For years, Orlando with its theme parks and Miami with its vibrant nightlife have hogged the Floridian tourism spotlight. Well, those days are over! Enter the underdog, the city quickly climbing the ranks thanks to its array of both natural and manmade attractions: Fort Lauderdale.
Boasting never-ending sandy shores (which attract far smaller crowds than those down south in Miami), plus world-class restaurants, unique Venice-like canals, and a plethora of opportunities to party the night away, there’s no shortage of activities on offer in this underrated American city.
Shop till your drop on Las Olas Boulevard or take a gondola rides across the picturesque waterways; whatever your itinerary looks like, seldom will any traveler leave Fort Lauderdale disappointed! If you’re searching for fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale, we’ve got you covered.
1 – Meet the animals at Flamingo Gardens
As a combination of both a botanical garden and an Everglades wildlife sanctuary, the 60-acre Flamingo Gardens is a beloved non-profit attraction for nature and animal lovers. The botanical section offers more than 3,000 different plant and flower species, taking visitors on a journey into the native Florida landscapes; while the sanctuary houses injured and sick animals who can’t make it back out into the wild.
Keep a keen eye out for the black bear and Florida panther, as well as the playful river otters and bobcats.
2 – Break out of an escape room before time runs out
The time has come to unleash your inner detective! Solve puzzles, use teamwork, look for clues, and do it all while racing against the clock in one of many Fort Lauderdale escape rooms. Once you’ve discovered antidotes, cracked codes, or solved mysteries in the more traditional themes, try your hand at ‘The Caretaker’ at America’s Escape Game, claimed to be one of the hardest and scariest escape rooms in the country.
3 – Combine top-class dining and entertainment with a Jungle Queen river cruise
As you sit in comfort on the historic Jungle Queen boat, you’ll zoom past sprawling $30-million homes and jealousy-inducing megayachts, learning about their luxury and tidbits about the city in general, thanks to the informative narration.
Following the sightseeing, the historic boat docks at a purpose-built island where the delectable all-you-can-eat buffet and a hilarious live spectacle await! The Jungle Queen river cruise is regularly regarded as one of Fort Lauderdale’s top experiences.
4 – Take a day trip to Everglade Park
Teeming with local wildlife, including alligators, turtles, panthers, pythons, and storks (just to name a few), the Floridian Everglades is an essential destination for any nature lover.
The most exciting way to soak it all in is with an informative, professionally-guided airboat ride through the wilderness. Take the traditional airboat tour to the next level with a nighttime adventure or a VIP experience.
On some tours, those brave enough will even be allowed the opportunity to hold a baby alligator!
5 – Explore by boat on a canal sightseeing cruise
Unlike most waterfront cities, Fort Lauderdale is teeming with waterways between the beach strips and the mainland — think of it as Florida’s sunny answer to Venice.
Depending on your budget and appetite for adventure, choose from kayaks, paddleboards, jet skis, private yachts, or even a large-group booze cruise. No matter your vessel, you’ll be zipping past enormous mansions, ultra-expensive yachts, and endless bridges, all while your professional guide points out intriguing landmarks.
Visit Getmyboat if you wish to rent a boat in Fort Lauderdale.
6 – Explore the city with a Segway tour
Roll around Fort Lauderdale in convenience and style on a smooth-moving Segway, one of the most efficient ways to tick off all the essential sights in one afternoon. Tours whistle through the Lauderdale Beach promenade, in and out of downtown and residential areas, and even through Hugh Taylor Birch Park.
For something a little more unique, sign up for a comedy-themed Segway adventure or explore under the moonlight!
7 – Jet ski through the beautiful canals
With its abundance of beaches and open waters, Florida — and specifically, Fort Lauderdale — is a jet skier’s paradise. Rent your own for an hour or two and explore the area at your own pace; or, join a private jet ski tour that takes you through areas like the Venice of America Canals and Millionaires Row, all while the guide points out historic landmarks and celebrity houses!
