Known as the ‘Venice of America’ due to its extensive canal system, Fort Lauderdale has long been a popular holiday destination, and is particularly famed for its beaches and boats. The coastal city’s sun-kissed sands, warm weather and pounding nightlife used to just attract students on spring break, but tourists and families now come to enjoy its many tourist attractions, too.
While lounging on the beach, taking a cruise, and enjoying fun water sports are always fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale, it also has thriving art, culture, and entertainment scenes. In addition, it has gorgeous parks, amazing animal attractions, plus superb shopping and dining.
With so much to see and do, it is no wonder that Fort Lauderdale is one of the most popular places to visit in Florida.
12. Butterfly World
Butterfly World lies around half an hour’s drive to the north of the center. Impressively, it is the world’s largest butterfly house with more than 20,000 of the colorful creatures flitting about its lush gardens.
The first indoor butterfly park in the Western Hemisphere, it has been a firm favorite with locals and tourists since opening in 1988. This is because its tropical conservatories are full of plants and flowers with thousands of beautiful butterflies gently flapping to and fro.
It also has an amazing aviary, which is home to hummingbirds and lorikeets, as well as a great outdoor botanical garden, magnificent museum, and fascinating Bug Zoo.
11. Sawgrass Mills
Home to numerous shops and stores, Sawgrass Mills is one of the largest outlet malls in the States. Lying half an hour’s drive to the west of downtown, it is the perfect place to shop ‘til you drop and also has countless coffee shops, eateries, and restaurants.
Since opening in 1990, the already massive complex has expanded considerably, and now includes over 350 name-brand stores and outlets. Its endless array of shops sell everything, from high fashion items and beauty products to home accessories, sporting equipment and electronics.
Stop by exclusive outlets, such as Burberry and GUCCI, or anchor stores, like Burlington and Primark; grab a coffee or bite to eat or head to see a film at the cinema.
10. Gulfstream Park
When in town then you can’t beat watching an epic horse race at historic Gulfstream Park, just twenty minutes drive south of the center. One of the most important racetracks in the States, it hosts all kinds of races from December through to October each year.
Founded in 1939, the park is home to a lovely old grandstand and clubhouse situated alongside the dirt racecourse. The undoubted highlight, however, is the enormous Pegasus and Dragon statue that was erected in 2014 and is surrounded by musical fountains and LED lights.
Aside from watching an exhilarating race, Gulfstream Park has numerous shops, restaurants, and a casino; it also hosts concerts and events.
9. Fort Lauderdale Boat Tours
Fort Lauderdale lies alongside the Atlantic and is home to many beautiful waterways, so taking a boat tour is one of the best ways to see the ‘Venice of America’. With a wide variety to choose from, spending a day on the water is one of the most pleasant and peaceful ways to explore the city, and its surroundings.
While some sightseeing cruises sail along the canals or the Intracoastal Waterway, others instead head out on the open ocean or to the unique ecosystems of the Everglades.
As such, guests can decide whether to go fishing and dolphin watching or enjoy live entertainment while eating a delicious meal. Alternatively, they may instead prefer to see the amazing animals and nature of the Everglades or learn about the history of the city on another tour.
8. Broward Center for the Performing Arts
One of the main venues to visit in the hugely popular Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District is the marvelous Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Home to four fantastic theaters, it puts on everything, from plays and operas to ballets, concerts and community events.
Since opening in 1991, it has played a huge part in the city’s cultural life with its scintillating shows and performances attracting locals and tourists alike. While the large Au-Rene Theater hosts major productions, the other more intimate venues showcase dance groups, choirs, and jazz nights.
As the huge multi-venue performing arts center holds over 700 events each year, it is one of the best places in Fort Lauderdale to enjoy some unforgettable entertainment.
7. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Located just fifteen minutes drive northeast of the center is the scenery and nature of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. Nestled between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, the picturesque park offers excellent outdoor activities and has diverse ecosystems to explore.
Protected as a park since 1941, its scenic and sprawling confines contain mangroves and maritime tropical hardwood hammocks, coastal dune lakes and a freshwater lagoon. Besides hiking and cycling, you can enjoy fishing, swimming, and canoeing, with wildlife viewing also on offer.
