Nestled on the sublime east coast of Florida, Fort Lauderdale is an enticing getaway with many exciting things to do in Fort Lauderdale. The city is fringed by golden sands, dotted with swaying palms and warm seas gently lap the shores. With a charming series of Venice-like canals, there is an air of tranquillity and escape, to this otherwise thriving beachside city.
For years, people thought that the only things to do in Fort Lauderdale were to head there for spring break, drink shots and go wild. While Fort Lauderdale still has enough energy to satisfy even the most intrepid partygoer, it has matured significantly. It now showcases an incredible gastronomy scene, fantastic jazz clubs and is one of the greatest locations for shopping in all of Florida. So, if you are planning a trip to this little sliver of mainland paradise, let us explore the most fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
1. Stroll by day, party by night, the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk is the place to be
Effortlessly displaying the nautical charm of Fort Lauderdale, The Riverwalk meanders along the banks of New River. Packed with cafes and unique boutique stores by day, this dynamic waterway is the vibrant entertainment center of the city by night. Not only this, but the route is lined with delightful parks and manicured green spaces which make a welcome change to the beach scenery.
As the light fades you will be looking for things to do in Fort Lauderdale by night, and the Riverwalk should be your first port of call. With a huge number of delicious restaurants and vivacious bars, you are guaranteed a fantastic night out whether it is just dinner and drinks, or the full party experience. Notable restaurants include The Pirate Republic for thrilling Caribbean cuisine and Kilwins Ice Cream with its staggering array of intense creamy flavors.
2. Take to the water, or chill on the sand on world-class beaches
When you ask people what the best thing to do in Fort Lauderdale are, they will generally mention the beaches first and foremost. There is a wide range of incredible beaches in Fort Lauderdale. Thriving Fort Lauderdale Beach is a stunning seven-mile stretch of golden sand right on the city front. Alternatively, the old-school feel of Lauderdale-by-the-sea is a charming beach town located on a barrier island just offshore.
The amenities are fantastic and if you want loungers, umbrellas, or even stand-up paddleboards, nothing is a problem in Fort Lauderdale. There are restaurants offering freshly caught seafood, bars for light refreshments or impeccably mixed cocktails and cafes to chill and watch the vibrant beach life pass you by.
3. From boutique shopping to high-end dining, head to Las Olas Boulevard
Shopping is one of the key activities in Fort Lauderdale and there is nowhere better to do it than the stunning Las Olas Boulevard. Exclusive art galleries and fashion boutiques line this architecturally stunning boulevard, which gently leads you down to the beautiful beach and Las Olas (the waves) themselves.
Tiny ethnic eateries are hidden all along this 10-block treasure trove, waiting to send your tastebuds into ecstasy. Whether you are looking for the authentic Italian experience of Louis Bossi’s, or the Japanese/Peruvian fusion of SuViche, you will easily find the perfect meal on Las Olas Boulevard.
4. Thill the mind with a trip to one of the world-class museums
Visiting outstanding museums is one of the most fun activities in Fort Lauderdale. There are three main museums and several smaller galleries focused on the local art scene where you can pick up a hand-crafted bargain.
The Museum of Discovery and Science provides an interactive look at the world around us, a place where kids can get involved with the displays and learn while they play. The NSU Art Museum, housed in an incredible Modernist building, displays the very best of the art of Florida. Then there is the fantastic Antique Car Museum, 30,000ft of flawless automobiles spanning over 100 years of precision engineering. A true delight for the enthusiast.
5. Take a Bahamas Day Trip to see the famous Swimming Pigs
Fort Lauderdale is the perfect gateway to the Bahamas. Sitting off the Florida Coastline, it is simple to take on the Fort Lauderdale to Bahamas day trips by plane. Every island is accessible in under 2 hours from Fort Lauderdale, so you have the pick of the heavenly location for your day away.
We love Exuma day trips. This stunning little island getaway in the Bahamas is home to the famous Pig Beach where you can take Swimming Pigs Tours and watch these delightful little creatures splash about in the pale turquoise waters of the Caribbean Sea. From here, Staniel Cay Day Trips are easily accessible, so you can explore another little corner of untouched paradise, with one of the most outstanding yacht clubs in the Bahamas. Getting there couldn’t be easier with day trips from Bahamas Air Tours.
