Fort Lauderdale suffers from a severe case of having too much sun and water, so today we’re capitalizing on these fabulous elements.
You’ll find that most of the city’s attractions revolve around the water. This includes the beach, the historic riverfront houses, and watching pirate ships sail up and down.
Damn, Florida has really got it all!
But there’s more to it than the natural environment: Fort Lauderdale is a buzzing arts and culture center, with a number of international galleries and an interesting craft beer scene, too.
Let’s get things started so we can run you through our top picks for things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
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The Top Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale
Some people might think there are not a lot of exciting things to do in Fort Lauderdale… when, in reality, it’s the complete opposite.
Besides the countless activities and beautiful sights, the city is tremendously well-served when it comes to accommodation – especially the countless amount of stunning vacation rentals in Fort Lauderdale.
We’ve put together a short summary of our picks below. Take this moment to see if something catches your eye — we’re diving deeper right after that.
Get Up Close to Indigenous Animals
This botanical garden boasts more than 3000 species of indigenous and rare plants. And some of the largest trees in Florida!
Go Fishing for Fishies
Go on a fun little fishing trip, admire the coastal views, and bring dinner back to your place.
Explore Sawgrass Recreation Park at Night
Gliding through the glades is such a thrill! Join an after-dark boat tour and prepare for an unforgettable adventure.
Live Like a Local
Looking to detach from reality for a while? We’ve found just the spot for you — fantasy world, here you come!
Walk Through Tree Canopies
Secret Woods Nature Center really is a hidden gem amongst the natural world expecting you in Fort Lauderdale.
1. Head Over to Fort Lauderdale Beach
A trip to Fort Lauderdale beach can not be complete without a day trip to the beach. Fort Lauderdale Beach is the definition of a tropical paradise, with its unblemished white-sand shoreline and palm trees on display.
It has a wide shoreline, so it never feels too crowded. There’s also enough space for partygoers to have a good time, while families can find a quieter spot to soak up the sun!
The calm waters and overall cleanliness make this an excellent beach for children, too.
2. Relax in Hugh Birch State Park
Don’t be confused by the name, this is no run-of-the-mill play park — Hugh Birch State Park is so expansive it feels a bit like a wildlife reserve.
The park features a few coastal dune lakes which are best explored by kayak or canoe. If you prefer to adventure through dry land, there’s a two-mile bike trail, too!
For walking, you’ve got the Coastal Hammock Trail, which meanders through a native maritime tropical hammock ecosystem.
- Entrance: $2-6 per vehicle
- Hours: 08:00-17:30
- Address: 3109 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, United States
A dream trip to Fort Lauderdale isn’t complete without sleeping right next to the ocean, right? And this is the kind of place you almost don’t wanna leave. Except you do, because you’re right on the beach.
If you’re looking to detach from reality and live in a fantasy world for a bit, this is the perfect spot for you. The decor is beautiful, it’s sparkling clean, and the big bed is GLORIOUS.
Strong WiFi is a plus, especially if you have to work remotely. Good thing you’ve got the comfy wicker chairs on the porch, though!
Superhost status, Airbnb Plus, and all that jazz — an overall great pick for your stay in Fort Lauderdale.
4. Rent a Private Yacht and Explore the Ocean
So you’ve already secured the perfect Airbnb. Now, it’s time to rent yourself that private yacht to make this dream vacation complete. Spend a full 8 hours on the ocean in this absolute dreamboat with the option to include a captain to show you the best of Ft. Lauderdale by boat. Perfect for families or a group of travellers, prices start at $200 for 2 hours and go up from there. Don’t forget to bring plenty of cold beers and music (there is a Bluetooth speak onboard).
5. Wander Around Bonnet House and Gardens
Exploring the site of Bonnet House Museum and its lush gardens is one of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale by yourself. There are so many quirky corners that you can easily lose track of time here.
The estate was originally a wedding gift to a young couple who started building the house after their marriage. When the young bride died, however, construction stopped — that is, until he found love again!
