Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, FL

  • Published 2022/11/05

Boasting 165 miles of inland waterways, Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, Florida, is nicknamed the “Venice of America.”

Just as famous as its inland waterways is the city’s pristine white sand beach, stretching more than seven miles along the Atlantic Ocean.

With a population of more than 182,000 per the 2020 census, it is also the tenth most populous city in Florida.

Fort Lauderdale was incorporated in 1911 and has remained the county seat of Broward County since the county’s founding in 1915.

Before the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s, the area was already occupied by Tequesta tribe for centuries.

Nevertheless, it was officially established as a fort in 1838 during the Second Seminole War.

Named after its founder, Major William Lauderdale, two other forts were established in the surrounding area and would also be named after the army officer.

However, after the fort’s abandonment in 1842, the area was almost uninhabited for decades.

It wasn’t until the arrival of the river ferry service and Florida East Coast Railroad in the 1890s that gave the area a major boost, attracting new settlers and businesses along the way.

The city also served as an important U.S. base during World War II, hosting a Naval Air Station where pilots and radar operators undergo training before their deployment overseas.

Today, thanks to its pleasant sub-tropical climate and numerous attractions, Fort Lauderdale is one of Florida’s most-visited cities.

In 2013 alone, the Greater Fort Lauderdale region attracted more than 13 million visitors.

Serving as home to 100 marinas and 50,000 registered yachts, the city is also called “Yachting Capital of the World”.

Moreover, its Port Everglades accommodates nearly four million cruise ship passengers yearly, making it the world’s third biggest port for cruises.

With tons of attractions and fun activities all year long, here are the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale:

Take a Cruise with Jungle Queen Riverboat

People waiting to enter the Jungle Queen Riverboat

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Touting itself as Fort Lauderdale’s longest-running attraction, Jungle Queen Riverboat has been operating in the city since 1935.

With its distinct, vintage-style riverboat, you are taken on a 90-minute scenic river cruise along the city’s famous waterways to enjoy the sights of the “Venice of America.”

The sizeable riverboat is equipped with useful amenities, like a lavatory and viewing deck, and can carry up to 385 passengers.

Front view of Jungle Queen Riverboat

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There’s also an onboard bar where you can enjoy a drink or two.

Along with its private events and group charters, Jungle Queen Riverboat is also famous for its Island Dinner and Show Cruise.

View of Jungle Queen Riverboat

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The Pacific-themed cruise offers food, drinks, and live entertainment like Polynesian fire dancing.

With its fun and enjoyable river cruise amenities, Jungle Queen Riverboat ranks among the city’s best.

Party in Style with Breezy Tiki Charters

Breezy Tiki Charters stands out among Fort Lauderdale’s plethora of boat rental services with its unique and fun concept.

As with its name, their fleet of small, tropical-themed party boats promises tons of fun while enjoying the city’s scenic waterways.

Their private charter vessels can accommodate up to 20 passengers, while their newer Big Breezy boat can take up to 35 people.

With safety being their utmost priority, Breezy Tiki Charters’ boats are also well-equipped and regularly inspected by the Coast Guard.

One of their main claims to fame is the comfortable seating, which come in fully outdoor and sun-roofed options.

Best of all, you can take the cruise while enjoying your favorite drinks, snacks, and music playing in the background.

Other nice perks include a floating lily pad and toys that guests can use while swimming in the clear waters.

With their fun features blending perfectly with Fort Lauderdale’s breathtaking views, Breezy Tiki Charters guarantees everyone a memorable party experience.

Go for a Nature Walk at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Signage of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Jillian Cain Photography /

Called by many as Fort Lauderdale’s “Central Park,” Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is sandwiched between the city’s bustling marinas and pristine sandy beach.

The 180-acre oasis bears the name of its original owner, Chicago lawyer Hugh Taylor Birch, who lived on the property until his passing in 1943.

The state park’s distinct landscapes consist of marshlands, freshwater lagoons, and sub-tropical forests.

Picnic table at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

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Along with various species of birds and small mammals, the park’s most famous residents are the docile gopher tortoises that freely roam around its premises.

The park is a popular spot for wildlife-watching thanks to these natural features.