6. See the many sides of Fort Lauderdale from the Water
Not only is Fort Lauderdale on a stunning stretch of coastline, but there is a dual-edge to exploring the city from the water. The network of canals that connect to New River means that Fort Lauderdale has a Venice-like element about it. You can sail down New River and the intercoastal waterways on a unique exploration of the city, on board a classic paddlewheel boat.
Alternatively, you can get out into the crystal-clear sea, silently gliding across the tropical waters on your chartered catamaran. You can explore the surrounding islands and beaches, check out the memorable sunset from the water, or explore the beaches-less-visited, one of the most popular things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
7. Take in the wild side of Fort Lauderdale at the vibrant Flamingo Gardens
Laden with awards, Flamingo Gardens is a 60-acre natural wonderland, filled with botanic gardens and nature reserves. It also houses the Wray House Museum, a faithfully restored early 20th century home, which gives you a fantastic glimpse of Florida in the 1930s. The botanic gardens are home to over 3,000 species of rare and exotic plants and the arboretum, some of the largest trees in Florida.
The wildlife sanctuary gives a home to permanently injured or non-releasable birds and has the largest collection of native Floridian wildlife in the state. There are bobcats, alligators, eagles, and panthers, not to mention the dazzling flocks of flamingoes that make this area their home. This makes for an incredible day out and is certainly one of the most fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
8. Experience world-class shopping in an array of stunning malls
We have already covered the boutiques of Las Olas Boulevard and the stores that line the Riverwalk, but this is just the tip of the shopping iceberg in Fort Lauderdale. While these places focus on the unique, there are several stunning malls, where you can spend days searching out bargains and beautiful pieces to take home with you.
Sawgrass Mills Mall is the home of luxury. With over 70 stores dedicated to the finer things in life, you can peruse the shelves and racks of Gucci, Versace, Burberry, and Jimmy Choo, to name but a few. The Galleria is Fort Lauderdale’s main mall, with over 100 stores, with old favorites like Nieman Marcus and Hollister. It also houses a phenomenal foodcourt offering a slice of the unusual to complement those family favourites you find in malls around the country.
9. Explore the history steeped in the architecture of the city
One of the most enjoyable Fort Lauderdale activities is simply walking around the city, checking out the architecture. With over 60 individually designated historic landmarks in the city, there is a lot of history to discover on its streets. Many turn of the century buildings, designed in a wide variety of styles are waiting to be discovered and there are many with incredible pasts.
Bonnet House is probably the most prominent example. Bonnet House is a 35-acre property that effortlessly blends history, art, and nature. Set in immaculate gardens this whimsical house was the winter getaway for artists Frederic and Evelynn Bartlett. Immaculately preserved, the house is a treasure trove of art and architecture unlike any other and is definitely one of the top things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
10. Entertain yourself with an unbelievably wide array of venues
Fort Lauderdale transforms at night. From its slow-paced nautical beauty, it transforms into a decadent playground, filled with delights to cater to every taste. The music scene is as vibrant as anywhere else in Florida. You can experience Jazz and Blues echoing through the energetic Blue Jean Blues, or head to the Hollywood Beach Theatre for outdoor a wide array of musical performances.
The food and drink in Fort Lauderdale are also legendary. Follow the Ale Trail, a 45 venue route filled with breweries, beer gardens, and bars. If wine is more your speed, the 33rd Street Wine Bar has over 150 wines by the glass to taste your way through. Or, check out Apothecary 330, the cocktail club where the classics are mastered and innovations regularly discovered.
No matter your preference, there is a huge selection of things to do in Fort Lauderdale, certainly enough to create an incredible vacation. Its location, so close to Miami, the Everglades and the Bahamas mean you can sample different sides of the region, with a fantastic base to return to every night.
For more information on the stunning city of Fort Lauderdale, do not hesitate to download our in-depth guide to Southern Florida and Miami.
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