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Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale

Sandwiched between the sizzling beach scene of Miami and the glitz-and-glamour of Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale offers respite for travelers seeking the simple pleasures of a Florida vacation: sunshine, shopping, and wholesome family fun. Although it has a past reputation as a spring-break party destination, the city has come into its own over the past couple decades, with a renovated waterfront, a burgeoning culinary scene, and daydream-worthy beaches bringing rightful attention to the “Venice of America.” Experience all the area has to offer with a hop-on hop-off water taxi or a sightseeing cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway, featuring views of popular attractions such as Millionaires Row, Hyatt Regency Pier 66, the 17th Street Causeway, and the Las Olas Riverfront. Round out your day with a post-cruise shopping trip or a Segway tour down the boardwalk. Practically in Fort Lauderdale’s backyard, the 1.5 million–acre (607,000-hectare) Everglades National Park promises a full day of family fun. Board an airboat to scout for sightings of alligators, roseate spoonbills, and egrets on a swamp tour through the aptly named "River of Grass;" or take a nature walk through palmetto-lined trails. Other easy day trips include snorkeling in Key West or fishing in Pompano Beach, making Fort Lauderdale a convenient base for your South Florida vacation.
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Fort Lauderdale Beachfront
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Featuring over 23 miles (37 kilometers) of pristine beach, visitors will have plenty of opportunities to swim and sunbathe. The Fort Lauderdale beachfront offers a wide number of experiences, like wind surfing, jet skiing, boating, snorkeling, deep sea fishing and scuba diving. If you’d rather stay on land, jogging, cycling, rollerblading and beach sports like volleyball and Frisbee are worthwhile beachfront options.

Spend some time in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, known for its scuba diving offerings and pier where you can watch fishermen reeling in fresh catch. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is another top experience when exploring Fort Lauderdale’s beachfront, and can be accessed via the pedestrian tunnel under A1A. This park has a tropical-feel and offers chances to kayak, fish and cycle. And of course, visiting the beaches themselves is a must, like the family-friendly Deerfield Beach, trendy Fort Lauderdale Beach and adventure-focused Hallandale Beach.

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Everglades Holiday Park
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Nicknamed the "Gateway to the Everglades," this 29 acre (.12 sq. km) park has been entertaining and educating visitors for more than 30 years. Most famous for its guided airboat rides, as well as being the home to the Animal Planet’s Gator Boys show, Everglades Holiday Park is a classic—if a bit kitschy—introduction to the Everglades and its wild inhabitants. With covered airboats, the ride into the Everglades is a bit more civilized and finding alligators is almost guaranteed, as the guides know their scaly neighbors by sight. The gator “wrestling” show by the Gator Boys is a crowd favorite; those who like to walk on the wild side can even get their picture taken holding a live gator.

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Jungle Queen Riverboat
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Voyage the waterways of Fort Lauderdale's New River on the Jungle Queen Riverboat and stop at a Native American village and experience a stunning tropical island environment complete with extraordinay plants and birds and tussling alligators. For more than 50 years, visitors have traveled on this dignified riverboat to be entertained by the crew and sights of Fort Lauderdale. The Jungle Queen Riverboat Company owns several boats and offers two distinct tours.

The Sightseeing Cruise lasts about 3 hours, and will take you up the New River, including a stopover at the "Jungle Queen Indian Village." The Bar-B-Que and Shrimp Dinner Cruise lasts roughly 4 hours, and also includes a trip up the New River. There is an island stopover for an all-you-can-eat shrimp and ribs dinner and a live variety show amid tropical foliage.

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Historic Stranahan House Museum
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The Historic Stranahan House Museum is the oldest surviving structure in Fort Lauderdale. It was built in 1902 as a trading post by Frank Stranahan, the founder of the city, and used by Stranahan’s wife, Ivy, as a school house. Over the decades it has also served as a post office, community center, and town hall. Today it’s a historic attraction that’s open daily for guided tours.
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NSU Art Museum
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The NSU Art Museum is located on Fort Lauderdale’s Las Olas Boulevard, a key part of the vibrant art district. Visitors can view more than 6,000 works in the museum’s international collection, which has a strong focus on South Florida and Caribbean culture, with artwork by Cuban artists, William Glackens, and northern European CoBrA artists.
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Sawgrass Recreation Park
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A marshy expanse of humid swamps, the majority of the 1.5 million acres that make up the Florida Everglades are inaccessible wilderness. With a visit to Sawgrass Recreation Park, however, guests are able to ride on a high-speed airboat and navigate the same marshes where Seminole Indians once roamed and endangered animals still call home.

Located only 30 minutes outside the urban streets of downtown Ft. Lauderdale, the Sawgrass Recreation Park not only provides thrilling rides over the glassy waters of the Everglades, but also gives visitors the chance to spot alligators living in the wild and other marshland animals such as slithery pythons, black leopards, and the endangered Florida panther.

