35 Cool Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale

Having lived 90 minutes from Fort Lauderdale for nearly ten years, I never tired of visiting Fort Lauderdale, a beautiful Atlantic Coast city with some of the most fabulous beaches in Florida. Here are 35 awesome things to do in Fort Lauderdale on your travels.

Fort Lauderdale is 45 minutes north of Miami in South Florida (you’ll pass the Hard Rock’s Guitar Hotel) and three hours southeast of Orlando. Its landscape is filled with flirty yachts along the Intracoastal Waterway and inviting sandy beaches by the sea.

Explore Fort Lauderdale Like a Local

Some fun things I like to do in Fort Lauderdale include shopping at Sawgrass Mills, sightseeing through Hollywood and its incredible mural scene, taking an airboat ride through the world-famous protected Everglades, and seeing Broadway shows at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.

Of course, the concert scene and hockey games at FLA Live Arena are primo, too.

Shop Sawgrass Mills

The mammoth Sawgrass Mills outlet shopping complex features 350+ stores in Sunrise, Florida, about 20 minutes from Fort Lauderdale. You will have great stores to choose from and miles to walk around this enticing property.

You may recognize a few store names: Frette, Burberry, David Yurman, and Rag & Bone. Sawgrass Mills is one of the busiest tourist destinations in Florida. Be prepared for the mall shoppers with their suitcases dragging behind them that they use to fill with their purchases. You can also eat at one of nearly 50 Sawgrass Mills restaurants, including Cheesecake Factory, Grand Lux Cafe, and Johnny Rockets.

Fun Fact: Sawgrass Mill is the largest outlet shopping destination in the country.

Don’t be surprised when you see families pulling suitcases behind them. The “in” thing here is to buy a bag at the mall and fill it up with bargains and great buys to ship home with you.

See the Hollywood Murals

Hollywood, Florida, was often considered a part of Fort Lauderdale; however, lately, it has become a destination in its own right due to the beautiful beaches and fantastic arts scene. Hollywood has a great art community, with offerings ranging from galleries and museums to jaw-dropping murals.

Many of the best murals are the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, a curated collection done by local, national, or internationally known muralists. A couple of my favorites are the Frida mural by Fabio Onrack, Hollywood by the Sea by Yuhmi Collective, and flamingos (1948 Harrison Street ) by Key Detail.

Take an Airboat Ride Through the Everglades

There are several places to experience the one-of-a-kind Florida Everglades, but I prefer Sawgrass Recreation Area. Here, you will take a thrilling airboat ride through the magical landscape with gators inches from your boat.

The photo-ops are amazing, and the guided tour explaining and showcasing the Everglade’s important ecosystem is fascinating. You might also see turtles, birds, snakes, and crocodiles.

The attraction has several reptiles and a small zoo. Ear protection is provided.

Did You Know? You can also take a nighttime airboat ride for a much different Everglades experience.

Attend a Performance at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts

When I moved to Florida, I thought I would suffer being so far from NYC’s Broadway scene. Little did I know that nearby was one of the most spectacular state-of-the-art theaters in the world. The Broward Center for the Performing Arts is swanky, high-class, and high-energy. It has a bounty of performances—700+ per year.

Broward’s architecture and decor are beautiful—perfect for immersing you in a memorable theater experience with plays, dances, operas, lectures, concerts, ballets, and Broadway musicals.

Catch a Concert or Panthers Hockey Game at FLA Live Arena

As someone who has been to hundreds of concerts and professional sporting events, I would rank seeing a concert or catching a hockey game here as one of the best in the country. The FLA Live Arena (formerly the BB&T Center) is home to the Florida Panthers, one of the best and most admired sports teams.

The concert and performance scene is off the hook at this world-class Sunrise facility just west of Fort Lauderdale.

Experience Las Olas Boulevard

Look for high-end shopping around nearly every corner in Fort Lauderdale, with an arsenal of boutiques and trendy shops. Las Olas Boulevard is where you’ll find an entertainment enclave, ranging from locally owned shops to some of the most fascinating antique shops you’ve ever seen.

Eat Like A Local at The Floridian

The locals adore dining for breakfast, lunch, or dinner at The Floridian Restaurant. It isn’t fancy like a large portion of Fort Lauderdale eateries, but the hearty food portions are plentiful. There’s a reason TV chefs like Rachael Ray endorse it.