Although fishing is only allowed along Intracoastal Waterway, you can still enjoy paddling along the park’s coastal dune lakes.

Tortoise at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Jillian Cain Photography /

With nearly two miles of paved pathways, the park is also perfect for biking and skating.

You can also take a hike along the short trail, which is filled with information about the park’s flora and fauna.

The park also features a playground and picnic areas with pavilions and barbecue grills.

Hugh Taylor Birch State Park’s captivating nature and perfect location make it Fort Lauderdale’s best place to escape the noise of the urban jungle.

Boating at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

Chris Allan /

Try Craft Beers at Invasive Species Brewing

With its unique and quirky name, Invasive Species Brewing calls itself a “one-of-a-kind museum of natural history meets urban warehouse district.”

Located at the heart of Fort Lauderdale, the local brewery isn’t only famous for its catchy name but also for its delicious, highly rated handcrafted beers.

The brewery features 20 tap lines with rotating beers exclusively available in their taproom.

Their drink selections come in a variety of flavors and alcohol levels, grouped into categories such as Light N Easy, Sours and Seltzies.

Their beer menu also includes Dark Stuff and Strong Beers, as well as Hoppy and Juicy.

Moreover, the brewery offers an assortment of wines, ciders, and craft sodas.

With its new offerings every week, the brewery also keeps everything fresh and exciting.

Combining phenomenal craft beers with a friendly atmosphere, Invasive Species Brewing offers a memorable experience for beer connoisseurs and everyone else.

Visit Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

Architecture of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

Jillian Cain Photography /

Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is one of Fort Lauderdale’s most famous and beautiful landmarks.

Included in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, the 1920s-era plantation mansion serves as the centerpiece of the 35-acre property with a 100-foot beachline.

It was built in 1920 as a wedding gift by Hugh Taylor Birch to his daughter, Helen and her husband, renowned Chicago artist and art collector Frederic Clay Bartlett.

Scenic view of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

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The art gallery features the works of Bartlett and his third wife, Evelyn Fortune Bartlett, whom he wed in 1931 following the passing of Helen in 1925.

Its priceless collection also includes “Day of the Gods” by Paul Gauguin and “The Old Guitarist” by Pablo Picasso.

A time capsule of the early 20th century-era, the mansion retains much of its original wood furniture, household items, and home décor.

The mansion’s courtyard also features gorgeous flower gardens and water fountains surrounded by different types of palm trees.

Coconut trees at Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

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On the other hand, the mansion sits on a land characterized by five distinct ecosystems, including freshwater slough, mangrove wetlands, and maritime forests.

Bonnet lilies, the property’s namesake, also grow prominently all over its beautiful ponds.

View of Bonnet House Museum & Gardens

Jillian Cain Photography /

Thanks to its pristine environment, it is home to many birds and other small animals.

Combining a deep history, beautiful artworks, and gorgeous surroundings, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is a must-visit in Fort Lauderdale.

Play Sports at Holiday Park

Located right along Harold Martin Drive, Holiday Park is one the major public recreation areas in Fort Lauderdale.

The parks host numerous sports facilities within its 93-acre area, making it a popular spot in the city for sports activities.

Along with the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center, the park contains basketball, volleyball, and racquetball courts.

It also has illuminated athletic fields, a roller hockey rink, and a playground.

You can also exercise along the park’s extensive walking paths and jogging trails.

On the other hand, the park has a spacious dog park where you can let your furry friends play at their heart’s content.

The park also contains numerous picnic tables and a pavilion for larger gatherings.

With all these facilities for playing and relaxation, Holiday Park offers everyone the best of both experiences.

Try the Interactive Exhibits at the Museum of Discovery and Science

Entrance to Museum of Discovery and Science

Jillian Cain Photography /

Located at the heart of Fort Lauderdale, the Museum of Discovery and Science is famous for its fun interactive exhibits geared primarily at younger audiences.

The museum’s two floors host nearly 20 permanent exhibits.

It features exhibits depicting fascinating information about Florida, from its prehistoric times, ecosystems, down to the state’s public water supply cycle.

Its Discovery Center contains interactive activities designed for toddlers and younger children.

