9 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Fort Lauderdale
Located on the Atlantic coast, 23 miles north of Miami, Fort Lauderdale is a predominantly residential resort city with a Venice-like series of canals and waterways. With seven miles of beachfront and a year-round average temperature of 75°F, it is a favorite for beachgoers. Once known as a spring-break hot spot, Fort Lauderdale has become a more sophisticated urban destination. The city's wide boardwalks and seemingly endless restaurants and shops give it the laid-back atmosphere that tourists crave in a Florida vacation. Visitors who want to get away from the crowds will love the upscale Las Olas neighborhood with its galleries and museums. Fort Lauderdale has far more to offer than just sand and sun, with a surprising amount of history, a lively art scene, and a unique ecology as part of the Everglades.
See also: Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale
1 Fort Lauderdale Beach
Fort Lauderdale Beach lies at the heart of the tourist area in Fort Lauderdale. Once known for spring break madness, when thousands of college students descended on the beach, the Fort Lauderdale beach area is now more sedate but still an entertaining stretch of sand. The beach is backed by a pedestrian walk and numerous hotels, restaurants, and shops which line the street running alongside the beach. In the streets that lead away from the beach visitors can still find smaller hotels and motels. As spring approaches the beach gradually becomes busier and more lively as sun seekers hit the sand.
2 Las Olas Boulevard
Las Olas Boulevard stretches from downtown Fort Lauderdale along New River to Las Olas Beach, overlooking the mansions and yachts of the Intercoastal Waterway. There are plenty of tourist attractions and things to do along the boulevard, from touring museums and art galleries to shopping at more than 100 specialty boutiques. This is a popular spot for dining as well, filled with waterside cafes and bistros. Another great way to explore the area is by boat, from a simple gondola tour or by chartering your own yacht for the day. Las Olas Beach is a quieter alternative to the main beach, and parking tends to be easier to find in this area.
3 Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a Fort Lauderdale landmark, Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is a mix of art, architecture, history, and ecology. The historic house was designed by Frederic Clay Bartlett and built in 1920. On display are collections of art and personal treasures. The estate covers 36 acres and was once the winter retreat of the Birch/Bartlett family. The surrounding grounds of the estate remain a virtual oasis of coastal wilderness, nestled amid the commercial development of the Fort Lauderdale beachfront. Containing five ecosystems, the grounds serve as a barrier island habitat that includes a beach, dunes, a maritime forest, freshwater slough, and delicate mangrove wetlands. The formal gardens include a hibiscus garden, desert garden, and the Orchid Display House.
Address: 900 North Birch Road, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
4 Historic Stranahan House Museum
Ohio businessman and trader Frank Stranahan built this pine pioneer's home in 1901, at the site where he operated his barge ferry business. It was expanded several times over the years and now features wide verandas, bay windows, a Victorian parlor, and tropical gardens. Period Victorian furniture and decorative pieces are on display throughout the house. Built to serve as a trading post, Stranahan House also served as the post office, community center, and town hall. The building has been used at different times as a restaurant and boarding house. The museum's gift shop features handmade items crafted by local artists.
Address: 335 SE Sixth Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
5 Museum of Discovery and Science
The Museum of Discovery and Science is home to permanent and rotating exhibits and programs that will entertain and educate the whole family. You can meet dinosaurs and look at real fossils in the Prehistoric Florida exhibit or explore present-day Florida's ecosystems, including a look at one of the largest living coral reefs on display. Both the Storm Center and the Wall of Wind explore hurricanes and their effect on all aspects of life. Immersive experiences include the Everglades Airboat Adventure and a variety of nature and feature films at the IMAX theater. Other exhibits include the eco-conscious singing robot Harry the Heap, who talks about recycling; the Keller Science Theater, with live demonstrations; and a two-story otter habitat. There is also a dedicated Discovery Center for children under seven years old to play and learn.
Address: 401 SW Second Street, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
6 Antique Car Museum
The Antique Car Museum in Fort Lauderdale focuses on the history of the Packard Motor Company. The collection, which is laid out in a replicated Packard showroom, includes nearly two dozen pre-war Packard automobiles, like the 1909 Packard Model 18 Speedster, 1916 Packard Model 1-35 Twin-Six Town Car Limo, and the 1930 Packard Model 640 Fire Engine. There are also other memorabilia, such as a gallery dedicated to the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Individual car pieces, such as hood ornaments and gear shifters, provide a unique look at trends, changes, and advancements.
Address: 1527 Packard Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
7 Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
This state park was a gift from Hugh Taylor Birch to residents of Florida. His former estate is a 180-acre park that sits between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean. Visitors will find this green space a welcome oasis, perfect for a quiet walk on the trails or an afternoon picnic. Canoes are available for rent to take out onto the freshwater lagoon to view the wildlife or even do some fishing. There is also beach access, as well as paved trails for cycling and rollerblading. Guests should not miss the Birch House Museum, where you can learn about the history of the park and its benefactor, as well as the ecological significance of its position as a barrier island.
Address: 3109 East Sunrise Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
8 NSU Art Museum
The NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale is a modern, unique three-story building in the city's upscale Las Olas neighborhood. It features more than 7,000 works of art in its permanent collections, including significant exhibits focusing on the work of multicultural and female artists, Latin American and Cuban art, and African and Oceanic Tribal Arts. The museum also offers educational programming and hosts special events and traveling exhibits year-round.
Address: One East Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
9 Everglades Holiday Park
Everglades Holiday Park has gained fame in recent years as the frequent set of Animal Planet's "Gator Boys," and now features daily live gator shows hosted by cast members. The shows are not only entertaining - staff members introduce visitors to the world of the Everglades' most notorious residents and educate the audience about the habitat and lives of the alligators. The park also runs airboat tours of the surrounding wetlands, where you will learn about the ecosystem's plants and animals that are unique to the Everglades.
Address: 21940 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Where to Stay in Fort Lauderdale for Sightseeing
If you are coming to Fort Lauderdale to enjoy the sun and sand, the best place to stay is near the beach. A wide swath of beautiful soft sand is backed by hotels and restaurants along Atlantic Boulevard. Additional restaurants and shopping can be found clustered inland on East Las Olas Boulevard, a five-minute drive away. Below is a list of highly-rated hotels in convenient locations:
- Luxury Hotels: With a prime location in the center of the action along the beach, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort features multiple restaurants and rooms with balconies looking out over the ocean. At the far south end of the beach, close to downtown Fort Lauderdale, Lago Mar Resort and Club is nicely tucked away with a private, 500-foot stretch of beach. A smaller, exclusive boutique property, the Pillars Hotel is a converted Caribbean-colonial house with 18 rooms in a spectacular garden setting, only a three-minute walk from the hustle and bustle of the beachfront.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The Courtyard by Marriott has a very good location at the south end of Fort Lauderdale Beach and is a two-minute stroll from the oceanfront. Also at the south end is the Bahia Mar Doubletree, set amid a marina full of luxury motor yachts, an easy walk across South Seabreeze Blvd to the beach. Offering good value in the mid-range category is the small snooze hotel, with free parking and free beach chairs and umbrellas.
- Budget Hotels: All the budget hotels are set back from the beach, and the price decreases as you move away from the oceanfront. Many of the budget hotels are smaller, older properties, and some have been fully renovated. Two blocks off the beach, the Tropi Rock offers decent rooms, some with kitchens, and a lovely pool area surrounded by lush gardens. A little further back from the beach, La Casa Hotel has a pool and rooms with small kitchens. Beyond walking distance, La Quinta Inn is two miles from the beach and offers comfortable rooms, a pool, and free breakfast.