The house is a monument to love and creativity. There is plenty of spectacular ornaments and artworks to admire (everyone in this story was an artist). The garden is magnificent, and you might even find a few monkeys in the treetops!
- Entrance: $8-20 (Self-Guided Tours), $10 for Gardens only
- Hours: 11:00-16:00 (Tuesday-Sunday)
- Address: 900 N Birch Rd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, United States
6. Admire Contemporary Art
The NSU Museum of Art is a great destination for creatives and lovers of culture. One of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale is to explore the phenomenal art on display!
You’ll find the NSU art museum in the heart of the city, more precisely on Las Olas Boulevard. It’s a fittingly impressive home to host world-class art, let us tell you that.
The building was designed by Edward Barnes and opened in 1968. The gallery itself has over 6000 pieces of art, focusing on pieces that represent South Florida and the Caribbean. You’ll also find some classics like a world-famous collection of ceramics by Picasso!
- Entrance: $5-12
- Hours: 11:00-17:00 (Tuesday-Saturday), 12:00-17:00 (Sunday)
- Address: 1 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, United States
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If you love the ocean, one of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale is to learn how to surf. It’s the best way to take full advantage of the city’s most enticing assets and enjoy its beautiful crystal clear waters.
Obviously, this is something that requires some level of supervision and training if you’re a complete beginner. Joining a group lesson is a good way to start!
Surfing excellence comes from spending thousands of hours in the ocean, on all kinds of different waves — and you want to learn from someone who’s been through that.
EZride Surf School is a good place to start, but you’ve got plenty of other surf schools all over Fort Lauderdale!
- Entrance: varies
- Hours: 08:00-19:00
- Address: 892 NW 47th St, Pompano Beach, FL 33064, United States
8. Visit Historic Stranahan House
The Historic Stranahan House Museum is an essential stop on your trip to Fort Lauderdale. The combination of art and history makes for a fascinating visit!
Stranahan House started out in 1901 as a trading post and community hall. It was built by Frank Stranahan, a businessman who is considered to be the founder of Fort Lauderdale.
The house later became the Stranahans’ private residence. You can learn more about the family on the compulsory guided tour through the small museum. Plus, the house itself is pretty picturesque!
- Entrance: Open for guided tours only
- Hours: 13:00-16:00
- Address: 335 SE 6th Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, United States
9. Drool over Antique Cars
It’s hard not to love an antique car and there’s plenty of that sentiment going around at the Antique Car Museum.
The museum focuses on cars produced by the Packard Motor Company and is designed to resemble a Packard showroom — there are over 20 pre-war models.
There’s also a gallery devoted to individual car parts like gear shifters and hood ornaments. This exhibition is an eye-opening introduction to the ways in which technology has changed and consumer tastes have shifted.
- Entrance: $5-10
- Hours: currently closed
- Address: 1527 SW 1st Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33315, United States
Most Fort Lauderdale activities revolve around the water, but if you’re looking for a different kind of experience, consider trying deep sea fishing.
If you left your equipment at home, worry not — there are lots of companies that can take you out on a boat with all the supplies.
The sea off Fort Lauderdale offers the chance to catch grouper and snapper, amongst others. And any fish you catch will be cleaned free of charge so you can cook it for dinner!
Gliding through the glades is such a thrill! Visiting Everglades National Park, especially at night, is one of the most exciting things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
Join an after-dark boat tour and prepare for an unforgettable adventure: Sawgrass Recreation Park is just 30 minutes outside of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Against the chorus of croaking frogs, you’ll look for owls and gasp when you see an alligator.
It can be a little freaky, so if you think you can’t handle it in the night, daytime tours are also available.
- Entrance: $14.95-24.95
- Hours: 08:00-18:00
- Address: 1006 North, US-27, Hollywood, FL 33029, United States
12. Attend the Races
Gulfstream Park offers one of the most unique outdoor things to do in Fort Lauderdale: watching a horse race!
Gulfstream Park has been one of America’s top horse racing venues since it opened in 1939. It continues to host world-class races from December to September almost every day of the week.
