12 Unique Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale

by Paul Joseph  |  Published December 20, 2023

Sun-drenched beaches, a thriving cultural scene, and a busy roster of fun-packed events help make Fort Lauderdale one of Florida’s most visited cities.

(Photo: Jeff Adair via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Situated on Florida’s southeastern coast, the city attracts huge numbers of visitors every year who are drawn here by its combination of idyllic weather and dazzling array of attractions. If you’re planning a trip to Fort Lauderdale and would like to plan how to spend your time, we’ve done some of the leg work by compiling a list of 12 unique things to see and do in and around the city.

Take a scenic riverside stroll

Perched on the banks of the New River, the Riverwalk is one of the city’s inland gems and a hugely popular spot for a leisurely stroll. At this idyllic waterfront green space, visitors can enjoy lush tropical landscapes, winding walkways, and dozens of shops and restaurants. It’s also a  major hub for events, including a Jazz Brunch held on the first Sunday of each month, and the annual Riverwalk Fall Festival, featuring carnival games, face painting, music, food trucks, and more.

888 East Las Olas Boulevard #210 

Embark on an Everglades excursion

There is nowhere quite like the subtropical network of wetland, swamps, lakes, rivers, prairies and grassland that is the Everglades. An officially designated World Heritage Site, the area is one of the most popular excursions from Fort Lauderdale, lying around an hour-and-a-half’s drive from the city. There are a total of nine entry points to the site, each introducing visitors to distinctive landscapes and wildlife spotting opportunities. Visitors can explore independently or as part of the many organised tours that run here daily.

You can book an Everglades tour from Fort Lauderdale at GetYourGuide

(Photo: See Sight Tours USA / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

Head to the beach

Spanning some 24 miles of golden sandy shores, Fort Lauderdale’s coastline is a mecca for sun-worshippers. Among its most visited stretches of sugary sand is Fort Lauderdale Beach, where crystal-clear waters back onto a charming promenade that bustles with joggers and walkers, and a whole host of restaurants and bars stand ready to await your beach-casual custom. Be aware, during the day the beach is extremely family-friendly, but come evening time the college kids descend and it becomes party central.

Delve into the past at a historic museum

Built in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, credited as Fort Lauderdale’s founding father, and his wife Ivy Cromartie Stranahan, the area’s first schoolteacher, Stranahan House Museum lays  claim to being the oldest surviving structure in Broward County. During its 122-year history, it has served as a trading post, post office, community centre, inn, restaurant, and home to the Stranahans. The house is a wood-frame vernacular structure with wide porches and a stunning view of the New River. It was lovingly restored by the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and the Fort Lauderdale Board of Realtors and opened to the public as a historic house museum in 1984.

335 South East 6th Avenue /  Open for guided tours only Tues-Fri, typically at 1, 2, or 3pm

(Photo: Historic Stranahan House Museum)

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens offers a remarkable mix of art, history and nature. Built in 1920, the 35-acre estate was originally the winter getaway of the married artists Frederic Clay Bartlett and Evelyn Fortune Bartlett, and continues to house many of the original items and artworks from the period when they lived here. Featuring high ceilings, covered walkways and pristinely-manicured inner courtyard gardens, the property and its expansive grounds exude a distinctly old-fashioned Floridian look and feel. Spare time to explore the exterior with its swampland, palm trees, strangler figs and mangrove hammocks. Daily tours of the estate are available.

900 North Birch Road / Tues-Fri 11am-3pm Sat-Sun 11am-4pm Closed Mon

Take in a live show

Fort Lauderdale has a vibrant creative scene, and at its epicentre is the nationally-acclaimed Broward Center for the Performing Arts. Overlooking the New River in the city’s downtown district, the renowned venue draws packed crowds with its busy programme of more than 700 Broadway musicals, operas, ballets, and comedies a year, as well as regular lectures, workshops and other educational events. The centre also runs free, behind-the-scenes public tours on the first Sunday of every month.

201 Southwest 5th Avenue

Wander along a bustling boulevard

No visit to Fort Lauderdale is complete without taking a leisurely amble down Las Olas Boulevard, the city’s premier destination for shopping boutiques, art galleries, dining and entertainment. Situated downtown along the pristine beachfront, the bustling mile-long boulevard pulsates with activity at all times of day, while it only takes one turn down a side street to be greeted by the comparatively genteel sight of winding canals, yachts, and waterfront homes.

(Photo: Steve Sutherland via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Discover an urban wilderness

Billed as Fort Lauderdale’s very own “Central Park”, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is a slice of wilderness in the heart of the city. Located just a few miles from downtown, tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway, the 180-acre park serves as a vibrant community meeting place with its array of recreational and leisure opportunities including inline skating, camping, swimming, canoeing and picnicking under palms and oaks. There’s also a dedicated visitor centre featuring informative displays about the area’s natural and cultural history.

3109 East Sunrise Boulevard 

(Photo: Jared via Flickr / CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Join a fishing excursion

The ocean surrounding Fort Lauderdale is a major fishing destination. In fact, it is one of the few spots in the world where both freshwater and saltwater fishing are available within close proximity, with deep-sea fishing available off the coasts of Deerfield, Pompano Beach, and Dania Beach. A large number of fishing excursions are on offer in the area, including both private and group charters, ranging in lengths of a few hours through to full days at sea. Inevitably, private charters are more expensive, but are ideal for those looking to catch specific fish or who want the full attention of their guide and captain.

You can book a Fort Lauderdale fishing excursion at Viator

Explore a tranquil botanical garden

Situated a 30-minute drive west of downtown Fort Lauderdale, the 60-acre Flamingo Gardens delivers a taste of tropical Florida with its jungle of trees, plants, and over 1,000 orchids. The venue is also a wildlife sanctuary for injured and endangered animals, with wetland birds, river otters, and a black bear all calling the garden home. Visitors can take a narrated 30-minute tram tour through the venue and experience three different ecosystems, as well as the largest cycad collection in the US. Other highlights include a Birds of Prey Center and the historic Wray Home Museum, where regular shows and exhibits take place.

3750 South Flamingo Road, Davie / Mon-Sun 9.30am-5pm

You can book tickets to Flamingo Gardens at GetYourGuide

(Photo: Flamingo Gardens / Courtesy GetYourGuide)

Take a riverboat tour

Lined with lavish homes and mega yachts along Millionaire’s Row, the banks of the New River are a delight to witness from any vantage point, but perhaps nowhere more so than out at sea. Ideal for those keen to squeeze in plenty of sightseeing in a short space of time, Jungle Queen riverboat tours take passengers along this idyllic waterway, as on-board narration regales them with fascinating facts and stories about the sights that you pass, the history of the river and of the city as a whole.

Get a taste of the local food scene

Fort Lauderdale has a vibrant food scene and is home to some of the best restaurants that Florida has to offer. The city’s coastal position ensures that seafood is in ready supply, with some of the most common dishes you’ll find in the city including locally-caught fish such grouper and sea bass, often fresh off the boat that morning. Each January, the city also hosts its own Food & Wine Festival, which draws gastronomes and industry figures from across America and beyond.

You can book a guided Fort Lauderdale food tour at Viator