If you’re coming to Fort Lauderdale for some family fun, or passing through on your way to a cruise, like me, here are the top things to do in Greater Fort Lauderdale to create amazing memories.
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Are you planning a trip to South Florida? With so many awesome places to visit, deciding where to go might get overwhelming.
I recently flew from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale to take a cruise to the Bahamas. The cruise was for three days and I didn’t really think it was worth flying out for just those three days. There are so many places to visit in South Florida that it would be a shame to come and not experience at least some of them, such as the Greater Fort Lauderdale area.
Getting to Fort Lauderdale
First Stop: Fort Lauderdale
West of Fort Lauderdale you will find Flamingo Gardens, a botanical gardens & Everglades wildlife sanctuary.
Fort Lauderdale is an hour away from Miami Beach, 45 minutes away from Bal Harbor Shops and a half hour from Butterfly World and Sawgrass Mills (the largest outlet mall in the United States and one of the largest malls in the world).
Fort Lauderdale was my first stop. If you are familiar with my blog you know how much I love the beach. (If you’re not, welcome, it’s nice to have you here) So naturally my first stop was the beautiful Fort Lauderdale Beach alongside the beautiful Atlantic Ocean.
Go Cruising A1A
You can cruise on A1A, (the locals love driving on A1A),play on the beach, play water sports, or… simply just lounge and enjoy the sound of the ocean.
Wave Wall and the Beachfront Promenade
If getting sand between your toes isn’t your thing, fear not, there is plenty to do around the beach area. You take a long walk on the pavement alongside the beach or rent a bike and discover the many sights Fort Lauderdale beach has to offer, such as the renowned Wave Wall and the Beachfront Promenade. (Fishing, diving, snorkeling, and boat excursions are also available)
But the busy area of Fort Lauderdale Beach isn’t the only place you can enjoy beach life in the Greater Fort Lauderdale. There are lots of little towns up the coast that offer comfortable alternatives for those who enjoy a slower-paced scenery.
Greater Fort Lauderdale Beaches
Some of the best and most popular spots to take a dip in Greater Fort Lauderdale include Deerfield Beach, Hillsboro Beach, Pompano Beach, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, Dania Beach, Hollywood, and Hallandale Beach.
When you are done enjoying the various sights, you can enjoy a meal overlooking the water with the choice of the ocean, or the Intracoastal waterway which runs through out Broward County. With a network of more than 300 miles of freshwater canals, it is easy to see why the region is called both “the Venice of America” and “the Yachting Capital of the World.”
There are multiple ways to enjoy the waterways in South Florida, you can rent a boat or take a gondola, or experience the famous Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi.
Enough with the generalities and let’s take a look at the places I explored while in South Florida. Below is what I did along with a few other activities I wish I had the time to enjoy.
Table of contents
- Getting to Fort Lauderdale
- First Stop: Fort Lauderdale
- Greater Fort Lauderdale Beaches
- Where to Stay in Greater Fort Lauderdale
- What to Look for in a Hotel in Greater Fort Lauderdale
- Relax at the AC Hotel Fort Lauderdale Airport
- Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood, Curio Collection by Hilton
- The Diplomat Offers Views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway
- What to Look for in a Hotel in Greater Fort Lauderdale
- Other Places to Stay in Greater Fort Lauderdale
- Dania Pointe
- Las Olas Boulevard
- Anne Kolb Nature Center
- 1-Hour Interactive Pirate Cruise
- Bonnet House
- Cycle Party
- Downtown Hollywood Mural Project
- Hollywood Beach
- Hollywood Beach Broadwalk
- Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
- Culture Center of Hollywood
- Dania Pointe
- On-the-Water Experiences
- Dining in Greater Fort Lauderdale
Where to Stay in Greater Fort Lauderdale
Are you looking for a place to stay in Greater Fort Lauderdale? You’re in luck! There are so many good choices, it all depends on your vacation needs.
What to Look for in a Hotel in Greater Fort Lauderdale
Since I was going on a cruise and flying into Fort Lauderdale, I wanted a hotel that wasn’t too far from the airport, but I didn’t want to stay in one of those business people hotels. I wanted something conveniently located, but something that had flair! I also wanted a hotel that would be close to a shopping area with some cool stores.
That sounds pretty impossible to find, doesn’t it?