Interior view of Museum of Discovery and Science

Jillian Cain Photography /

On the other hand, the museum’s Outdoor Science Park Exhibition provides a fun hands-on learning experience with its play equipment and tools.

Moreover, the museum also features an enormous 52-foot Great Gravity Clock.

The fully functional behemoth of a timepiece is the largest kinetic sculpture in Florida and one of the only three of its kind that currently exists in the world.

Exterior view of Museum of Discovery and Science

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Along with traveling exhibits, the museum also hosts various learning programs, including Sprouting STEM and Camp Discovery.

With its interactive features and fascinating exhibits, the Museum of Discovery and Science is a must-visit for children and everyone.

Learn Local History at Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum

A time capsule of the bygone era, the Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum tells the fascinating story of the city and the entire county.

The historic complex contains four well-preserved buildings dating back to the 1900s.

One of the buildings, the former New River Inn, built in 1905, now serves as a museum.

It houses numerous archaeological finds and relics from the region’s prehistoric and First Nation-era.

Along with century-old furniture, the museum contains various memorabilia, photographs, and personal items from the community’s earlier residents.

Moreover, the museum also hosts special events, most notably its indigenous art exhibits.

A great way to learn about local history, Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum is a fantastic place recommended not only to history buffs but also to casual visitors.

Visit the NSU Art Museum

Exterior view of NSU Art Museum

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Located along Las Olas Boulevard, the NSU Art Museum’s 25,000-square-foot exhibition space contains more than 7,500 unique art pieces from around the world.

Upon entering the gallery, visitors are treated to an immersive visual experience across different art styles.

Among the museum’s collections include great examples of Latin American and contemporary art, particularly by women artists.

Additionally, the museum boasts many fascinating pieces in its indigenous African and Oceanic art collection.

The country’s most extensive collection of works by William J. Glackens, a prominent American realist painter, can be found in the museum.

Along with the works of other American artists, the museum also holds a significant amount of works from artists collectively known as CoBrA (Copenhagen, Brussels, and Amsterdam).

These artists participated in the German resistance during World War II before gaining prominence post-war.

On the other hand, the museum also contains a café and a gift shop where guests can buy art-related souvenirs.

Thanks to its fascinating collection of diverse art pieces, the NSU Art Museum is the perfect place to visit for art enthusiasts and everyone.

Swim and Play at Carter Park

Located along W. Sunrise Boulevard, Carter Park occupies a modest 21 acres of total space in the northwest part of the city.

The park stands out among most of the parks in the city thanks to a large swimming pool and water playground located right within its premises.

On the other hand, the park also boasts a well-maintained track and field complex and illuminated playing fields.

The park also houses a boxing gym along with standard park staples such as basketball and tennis courts.

Alternatively, take a relaxing walk around the park’s jogging trails if you aren’t a sports fan.

The park also contains multiple picnic areas equipped with tables and grills, perfect for family cookouts.

Whether on land or in water, Carter Park’s fantastic amenities offer hours of fun and enjoyment for everybody.

Visit the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum

View of International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum

Felix Mizioznikov /

Following its establishment in 1965, the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum was declared by Fédération Internationale de Natation (FINA) as the “Official Repository for Aquatic History.”

FINA is the governing body for Olympic aquatic sports.

Established to honor swimmers and divers who made a significant impact on the sport, the museum houses various Olympic memorabilia like medals, photographs, and statues.

It also contains numerous photographs that captured many of the sport’s historic moments.

Top view of International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum

Felix Mizioznikov /

Additionally, a state-of-the-art aquatic center is also located outside of the museum.

The aquatic center also contains a towering modern diving platform along with a standard Olympic-size pool.

From its fascinating exhibits to its cutting-edge aquatic center, the International Swimming Hall of Fame is a great place to visit for aquatic sports enthusiasts and everyone.

Go Fishing with Fishing Headquarters

One of the top fishing charters in Fort Lauderdale, Fishing Headquarters boasts the largest, fastest, and the only air-conditioned party fishing boat in the city.

Christened “Catch My Drift,” their flagship boat was designed to carry up to 130 passengers.

They also have a fleet of smaller boats geared primarily for sport fishing.

