Fort Lauderdale, Florida often gets overlooked for glamorous Miami. And, although Miami is certainly worth exploring, don’t sleep on all the fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale!
After calling Fort Lauderdale home for the last four years, I’ve compiled this epic list of 33 cool things to do in Fort Lauderdale. I’ll go over the best Fort Lauderdale beaches, activities, historical sites, attractions, boat rides, and world-class food in the area.
You’ll find loads of information and activities for visitors and locals alike. Let’s jump in!
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Best Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale
Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a quaint, family-friendly beach town on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale. The beach is gorgeous and serves as one of the busiest sea turtle nesting sites in the world.
Additionally, about 300 feet from shore, visitors can swim to discover a dazzling coral reef below – one of the few in the world you can access directly from the beach.
🤿 Sea Turtle Sightings: It’s commonplace to spot a sea turtle or two while snorkeling the nearby reef. If a 300-foot swim sounds like a hike for you, consider booking a Seabob / snorkel tour. The Seabob is a little machine that does the work for you to get to the reef!
Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale
Whenever my family visits town, I always bring them to the Riverwalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale. And honestly, visitors aside, it’s one of my favorite things to do in Fort Lauderdale on a regular day, period.
The scenic stroll along the New River is sprinkled with sailboats, megayachts, public parks, historical museums, swanky restaurants and classic dive bars shadowed by newly constructed skyscrapers.
👉 Local Tip: Park at Cooley’s Landing and head east to see the entire extent of the Riverwalk. Cross the river aboard the free Water Taxi river hopper or at Andrews Ave Bridge to grab an appetizer at the iconic Downtowner. On your way back, stop at The Wharf, a massive open-air bar, for a cocktail.
Snorkeling or Scuba Diving
Not many people know, but Fort Lauderdale offers world-class diving and snorkeling. Three tiers of coral reef run parallel to shore just a few hundred feet from the beach.
The reef off of Fort Lauderdale has some of the only coral you can find in the continental United States. Additionally, the city has 76 shipwrecks and counting giving it the nickname “Shipwreck Capital of the US”.
If you’re able, we highly recommend trying to scuba dive. Sea Experience is a local shop conducting Discover Scuba programs for beginners. If that’s not your thing, Sea Experience also offers daily snorkel trips to a nearby shallow reef for explorers of all ages.
🐟 Did You Know? Florida is home to the world’s THIRD longest barrier reef system. It’s called the Florida Reef Tract and it runs 360 linear miles from Key West to Port St Lucie. Can you name the two reefs that are longer?
Las Olas Boulevard
Las Olas Boulevard is the epicenter of things to do in Fort Lauderdale and the primary entertainment district. The decorative and eclectic street is filled with boutiques, luxury restaurants, coffee shops, and some of the best hotels in Fort Lauderdale.
The area can get busy, particularly at night, but during the day it’s perfect for a stroll, bike ride, or happy hour special.
Rent a Bicycle
Speaking of bike rides, one of my favorite things to do in Fort Lauderdale is to cycle around. And honestly, it may be the best way to see the city – most of the fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale on this list can be done during your bike ride!
Fort Lauderdale has done a nice job paving bike lanes and providing bike rentals for visitors. Broward BCycle, a county initiative, is the most convenient bike rental.
You simply unlock the bike via an app and drop it off at one of the many stations peppered throughout town! The rental costs are $5 an hour and max out at $25 for the day.
👉 Pro Tip: I recommend booking a guide to maximize your time on a bike. Your tour guide will show you the historical sites, Riverwalk arts, and other attractions in Fort Lauderdale!
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Fort Lauderdale’s very own central park – Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is an escape to nature amidst the urban landscape. Whenever I needed a reprieve from the fast pace of South Florida, I’d come here for a respite.
You can go on a hike or cycle the two-mile loop through thick tropical hammock. Relax in a chair along the Intracoastal Waterway as the megayachts roll on by. Enjoy the playground, a BBQ, or go for a paddle.
Don’t forget to end your day with a cold brew at Park & Ocean, the park’s very own restaurant, overlooking the glimmering Atlantic Ocean.
Paddle the “Venice of America”
Fort Lauderdale has more than 300 miles of navigable waterway giving it yet another nickname, the “Venice of America.” And as such, many locals and tour companies provide kayaking or paddle boarding tours through the canals of Las Olas Isles, the Intracoastal Waterway, the Middle River, and the New River.
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is a historic building in the midst of the developing Fort Lauderdale Beach. The house was built by two artists, Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett, and served as their vacation home in the Florida wild. Amazingly, it wasn’t too long ago that the home was one of few buildings standing in the area.
Today, the house is an enriching cultural experience filled with original art, peculiar carousel figurines, unique architecture, and a beautiful flora courtyard surrounded by natural South Florida jungle.
Just west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, Flamingo Gardens brings visitors back to what natural Florida would have looked like in 1933. Today, this 60-acre wildlife sanctuary features thousands of tropical and subtropical plants and trees, bald eagles, bobcats, alligators, the elusive Florida panther, and yes, flamingos!
