This post was written in collaboration with Hotels.com. Due to COVID travel disruptions, please check local travel guidelines before visiting.
(UPDATED AUGUST 2022) Glamorous Fort Lauderdale is on Florida’s southeastern coast, with world-class shopping, beautiful beaches, and several neighborhoods that offer something new and exciting at each. Whether you are driving iconic highway A1A or exploring Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, this is a place to see and be seen. You could likely spend a week here still not see it all, but here are the things to do in Fort Lauderdale that we love doing.
Sawgrass Mills is a shopping extravaganza like you’ve never seen, in Sunrise, Florida, on the outskirts of Fort Lauderdale. This incredible mall, the biggest outdoor mall in the United States, has nearly 400 stores and 2 1/2 million square feet of shopping space.
Stores like Burberry, Century 21, Etro, David Yurman, and Ippolita are some of the big names you will find at Sawgrass Mills. The mall is so massive that retail stores like Finish Line, Lacoste, Foot Locker, and Michael Kors have two locations.
You can also eat at one of the 50 Sawgrass Mills restaurants, including Cheesecake Factory, Grand Lux Cafe, Burgerim, and Johnny Rockets. 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.
My favorite place to shop is along Las Olas Boulevard, one of Fort Lauderdale’s primo and fashionable hotspots. Sip a coffee or grab a snack at a lovely outdoor cafe, enjoy the prestigious galleries, shop in chic boutiques, or just enjoy the mile-long stretch of people-watching.
You can also see rare and pricy antiques in this part of town. Part of the road has fantastic canals and homes to see.
Need a Place to Stay in Fort Lauderdale?
When I visit Fort Lauderdale, I prefer to stay in a luxury hotel right on the beach or a well-known name hotel in Hollywood Beach. If you are looking to save a few bucks but still want impressive views, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina is always a popular choice and within walking distance to great eateries.
For the ultimate pampering, The Ritz Carlton Fort Lauderdale is hard to beat with impeccable rooms, service, amenities, and location.
The third choice for a lovely room and grounds in a pristine setting without the inflated price is Oceanfront Marriott Pompano Beach Resort. The resort has a casual vibe, sophisticated rooms and common spaces, and a fantastic spa (Sispa).
Families may prefer the upbeat and energetic Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, with incredible swimming pools and the super cool FlowRider surfing simulator.
Ride Through the Everglades
Fort Lauderdale is the gateway to the Everglades, an expansive protected area of swampland, ecosystems, wildlife, and picture-perfect landscapes. The Everglades is home to the Seminole Indians, and learning about their ancient culture may be included on your tour.
Otherwise, airboats will skim over the water, dodging the plethora of alligators that call this home, as you explore the stillness of the remote areas while looking for fish, birds, and other animals.
I recommend Everglades Holiday Park for a family-friendly airboat ride and reptile exhibit following the ride. You will be amazed at some of the feats these brave tour guides endure with the gators.
Beaches are plentiful in Fort Lauderdale, and you can choose between many. A popular spot is Dania Beach, where nesting sea turtles make their homes, denoted by a triangle of orange cones or tape. Please do not disturb them. The Dania Beach Pier is worth a visit, too.
Hollywood Beach is my favorite, with the stately Broadwalk running along the oceanfront, great for skating, biking, walking, or people-watching. Whether you are here to sunbathe, relax, swim, fish, or kayak, this free offering is better on the gorgeous Lauderdale beaches.
Snorkeling and scuba diving are primo in this tropical location with 69 miles of natural coral reefs.
The Anne Kolb Nature Center is a place I could revisit over and over. It is in Hollywood, Florida, one of Fort Lauderdale’s premier destinations. You will learn all about mangroves at this nature offering and climb to the top of a scenic tower for 360-degree views. You can also kayak through the mangroves if you wish.
Explore the Museums
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.
The Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is a lovely place to explore and one of the top 10 Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale per TripAdvisor. Bonnet House’s artistic and eye-catching landscape is accented with stunning flowers and one of the United States’ best orchid collections. The historic estate of Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett recently celebrated its 100th birthday.
There is also a historic home to explore with plenty of treasures. Bonnet House’s Little Cafe offers a place to grab food and drink and a Museum Gift Shop a place to pick up one-of-a-kind gifts and collectibles.
Families love Butterfly World, the world’s largest butterfly aviary, a place I could take pictures of the colorful and dainty beauties for hours. Another popular attraction is the Flamingo Gardens & Wray Botanical Collection, which also has an aviary and even alligator viewing. You can learn about Florida’s native flora in the well-maintained gardens.
When my girls were young, they always loved the Museum of Discovery and Science, the most visited museum in Florida, offering a thrilling storm center, dinosaur boneyard, science park (kid’s love this!). It even has an exhilarating and educational Everglades option.
Museum of Discovery and Science has a five-story IMAX theater and exhibits with otters, turtles, sharks, bats, and plenty of hands-on opportunities. I held my first gator and petted a snake there in the past.
FLA Live Arena is a mega venue for sporting events, concerts, touring shows, and home to the National Hockey League’s Florida Panthers. You can also see world-class production shows, musicals, Broadway tours, and local theatre at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Learn more about Fort Lauderdale, including some great restaurant choices in this post.
Unique Offerings in Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale’s iconic Jungle Queen Riverboat is a fantastic way to spend 90-minutes in the afternoon or three hours on Saturdays or Sundays enjoying a fully-narrated sightseeing cruise through Millionaire’s Rowe, lined with million-dollar properties and mega yachts.
An all-you-can-eat barbecue dinner is included in the evening cruise, starting at 6 PM promptly.
Jungle Queen has been providing fun and memories for those visiting Fort Lauderdale since 1935.
Visit one of Fort Lauderdale’s many neighborhoods to check out their scenes, but rest assured the murals will be spectacular no matter which one you choose.
For the ultimate murals in Lauderdale, explore the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project, with many painted by big nationally-recognized names, like Fabio Onrack and Tatiana Suarez. A place close on its heels is F.A.T. (Flager Arts Technology) Village, where a warehouse district is taking shape and getting noticed in part because of the incredible street murals.
Lastly, a Segway Fort Lauderdale tour is one of the coolest ways to get around and explore this beautiful city. You can ride along the picturesque Hollywood Broadwalk for stellar ocean views, and then by the New River, offering a completely different landscape.
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