The Greatest Things to See and Do in Fort Lauderdale

Ivan Cholakov /

Fort Lauderdale often gets the reputation for young party goers who come down for Spring Break and take over the city, or a place where retired folks now call home; but the truth is Fort Lauderdale is home to some amazing things to see and do and often offers a reprise for the bustling city of Miami located only half an hour away. If you are looking to hit the beach, take in some celebrity mansions, shop until you drop and dine on some fresh seafood; Fort Lauderdale is the place to be. Without being as expensive as Miami; this city still offers the chance for you to drive exotic cars, watch a live mermaid show and explore the water canals. So what are you waiting for? Grab your summer clothes and head south to Fort Lauderdale where we give you twelve awesome things to see and do!

12. Museum of Discovery and Science

The perfect place to spend a rainy day in Fort Lauderdale is the Museum of Discovery and Science; where something new and exciting happens each and every day. This is one place for families that is an absolute must in this city and will keep both kids and adults entertained all day. Two floors of interactive displays await visitors with the bottom floor devoted to living animals and coral reefs while the top floor houses games, rides and even more fun.

Between flight simulators, the Everglades Airboat Adventure, a brand new science theater and many more dynamic hands on exhibits there are no shortage of activities. Watch a film in the recently renovated IMAX theater which offers luxury seats, a giant screen and surround sound. A few dining options are located in the museum but you are also encouraged to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy it right across the street in Esplanade Park that sits on the river. With reasonable admission prices, open daily and tons fun to be had, this is a must when visiting Fort Lauderdale; especially for those with children.

Photo by: Museum of Discovery and Science/a>
Photo by: Museum of Discovery and Science/a>

11. Visit the Wreck Bar

You have to visit this bar on a Friday or Saturday night; resembled to look like a ship wreck it features live mermaid performances on these nights. Located in the B Ocean Resort; formally known as the Yankee Clipper Hotel which was a hotspot in the 1960’s it has seen a lot of patrons including many celebrities. The uniqueness of this bar is the portholes that look out into the neighboring pools. Every Friday and Saturday night at 6:30pm mermaids enter the pool and put on a show for the bar patrons. Don’t worry this show is PG and often this bar will be packed full of families watching. We suggest arriving early in order to grab a seat.

After the show the mermaids will come out of the water and guests can take an elevator up to the pool deck to chat and take pictures with the mermaids. The bar houses many aquariums full of brightly colored fish, a beautiful stained glass mermaid mural, a plethora of tropical drinks and more mermaid themed things then you ever thought existed.

Photo by: Wreck Bar
Photo by: Wreck Bar

10. Rent an Exotic Car

Surrounded by towering skyscrapers, beautiful people, clear blue ocean and some of the most insanely exotic cars out there; you must be in Fort Lauderdale. But how about the chance to be driving one of those crazy luxury vehicles you have always dreamt of? This city is teeming with luxury car rental companies that offer everything from Lamborghinis to Ferraris. With so many beautiful days of sunshine and plenty of streets to cruise down; treat yourself to a convertible on your next visit here.

For an extra special experience head on a dream car excursion where you can head out onto a racetrack where you will go faster than you ever thought possible in an exotic car. Or try your hand at driving multiple vehicles and figure out whether you are a Ferrari or Aston Martin guy. Whichever vehicle you choose to experience, Fort Lauderdale with its open roadways and endless options of luxury cars is the perfect place to feel the power beneath your feet. Whether you pick your luxury car up at the airport and spend a week cruising with the local celebrities or take one of the excursions; your 4-door sedan just won’t feel the same when you get home.

Felix Mizioznikov /
Felix Mizioznikov /

9. Ride the Water Taxi

Seeing Fort Lauderdale from the water is a must and one of the most fun ways to experience it is via water taxi. The so called “Venice of America” can be cruised all day aboard the taxis for a relaxing ride or the all-day pass allows you to hop on and off the water taxi at various stops. The boats are all driven by knowledgeable captains who provide running commentary on the sights you are passing. They are also most helpful when it comes to information on where the best places to eat and drink are.

