It is no secret that Fort Lauderdale is one of the best places to visit in Florida, aka the gorgeous Sunshine State. Fort Lauderdale’s reputation comes from many factors. One is its scenic canal system, which you can explore by gondola and soon see why Fort Lauderdale is often nicknamed the ‘Venice of America’.
The canals all link up to New River, a tidal estuary. They are perfect for water sports or a guided tour by gondola. Greater Fort Lauderdale is a total metropolis, too, with some of the best restaurants in Florida and tons of more formal attractions. And that’s not to mention the beaches.
Visiting Fort Lauderdale is a total treat, and its warm Florida weather is just the cherry on top. In short, there are millions of amazing things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
Fun Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale
The Fort Lauderdale area is packed with things to do, whether you want to kick back on Fort Lauderdale Beach, watch performing arts, or head to an outdoor science park. The options are generous, and that’s before you even start to factor in day trips (which we’ll squeeze a few of into this guide). So, let’s start – what are the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale? Well, these are the special ones we managed to whittle it down to.
1. Fort Lauderdale Beach
Visiting the beach is one of the most popular things to do in Fort Lauderdale. Fort Lauderdale Beach is easily one of the best beaches in Fort Lauderdale – spreading 7 miles down the Atlantic Ocean coastline. Fort Lauderdale Beach is backed by a vast promenade full of restaurants to eat at and bars to sip at, as well as a mix of independent and chain shops. It has an upscale and typical ‘Florida vibe’. The spacious sands are ideal on a sunny day, with plenty of room to find a spot for a towel and sunbathe.
Fort Lauderdale Beach is approximately 20 minutes by bus from the city center. It’s located on a barrier island and ideally combined with a visit to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, which is nearby.
2. Las Olas Boulevard
Las Olas translates as ‘the waves’ in Spanish, and this heaving thoroughfare makes waves. It is where you’ll find the main hive of action in Fort Lauderdale, with shopping, all the best restaurants, and cute cafes. Authentic and action-packed, Las Olas Boulevard is a great place to head for café hopping and people-watching. It is essentially the heart of Fort Lauderdale. It stretches a – walkable – 2.5 miles and is lined with pedestrian-friendly sidewalks.
Las Olas Boulevard just had to be on this list. It is perfect for unwinding and embracing the culture of Fort Lauderdale.
3. Bonnet House
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is a step back into 20th-century frontier America. The house is an ode to local family history, while outdoors, its gardens have been transformed into a beautiful botanical gardens complex. If you want to blend history and natural beauty, Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is the ideal choice. Bonnet House celebrates the Bartletts. The husband was an artist, and both were art collectors, creating a gorgeous private art gallery that can now be viewed inside the house today.
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is one of the leading things to do in Fort Lauderdale if you want a more typical attraction, like a gallery or museum. It is also ideal for a day of bad weather – not many of Fort Lauderdale’s attractions are indoors, so keep Bonnet House in mind.
4. Dania Beach
Dania Beach is a coastal city just south of Fort Lauderdale. It has a quieter, more natural vibe. Dania Beach is an excellent option for your Greater Fort Lauderdale itinerary if you want a straightforward half-day trip. The mangroves are stunning, with lots of opportunities to experience them from the water – you could even hire a kayak to serenely experience the mangroves for yourself.
Dania Beach is also just next to Dr Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park, so it’s the perfect combination. Dania Beach is like a little coastal escape from busier Fort Lauderdale. We’d highly recommend a detour if you have more than a couple of days in the city.
5. Enjoy the Fort Lauderdale Spas
As great as Fort Lauderdale’s beaches are, there’s something extra special about its spa scene. Nothing quite feels like relaxing in a sauna or getting a full body massage. Fort Lauderdale has plenty of spa options, and it is a little cheaper than spa experiences in Miami or other major cities. You could check out Allure Day Spa, Camilla Day Spa, or The Spa at Harbor Beach. After a long flight or drive, or even in bad weather or just for self-care, Fort Lauderdale’s spa scene is fabulous.
6. Florida Everglades
Who has yet to hear of the Florida Everglades? This beautiful national park is famed for its underwater scenery and, while it may not be one of the things to do in Fort Lauderdale, it’s an absolute steal of a day trip. The natural park is famed for everything crocs, manatee, and birdlife related, and you can tour the Everglades by boat with rangers to get a more immersive and educational experience.
What are the Everglades exactly? Essentially, they’re just a flooded grassland. However, as the national park covers over 2,300 square miles of land in southern Florida, it dramatically affects the state’s environment. It is also the largest Everglades in the world. You can even spot the Florida panther there, so keep your eyes peeled and bring binoculars.
7. Flamingo Gardens
As you may have guessed, Flamingo Gardens are 60 acres of natural gardens. This attraction acts as a botanical garden and wildlife sanctuary. You can spot gorgeous plant life and tropical flora and get face-to-face with some stunning animals. Most famously, you can meet the attraction’s namesake flamingos. Adorable, right?