8 – Get a bird’s eye view with a seaplane tour
Seatbelts on for this unforgettable chance to view the city from above! Onboard an amphibious seaplane, you’ll discover an entirely new perspective on the expansive shoreline; soar over the crowded beaches, admire the complex patterns of the waterways, and, of course, snap a few selfies in front of the skyline.
Time and budget permitting, charter the seaplane to transport you to and from nearby islands, including the Bahamas, the British Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, or the closer Florida Keys.
9 – Ride through the city on a bike tour
While it doesn’t quite match up to its southern neighbor (read: Miami) in size, Fort Lauderdale is by no means small. It would take an eternity to explore the entire city on foot, so why not speed things up on two wheels instead? Led by knowledgeable locals, the bike tours navigate through the city’s most famous landmarks and areas, covering the waterfront, Central Park, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, and so much more.
Don’t feel like working up a sweat? Electric bike to the rescue!
10 – Let your hair down on a crazy Cycleboat party
You’re on vacation, after all, so why not let your hair down a little with a booze cruise! The standard Lagerhead Cycleboat party cruises last for 2.5 hours, taking keen partygoers around the city’s waterways on a 25-foot catamaran-style boat.
Bring your own beer and wine, hop in the water for a dip on the hotter days, stop at the captain’s favorite bars, and let the DJ bring it all together with an epic playlist. For any social butterflies out there, this experience is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Fort Lauderdale!
11 – Tour through the Venetian Isles in a Kayak
Carve through the Venetian Isles with a guide or explore the waterways and mangroves at your own pace. Either way, you’ll be gawking at huge mansions and expensive yachts the whole way through.
If you’re looking for something further out of town, combine a kayak tour with a snorkeling experience in the waters of the Florida Keys — a noteworthy day trip option.
12 – Learn to surf!
While Florida might sport a laid-back, go-with-the-flow vibe, that doesn’t mean that there’s any shortage of high-speed adventure! Case in point: catching the waves. Perfect for beginners and intermediates, the professionally-taught surfing lessons off the shores of Lauderdale Beach provide the fundamental techniques and assistance needed to stand up and ride the whitewater.
All the surfing equipment is included: surfboard, rashguard, optional wetsuit, and surf wax — so all you need to bring is yourself and a can-do attitude!
13 – Day trip down to Key West and snorkel in its clear waters
An island-city famous for its Caribbean atmosphere, nightlife, water sports, and beaches, Key West is an unmissable destination for anyone traveling to southern Florida. Before hitting the town, take the opportunity to snorkel in the clear, warm ocean waters, and admire the colorful coral and vibrant sea life. If you prefer to stay dry, there’s always the option for a glass-bottom boat instead!
Feel free to extend your day trip to an overnighter experience — the best way to soak in the sparkling sunsets and sunrises over the Floridian waters.
14 – Watch a Polynesian show at Mai-Kai Restaurant
Home of the longest consecutively running Polynesian show in the country, the internationally renowned Mai-Kai Restaurant combines mouth-watering Cantonese and American meals with first-class entertainment. With an atmosphere resembling the classic tiki bar, plus jovial song and dance (not to mention the strong, tasty drinks), this is truly a one-of-a-kind dining experience.
15 – Take a luxurious sailing trip
Bask in the sunshine and feel the salty ocean breeze through your hair on a 4- or 8-hour luxury sailing trip. With royalty-like service from departure to docking, you’ll be greeted with stunning views of Las Olas Beach, the city’s skyline, and the seemingly never-ending Florida coastline.
Most sailing tours are fully customizable; dock when and where you want, and snorkel in whichever waters take your fancy with the included equipment.
16 – Walk the plank on a Pirate Adventure Cruise
Cruise along Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway on a one-hour tour that’s all about pirates! Youngsters will absolutely love the face painting, pirate speech lessons (arrr me’arty!), and water cannons (not to mention the treasure they get to take home). But it’s not just for the kids; it’s a cruise designed for entire family fun — adults can soak in the pristine views while sipping on a classic pirate-style rum.
17 – Embark on a sunrise fishing trip
Always wanted to catch a fish but never had the chance? Well, look no further. Fort Lauderdale is blessed with an abundance of marine life in its coastal waters, and there are plenty of sportfishing boat charters on offer to help you reel one in. Blackfin tuna, kingfish, and bonitos are common in the area, likewise sailfish, mackerel, and even whale sharks!
