- Outdoor enthusiasts will want to visit Fort Lauderdale Beach, Hugh Taylor Birch Park and Sawgrass Recreation Park.
- Animal lovers will adore Flamingo Gardens and Butterfly World.
- History buffs won’t want to miss the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, International Swimming Hall of Fame and Naval Air Station Museum.
- Other key Fort Lauderdale attractions include Carrie B. Sightseeing Tours, Sawgrass Mills and the NSU Art Museum.
Fort Lauderdale is a bustling city on the southeastern coast of Florida, best known for its beaches and boating canals. The subtropical Florida climate provides year-round access to the beaches and other outdoor adventures, with annual temperatures in Fort Lauderdale ranging from 61 to 89 Fahrenheit. If you’re looking to avoid the scorching summers, the best time to visit is between early November and May. If you’re planning a trip to Fort Lauderdale, follow along for our round up of all the activities you should see and do during your trip.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach is the crowning jewel of its namesake. Clean sandy beaches are sandwiched between calm, crystal clear waters and rows of tropical palm trees. This is the perfect spot if you’re looking for something more family-friendly than party-heavy Miami beach. While parties do exist, the beach is filled with families. Beach access is free, but you can pay to rent beach chairs or water sports equipment. On-site parking also has a fee, but there are free parking options within a reasonable walking distance.
Hugh Taylor Birch Park
Settled among the heavily populated, highly developed city of Fort Lauderdale is a slice of pristine Florida wilderness. Hugh Taylor Birch Park is an undeveloped park filled with the palm trees and moss-covered oaks Florida is known for. Besides hiking, biking and rollerblading, you can also eat outside at one of several picnic areas. Pavilions are available for rent and can be supplied with water and electricity for convenience. Access to the park costs only $6 per vehicle for up to eight people.
Carrie B. Sightseeing Tours
Get out on the water with Carrie B. Sightseeing Tours. Each tour is 1.5 hours long, traveling along the New River, the Intracoastal Waterway and Port Everglades. You’ll have the opportunity to see how the other half live with a fully narrated tour of the water-side homes of the rich and famous. The sightseeing tours are relatively affordable, too, with general admission costing only $25.95. Children under three are free, while children up to 12 are $13.95. You should book in advance to secure a spot because these tours fill up fast.
Museum of Discovery and Science
The Museum of Discovery and Science is a must-see with thousands of innovative exhibits, a 294-seat IMAX theater and an open-air Grand Atrium with the Great Gravity Clock. The museum serves over 400,000 visitors annually and has received numerous awards. Although there are always several rotating traveling exhibits, a few permanent exhibits include The Discovery Center, Florida Ecoscapes, Otters at Play and the Science Park. While adult tickets are a little pricey at $27 and youth tickets are $22, children under two are free.
If you’re looking for some retail therapy, look no further than the nation’s largest outlet mall — Sawgrass Mills. The enormous complex houses over 350 stores, including Target, Marshalls, Nike and Prada. Besides ample shopping opportunities, Sawgrass Mills also features an IMAX theater, coffee shops, two food courts and multiple restaurants. The Cheesecake Factory and The Rainforest Cafe have locations inside this enormous mall. With something for everyone, you can easily spend a full day here and still not see everything.
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
This ornately decorated home was originally owned by artist Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife, Helen Louise Birch. After Helen died, Frederic avoided the property for a few years until he remarried Evelyn Fortune Lilly. Once married, the new couple continued to decorate what is now the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens with rich art and unique historical pieces. Although the house provides the main draw here, the grounds are exquisitely landscaped and worth strolling. Self-guided tours are only $20 for adults and $8 for children. Kids under five are free.
Sawgrass Recreation Park
The primary attractions at Sawgrass Recreation Park are the guided airboat tours that take you through the Everglades. Group tours last about half an hour, while private tours are usually an hour. Looking to escape it all for a night or two? You can book one of the primitive camping sites located here. Other opportunities include mining for gems or shark teeth, fishing and numerous animal exhibits. Animals on-site include Florida alligators, turtles, tortoises, peacocks and flamingos. Prices vary, but multi-attraction discount options are available.
Flamingo Gardens is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving injured or endangered animals in naturalistic habitats and educating the public on these species. The 60-acre wildlife preserve is home to hundreds of animals, including sea otters, Florida panthers, alligators, 250 bird species, flamingos and a black bear. During your visit, you’ll want to stop at the on-site museum. Here, you can learn about the area’s general history and the fascinating story of how Flamingo Gardens came to be.
Butterfly World is the world’s largest butterfly house and the first of its kind in the nation. Established in 1986, this unique attraction is now home to more than 20,000 live butterflies spanning hundreds of species. In the 3-acre habitat, you can also see tropical birds and feed lorikeets. Tickets are $32.50 for adults and $22.50 for children under twelve. Kids under two are admitted free. Digital guidebooks and wheelchair rentals are available on-site for a small fee.
International Swimming Hall of Fame
Competitive swimmers and sports enthusiasts will want to ensure they swing by the International Swimming Hall of Fame, which was deemed the “Official Repository for Aquatic History” by the Olympic Aquatic Sports governing body. The museum has numerous exhibits and memorabilia honoring competitive swimmers, record-breakers and award winners worldwide. Moving into the future, the building will also be home to a competitive swimming pool and event venue. Although admission to the museum is free, donations are encouraged.
NSU Art Museum
The NSU Art Museum was founded in 1958 and prides itself on expansive art displays focused on the representation of Latinos, African Americans and women. The 83,000-square-foot building contains around 25,000 square feet of art exhibition space. The remaining area is dedicated to an auditorium with seating for more than 250 people, a store and a cafe serving an array of sandwiches, soups, salads and sides. The museum is open every day except Monday. Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for teens, while children 12 and under are free.
Naval Air Station Museum
The Naval Air Station Museum is an internationally recognized aviation museum dedicated to educating the public and preserving the history of Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale. Its mission statement perfectly sums up its purpose: “Educating. Preserving. Honoring Heroes.” Ongoing exhibits include a Link Trainer Flight Simulator, Flight-19 Memorial and vintage ship and aircraft models. Also on site are a butterfly garden, massive library and photography collection. In addition, the Veterans History Project is dedicated to collecting and recording the stories of veterans from World War I and II. Although admission is free, donations are encouraged.