14 Fun Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale Beach+ Where to Stay
The beauty of Fort Lauderdale beach is that there is something for everyone! So whether you want to relax on the beach, shop til you drop, bar hop, hit up museums, or fill your day with thrilling adventures, you can find it all! So come see why it’s described as where the city meets the sea!
If Miami isn’t the vibe you’re looking for, Fort Lauderdale is a fantastic Florida alternative. With its own airport and non-stop flights from 125 cities, the easy-to-get-to coastal city is also within a short distance of the Everglades and its 1.5 million-acre National Park. So if you’re looking for a vacation destination that will appeal to adventures, beach bums, couples, teens, and young families, it might surprise you that Fort Lauderdale has it all!
Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale Beach
With 24 miles of pristine beaches and coastal communities, here’s a selection of things to do in Fort Lauderdale Beach to kick off your vacation planning.
1. Visit the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
One of the most treasured landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places, the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens transports visitors to the beginning of the 20th century. History suggests that the grounds of the Bonnet House site have had human activity dating back to 2,000 B.C.! In 2002, it was declared a historic landmark in Fort Lauderdale Beach and is currently on the National Register of Historic Places.
Today, the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is a historic art museum and gallery, full of works owned by the original owners Hugh Taylor Birch and his wife, Helen. Self-guided tours are available using a mobile device Tuesday – Friday from 11 am to 3 pm and Saturday and Sunday until 4 pm.
2. Go On an Interactive Private Cruise
The BlueFoot Pirate Adventures is a sure-fire way of keeping the kids entertained on a family vacation. This one-hour themed pirate cruise is interactive, with visitors from pirates! Washable “tattoos” and face painting are available before take-off, and children get to go home with a Pirate Certificate and Treasure Bag after the experience. In addition, you’ll learn how to talk like a pirate and get to fire real water cannons!
3. See Retro Cars at the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum
With the most extensive collection of Packard cars from 1900 on, the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum is a must for car enthusiasts. Its recently expanded 30,000 square-foot building allows guests to get up close with not only these historic vehicles but also see an array of hood ornaments, vintage gas station signs and lamps, vintage magazines and photos, as well as an entire exhibit dedicated to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
4. Explore the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
Founded in 1958, the NSU Art Museum showcases exhibitions that encompass all variations of our visual history. Located in the heart of Fort Lauderdale, right near Fort Lauderdale beach, the building itself is distinct and designed by the world-renowned architect Edward Larrabee Barnes. The permanent collection highlights the United States’ most significant collection of 19th to 21st-century contemporary art by Black and Latinx artists and African art.
General admission is only $12 for adults and free for all children under twelve years old.
5. Get Around Fort Lauderdale Beach on the Sun Trolley
Explore all of Fort Lauderdale Beach with convenience and style with the Sun Trolley. This mode of transportation is entirely free for all passengers and transports riders all around the area. Explore downtown, local communities, head to the beach, the Riverwalk, and Las Olas shopping and dining district.
6. Visit Fort Lauderdale Founder’s Stranahan House
The Stranahan House was built in 1901 by the area’s credited founding father, Frank Stranahan, and his wife, Ivy Cromartie Stranahan. With a varied past, the Stranahan House has served as a trading post, post office, and of course, original home to the Stranahan family.
Visitors can take a guided tour for a glimpse into the past, which tells the story of the birth of the Fort Lauderdale Beach community.
7. Go for a Nature Walk at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Residents of Fort Lauderdale Beach and visitors come to Hugh Taylor Birch State Park for many outdoor activities and serenity. Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal, you can spot gopher tortoises and watch for boats setting sail. Sidewalks and trails are perfect for hiking, biking, or even rollerblading in this vibrant oasis. What’s more, visitors can take a ranger-guided walk every Friday and Saturday to gain an understanding of the unique habitat surrounding the park.
The park is open every day from 8 am to sunset. The entrance fee is $6 per vehicle or $4 for a single-occupant vehicle/motorcycle. Pedestrians and bicyclists’ admission is only $2.
8. Explore Las Olas Boulevard
Fort Lauderdale visitors and residents love Las Olas Boulevard for shopping, dining, drinking, and entertainment. You’ll find a diverse mix of cuisines, bars, cafes, shops, and salons when visiting this iconic shopping center. What’s more, sign up for art classes at the Igal Fedida Fine Art Gallery here, or bring your pet along with pet-friendly shops and restaurants.
My family loved Louie Bossie’s Ristorante & Pizzeria, a New York-style Italian restaurant. The kids ate every single slice of their giant pizzas; the adults loved their cocktails and pasta dishes. It’s one of those restaurants that balances superb service, food, and drink, while still being family-friendly in a more upscale setting. In fact, they went out of the way to make our kids comfortable, and the staff dotted on, not frowned upon, them.