Along with safety gear, all their boats are fully equipped with helpful utilities for comfortable fishing.

Their fishing charters come in several packages to cater to beginners and seasoned anglers.

Their signature Drift Fishing, which can accommodate up to 70 people, is great for larger groups who want to experience the thrill of rod-fishing.

On the other hand, Sport Fishing, which is suitable for up to six people, is ideal for serious anglers and smaller groups alike.

Moreover, Fishing Headquarters also offers specialized packages such as Night swordfishing and Tarpon fishing.

Thanks to the undersea features of the region, their boats will only have to travel one to two miles offshore to reach the best spots for fishing.

Whether going to a fishing party with the entire company staff or a few friends, Fishing Headquarters is guaranteed to give you a fun and unforgettable fishing experience.

Explore the City with Water Taxi

Bright Yellow Water Taxi at Fort Lauderdale

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With a network of inland waterways rivaling their overland counterparts, traveling by water isn’t just a pleasurable experience in Fort Lauderdale but also a practical one.

As such, Water Taxi provides a nifty, hop-on, hop-off ferry service around the city.

The distinctly yellow water taxis themselves have turned into an unmistakable feature in the city’s waterways in the same vein as the iconic yellow cabs traversing the New York City streets.

Their fleet of water taxis also comes in various sizes.

Passengers enjoying the Water Taxi ride

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The largest one is the Island Boat, which carries up to 125 passengers and features an air-conditioned cabin and a full bar.

Moreover, their mid-size boats can take 50 passengers, while their smallest ones can accommodate up to 15 people.

Their numerous stop-overs include some of the best shops, bars, and restaurants in Fort Lauderdale.

Water Taxi passing under a bridge at Ford Lauderdale

Felix Mizioznikov /

As with their regular service, Water Taxi also accommodates private charters for a more personalized and intimate experience.

A fantastic way to explore Fort Lauderdale, riding the Water Taxi is a must-try for everyone visiting the city.

Eat, Drink, and Party at The Wharf

One of Fort Lauderdale’s most popular hangout spots, The Wharf is the city’s all-in-one place for dining, drinking, and simply chilling with friends.

Hosting several bars and food trucks within its complex, guests are ensured that they’ll find something that will suit their individual tastes.

You can find various gourmet offerings, including flavorful Mexican food, American staples like burgers, sandwiches, and tasty donuts.

You can pair them up with delicious drinks like beers, and cocktails, as well as non-alcoholic beverages and juices.

Along with occasional street performers, there’s also live music in the background to keep everyone entertained in the family-friendly venue.

Moreover, The Wharf also hosts open floor areas if you and your friends are in the mood for some all-out partying and dancing.

A perfect combination of great food, drinks, and a lively atmosphere, The Wharf ranks Fort Lauderdale’s best spot to hang out and mingle with the locals and fellow tourists.

Relax at Snyder Park

Entrance to Snyder Park

Jillian Cain Photography /

Covering an area of over 90 acres, Snyder Park is a piece of paradise located on the southern tip of the city.

The two beautiful lagoons are nestled within the park’s pristine environment, where fishing is also allowed.

Moreover, the park contains a gorgeous butterfly garden filled with exotic flowers and several species of colorful insects.

Lagoon at Snyder Park

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Snyder Park is also famous for its dog park, where dogs can swim and play in the lagoon’s clear waters.

On the other hand, you can also play at the park’s volleyball and basketball courts and in its disc golf course.

A network of trails also intertwine around the park, making it the perfect spot for biking and nature hiking.

Scenice view of trees covered with green leaves at Snyder Park

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However, you can also relax in comfort at the park’s designated picnic areas and enjoy the relaxing surroundings.

With its beautiful sights, pet-friendly environment, and neat amenities, Snyder Park guarantees every visitor a pleasant and relaxing experience.

Final Thoughts

Owing to its wide array of attractions catering to everyone, it’s no wonder Fort Lauderdale ranks among the most-visited places in the Sunshine State.

Moreover, the city’s inviting climate and friendly environment make the whole experience all the more enjoyable and memorable.

Plan your visit today, and see what Fort Lauderdale has in store for you.

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