My go-to order at The Floridian is the 222 Special: two eggs, two pancakes (or toast), sausage or bacon, coffee, and small juice for under $10. That’s a great deal, especially in this ritzy zip code.

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Drink Margaritas at Rocco’s Tacos

We go to Las Olas Boulevard for people-watching and to have margaritas and tacos from Rocco’s Tacos. Don’t stop there; the famous guacamole (made and served tableside), Austin queso, and sizzling molcajete bowls are other great choices at South Florida’s favorite local Mexican/Tex-Mex chain restaurant.

Rocco’s Tacos has eight locations around Florida.

Get Caffeinated at Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar

Born in the 1970s, you won’t want to miss grabbing an espresso or glass of wine at Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar on Las Olas Boulevard. Yes, they are a flower shop, too, but much of the traffic is there for a delicious coffee, a glass of vino, or a bottle of bubbly from the champagne vending machine.

Don’t miss the Instagram-worthy neon and flowers wall.

Soak Up the Nightlife

Fort Lauderdale has an excellent food and beverage scene and vibrant nightlife. Some of the hotspots for after-dark socializing and adult libations are Hunter’s (an energetic vibe and mainly gay clientele, Culture Room (standing room only for excellent musical acts), and Backyard (primarily collegiate crowd and killer DJs).

Take a Water Taxi Ride

Kids especially will love taking a water taxi ride. My favorite address for the water taxi is GiGi’s in Hollywood’s Sycamore District, with a waterfront patio overlooking the Intracoastal and killer key lime pie. It’s a perfect place for having a meal, celebrating a special occasion, drinking a cocktail, or visiting with friends.

Family Friendly Fort Lauderdale

Family-friendly activities range from exploring the Museum of Discovery and Science, Flippo’s Fort Lauderdale, and snapping photos at Butterfly World, a wondrous botanical garden with dozens of butterfly species.

A sit-down experience would be to take a break in an air-conditioned setting at the AutoNation IMAX 3D Theater.

Swimming Hall of Fame

Learn about the world’s swimming history at the unique International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF). The museum’s hall-of-fame shares memorable moments in swimming history, civil rights, and a look at swimwear through the years. It also covers synchronized swimming, water polo, diving, pictures of the RMS Titanic on the ocean floor, and much more.

Wander the Museum of Discovery and Science

Be prepared to spend hours at the Museum of Discovery and Science, an educational facility visited by half a million people annually. The museum features temporary and permanent exhibits. Several displays will teach your children about Florida’s ecoscapes and natural resources while making it fun.

The Go Green! is my favorite part of the museum, explaining the importance of the three R’s: reduce, recycle, and reuse. The Storm Center, outdoor Science Park, and Dino Dana Adventures are other areas the little ones will love.

Don’t miss the North American river otters. Check out the daily programming for special events and activities: I held my first snake here.

Play at Flippo’s Fort Lauderdale

Flippo’s is a spot guaranteed to capture the interest of your kids. Flippo’s Fort Lauderdale is a family entertainment spot loaded with fun slides, a laser maze, games, climbing structures, and sports courts. However, Ball Blaster may become their favorite space and activity. There is also an onsite snack bar for snacks and drinks, plus a separate toddler area for ages three and under.

$17.99 will get you a day’s admission for kids, but adults are always free.

Awe Over the Murals at FATVillage Arts

One of the lesser-known points of interest in Fort Lauderdale is the FATVillage Arts District. This extraordinary art offering in the warehouse district has eclectic murals and is super cool.

Come for the monthly art walk featuring open galleries, yummy foods, local artwork, and music on the last Saturday of the month.

Learn About South Florida’s Ecosystem

Kayak around South Florida’s mangroves for another enticing activity. It is a great way to learn about Florida’s incredible ecosystem. Besides the educational aspect, you will be amazed by the importance of protecting and preserving this dynamic habitat for fish, insects, reptiles, algae, mollusks, and crustaceans.

Glimpse the Beauty at Butterfly World

Where can you see 20,000 butterflies in a natural environment? Butterfly World in Tradewinds Park, that’s where. Kids and adults alike will enjoy this one-of-a-kind attraction that will bring a smile to your face via the six screened aviaries filled with tropical birds and gorgeous butterflies. You can also hand-feed small parrots at the Lorikeet Encounter.

Butterfly World is 100% wheelchair accessible and has wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis for $5 plus tax for up to two hours.

Head Out to Fort Lauderdale’s Beaches

Schedule time to enjoy Fort Lauderdale’s incredible beaches, with 24 miles of golden sandy shores. Here, you can relax, unwind, practice, and perfect your snorkeling and paddle boarding skills.