You can also learn about the history and ecology of the park at the delightful Art Deco-style visitor center, once the home of the Chicago attorney after whom the park is named.
6. Flamingo Gardens
Both a botanical garden and wildlife refuge, Flamingo Gardens is one of the best places in town to see amazing animals and nature. Located twenty minutes west of the center, its tropical oasis is a treat to explore with plants, flowers, and birds wherever you look.
Founded in 1927, its grounds have grown considerably and now include some 3,000 species of tropical and subtropical plants. While strolling the idyllic gardens you’ll come across orchids and succulents, palms, bromeliads and towering Champion trees.
Residing amidst the lush foliage are alligators, bears, and bobcats. The Florida ecosystems of its aviary house pelicans, flamingos and macaws, and much more.
5. Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
Set south of Las Olas Beach is Fort Lauderdale Beach Park that has more outdoor activities and amenities than any of the city’s other stretches of sand. Aside from catching some rays and swimming in the sea, visitors can also make use of its grills, picnic areas, and outdoor showers.
Since it is quieter and less crowded than Las Olas and Fort Lauderdale Beach, the picturesque park has long been a favorite with families. In addition to volleyball and basketball courts, it has playgrounds for children to enjoy while parents bask in its beautiful setting and sunshine.
Another of the park’s many plus points is that it is located right next to shops and restaurants, with various resorts, hotels, and even a nearby spa.
4. Las Olas Beach
Right next to the park is the popular Las Olas Beach, one of the main places locals head to for sun, sea, and sand. Although it may not have as many amenities, the idyllic beach lies just a stone’s throw from all of Las Olas Boulevard’s enticing tourist attractions.
Lined by gently waving palm trees and the shimmering waters of the Atlantic, the beach’s soft sands are perfect for lounging on. Watersports gear, deck chairs and umbrellas are available for rent. Alongside the beach is a bustling boardwalk with countless cafes, restaurants, and shops.
A peaceful place during the day, in the evenings a raucous party atmosphere often takes hold, particularly when students are in town for spring break.
3. Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Just ten minutes drive up the coast you can find the pretty property of Bonnet House, that like Las Olas Beach, lies between the Intracoastal Waterway and Atlantic. Surrounded by gorgeous gardens, the historic house showcases exquisite art, period pieces, and fine furnishings.
Built in 1920, the plantation-like property exhibits striking architecture with the massive main house flanked by an art studio, music studio, and guest house. Decorating its elegant rooms are the artworks and personal possessions of its former wealthy owners, artists Frederic Clay Bartlett and Evelyn Fortune Lilly.
Besides viewing art and architecture, guests can explore the rest of the expansive estate which encompasses a wide variety of ecosystems. Alongside subtropical gardens and orchids are beaches, dunes, and wetlands—each habitat appearing more attractive than the last.
2. Las Olas Boulevard
Running through the center of downtown is Fort Lauderdale’s most famous and popular street: the lively Las Olas Boulevard. Lined by a host of shops, restaurants, and art galleries, it is the heart and soul of the city, attracting locals and tourists alike.
What was once a dirt track just over a century ago, now stretches from the serene sands of Las Olas Beach to happening areas packed with upmarket boutiques, bistros, and bars. On the way, it passes over the glinting waters of the Intracoastal Waterway, and past glitzy mansions and sparkling yachts.
As well as superb shopping and dining, Las Olas Boulevard is also known for its nightlife and has many great clubs, theaters, and music venues to check out.
1. Fort Lauderdale Beach
The main thing to do in Fort Lauderdale however, is to visit it’s beach — regularly ranked among the best in the country. Stretching over six miles, it boasts brilliant white sands, gently waving palms, and epic views over the ocean.
Aside from lounging on the picture-perfect beach, locals and tourists can enjoy fun watersports, which include jet-skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and many others.
Bordering the beach are countless restaurants, bars, and hotels. The delightful promenade is also a treat to cycle or stroll along while taking in the lively yet laid back ambience. In addition, its strip offers fantastic nightlife and entertainment with its numerous nightclubs and music venues packed during spring break.