Flamingo Gardens give a permanent home for wildlife that have either obtained long-term injuries that make them impossible to ethically release or other non-releasable traits. There’s everything from hawks to otters. It is the largest ethical collection of Florida’s native wildlife.
The humble attraction started out as a citrus orchard and just kept growing. Founders Floyd and Jane Wray took advantage of having so much land to advocate for local wildlife. It is a great place to visit for anyone passionate about nature and conservation. Grab your Skip-the-line ticket here before you go.
8. Stranahan House
The historic Stranahan House Museum is a former 1901 trading post converted into a private residence – a home for a local businessman and his family. Because of its history, it offers a unique insight into its trading post and societal function, as well as a look behind closed doors into the family life of the period.
It is the oldest standing structure in Broward County and a real slice of insight for kids and adults alike. Its impressive range of permanent exhibits is showcased on guided tours from Tuesdays to Saturdays, and we’d really recommend it for a bit of history when visiting Greater Fort Lauderdale.
9. Lauderdale By The Sea
It may be controversial, but one of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale is to leave and go to Lauderdale by the sea. This little seaside town is just a short distance from the city, around 30 minutes by bus or 15 minutes by car. Its winning factor is its totally different vibe, though.
The town has a much sleepier vibe, colorful beach furniture, and a surfer and scuba diving culture. Lauderdale by the Sea is nicknamed the beach diving capital of Florida, as there are so many scuba diving opportunities just offshore. In fact, some reefs start as close as 100 yards off the beachfront.
Of course, this also means that if you don’t scuba dive but are a confident swimmer, snorkeling is on the cards, too. Lauderdale by the Sea offers a brilliant base to get closer to Florida’s underwater world.
10. Butterfly World
Butterfly World is easily one of the most fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale, especially if you have kids. It is also the world’s largest butterfly park – so you’ll get some serious bragging rights and a suitable ‘wow’ experience.
There are over 20,000 butterflies that call Butterfly World home, and you can wander through open enclosures to get up close to them in ethical encounters. The enclosure features everything from waterfalls to botanic gardens and is like stepping into a whole new world. The scale and quality of the experience means we just had to include it.
11. Millionaires Row
Millionaire’s Row is a small stretch of opulence along the bank of the New River in Fort Lauderdale. It is a popular place to visit via boat trip, where a guide will inform you about the houses and history while you enjoy waterfront views. The properties are seriously stunning, and if you want to re-enact your best Selling Sunset impression, touring Millionaire’s Row is one of the best Fort Lauderdale things to do.
12. Hollywood Beach
The golden sandy shores of Hollywood Beach are known for their ‘Old Florida’ appeal. It has one of the only boardwalks in this area, which is lined with skaters, cyclists, and pedestrians. The swaying palm trees and open sands are idyllic, and Hollywood Beach’s community presence makes it even more appealing.
It is less than a 20-minute drive from Fort Lauderdale to Hollywood Beach, so it makes a perfect half-day activity for your itinerary.
13. Watch the Florida Panthers
Although the Florida Panthers might be a Miami team, their stadium is much further inland and north, so you can easily watch a game. But first, for those who don’t know, who are the Panthers? The Florida Panthers are a famous ice hockey team that competes in the National Hockey League, which runs from early October to early April each year. Their home stadium is Amerant Bank Arena, which is located almost parallel to Fort Lauderdale and just a 20-minute drive away.
If you’ve never watched an ice hockey game before or are already a die-hard sports fan, we’d recommend the experience.
14. Pompano Beach
Pompano Beach is a top-tier day trip choice for Fort Lauderdale things to do. You can easily visit this coastal city, just a 12-minute ride on the Tri-Rail from Fort Lauderdale city center. Pompano Beach is famed for its North Ocean Park and Pompano Beach Fisher Family Pier. It’s a beautiful place to visit, with a massive beach culture and even offshore shipwrecks for snorkeling and diving excursions.
15. Take a Boat Tour
Greater Fort Lauderdale is the place to be when it comes to boat tours. You can tour the canal system, go on fishing excursions, or take general sightseeing tours from the water. Our top recommendation is booking an all-day water taxi pass. This will give you unlimited access to all the Fort Lauderdale water systems and a chance to explore independently.
16. Broward Center for the Performing Arts
The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is a beautiful theater and a place to go for all your entertainment needs. The theater has musicals, comedians, and even guest speakers – you can just check out their schedule online and see what coincides with your trip.
It is frequently ranked amongst the world’s best theaters and has over 700 performances yearly, so it’s safe to say you are in good hands. It sits overlooking the New River in iconic Downtown Fort Lauderdale. It is an ideal thing to do in the evening.
17. Tour the Inland Waterways by Kayak
If a boat tour seems too passive for your liking and you specifically want to see Fort Lauderdale’s inland waterways, we suggest a kayaking or paddle boarding experience. You can hire your own kayak or paddleboard a the Fort Lauderdale Marina or purchase a guided tour. But you’ll have a more authentic and slow experience than you would on a – boat tour, plus you’ll get an active experience, which is fantastic for outdoor activity enthusiasts.
18. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, which spans 180 acres, was named after a local legend, Hugh Taylor Birch, who originally owned the land and resided in the park until his death in 1943. The natural state park is famed for its coastal scenery. It has a beautiful freshwater lagoon where visitors can enjoy fishing and a network of hiking trails. It is easily one of the top activities and places to visit in Fort Lauderdale for nature and outdoor activity lovers.
19. Museum of Discovery and Science
The Museum of Discovery and Science is a firm favorite in the Greater Fort Lauderdale museum scene. It has tons of incredible facilities and features, including an eco-center and IMAX theater. The museum emphasizes ‘immersion’ and offers hands-on experiences for almost every exhibit. It is suitable for adults and engaging enough for kids. And with 300 exhibits on offer, it is easy to see why we added it to this guide.
20. Water Sports
Just having water sports as a recommendation for things to do in fabulous Fort Lauderdale might seem a little too general. However, Fort Lauderdale is an absolute treasure trove for water sports. You can find unique activities, including enjoying aqua flights. The whole experience is just wow when it comes to water activities in Fort Lauderdale. You should carve out time in your itinerary to see what’s on offer – aqua flights, snorkeling, or diving tours.
Fort Lauderdale has a vibrant nightlife that kicks off without fail by early evening, especially on Friday and Saturday nights. The main nightlife hotspots are undoubtedly Central Beach, the downtown area, and the nearby hub of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. Get yourself down there for clubs and bar hopping.
If you want a more organized experience or are traveling alone or in a small group, consider a guided pub crawl. It’s a fantastic way to meet new people and guarantees a great night out.
22. Road Trip Intracoastal Waterway
Day trip alert: the Intracoastal Waterway is one of the prettiest areas near Fort Lauderdale. When we say road trip to the Intracoastal Waterway, we aren’t talking about a single road. What we are actually referencing is the huge channel of water that sits between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. If you fancy a road-tripping day, just drive to the Dania Beach area and then stick to the North Ocean Drive. This route takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to go one way. Eventually, you end up in Miami Beach – next to the Intracoastal Waterway.
You can stop off at beaches like Hollywood and Hallandale along the way. And, of course, allow at least a couple of hours for South Miami Beach. It is a full-day activity, but absolutely unmissable, especially if you have a rental car. You’ll be experiencing the best of Miami and Fort Lauderdale on the same trip.
23. Sawgrass Mills
If you bag the very few bad days of weather Fort Lauderdale experiences each year, Sawgrass Mills is where to head. This is also one of the best places to visit and things to do for anyone who is a self-claimed shopaholic – Sawgrass Mills is an outlet shopping center.
This means you can snag deals of at least 70% off, bagging some real bargains. More than 350 stores are in the center, meaning you have lots to choose from, including Nike, Michael Kors, and Gucci. There are also a staggering 16 restaurants on-site, so there’s no chance of you getting burned out from shopping.
Best Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale: FAQs
It is easy to see why so many people flock to Fort Lauderdale for amazing Florida getaways. The city is a goldmine for anything water-related, and its Venice-twinning canal system gives it a strong sense of character. Besides its canals, Greater Fort Lauderdale has a beach culture to impress even the most reluctant of beachgoers and a rich array of museums and history.
Remember these details before booking your tours and planning an itinerary, though. These common FAQs will save the day when deciding on those final details.
What is Fort Lauderdale best known for?
In a few words, Fort Lauderdale is known for its canals, beaches, and history. Fort Lauderdale has over 4,000 years of indigenous and colonial history. Its canal system is so beautiful that it earned the city the nickname ‘Venice of America’. Finally, it has easy access to a long coastline of different beaches. When heading to Fort Lauderdale, canals, beaches, and history are the vibe.
What is the single biggest tourist attraction in Fort Lauderdale?
The canal system is easily Fort Lauderdale’s most famous and popular attraction. The most sought-after way to experience it is by gondola, a traditional low-lying boat most commonly associated with Venice.
How to spend a day in Ft Lauderdale?
Start your day with breakfast and a walk along the iconic Olas Boulevard. Then, take a late morning boat tour through the canals before heading for lunch at Louie Bossi. Spend a lazy afternoon on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Either head out for a formal meal in the evening or grab some takeaway dishes to prepare for a night of partying in Fort Lauderdale.
Does Ft Lauderdale have a boardwalk?
One of the Fort Lauderdale beaches, Hollywood Beach, has its own boardwalk.
Why We Love Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale makes inspiration easy. There are many incredible things to do in Fort Lauderdale, whether you head souvenir shopping at locally-owned shops, gamble at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel, or take a water taxi through its canals. There’s also its botanical gardens, Butterfly Garden, and so much greenery and stunning beaches.
It may be known as a storm center, too, but its weather is sublime. Fort Lauderdale’s sunshine just hits totally differently. All the natural beauty and water activities make it the perfect place to enjoy some Florida sunshine.