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Bring a book, nap, or watch the tide roll in and out as you encounter the Florida sunshine and stunning scenery.

Get Underwater Snorkeling or Diving

There are several tour groups you can schedule a snorkeling or diving adventure within Fort Lauderdale. One of the choices is American Dream Dive Charters, an adventure company offering affordable scuba excursions in the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina day and night.

For a unique snorkeling adventure, head to the SS Copenhagen shipwreck, a popular place for snorkeling and scuba diving.

Eat Uber Fresh Seafood at 15th Street Fisheries

The landmark 15th Street Fisheries at the Lauderdale Marina on the Intracoastal Waterway is an iconic address for excellent seafood and the South Florida vibe.

Enjoy fish tacos, smoked fish dip, live music, and a setting of boaters, fishermen, and high-dollar yachts, complete with a vast list of cold beer and cocktails. I prefer dining dockside, but there are options.

Picture 15th Street Fisheries as the idea behind every Jimmy Buffet lyric.

Segway Fort Lauderdale

Segway Fort Lauderdale owner Jon is sure to make your visit and Segway adventure in Fort Lauderdale memorable and entertaining. I took one of his tours a few years ago and saw some incredible things.

My tour was the Hollywood Beach Tour, which goes 4.5 miles through the Broadwalk, historical backstreets, and even stops for ice cream on the beach. It was super fun! This tour, with instruction included, currently runs $59 per person and lasts an hour. Longer Segway adventures are available.

Be Entertained at the Riverwalk

One of Fort Lauderdale’s most intriguing places is the Riverwalk, “Venice of America,” a lovely mile-long area with ten parks on the tropical banks of the New River. Riverwalk is dotted with museums, shops, 911 monument, and restaurants, plus it gathers a great crowd.

Besides this, you can also sign up for an activity, such as bike and Segway tours, kayak and paddle board rentals, yoga, photography, and dog training classes.

The Riverwalk is where you’ll find the historic gem of Fort Lauderdale—Stranahan House Museum. There are also exercise stations for use by the general public in the area.

Visit the Awesome Hollywood Beach Broadwalk

Hollywood also has excellent beaches and is home to the ever-popular Broadwalk. Here, you can stroll on a wide pedestrian walkway with shops and restaurants on one side and the lovely Atlantic Ocean on the other.

Bike rentals and all sorts of other fun things (i.e., tandem bikes, scooters, etc.) are available through Sun & Fun Cycles for seeing a more significant portion of the Broadwalk and getting in some exercise. It is also worth noting that Sun & Fun offers electric scooters, wheelchairs, and JOB (Joy on the Beach).

This innovative wheelchair can roll onto a sandy beach and even into the ocean.

Three other things I recommend to do along the Broadwalk are to sample the conch fritters at Ocean Alley Restaurant and Beach Bar, have a dip of ice cream at Surf N Spray, and watch the brave souls on the FlowRider surfing simulator at the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort.

Take in the Dania Beach Pier Photo Ops

For the best photo ops, head to Dania Beach Pier; it is one of the most Instagram-worthy natural settings in the Fort Lauderdale area. The wooden pier is 900 feet long, offers primo fishing, and costs $1.50 to access.

Dania Beach is an award-winning Blue Wave Beach, a prestigious clean beach certification.

Enjoy the Outdoors at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

A walk, hike, or bike ride around Hugh Taylor Birch State Park might be something you will want to consider when visiting Fort Lauderdale. It is a fantastic place to explore, have a picnic, and you may even glimpse an alligator and see where the locals go. In-line skating and bicycling are other popular draws.

The state park is described as a “tropical area with diverse wildlife.” Admission is $6 per vehicle; hours are 8 AM to sunset daily.

Explore Fort Lauderdale’s Art Galleries

Spend more time learning about Fort Lauderdale’s growing art scene by popping in some of the stunning art galleries throughout town, including the Seldom Seen Gallery, National Geographic Fine ArtGalleries, Gallery Mavruk, and MAC Fine Art.

Take a Peek at the Charming Lauderdale-By-The-Sea

This darling 1.5-mile seaside area is located between the Intracoastal and the Atlantic Ocean on Florida’s Gold Coast, north of Fort Lauderdale. It is known as Florida’s “Beach Diving Capital.” Besides hotels and restaurants, you’ll also find Anglin’s Square, great for shopping, and Adirondack chairs and boat benches for people watching or admiring the ocean.