Well, as it turns out, there is such a place. It’s a hotel that has an amazing decor and atmosphere, it is close to the airport and be next to one of Fort Lauderdale’s newest shopping area, Dania Pointe.
The name of that gem? The new AC Fort Lauderdale Marriott Hotel.
Relax at the AC Hotel Fort Lauderdale Airport
Located in the City of Fort Lauderdale and minutes away from Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport, AC Hotel Fort Lauderdale Airport by Marriott offers stylish, European design, with a hint of simplicity.
I love the decor of this hotel. It’s modern, minimalistic and upscale without looking too masculine or boring. The AC Fort Lauderdale Marriott offers a European style daily breakfast buffet that also offers all the necessities like coffee, tea and juice.
Then, I was on my way to the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood! Not THAT Hollywood, the Hollywood they have in Florida. Less movie stars, but they make up for it by having an absolutely amazing beach area. Hollywood Beach is located right next to Fort Lauderdale.
Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood, Curio Collection by Hilton
If you want to experience a private beach resort, The Diplomat Beach Resort is a great option. Its ideal location gives you quick access to Miami, Miami Beach and to the North, access to the rest of Broward County where you can enjoy many family activities.
The Diplomat Beach Resort Offers Two Beachfront Pools
This oceanfront resort offers two beachside pools, a “Dip + Slide” kid’s splash zone waterpark, and a private beach with diverse water activities such as jet skiing, kayaking, and paddle boating.
Offers 33 Floors of Hotel Rooms at the Diplomat Beach Resort
Located in Hollywood, the Diplomat Beach Resort boast 33 floors of hotel rooms and suites including opulent Diplomat Suites.
There are numerous alternatives in this incredible resort including different floor plans, separate living and sleeping areas, floor-to-ceiling windows, and more.
The Diplomat Offers Views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway
Views of the Atlantic Ocean, white-sand beaches, a cityscape, and the Intracoastal Waterway are all possible.
My view was of the Atlantic Ocean, and what a view it was!
Also home to Diplomat Prime, a luxury boutique steakhouse helmed by Executive Chef Rashaad Abdool.
The restaurant, which has a four-diamond rating and has been recognized as the Winner of the Best Award for Excellence by Wine Spectator, reinvents the menu with prime dry-aged beef, seasonally driven seafood dishes, and delicate cuisine.
Local Attractions by the Diplomat Beach Resort
- Hollywood Beach & Broadwalk
- Aventura Mall
- Hard Rock Stadium
- Gulfstream Park And Horse Racing
- Florida Marlins Stadium
- Bal Harbor Shops
- FLA LIVE ARENA
Other Places to Stay in Greater Fort Lauderdale
Take a break from the sun and shop at some of the best stores in Florida like Urban Outfitters, Anthropology, FiVe BELoW, PANDORA,Tommy Bahama, ULTA BEAUTY and more.
Enjoy Wellness Wednesdays every 2nd Wednesday of every Month, Night Market Fridays every 2nd and 4th Friday of Every Month, Cultural Saturdays every Saturday, Family Sundays every Sunday, and Weekly Live Entertainment every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday..
Las Olas Boulevard
The Boulevard, which runs from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beach at A1A, is a mile-long pedestrian strip where visitors may dine in one of many restaurants, like my favorite Louie Bossi, drink at one of numerous bars or go for a stroll.
From downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beach at A1A, Las Olas is home to a wide range of restaurants, bars & cafes, shops, salons and commercial businesses.
Anne Kolb Nature Center
Anne Kolb Nature Center is located along the banks of the Flamingo. So make sure you have sunblock and sunglasses! Also avoid wearing white or you’ll look like a ghost. If this isn’t enough information for you, keep reading to find out how many ways there are to play in Fort Lauderdale.
This is a great way for you to spend an afternoon. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are hiking trails that will take you through the few different ecosystems this park has to offer. You can also go fishing or boating in the nearby areas.
1-Hour Interactive Pirate Cruise
Prepare for a thrilling journey across the ocean on this fully interactive, family-friendly 1-Hour Pirate Adventure Cruise (check in is one hour before departure) along Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway, which is enjoyable for the entire family!