18 – Sip Champagne on a sunset sailing cruise
Add a splash of sophistication and romance to your Fort Lauderdale adventure with a picturesque cruise! With soft music and crashing waves creating a calming atmosphere, a glass of bubbly in hand, and a postcard-worthy sunset vista, there’s no better way to turn afternoon into evening before hitting the town.
With space for over 40 guests on this catamaran, the sunset cruise is also a great way to make some new friends and is widely considered one of the essential things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
19 – Check out Butterfly World, the biggest of its kind
Holding the trophy as not only the largest butterfly house in America but the largest on the entire planet, Butterfly World in Coconut Creek is a crowd favorite for youngsters and adults alike. Close to 20,000 butterflies of over 50 species call this place home, each more colorful than the last.
While the venue is a little out of the way from the main haunts, about a 30-minute drive away, it’s an essential activity for any nature lover!
20 – Bar hop on a cycle party tour!
Combine essential sightseeing with a couple of hours of partying and socializing onboard the Cycle Party bike tour! The most popular option (the Bar Crawl), takes guests around town on the open-air customized bar-bus, ticking off some of the most popular attractions while also stopping into some of the city’s most beloved bars and restaurants. Best of all, if you’re feeling lazy, you don’t even need to peddle – just drink!
21 – Sightsee on a private electric boat
Want to explore the city by water but not overly interested in joining a run-of-the-mill tour? Then simply rent your own boat! Choose from different sized vessels — like 18-footers or 21-footers — and make your way around the city’s riverways at your own pace, letting the captain steer the ship while you sit back, enjoy a drink, and embrace the impressive views.
Since the boat is entirely electric and therefore extremely quiet, the cruise promises to be extra relaxing.
22 – Embrace the music on a party boat
With the chance to bring your own food and drinks, the Staying Afloat Party Boat can be as wild as you make it. The social cruise skirts around the waterways and open ocean before temporarily anchoring at the Fort Lauderdale Sandbar, allowing the buzzed travelers to jump in the water to cool off and truly embrace the DJ’s booming playlist.
If you’re traveling in large groups — planning a bachelor/ette party, birthday, or corporate retreat — then opt for the private rental and have the boat entirely to yourself!
23 – Party the night away on a party bus or limo!
Craving the party vibes but sick of all the water activities? Fret not, because Fort Lauderdale also boasts a collection of well-known party busses and luxury party limos!
Use the party limo as transportation to and from venues in Fort Lauderdale (or Miami), or simply cruise around town from sight to sight while sipping Champagne in between each stop. Whatever your preferred itinerary, the chauffeurs are happy to adapt (or give suggestions).
24 – Visit the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
A picturesque 35-acre historic estate on Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens combines art with over 100 years of history of the Bonnet estate — it’s no wonder that this infamous landmark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The home’s plantation-style exterior has been perfectly preserved in its 1930’s and 40’s essence. The interior is equally impressive; dotted with delightful artworks, animal sculptures, and plenty more surprises.
25 – Shop till you drop on Las Olas Boulevard
Widely considered as the city’s premier destination for shopping, restaurants, and land-based entertainment (thanks to its 10 international art exhibitions and regular live concerts), Las Olas Boulevard is a must for any Fort Lauderdale visitor.
Even if you’re not in the mood for a bite or a new wardrobe, Las Olas is a great place for a simple stretch of the legs — you’ll likely come across some street performers along the way too.
Shopaholic or not, Las Olas should headline your list of things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
26 – Check out the Historic Stranahan House Museum
Built back in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, the man considered to be the ‘Founding Father’ of Fort Lauderdale, this century-old home has the claim to fame of being the city’s oldest surviving structure.
Over the years, the historic abode has functioned as a post office, community center, and even a town hall. These days, it’s an educational and fascinating museum, detailing the history of the building, its former owner, and the city’s development.