9. Bird Watching at the Flamingo Gardens
Get up close to native wildlife, exotic flora, and fauna at the Flamingo Gardens at Fort Lauderdale Beach. The 60 acres Botanical Garden and Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary was established in 1927 and is one of the oldest botanical gardens in South Florida.
The hearth of the gardens is a naturally-made hammock, comprised of the 200-year-old Live Oaks orchids and epiphytes that drip from the branches. The Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary surrounds the gardens and is home to 90+ different native birds and animals, including over 250 wading birds. There are also alligators, bears, bobcats, otters, panthers, peacocks, and of course, flamingos.
10. Take a Day Trip to the Florida Everglades
An essential trip for any trip to southern Florida, the Everglades is about a one-hour trip from Fort Lauderdale Beach. So why not cross another U.S. National Park off your list? There are over 2,000 species of plants and animals, making it the perfect place for world-class fishing and bird watching. Not to mention, the Everglades is the only place in the world where you can see both alligators and crocodiles in the same place.
If you’re feeling adventurous, book an Everglades Airboat tour! There are no age restrictions, so if you’re looking for things to do in Fort Lauderdale, even with younger kids, check out your options! A family member who grew up in the area recommends Everglades Holiday Park Airboat Tours and Rides, with thousands of high reviews on Google and Tripadvisor.
11. Go On a Segway Tour
If you’re looking to explore the Fort Lauderdale Beach area with convenience, a segway tour is a fun way to cross off every item on your must-see list. You can find tours available that weave through downtown, Las Olas Boulevard, Hugh Taylor Birch Park, and even some residential areas. If you’re traveling with teens, this is something they *might* enjoy doing!
12. Museum of Science and Discovery
Despite its rather serious name, this hands-on museum is a fun family favorite with both locals and visitors. We had placed this activity on our rainy-day list as a backup if the weather didn’t cooperate during our July vacation. While we did have a half-day of summer storms, we ended up playing some serious rounds of Uno in our room and watching a movie instead.
The Museum has interactive exhibits, shows, demonstrations, wild creature encounters, maker space labs, and an outdoor science park across 150,000 square feet of space. If you have an annual membership to a science or family museum in your hometown, make sure to bring your membership card on vacation with you! That’s because the Museum of Science and Discovery participates in various reciprocal museum programs that honor your membership at their museum. Meaning you’ll receive free admission passes to their museum! It’s a great way to stretch your vacation dollar!
13. Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show
For one of the most exhilarating and delicious dining experiences in Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show has been captivating guests since 1956. The award-winning menu offers prime steaks, duck, lamb, fresh seafood, and exotic Asian dishes. Eight dining rooms reflect the different cultures and regions of Polynesia.
Besides the exquisite menu that will satisfy even the pickiest palates, the Polynesian Show at the Mai-Kai Restaurant is also the longest-running in the entire United States (including Hawaii!) Drums, Samoan fire knife dancing, and a romantic Hawaiian wedding song are just a few of the show’s features.
14. Intercoastal Water Taxi
One of the most popular and highly rated activities on Tripadvisor is taking the hop-on-hop-off intercoastal Water Taxi of Fort Lauderdale to tour “The Venice of America.” While we only took it to downtown Las Olas from the Marriott BeachPlace Towers stop for dinner one night, you could ride their whole route all day, getting off to explore at every stop. If you only want to take it for part of the day, consider doing it from 5 pm to 10 pm when tickets are discounted. You’ll get to see sites during daylight, sunset, and nighttime when all the homes on the water are lit up.
If you’re on a couple or adults-only trip, it’s also a popular and responsible way to bar hop your way to Hollywood Beach and back to Fort Lauderdale. There are two routes, so if going to Margaritaville is on your bucket list, make sure to look jump on the correct one!
Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale Beach
When you’re visiting the beautiful Fort Lauderdale Beach, there are so many options for accommodations. There are so many options with a mix of private house rentals, Airbnb, some boutique hotels, timeshares, and large resorts. Ensure to read reviews on multiple sites, as accommodation quality varies. Here are two we recommend for their convenience, amenities, and quality of accommodations.
Marriott’s Beachplace Towers
This vacation ownership resort by Marriott Vacation Club is the perfect home away from home when visiting Fort Lauderdale Beach. And I can say that because we stayed there and it is really is fantastic. Marriott’s Beachplace Towers is steps away from the Atlantic Ocean beach. One of the things we loved about the resort is that every single unit has a water view—either of the beach or the intercoastal waterways behind the resort. Try to request a higher floor for outstanding views right from your unit.
Accommodations range from standard hotel rooms to two-bedroom condo units with spacious living room areas, fully equipped kitchens, and private balconies.
Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
Only a few miles away from the iconic Las Olas Boulevard, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort faces the Atlantic Ocean with numerous amenities for the entire family. Enjoy direct beach access from the property, an on-site full-service spa, fitness center, and on-site restaurant for added convenience. Also, visit Ilios, the Mediterranean-inspired restaurant, or S3, which offers scenic oceanfront views and seafood.