Admission to watch one of the races is completely free, and the betting scene is quite fun. If you find it to your taste, there are plenty of options to upgrade to a private box or join a breakfast buffet.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 10:00-03:00 (Monday-Friday), 10:00-19:00 (Saturday-Sunday)
- Address: 901 S Federal Hwy, Hallandale Beach, FL 33009, United States
13. Drink Some Craft Beer
Beer tasting is always fun. Whether it’s in the night or as an afternoon plan… we’re not one to judge. Our recommendation is that you hit up Invasive Species Brewing. It’s an award-winning brewery that has been cited by Forbes as one of America’s best undiscovered breweries!
Invasive Species Brewing was opened in 2017 by a pair of Fort Lauderdale brothers. You’ve got around 20 beers on tap here that you can enjoy in their outdoor patio, where you can also find food trucks to grab a bite.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 17:00-23:00 (Monday-Thurday), 14:00-23:00 (Friday-Saturday), 14:00-22:00 (Sunday)
- Address: 726 NE 2nd Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, United States
14. Find Your New Favorite Nightclub
A trip to Fort Lauderdale would not be complete without mentioning the city’s nightclubs. Whether you’re into jazz or are more of a pop person, there is surely something for you in the city.
For the jazz fans, head over to 33rd Street Wine Bar on a Friday night. It features live jazz and is open till late. The reggae people can try Ginger Bay Cafe, a Caribbean-themed spot that offers live reggae and great drinks.
Stache is Fort Lauderdale’s top cocktail lounge and one of the top whiskey bars in the country and turns into a nightclub on the weekends.
Enjoy the hell out of it!
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15. Explore the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District
One of the loveliest things to do in downtown Fort Lauderdale is strolling down the Riverwalk district — and it’s completely free.
The Riverwalk district is situated along the New River and comprises 22 blocks. Don’t be intimidated, though, because you can always hop onto the Riverwalk Water Trolley. It works just like a bus, with eight different stops, and is also free.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 08:00-17:00
- Address: 888 E Las Olas Blvd Suite 210, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, United States
16. Swim at Las Olas Beach
So, the beach in Fort Lauderdale will most likely be a constant during your trip. If you’ve been to the main one, we suggest you check out Las Olas Beach now.
It’s free, obviously, so it might be a good option if you’re planning a lot of other activities. And the clear blue waters never fail to excite!
Come nightfall, Las Olas Beach gets even busier as partygoers show up. It’s a great spot for nightlife but it can also be rowdy, particularly when college students visit for spring break.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: Open 24 hours
- Address: 240 Las Olas Cir, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316, United States
17. Walk through Tree Canopies
Secret Woods Nature Center really is a hidden gem amongst all the nature-related things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
This 56-acre forest was the first urban wilderness area in Florida. The cypresses and palm trees make it an oasis for birds and other wildlife, and there are boardwalks throughout the mangroves and alongside the river.
Whether you’re traveling with kids to Fort Lauderdale, or are just looking for a tranquil hike with some beautiful views, we really recommend you visit this spot.
There’s also an excellent nature center that teaches visitors about the natural habitats of local animals and how important it is to protect them!
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 09:00-17:00
- Address: 2701 W State Rd 84, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312, United States
Ahoy! Down to get goofy? This pirate ship comes complete with a treasure chest, a parrot and a gangplank.
We have to include this one because kids absolutely fucking love it. If you’re traveling with young children, do them a favor and do not let this one pass.
The ship’s crew is an entertainment machine, so you really won’t have to worry much throughout the ride. Kids can battle another ship with water cannons, paint their faces like pirates and hunt for treasure.
You won’t find things to do in Fort Lauderdale as exciting for the youth as this!
19. Get Sporty at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
Fort Lauderdale Beach Park is a great destination if you want to mix a relaxing beach day with a little bit of activity.
The volleyball and basketball courts are very popular, so they’re a great place to hang around and join the locals for a match. Bring your own ball, or just wait for the right moment to approach.