27 – Browse the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum
Motor enthusiasts, look no further! The Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum is a remarkable display of historical automobiles, effectively replicating a Packard showroom from the 1920s.
In addition to the nation’s largest collection of Packard cars, visitors will have the chance to marvel at the collections of unique hood ornaments, gas station signs, horns, vintage car magazines, and an entire separate exhibit dedicated to none other than Franklin D. Roosevelt.
28 – Tour the city for free on the Sun Trolley
All five of the Sun Trolley’s routes are free to ride, making exploring the city cheap and easy for anyone on a budget! For some of the more notable tourist areas, hop on the Beach Link down to Fort Lauderdale Beach; check out the shops, restaurants, and museums along the city’s most vibrant boulevard via the Las Olas Link; or climb aboard the Riverwalk Water Trolley for a ride along the picturesque New River.
29 – Watch a show at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Theatre lovers, rejoice! Fort Lauderdale might not hold its hat to NYC’s Broadway or London’s West End, but it still knows how to put on a highly memorable performance! Over at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, choose from concerts, musicals, plays, and more, as part of an exciting, ever-changing calendar.
The venue is nestled amongst the lively Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District, so there’s plenty to do before and after the show!
30 – Admire the collections at the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
Situated at the western end of Las Olas Blvd, the NSU Art Museum is a celebrated indoor venue for tourists and locals alike.
The 85,000-square-foot building is jam-packed with artifacts and artwork, spanning everything from the post-war era to avant-garde European Cobra, Latin American artwork, and even the nation’s largest collection of realist works by William Glackens.
On summer days that are just too hot to bear, air-conditioned museums like this one are welcomed relief.
31 – Head to the Swap Shop & Thunderbird Drive-In Theater
Proudly boasting its status at the largest daily flea market in the world, the Swap Shop brings together hundreds of vendors selling all kinds of hidden treasures, as well as plenty of local fruits and nibblies worth sampling.
Besides the obvious Swap Shop experience, the venue also showcases a surprising collection of seriously impressive cars — namely modern and vintage Ferraris — and, impressively, a 14-screen drive-in movie theater that plays a selection of new releases and classics.
32 – Dine in at 15th Street Fisheries
Hidden inside the Fort Lauderdale’s most famous nautical landmark, Lauderdale Marina, 15th Street Fisheries has been serving tantalizing dishes to hungry guests since 1978, well worthy of its legendary reputation as one of South Florida’s premium waterfront eateries.
The recently remodeled upper level offers fine dining with an array of freshly caught fish (and other unique dishes, like kangaroo steak), while the downstairs hosts regular live music and cocktails at its Fisheries Dockside spin-off.
33 – Go stand-up paddleboarding!
Contrary to its appearance, stand-up paddleboarding isn’t easy to master! But once you’ve got the hang of it after learning the ropes, it serves as one of the most relaxing ways to enjoy the Fort Lauderdale waters.
Rent your own board, sign up for a one-on-one lesson, or embark on a group tour of the city’s canals and rivers — either way, you’re in for a treat.
34 – Feel the thrills of the Flyboard
For a chance to try your hand at a new, high-octane sport, why not sign up for a flyboarding lesson? Once you’ve mastered the immense power beneath your feet, you’ll be able to dive deep under the surface like a dolphin or soar up to 50 feet high above the surface.
There’s a reason why flyboarding is being offered in more and more waterfront cities across America: it’s just bucketloads of fun! Thrill-seekers, take note: flyboarding should headline your list of things to do in Fort Lauderdale!
35 – Float through the canals on a Tiki bar
Arguably the most enjoyable way to experience Fort Lauderdale’s beautiful waterways — or, at the very least, the most unique — a floating tiki bar tour presents as the perfect warm-day activity. As the Captains entertain and pump out the toe-tappin’ tunes, visitors can sit back, relax, and sip on a cocktail (or five) as the boat-bar traverses through the picturesque canals.
Keep in mind that these bars have a maximum capacity of six guests.
36 – Learn how to fly a plane!
If a tourist flight above the city just doesn’t cut it, take it to the next level by taking the controls yourself! With endless coastline and beautiful landscape, there’s no better place to learn to fly than above the eastern Floridian shores.