The water taxi offers three routes that all connect and takes you to different beaches, dining options and endless shopping opportunities. This water trolley is a great way to get around the city without fighting for parking. The boats in the fleet all vary in size and head out first thing in the morning to get the most out of your day. The waterways were meant to be explored and this very affordable option is the perfect choice.

Ivan Cholakov /
Ivan Cholakov /

8. Bonnet House Museum and Gardens

This historic home built in the 1920’s sits on the waterfront with breathtaking gardens full of native and exotic plants that offers visitors a breath of fresh air; away from the skyscrapers that have overrun this city. But don’t just come here for the grounds; the house itself is a spectacular display of artwork. Chicago-born artist Frederic Clay Bartlett designed the house in 1920 and his second and third wife contributed to the artwork within; a theme of whimsy and creativity shines through.

All the house tours are mandatory guided tours which can last up to an hour and a half. We suggest leaving the kids at home for this attraction as the precious artwork does not like to be touched. The grounds are explored without a guide and visitors can spend as much time as they want. A trolley is available for an extra charge to get around the property. A hibiscus garden, orchid gallery and desert garden are among the gardens visitors will be privy to. Often joining visitors are the wildlife that remain on the property including parrots, swans and squirrel monkeys. Step outside the bustling city and breathe in the beautiful fragrances that drift through the air in this stunning oasis.

Photo by: Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Photo by: Bonnet House Museum and Gardens

7. Swap Shop

This humongous flea market open seven days a week is THE flea market to visit in Fort Lauderdale. A great option to get out of the sun or even on a rainy day as this fully covered, air conditioned building hosts 12 million visitors a year. The Swap Shop also doubles as an entertainment complex offering amusement rides, video arcade, farmers market and one of the largest drive-in movie theaters in the world. It is said this is the number two attraction in all of the United States, so prepare yourself for the busyness if you visit on the weekend.

The world’s largest daily flea market is the favorite for visitors where you can bargain hunt and shop until you drop with over 2,000 vendors. Whether you are looking for something new, used or unique you are sure to find it here. There are food vendors including a pizza place that locals love or grab some fresh produce from the farmers market. Come for the flea market, stay for one of the 14 movies that play. Pull the car up, tune the radio, sit back and pretend like it’s 1960.


6. Cruise Millionaire’s Row

The options for cruises are endless in this “Venice of America” and we certainly don’t want to tell you which one to choose; as they vary in price, length and quality. But a certainty when visiting Fort Lauderdale is to cruise Millionaire’s Row. This is where the rich and famous live, keep yachts and otherwise stay out of sight from adoring fans and curious onlookers. Eye-popping mansions line the waterways and captains tell comical and in-depth stories of who have owned the houses and the tales behind them.

Cruises vary in length but most don’t run under an hour and a half with some lasting three hours. Some companies stop at an island where guests can watch a live alligator show and use the restrooms. Others allow guest to bring dogs on board with them. Most all offer snacks and beverages for purchase on board. We suggest doing your research ahead of time and booking with a reputable company to ensure you get the most out of your cruise. Keep those eyes peeled for any celebrities sunning themselves on the decks of their enormous mansions while you bask in the sun down the canals of Fort Lauderdale.

Millionaire’s Row

5. Las Olas Boulevard

Head inland and discover the endless dining and shopping opportunities that line Las Olas Boulevard which runs from Fort Lauderdale Beach to the Central Business District. 17 blocks of sidewalk cafes, world-class shopping, international art galleries, electric nightlife and a plethora of dining options awaits you here. This is the perfect place to walk the streets and take in the specialized boutiques, trendy galleries and people watch until your heart’s content!

Sip a coffee at one of the outdoor cafes or duck into a trendy shop and buy a one of a kind piece of jewelry. Come here at night when the twinkling lights set the stage for a romantic meal or get down at one of the pumping nightclubs. If you just happen to be in the market for a million dollar condo; this street offers numerous real estate offices. With exceptional architecture, a cool breeze and endless places to grab a cocktail; Las Olas Boulevard is the perfect break from the beach.