Get Welcomed by the Crew
The crew welcomes you with pirate ‘tattoos’ (face painting) and lessons in pirate lingo. Enjoy dressing the kids up as pirates to add to the fun! As you seek for sunken riches, battle against pirate villain ‘Barnacle Bill’ with water cannons.
Activities on the Trip
Your kids will enjoy learning about pirates, treasure maps, and mysteries of the sea as they explore an exciting pirate adventure in Florida. You’ll pass by this pirate’s domain and admire the beautiful houses and boats on your trip through the bay. All children will receive a genuine Pirate Certificate as well as a Treasure Bag at the end of the cruise.
The Back Story
In 1920, Chicago-bred artist Frederic Clay Bartlett built Bonnet House on South Florida oceanfront property bequeathed to him and his second wife, Helen Louise Birch, by her father Hugh Taylor Birch, a prominent Chicago attorney, real estate investor, and naturalist.
In 1925, Helen died of breast cancer, and Frederic married Evelyn Fortune Lilly in 1931. She spent her winters at Bonnet House until 1995.
The estate, now a prominent museum dedicated not only to historic and environmental preservation, but also to learning and creative expression, was created by the Bartletts specifically for this purpose.
The Bonnet House is open Thursday – Friday, 11am – 3pm, and Saturday and Sunday 11am-4pm
The Cycle Party® is a pedal-powered party that will have your guests smiling from ear to ear! This is one of the best ways to see Fort Lauderdale. The Bar Crawl is one of the most popular activities at Cycle Party®. A local guide will drive the party bike, ensuring that your group has a fantastic time as you ride for 2 hours and visit incredible bars and eateries in trendy neighborhoods.
Cycle Party Activities
They offer a variety of activities, including a scavenger hunt that you can play with your coworkers or friends and a foodie tour where you may sample local cuisine, as well as a progressive dinner tour that allows you to get fancy.
For the tour to go, bikes can accommodate up to 16 people and as few as 6.
Downtown Hollywood Mural Project
The Downtown Hollywood Mural Project is a project in downtown Hollywood, Florida, that was created by the Broward County’s largest outdoor contemporary art mural program. The Downtown Hollywood Mural Project is among the most walkable of all Broward County mural projects, which was established by the Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency in August 2012.
“Best Public Art 2013” by the New Times Broward
It was dubbed “Best Public Art 2013” by the New Times Broward. It is part of a larger project called “Downtown Hollywood: Where Art Meets History.” The work began in December 2012 and was completed in the summer of 2013, when all 18 murals were put up and dedicated during an event attended by hundreds.
Downtown Hollywood ArtWalk
The third Saturday of each month is the Downtown Hollywood ArtWalk, which features the DHMP Mural Tour as a free and open event for the public to attend. The tour usually has a muralist in progress on their wall, and it’s free and open to everyone. These active muralists engage with visitors throughout the tour, explaining their work.
Of course, there are several wonderful sites to visit in Fort Lauderdale, and one of the most popular is Hollywood Beach. This stretch of A1A is ideal for those who want to relax on the beach or tan peacefully.
Hollywood Beach Broadwalk
The Broadwalk is a unique location since you can rent a bike or roller skate from there, too. If walking, cycling, or skating isn’t your thing, street performers and artists will gladly accept payment in order to make your day more enjoyable.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
If you’re over 21 years old, you can play at this casino. You have the option of playing slots or blackjack! They occasionally have live music that is sure to get you dancing.
Culture Center of Hollywood
The Art and Culture Center is one of Fort Lauderdale’s most underappreciated gems.
The Back Story
The house was built on a tract of land that once belonged to Mr. and Mrs. Jack Kagey, who were one of the first families in Hollywood. The beautiful Mediterranean Revival mansion was constructed in 1924 and is a fine example of the style.
This museum is free, and it also offers one of the few chances to interact with all of the exhibits. Each exhibit has its own unique display case that provides further information about its history. If your family likes art, this location is well worth seeing!
Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi
A water taxi is the ideal method to go from one end of Fort Lauderdale to the other. Take a narrated cruise on/off or around the Water Taxi’s 10 stops for a thrilling trip.
The Water Taxi will take you on a tour of the city’s history while also educating you about the city’s magnificent homes, boutiques, yachts, and South Florida history. Purchase an All Day Pass or an Evening Pass for a fun night out.
