Just a few hours south of Orlando find you the “Venice of America,” dubbed so due to Fort Lauderdale’s numerous waterways, Intracoastal stretch south to Miami and the banks peppered with million-dollar mega mansions. Those winding and weaving waterways, along with the destination’s exotic year-round subtropical weather and its arousing atmosphere have lured travelers and sun seekers for year-round playtime in a place that seems far-far-away but it’s oh-so close and right in our North American backyard. With bobbing mega yachts and sailboats, this water-based playground is almost poetic in presentation and has been catering to locals and visitors alike for generations. It’s one of the greatest destinations on earth—a tropical paradise just four hours south of Orlando’s tourist-orbiting theme-park culture, and near Miami and West Palm Beach—it’s actually the County Seat for the Tri-County area. Here are a few Must-Do activities to help you navigate this Fort Lauderdale oasis:
Hit the beaches! Fort Lauderdale’s beaches offer crystal-clear water, beautiful white sand, along with year-round amazing weather and coastal activities for everyone in the family. For a wilder beach adventure, South Beach is just slightly further into Miami.
Get your water-sports thrills with coastal adventures like jet skiing, parasailing, boating, deep-sea fishing, inland fishing, dinner cruises, kayaking, snorkeling, water-jet-packing, glass-bottom-boat tours, paddle-boarding, wakeboarding and waterskiing via cable ways or behind a boat, surfing, scuba diving and more.
Explore Venice of America’s more than 300 miles of navigable inland waterways that wind through palatial estates, citrus groves and the unique and exotic Everglades – calling all boats of all sizes and shapes—and dollar figures.
Go solo or double up and kayak the expansive canal system with a number of available charters and tours.
Take a hair-raising airboat ride for through the Everglades.
Join a deep-sea fishing charter and enjoy some of the world’s best fishing in the legendary water of Fort Lauderdale and surrounding regions.
Stroll Las Olas Blvd., Greater Fort Lauderdale’s “Style Mile,” which is peppered with independently owned boutiques, shops with off-the-runway- fashions, restaurants with acclaimed chefs, and lively lounges and cafés with sidewalk seating for great lunch breaks and people-watching.
Visit the home a young transplant from Ohio, Frank Stranahan, built in 1893 that served as the first trading post, post office, bank and town hall of the area. Built near the site of the New River Fort, the original house still stands today as a museum called the Stranahan House—a must see for history buffs!
Jump in your Alamo® rental car (ask about Alamo via one of our travel representatives) and head to West Palm Beach, another landmark beauty about 40 minutes away, and take the Lion Country Safari, with hundreds of animals on over 300 wild acres plus a 4-mile drive-through safari. Enjoy a Wild Safari Adventure in the preserve, then stroll through a 55-acre amusement park and cool off at Safari Splash Water Sprayground. Check its website for discount admission coupon specials.
Hike, camp, kayak or canoe the Everglades National Park, with 1.5 million acres of swamps, saw-grass prairies and sub-tropical jungles—one of the most unusual public parks in the United States. Located on the southern tip of Florida, the park is home to 14 rare and endangered species, including the American Crocodile, the Florida Panther and the West Indian Manatee. A large portion of the park is primitive, explored only by adventurists and researchers, but visitors have ample opportunities and methods to explore on their own.
Take a colorful journey to Flamingo Gardens, a 60-acre sanctuary that showcases the natural beauty of the Florida Everglades. It features native, rare and exotic plants and animals, and you can tour a working citrus grove, visit the free-flight aviary or tour the 1930s Wray Home. Plenty to do for everyone in the family.
Heighten your excitement by visiting Las Olas, Fort Lauderdale’s hottest place to eat, drink and be merry on many levels. Adding to the ambience and lifestyle of Lauderdale, boaters can even pull up and dock for free and Las Olas will serve you right on your boat.