Las Olas Boulevard

4. Sawgrass Recreation Park

The Sawgrass Recreation Park lets visitors explore the everglades via an airboat tour, discover exotic wildlife and spend the day learning about endangered species and the surrounding area. The day starts off with a 30 minute airboat ride across the glassy waters, hoping to catch a glimpse of the infamous alligators that call this place home. This narrative tour is led by an experienced guide who will educate visitors about the species and the endangerment it faces. This is the perfect amount of time for younger kids and people who otherwise aren’t comfortable on a boat; while still gaining the experience of jetting across the open water.

The exotic wildlife exhibit houses rescue animals such as leopards, panthers, mountain lions, snakes and of course the ever popular gator. Smaller animals include turtles and iguanas and even a small alligator that you will have the chance to hold. An on-site restaurant allows visitors the chance to grab a bite to eat; including the much talked about “gator bites”. Overall the Sawgrass Recreation Park is a wonderful way to explore the everglades if you only have a few short hours.

Photo by: Sawgrass Recreation Park
Photo by: Sawgrass Recreation Park

3. Flamingo Gardens

60 acres of tropical paradise awaits you at Flamingo Gardens; a botanic garden and everglades wildlife sanctuary. Founded in 1927 as an orange grove; this botanical garden boasts the largest tree in Florida, along with 3000 species of rare and exotic plants and trees. This is a great place to spend the day wandering the grounds learning about native Floridian trees and plants; and kids will delight in the flowers and animals.

The wildlife sanctuary is a hit with visitors of all ages and houses over 83 native species including alligators, bobcats, panthers and of course flamingos.  The 25,000 square foot free-flight aviary is home to over 250 birds while the birds of prey center offers visitors the chance to get up close and personal with owl, hawks and bald eagles. Watch the playful otters swim around, catch a glimpse of a gator as he surfaces, or feed the flamingos under a beautiful waterfall. It is easy to spend an entire day exploring the grounds of this breathing tropical paradise and with dining options, a market and narrated tram tour; this will surely be one of your favorite things to do in Fort Lauderdale.


2. Hit the Beach

Whether you are looking for a family friendly beach where the kids can play in the sand and safe waters or looking for a beach where tropical drinks are served with little umbrellas; Fort Lauderdale has endless possibilities. For families head to Deerfield Beach where the soft golden sand sets the stage for a day of sandcastles, water play and an absence of party goers. You won’t find jet skis, alcohol or racing boats here; just good clean fun with plenty of warm sand and ocean. Fort Lauderdale Beach is where you will find plenty of shopping, margaritas, water sports and the best people watching around.

Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is a charming beach village where the ice cream shop knows everyone by name and the one main street closes down every Friday for live music. This is where snorkelers and divers head as the natural coral reef is close enough to swim out to. If you are looking to avoid the crowds head to Dania Beach where fresh seafood is in abundance and the sky offers incredible sunsets. One of the least crowded beaches in Fort Lauderdale, it also offers an incredible fishing pier and is remarkably close to John U. Lloyd Beach State Park; a favorite amongst swimmers and kayakers. Whatever you are looking for in a beach; this city is sure to offer it so lather on the sunscreen, grab your towel and hit the sand and surf.

Fort Lauderdale Beach

1. Butterfly World

A nature lovers dream awaits you at Butterfly World, a tropical paradise that not only features the stunningly colored butterflies but hummingbirds, tropical birds, insects and more. The story behind Butterfly World is fascinating as one man’s hobby became a dream as he opened the first and largest butterfly house in the United States. The walk through exhibits let visitors become part of the surroundings; amongst birds and butterflies. You won’t get far without a butterfly pausing to rest on your shoulder or arm; especially if you remain still.

There are several aviaries to discover along with exotic gardens, an insect museum and who could forget the gift shop teeming with everything butterfly. This is the perfect place to bring families as children are encourage to feed the parrots, let the butterflies land on them and there is even a playground for them. There is plenty of walking outdoors and the butterflies do tend to be more active when the sun is out. Two outdoor cafes offer plenty of dining options or visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch; tables are provided right outside the entrance. Although admission isn’t the cheapest there are often discount codes on their website and the price is definitely worth the experience you will have at this popular place in Fort Lauderdale.

Butterfly World

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