The beach in this area, 100 yards away, has a natural coral reef system.

Take a Day Trip

If you are considering a day trip from Fort Lauderdale, I’m always suggestive of the Palm Beaches to the north. Take time to explore the Northwood Village in West Palm and grab a bite, explore the West Palm Beach GreenMarket and Clematis Street, and tour Whitehall, the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum in Palm Beach.

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Gamble at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino

Choose between overnights, gambling, an elaborate nightlife scene, concerts, and one of the best cocktail lounges in South Florida at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Better known as “The Guitar Hotel,” the Seminole HRH is a fun-filled place with high energy and lots of things going on…all the time.

With 3100 slot machines, video poker and roulette, plus nearly 200 table games with live dealers (three-card poker, Texas Hold ’em, blackjack, and more), the Hard Rock is Florida’s premier entertainment and gaming destination.

Eat a Decadent Dessert at Boatyard

The Boatyard at the marina is a fabulous place for dinner or celebrating a special occasion, but it’s also a terrific stop for just a gourmet dessert. Years ago, I had Peanut Butter & Jelly, a peanut butter mousse with a graham crust, raspberry jam, and vanilla ice cream. It still ranks as one of the best desserts I’ve ever eaten.

Today, the S’mores dessert is calling my name.

Learn About Nature

You can learn more about nature and Florida native plants, birds, animals, and flowers at the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, Flamingo Gardens, and the Anne Kolb Nature Center, which my Vero Beach Garden Club visited annually.

Explore the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, a historical offering with substantial botanical gardens, sits on 80 pristine acres. My favorite part of this point of interest is the fragrant and picture-perfect orchids collection. Make sure to save time for a house tour, too, with lovely artwork, attractive furnishings, and stunning marble.

Admission to the gardens only will cost you $10, $25 for the self-guided house tour (plus gardens), or $30 for a docent-led tour. Don’t miss the cute gift shop.

Have Fun at Flamingo Gardens

You may be surprised that Flamingo Gardens is not just a place to see flamingos. This 60-acre property is home to the Everglades Learning Center, Wray Home Museum, and South Florida Wildlife and Botanical Sanctuary, with a free-flight aviary that is home to 250 birds.

There is a separate Birds of Prey exhibit housing owls, vultures, hawks, eagles, and falcons. Though the flamingos are graceful and lovely, I prefer the cute river otter habitat.

Flamingo Gardens’ botanical garden has cycads, pollinators, a live oak hammock, tropical ferns, heliconias, orchids, butterflies, Champion trees, and much more. Hours are 9:30 AM to 5 PM daily, and online tickets run $19.95 for adults and $14.95 for kids aged 3 to 11.

Get Educated at the Anne Kolb Nature Center

You will probably learn more about Florida’s diverse agritourism and ecosystems at the 1500-acre Anne Kolb Nature Center than anywhere else in the state. This unique attraction, a place for education and hiking, contains coastal mangrove wetlands, plus walking and paddling trails amidst the natural setting.

I found the staff super friendly and eager to show off their aquarium finds and the great observation tower overlooking the urban park.

Relax and Unwind at the Marriott Pompano Beach

Accommodations are primo in Fort Lauderdale, with choices ranging from hotels and motels to luxury guest houses and Airbnb properties. I really like staying at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Pompano Beach Resort & Spa, off the beaten path and away from some of the Fort Lauderdale traffic.

The oceanfront Marriott Pompano Beach has incredible beach views and beach-chic rooms. Overnight stays are typically less than $200 a night, an absolute steal in South Florida.

Unfortunately, pets are not allowed at this hotel.

Please Your Palate With Latin Dishes from Chimney House

In the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale, you’ll find Chimney House Grill and Cafe. This trendy circa-1924 eatery does Latin-fusion dishes with a twist and has amazing menu creations. Sit indoors in the homey, cozy house or outdoors in the cute courtyard.

For me, the standing order is the Ropa Vieja (Cuban-style beef with rice, black beans, and sweet plantains), with a glass (or pitcher) of house-made sangria. Chimney House also serves brunch beginning at 11 AM.

Jot Down a Future To-Do List

I keep a “to-do” list of the things I want to do on my travels. I haven’t yet done two things in Fort Lauderdale, but they are on my list: take a Jungle Queen Riverboat cruise and visit the Historic Stranahan House Museum.

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