned wetland ecosystem stretches over 1.5 acres and is home to some of Florida’s most iconic flora and fauna.
Explore the park’s mangroves, pine flatwoods, and sawgrass marshes for glimpses of hundreds of fascinating animal species, including the endangered Florida panther, Indian manatee, and Leatherback turtle.
Hike the Anhinga Trail for exciting glimpses of wildlife in their natural habitat. Climb to the top of the Shark Valley observation tower for a spectacular bird’s eye view of the entire Everglades. And speaking of birds: Bring your binoculars—there are lots of winged wonders to see! Head out on the water in a kayak, or hop aboard a guided airboat ride for thrilling sightings of crocs, manatees, and dolphins.
Want to linger? Stake out a campsite and settle in to catch a breathtaking sunset. It’s exactly what you’d expect on the southernmost point of the Sunshine State.
Sawgrass Recreation Park
Want a one-of-a-kind Florida experience? Make Sawgrass Recreation Park your destination. This family-owned and operated attraction is set deep in Southern Florida’s Everglades—and it’s a favorite with outdoor adventurers.
The star attraction at Sawgrass Recreation Park: the airboat tour. Settle in as you glide along miles of waterways that wind through one of Florida’s most renowned natural treasures.
Listen as your guide recounts the history of this lush wilderness and gives you insights into the region’s fascinating ecosystem. Feel the excitement as you get up close and personal with Everglades wildlife. Join in on the special night-time Gator tours – if you dare!
Back on dry land, take a walk through the reptile exhibit to view dozens of fascinating species ranging from a 1,000-pound alligator to friendlier residents like turtles and iguanas. Learn about how they live in the wild.
Hope you brought your camera—you’ll definitely want to capture your “Meet a Baby Alligator” experience. That’ll be a pic worth posting!
Looking for a laid-back oceanside experience? You’ll find it at Pompano Beach, an often-overlooked gem set on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Set 35 miles north of Miami, Pompano Beach is known as the “Heart of the Gold Coast”—and it’s got plenty to give its noisier neighbors a run for their money.
Lounge on the golden sand, hop on a paddleboard or snorkel the crystal clear water for stunning views of the local coral reefs and marine life. Cast a line off the fishing pier, or take a water taxi ride. Stroll through one of the area’s 50(!) beautiful local parks. Treat yourself to a round of golf or tennis,
Ready for some retail therapy? Give your wallet a workout at the upscale Pompano Beach Fishing Village, steps away from the beach. Full of great places to shop and dine, it’s the perfect place to end your day.
Want a vacation setting that offers both natural beauty and first-class dining options? You’ll find it at Dania Beach. This award-winning Blue Wave Beach makes the perfect choice for visitors who want the best of both worlds—and plenty of room to stretch out in.
Head for the city’s surf action hub at Dania Beach Ocean Park. Spread out your towel and soak up the sun on the beautiful white sands. Dive into the salty surf, then hunker down in one of the oceanside tiki huts to chill out on Dania Beach.
Ready for a change of pace? Head to Dania Pointe, a Southern Florida oasis for shopping, dining, and entertainment in South Florida. It’s also home to the world-renowned Dania Jai Alai—and it’s all outdoors!
Come evening, head down to Dania Beach Pier, the town’s beautiful fishing pier. Dine on freshly caught seafood, sip a superbly crafted cocktail, and savor a splendid panoramic view as you watch the sun go down.
Tarpon River Brewing
Getting thirsty from all the sightseeing? One of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale is to stop in for a cold pint at Tarpon River Brewing. Located in a former horse barn, the popular local craft brewery spins up over a dozen delightful brews, covering the entire spectrum of beer styles.
Settle in at the Tarpon River Brewing taproom to imbibe in local craft beer favorites like the easy-drinking Czech Please Pilsner, the hoppy Deflated Hazy New England IPA, and the robust It’s Always Sunny Stout.
Pair your brews with the taproom’s beer-inspired food, including IPA Mac and Cheese, Hangover Fries, and the
Shrimp Po Boy.
Get the most bang for your buck by joining in on the Happy Hour between 4 pm and 6 pm from Monday to Friday.
The Riverside Market Cafe
Craft beer cravings going unsatisfied? The city’s largest selection awaits at The Riverside Market Cafe. Dubbed “Fort Lauderdale’s Official Craft Beer Hangout,” this family-owned restaurant features over 550 craft beers. (Yes, you read that right: 550!)
With its vast selection, it’s unsurprising that The Riverside Market Cafe is regarded as one of the top beer bars in the United States. Get a cold one from the self-serve coolers and take a seat in the cozy bar amidst the wacky eclectic decor. Pair your beer with pub food favorites like buffalo chicken dip, Carolina pulled pork, or the “I Can’t Believe I’m Not in NY” Pastrami Sammich.
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.