The park is free to enter, but you do need to pay for various extras, such as beach loungers and parking. There is also a playground & picnic tables available.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 05:00-02:00
- Address: 1100 Seabreeze Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316, United States
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20. Grab a Cup of Feel-Good Coffee
If you’re like the rest of us, you’ll probably need a few cups of coffee to get you going during the trip. Good thing Fort Lauderdale has excellent coffee!
One of our personal favorites is Circle House Coffee. Not only is the place itself lovely, but you’re simultaneously supporting the local community.
It was founded by retired NFL player Stephen Tulloch in 2018 and the proceeds from the coffee shop go to various local charities.
With a selection of great coffee, delicious food, and some cheeky little CBD infusions, you can rest assured your needs will be met here.
- Entrance: Free
- Hours: 06:30-19:00 (Monday-Friday), 07:00-19:00 (Saturday-Sunday)
- Address: 727 NE 3rd Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, United States
By this point, you probably already got it: Fort Lauderdale is all about the waterfront. And there’s no better way to explore this area than hopping on a little boat cruise. If you feel like you didn’t go around the city much, this is the perfect way to see it all before you leave.
New River is so beautiful that it’s nicknamed “the Venice of America”. This is also partly due to Millionaire’s Row, the strip of waterfront mansions and superyachts that belong to the rich.
The natural environment is stunning — apart from the gentle river breeze, you can also enjoy stops at lush islands in the river.
If you really want to step your vacation up a notch, you could even consider renting your own private boat for a truly memorable experience.
Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale
Alright, the itinerary is out of the way. You’ve got plenty to choose from in order to plan a killer trip, but there’s one thing left…
Picking where to stay in Fort Lauderdale! Accommodation abounds in the city, so we’ll list you our top picks for the best hostel, Airbnb, and hotel.
Best Airbnb in Fort Lauderdale – Smart Apartment Near the Beach
Within walking distance of Fort Lauderdale Beach is this spacious apartment, with a modern kitchen and bathroom. It’s a Superhost apartment, so service is top-notch. All in all, this is really the perfect base for your trip.
Best Hostel in Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood Beach Hostel
Set just a few minutes from the beach, this boutique-style joint is perfect for solo adventurers, couples, and just about anyone, honestly! There is a mix of dorms, private rooms, and family suites, with sick-ass communal spaces and a Mexican restaurant/bar on the beach. Ping pong tables, a sand lounge, cabanas… should we go on? Ah, bicycles and surfboards are free of charge!
Best Hotel in Fort Lauderdale: Best Western Plus Oceanside Inn
This hotel in Fort Lauderdale is close to everything. It offers comfortable, air-conditioned rooms so that you can get out of the heat as well as a gym if you feel like working out. A buffet breakfast is provided at the hotel and there’s also an in-house bar where you can get a meal if you don’t feel like going out after a long day.
Check out VRBOs in Fort Lauderdale for a unique and different accommodation!
Some Additional Tips for Visiting Fort Lauderdale
Here are some extra suggestions to help plan your Fort Lauderdale itinerary!
- Watch out for the weather: do your best and avoid hurricane season (June-November). November through April is usually the best time to come in terms of the weather, but expect it to be busy!
- Looking for a dope hostel to stay at? We’ve cracked down the 7 best hostels in Fort Lauderdale for your convenience.
- Invest in travel insurance! You never know what may happen on the road.
- Go on a Florida road trip: if you’ve got time, rent a car or campervan and head out to explore this big, beautiful state.
- Bring a good water bottle with you and avoid buying single-use plastic ones!
- Find cheap flights. Every once in a while, a killer deal pops up.
FAQ on Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale
Here are some quick answers to common questions about what to do and see in Fort Lauderdale.
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With buzzing bars, tropical beaches, and artsy districts, it’s hard not to have fun in Fort Lauderdale! Whether you’re into suntanning or hiking, the city offers enough diversity to please you either way.
The natural surroundings of Fort Lauderdale mean that the entire city oozes laidback, seaside charm. It’s the perfect place to try new activities, as well as find local twists on your usual favorites.
We hope our epic list of things to do in Fort Lauderdale helped you find the right spots and activities for your trip, and see you on the next one!
And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!