- Riverside Hotel and Stranahan House
- Los Olas Boulevard Shops and Restaurants
- 15th Street Fisheries
- Hilton Marina and Convention Center
- South End of Bahia Mar*
- Beach Place, Fort Lauderdale Beach, Cortez Street at the Intercoastal*
- Galleria Mall
- Birch State Park, Park and Ocean*
- Shooters Waterfront* (3033 NE 32nd Ave)*
- Bokamper’s Sports Bar and Grill, Oakland Park Boulevard
- Seville Street (on demand)
The Riverfront Gondola Tours
Private gondola rides along the gorgeous canals and waterways of Ft. Lauderdale are offered by Riverfront Gondola Tours. Each boat can carry up to 6 passengers, allowing for a pleasant 90-minute journey!
Fueled by Electricity
The electric gondolas are silent and emission-free due to the fact that they are fueled by electricity.
A dinner cruise on the Grand Princess, on the other hand, may be booked with First Class partner restaurant Casa Sensi.
What’s Included in the Tour
While Riverfront Gondola Tours provides the table and boat, Casa Sensi prepares and serves your food on board.
All excursions beginning at 12:30 p.m. or later include the dinner cruise option.
Take a Romantic Ride on Las Olas Gondola
Take a romantic ride on an authentic, Venetian gondola through the canals of Fort Lauderdale – the Venice of America. Professional gondoliers will lead you along the canals while you sit back and relax during your trip.
On a one-of-a-kind floatable tiki bar, you may go for a ride on the New River in Fort Lauderdale. Bring your own drinks and enjoy a custom cruise or sunset charter. Cruisin’ Tikis can hold up to six people and trips last from 90 minutes to four hours in length.
Dining in Greater Fort Lauderdale
Dine at Oceanfront Sunset Surf Sand (S3)
With a wide range of local cuisine and shared plates, Sunset Surf Sand (S3) on Fort Lauderdale Beach is the greatest oceanfront dining on the beach.
A simple stroll past the sand dunes to a balcony with views of the ocean brings you to this lovely, tiered beach. It also has an elegant-casual atmosphere that provides guests one of the best vantage points on any other stretch of beach.
Dance to Live Music at Shooters
Since 1982, Shooters is a laid-back place on the Intracoastal Waterway with food, drinks, live music, and water views. While you dine on Floridian cuisine and enjoy the dockside view.
MomJunky Travel Tip:
Shooters is also a Fort Lauderdale water taxi stop
People Watch Harborwood Urban Kitchen & Bar
The stunning Hyatt Centric Las Olas has a jaw-dropping view of the city. It’s ideal for people-watching, soaking in downtown views, and sampling tasty snacks and handcrafted beverages.
The Harborwood Urban Kitchen & Bar serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals using fresh, contemporary American cuisine with locally sourced ingredients from the neighborhood.
Check out a Rooftop Bar KU DE TA
Nestled atop The Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort is one of coastal Florida’s best rooftop bars, KU DE TA . This chic hotspot features dramatic views of both the Atlantic Ocean and Intracoastal Waterway. Patrons flock to its signature cocktails, tapas menu and lively dance floor.
Dine and Drink in a Speakeasy Room Nine01
Room 901 is inside the Hyatt Centric Las Olas and is the most elegant place to sip and enjoy without having to deal with the huge crowds. The speakeasy has a vintage 1920s vibe, and it only takes reservations. Room 901 is open on Thursday through Sunday and requires a $50 per person food and beverage spend.
Greater Fort Lauderdale’s first food hall, Flagler Village Artsy, is located near to Historic Sistrunk, the town’s beating heart and soul. Sistrunk Marketplace has a variety of cuisines, a brewery, a distillery, a marketplace, event spaces, and even a DJ school.
Dine at the Boatyard Restaurant
The Boatyard is a seaside restaurant in Fort Lauderdale that specializes in the finest daily catches and seasonal contemporary American cuisine served in a premium, laid-back atmosphere with creative drinks and happy hours for guests to enjoy indoors, outside, or dockside.
The Boatyard, with an ‘Eat Local, Be Coastal’ attitude, offers a brunch, lunch, and dinner menus as well as a vegan selection.
With so many options to dine and play in Greater Fort Lauderdale, I had to take advantage of a few days after my cruise. I can’t wait to come back next year!