Go on a dining adventure with Fort Lauderdale cuisine, an eclectic palette-tempting mix of cultures, ethnicities, organics and farm fresh-to-table entrées. From casual to extremely upscale from chain to modernly exclusive, Fort Lauderdale dining is a foodie delight with worldly influences for every taste bud, such as All-American and Seafood, Mediterranean, Italian, Greek. Mexican, Tex-Mex, Brazilian Steakhouses, Southern Soul Food and Barbeque, Cajon and Creole, Salvadorian eateries, Burgers, Pizza and Super Subs, Dessert and Pastry Shops, and so much more.
Charter a boat and have one of the riverfront restaurants bring you dinner aboard, with dockside service.
Visit the Museum of Discovery and Science—fun for kids and adults alike. It’s home to more than 200 exhibits including the largest living coral reef in captivity, bats, snakes, the Runways to Rockets aerospace exhibit and an IMAX theater where you can take in a laser light show.
Head south and take a walking tour of South Beach, enjoying the incredible and eclectic people-watching along the way. Be prepared to step outside your comfort zone in South Beach.
While in South Beach, stroll Collins Avenue filled with eclectic people, shops, boutiques, some of the best and most thriving nightlife options, entertainment centers, outdoor cafés, ocean views across the street and the oceanfront mansion that once belonged to the late exquisite high-end designer, Gianni Versace, who was one of the most famous high-end designers who outfitted numerous celebrities during his career.
Fishing enthusiasts can partake in the interactive exhibits at the International Game Fish Association’s Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum.
Try your hand and your luck at Gulfstream Park and Casino, one of the state’s approved “racinos” offering a combination of thoroughbred horse racing and casino gaming—enough to satisfy those who like tempting lady luck.
Laugh it up at comedy clubs, and enjoy fine wines at a number of classy wine bars.
Melt away stress and unwind in one of the many Greater Fort Lauderdale spas, from casual and to luxurious, and from day spas to indulgent resort spas.
Flap your wings and get ready to join in at Butterfly World, a fun and educational opportunity to get an up-close look at this 10-acre butterfly farm and research facility—plus it’s the birthplace of over a million butterflies and the largest free-flight hummingbird aviary in the United States.
Find one of South Florida’s secret gems, The Secret Woods Nature Center, a Broward County Parks system preserve located in Dania Beach, just a half mile west of I-95 exit 25. It features a 3,800-square-foot walk-through butterfly preserve, two nature trails and an interpretive center. It’s perfect for everyone in the family or of any age to reconnect with nature and the natural beauty that makes up South Florida.
Hop aboard Fort Lauderdale’s water taxi system to get a variety of areas.
For some retail therapy, shop and stroll the famous Las Olas Blvd., also known as Greater Fort Lauderdale’s “Style Mile,” which is lined with independently owned boutiques, restaurant row commanded by acclaimed chefs, and lively lounges and cafés with sidewalk seating for breaks in between shops. Shop The Galleria, which you get to by water taxi. You can also shop Sawgrass Mills, the world’s largest discount and entertainment mall; the Swap Shop, the South’s largest flea market; and Festival Flea Market, a quarter-mile long shopper’s paradise—just a few of the many shopping venues in Fort Lauderdale.
Get into galactic mode and visit The Buehler Planetarium & Observatory, on the campus of Broward Community College in Davie. It’s small, but packs a serious puck—a wonderful attraction for science lovers. Hours are very limited, so check their website in advance for show times and public observatory hours.
Get your culture and performing arts fix at The Broward Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA), one of South Florida’s premier entertainment venues. BCPA features musical entertainment, theater and other special events. Check its website for upcoming performances and show times.
Hop aboard The Fort Lauderdale Sun Trolley, a super-fun and air-conditioned way to see Fort Lauderdale and get around Downtown and the Beaches for only 50 cents! The Sun Trolley goes just about anywhere you want in Fort Lauderdale, from the Broward Center for the Arts to Las Olas or at the beach on A1A. It’s a fun ride the kids love as much as the adults. It runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to midnight or later. All you have to do is wave and a trolley will pick you up; just be sure to save your quarters and have EXACT change per rider!
Tee up at one of the exceptional Lauderdale golf courses, for all levels of play, even check into a few rounds and lessons with a golf pro!