If a one-hour lesson ignites a newfound passion, Berichi Aviation offers entire summer courses that result in your very own pilot’s license.
37 – Devour a dish or two at Coconuts Waterside Grill
Proudly displaying uninterrupted views of the city’s intercostal waterways, the Coconuts Waterside Grill beachy hangout is a renowned spot to down a couple of drinks, devour a tasty meal, and kick back into the relaxed atmosphere.
While the ambiance is undoubtedly top-notch, where Coconuts really thrives is on its menu. Don’t miss the chance to sample the scoobies and the coconut shrimp!
38 – Watch the horses at Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino
With a history dating back to 1939, the Gulfstream Park horse racing track has evolved to become one of the most popular racing venues in the United States. Races take place every Wednesday to Sunday from December until September, but if you don’t feel like punting on the horses, head to the casino or the nearby shops and restaurants instead.
For the extra hungry and thirsty among us, Sunday’s bottomless buffet for $10 per person is an absolute steal!
39 – Get lost in the record-breaking Sawgrass Mills Mall
About 22 kilometers (14 miles) west of downtown Fort Lauderdale in Sunrise, you’ll find the sprawling Sawgrass Mills mall. This place is objectively massive; thanks to its 350-store complex, Sawgrass holds the title of the largest single-story outlet mall in America.
With an afternoon here, you’ll be spoiled for choice — window shop at Prada, Jimmy Choo, and Kate Spade; grab a bite to eat at California Pizza Kitchen or Rainforest Cafe; or even catch a movie at the on-site IMAX theater.
40 – Live it up at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
With its guitar-shaped building soaring above the palm tree-filled hotel complex, it’s impossible to miss the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino when driving by. Despite its inland location, it’s still just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood shorelines, allowing you to easily head to the beach after enjoying the resort’s world-class entertainment, delectable dining, and lively casino games.
41 – Interact with the exhibits at the Museum of Discovery and Science
As one of the largest museums of its kind across the entire state, Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science is an interactive sight to behold.
As far as permanent exhibits go, there’s plenty to choose from: stroll through Prehistoric Florida, the Florida Everglades, and Otters at Play, take a seat in the IMAX theater, and feel the thrills aboard multiple rides and simulators. On top of that, with rotating features such as Here Be Dragons, MODS promises to be a fun excursion for the entire family.
42 – Walk in firefighters’ shoes at the Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum
When the local fire department no longer needed to use Fire Station No. 3 on West Las Olas Blvd, the city decided to turn the building into a museum — and we’re glad they did because it’s quickly become a fan favorite!
Through more than 100 years of photos, videos, uniforms, old-school trucks, and equipment, guests can take a fascinating deep dive into the history of this local department, learning of the emergencies that challenged its firefighters throughout the years.
43 – Hike, bike, or kayak through Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Just north of Lauderdale Beach, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park has something for every type of traveler. Burn some calories with a leisurely bike ride along the 3-km-long paved park drive, kayak through the park’s dune lakes, hike the Coastal Hammock Trail or sit down for a relaxing picnic on the grass.
The park is within walking distance of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, a perfect duo of activities to fill up an entire afternoon. While there is a small entrance fee, rarely does any visitor leave disappointed!
44 – Sample some beers at Invasive Species Brewing
Showcasing a new menu of craft beers every single week, Invasive Species Brewing is an ideal locale to wet your whistle after a long day of exploring (or tanning on the beach – whatever floats your boat!). While the menu is certainly diverse, the brewpub’s regulars sing the praises of two particular styles: IPAs and sours.
The outdoor patio often hosts live music, enhancing the awesome atmosphere even further. Beer-lovers, this place should be high on your list of things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
45 – Have a drink and plenty of fun at Backyard
An outdoor beer garden with a vibe that’s both chill and eclectic, Backyard sells itself as an unbeatable spot to wash down some freshly-made pizza with at least a couple of house-specialty drinks.
Dogs are welcome, Coronas are served by the bucket-load, and there are regular live bands and DJs — what’s not to love?