The gardens are really a must-visit, so much so that they also make my list of the best things to do in the South Florida region.
Everglades Holiday Park
Your list of fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale isn’t complete without a Florida Everglades airboat tour! Everglades Holiday Park is the best of the bunch with easy transit from town out to the National Park.
Spend the day learning the ecology of alligators, the Everglades, and South Florida before hopping aboard for your thrilling airboat ride. Visiting Everglades National Park is one of the best things to do in Florida!
Best Boat Tours in Fort Lauderdale
The Water Taxi is the ultimate way to see ALL of Fort Lauderdale’s waterways. The company offers an all-day pass where you can hop on and hop off wherever you choose. Want to stop downtown? How about Fort Lauderdale Beach? A waterfront restaurant? Water Taxi will make it happen!
The Captains are entertaining, the city is a sight to see, the mansions are jaw-dropping and the yachts are even more incredible. And the best part? The ticket is super cheap compared to other boat tours in the area. The Water Taxi is one of the top Fort Lauderdale boat tours.
👉 Pro Tip: The Water Taxi now REQUIRES tickets to be pre-purchased. So be sure to get yours here BEFORE you try to hop aboard!
Bluefoot Pirate Adventures
The most kid and family-friendly activity in Fort Lauderdale is aboard Bluefoot Pirate Adventures. This hour-long interactive tour, complete with face paint and costumes, will take you through the canals of Fort Lauderdale as you embark on an epic pirate adventure.
After the scenic ride, the culminating event of a pirate battle will commence before docking. The water cannons, live-action play, and props make it among the best Fort Lauderdale activities for children!
Las Olas Gondola
A romantic cruise aboard a one-of-a-kind boat – Las Olas Gondola is the only TRUE gondola in town. Couples will drift down the New River as the sun sets over the city skyline. The Captain is entertaining, witty, and knowledgeable of the area to make for a memorable date night.
Jungle Queen Riverboat Tour
The Jungle Queen Riverboat is a Fort Lauderdale classic. Docked on Fort Lauderdale Beach, you can take the Jungle Queen all the way up the New River where you’ll unload for a comedy show, fire dancing, and an all-you-can-eat BBQ. The excursion is perfect for a date night or fun for the whole family.
PaddlePub Cycle Boat
📞 Phone: (954) 372-2900 | Website
I brought my family on the PaddlePub Cycle Boat while they were visiting for one of the most enjoyable days I’ve ever had on the water in Fort Lauderdale.
For only $40 per person and BYOB & food, we were able to enjoy 2 hours of relaxing, affordable, fun as we cruised through the Fort Lauderdale area. Oh, and don’t worry, the boat DOES have engines so you won’t be required to cycle the entire time!
With favorable winds, plenty of dockage, and the open ocean nearby, Fort Lauderdale is a sailing Mecca. And as a sailor myself, I can tell you it’s one of the most relaxing and enjoyable things to do in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
⛵ No Experience? No Problem! Use Sailo to charter a private sailboat with Captain included. No experience necessary. Just show up for a great son the water!
Fort Lauderdale Food & Drink
Louie Bossis is an Italian restaurant on Las Olas Boulevard. Our favorite time to come here is for weekend brunch! Starting at 10 AM, you can choose from a variety of delectable breakfast foods before indulging in bottomless mimosa and bellinis.
If you’re wondering what to do in Fort Lauderdale this weekend and want to get your drink on, check out Louie Bossi’s.
925 Nuevo’s Cubanos
925 Nuevo’s Cubanos provides one of the most fun atmospheres of any restaurant in town while also dishing up the BEST Cuban food north of Miami. Head here for lunch on the weekends and you’ll even be treated to live salsa music!
☕ Local Tip: Ask for a complimentary Colada after your meal for a TRUE Cuban coffee!
Funky Buddha Brewery
Just north of town is Funky Buddha, one of Florida’s largest breweries and taprooms. Beer aficionados will enjoy the wide variety of craft brews including Hop Gun IPA and the famous Floridian.
For decades, Fort Lauderdale was synonymous with dive bars. Although the city has moved on, The Elbo Room is a prime example of the few relics from the days of old that still exist.
This cash-only beach bar sits right on the busy corner of Las Olas Blvd and Ocean Drive overlooking the turquoise waters of the Gulf Stream.
Tacos El Papi
📍 Google Maps | Phone: (954) 440-0258 | Hours: 8 am – 9 pm Mon – Thurs, 8 am – 12 am Fri – Sun
I was reluctant to add my favorite taco shop to the list because this might be Fort Lauderdale’s best-kept secret – but it’s too good to not share. Hands down, these are the best tacos I’ve had NOT in Mexico. And even then, it gives those in Mexico City a run for their money.
I recommend coming here on a weekend evening when the owner sets up a street stand outside and blasts Latin music. It’s quite the atmosphere as you sit on some fold-up chairs in the parking lot and chow down on the most authentic Mexican cuisine in South Florida.
Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar
Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar is a Fort Lauderdale staple in the heart of Las Olas Blvd. The aroma of fresh flowers blended with freshly ground coffee will leave an impression that’ll last long after you’ve left. Although, it’s the wide selection of delectable pastries that’ll bring you back next time you’re in town.
Invasive Species Brewing
Invasive Species Brewing is nestled in the art district of Flagler Village, an up and coming neighborhood just north of town. The brewery is an eclectic little bar serving tasty microbrews while offering a line of food trucks outside the front door. It’s a great spot for locals and visitors to mingle while everyone enjoys a laid-back evening out.
Fort Lauderdale Museums & Culture
Historic Stranahan House Museum
The birth of Fort Lauderdale began with Frank Stranahan, an Ohio native, back in the 1890s. He originally built what is now known as the Historic Stranahan House Museum as a trading post for business dealings with the nearby Seminole tribe.
Decades later, it is now the oldest surviving structure in the city and a great place to visit for a taste of history.
NSU Art Museum
The Modernist design of the building alone will get you excited to explore the halls within the NSU Art Museum.
Exhibits are always changing, but you’ll find works by European Cobra artists and American painter William Glackens are always on display. Additionally, many of the galleries have a heavy Latino influence highlighting Fort Lauderdale’s connection with Latin America.
Museum of Discovery and Science
Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science is a sure bet to keep your kids entertained for an entire day. They’ll get lost in the wonder on display as they learn about Florida ecology, prehistoric animals, the Florida Everglades, and the scientific method in interactive labs.
Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Just across the street from the Museum of Discovery and Science is the Performing Arts Broward Center. This picturesque hall is one of Florida’s premier theatres for a play, dance performance, concert, and other family-friendly events.
Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum
Built in 1927, the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum is a unique exploration of the challenges first responders encountered 100 years ago. On display are uniforms, artifacts, and tales of major fires and emergencies throughout Fort Lauderdale’s history.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino
Just on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale is the famous Guitar Hotel. And let’s be honest, you can’t say you’ve ever seen any other building in the world quite like this one. It’s literally shaped like a guitar with a beam of light as its axel!
The guitar’s inside is equally as impressive as the outside, resembling a city more than a hotel. Shops, nightclubs, restaurants, concert halls, and a casino line the inside. On the outside is an impressive lagoon featuring its very own island bungalows.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Fort Lauderdale, this is definitely a memorable choice!
Fort Lauderdale Beaches
Loggerhead and Vista Park
📍 Google Maps | Hours: 8 am – 8 pm daily
Two of the best beaches in Florida, just a block away from each other, are a local secret spot. Nestled in a residential neighborhood, Loggerhead and Vista Parks is a refreshing getaway from the crowds often found along Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Not to mention, there’s an epic beach dive a stone’s throw away from shore. Do note that parking is extremely limited with about 20 paid spots between the two parks – so get there early!
🐢 Sea Turtle Tip: It’s not uncommon to spot a nesting Loggerhead turtle at night (hence the name). Just remember: keep a safe distance, don’t shine a flashlight towards the turtle (including camera flashes) and never hinder their path!
Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
With basketball courts, playgrounds, picnic tables, BBQ grills and jet ski rentals, it’s hard not to find something for everyone at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park.
Of all the public beaches in Fort Lauderdale, this is the largest and the most lively. As such, the parking lot does get extremely busy on the weekends so if you’re planning an all-day event, I recommend arriving early.
Las Olas Beach
Las Olas Beach is the epicenter of activity and the ideal spot for those seeking a party crowd in Fort Lauderdale. The beach is filled with partygoers and vacationers looking for a good time.
Just across the sandy street is the esplanade – a strip of bars, restaurants, clubs, surf shops, and beach outfitters. It’s a great area for young singles and groups, but not entirely ideal for the family.
Beach at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
For the last four years, this has been my beach spot. Quiet, relaxing, and beautiful. The best part? It’s also the cheapest!
You pay a one-time fee to park in the State Park and you’re good for the entire day. If you are seeking a calmer beach day while saving a buck on parking, I highly recommend spending your day here.
👉 Read Next: The Best Time to Visit Fort Lauderdale
FAQs About Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale
What are the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale?
Some of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale include spending time at the beach and doing a boat tour. There are also tons of great restaurants, shops, and historical sites and attractions worth checking out.
What is Fort Lauderdale known for?
Fort Lauderdale is known for being a vibrant tropical city that’s a little more low-key than nearby Miami. Fort Lauderdale has a great blend of city life and ocean attractions.
Which is better, Fort Lauderdale or Miami?
Fort Lauderdale is a better choice if you’re looking for a tropical paradise vacation with a more chilled-out atmosphere. Fort Lauderdale is still a big city, but it’s calmer than Miami overall.
I hope this helped you discover the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale! After thoroughly exploring all these fun Fort Lauderdale activities, head out of town on one of our top day trips from Fort Lauderdale!
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