Take a sunset cruise, nibbling on hors d’ oeuvre’s and sipping cocktails as you watch the glorious fireball star go below the horizon.
Charter a sport-fishing yacht as captain and crew help you angle for kingfish, snapper, mahi-mahi and more. Lauderdale waters are well known for their fishing and annual tournaments.
Cook your or try numerous high-end restaurants that serve the freshly caught seafood – Lauderdale knows how to do seafood!
Beginners can discover scuba diving with pool classes, while certified divers can explore the crystalline waters of Lauderdale via charter.
Get fit and fabulous while having fun as you go paddle-boarding with a tour group at sunrise.
Visit Caribe Arts Fest, if in town October 17-20, a celebration that includes art exhibits, educational workshop, Caribbean-themed films and live music.
Explore the grandiose, multi-million-dollar yachts and boats at the Fort Lauderdale –Miami Boat Show or gander the arts at one of the most popular arts festivals in the nation, Coconut Grove Arts Festival, both simultaneous in February.
Laugh it up every Friday and Saturday night at Catskills Comedy Club, a hotspot dedicated to comedians and entertainers.
Take a two-hour kayak expedition through the Fort Lauderdale waterways.
Check out the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum designed to mirror a 1920’s showroom with a collections of Packards and other luxury vehicles.
Harness up and parasail behind a boat looking at the crystal-clear waters below, maybe spotting dolphins, seat turtles and more.
Let the kids get all their energy out at Funderdome Indoor Playground, with its roped course, climbing wall, super playground, laser maze and sports complex. Parents just may get some feel-young-again activities in, too.
Fly the friendly skies in a Cessna checking out all the South Florida and the Everglades.
Horseback ride through South Florida trails with a guided tour with legendary tales.
Rent a jet ski and cruise the waterways that are peppered with mansions and waterfront restaurants.
Rent a boat and join the Lauderdale lifestyle, going waterfront restaurant hopping.
Join the high-octane energy of Xtreme Indoor Karting, which is buzzing with Bowman Arrow Carts and checkered flags.
Check out a Florida Strikers soccer game when in season.
Hook into Ski Rixen for a tow on South Florida’s only cable water-ski system, with obstacles available to perfect those water ski or wakeboard tricks.
Take the kids to Wannado City—it’s worth a short day trip to the nearby City of Sunrise for this kids’ theme park.
Grub away and be entertained at Mai-Kai, an old-school Polynesian joint with good food and amusing entertainment, like Las Vegas–style shows (additional $10.95) that follow the meals, which range from Hawaiian chicken and seafood with noodles to the massive oak-roasted filet mignon Madagascar for two ($60). Don’t miss the potent mystery cocktail.
Get transported to the backwaters of Louisiana for some serious Cajun, Creole and jambalaya at Creolina’s at this Riverwalk hotspot, especially the awesome Sunday New Orleans brunch.
Discover Florida of colonial villas and bougainvillea of Fort Lauderdale Historical Society, which maintains the Hoch Heritage Center, a historic research facility and the century-old New River Inn, Philemon Bryan House and King-Cromartie House are open for tours; and the 1899 Replica Schoolhouse. The museum mounts exhibits on Fort Lauderdale and Broward County history and Seminole folk art and also offers guided walking tours of historic downtown.
Invigorate your senses at the Hugh Taylor Birch State Recreational Area, where this fragrant, lusciously tropical park contains one of the last significant maritime hammocks in Broward County. There are mangroves, and a freshwater lagoon system, as well as great birding, several endangered plants and animals (including the gopher tortoise and golden leather fern). You can fish, picnic, stroll the short Coastal Hammock Trail or bike the 1.9-mile park drive. Canoe rentals, to be used on the half-mile trail; costs about $6 per hour.
Rent and ElliptiGo, Segway or bike and tour the area by foot pedaling.
Visit numerous thriving, uber trendy bars, cubs and entertainment complexes for a night out on the town you will never forget, including the infamous South Beach strip.
Shop numerous upscale malls, outlets and trendy boutiques for serious high-end fashion straight from the runways in Lauderdale and outlying areas of Miami and South Beach.