Morning hours are best during the summer months as afternoons in the Everglades are prone to wind and thunderstorms, although those looking for a unique thrill can take part in the night time alligator viewing sessions which depart into the marshes various nights per week.

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Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale
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Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk is located in the historic downtown district by the New River. Experience Florida's most beautiful mile, showcasing rich tropical landscape and winding walkways linking downtown Fort Lauderdale's best attractions on the Riverwalk. Take a river bus along the canals and see elaborate homes and yachts if it suits your fancy.

The Riverwalk is composed of a park and a collection of shops, restaurants, clubs bars, and a movie theatre. It also includes important Fort Lauderdale attractions, such as the Broward Center for Performing Arts, the Museum of Discovery and Science, the Florida Grand Opera, Old Fort Lauderdale. The Riverwalk is a lovely place to go for stroll, grab a bite to eat, enjoy outdoor entertainment, or revel in Fort Lauderdale’s exciting nightlife.

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Intracoastal Waterway Fort Lauderdale
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Touring the Intracoastal Waterway, you’ll understand why Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed the “Venice of America.” Made up of beautiful canals lined with palm trees, restaurants, hotels and attractions, the Intracoastal Waterway is both a means for transportation and an experience in itself.

Stretching 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) between the United States’ Atlantic and Gulf coasts, the main purpose of the Intracoastal Waterway is to provide a navigable route for ships that doesn’t present many hazards. Sightseeing from the Intracoastal Waterway is a special experience, as it allows you to take in Fort Lauderdale’s resort-like skyline, high-end real estate, yachts and attractions like Hollywood and the Las Olas Riverfront complex in a relaxing manner. For those who enjoy wildlife viewing, it’s not uncommon to also see manatees.

The Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale can also be enjoyed on land, mainly from one of the city’s waterfront restaurants.

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Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
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Encompassing 180 acres (73 hectares), Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is located near the Fort Lauderdale beachfront, although it holds a very tropical feel. Begin your day at the Terramar Visitor Center, which allows visitors to learn more about the park’s ecology and heritage through displays and exhibits. This will give you a good base of information so that when you’re exploring the park you can better understand the flora and fauna you’re looking at.

The major draw of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is its plethora of outdoor activities. While paved roads offer opportunities for cyclists and skaters, nature trails allow hikers to immerse themselves in organic beauty and see over 200 plant species. There’s also a freshwater lagoon for canoeing and kayaking. For those who enjoy fishing, the park features designated areas where this can be done. Also make sure to bring your camera to photograph the wildlife.

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Las Olas Boulevard
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Beginning from the beach, Las Olas Boulevard is a main thoroughfare of the Fort Lauderdale with numerous upscale shops, restaurants, and galleries. Lined beautifully with tall palm trees, it’s a beautiful hotspot of activity both by day and night. The ten main blocks that run from the ocean through to the city are well decorated with antique lamp posts, olive trees (with twinkling lights at night,) and Mediterranean style architecture. Many of the area’s best restaurants are located here, several offering al fresco dining as a way to take in the fresh air.

Shoppers can find more than 65 retail stores along the boulevard, while art lovers can enjoy the many museums and galleries. Nightlife comes to life every evening as well, when bars and restaurants become especially lively. Those looking for a scenic stroll would do well to walk along the eastern side of the boulevard, which is lined with canals and some of the area’s most beautiful homes.

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More Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale

Las Olas Beach

Las Olas Beach

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For a top Fort Lauderdale beach experience head to Las Olas Beach. The sand is soft and white and the water is clean and calm, making it a great beach for families. In fact, even the most apprehensive swimmers appreciate this attraction’s warm translucent waves. Visitors to the beach enjoy sunbathing, swimming and body boarding. Don’t worry if you don’t have beach chairs or umbrellas, as they are available to rent for a fee (about $20 for an umbrella and $12 for a chair per day).

Because of Las Olas Beach’s popularity those who want a quieter experience should go earlier in the morning, while those craving something more lively should go in the afternoon and early evening. On the weekends the beach can get wild, especially as there are many bars around.

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Museum of Discovery and Science

Museum of Discovery and Science

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If you’re looking for an educational and exciting experience in Fort Lauderdale, visit the fascinating Museum of Discovery and Science. You can see sharks and marvel that the largest captive living Atlantic coral reef. The museum’s animals include bats, 12-foot snakes, alligators, turtles, and iguanas.

You can also learn about Florida’s Everglades in an interactive cockpit simulator exhibit or discover Mars in the space exhibit, Runways to Rockets. The museum also contains a visually stunning IMAX theatre, which is the largest in Florida. Go on a cinematic journey complete with 15,000 watts of surround sound.

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Sawgrass Mills

Sawgrass Mills

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Shoppers looking for deals on brand name items have a great option when traveling to the Fort Lauderdale area thanks to Sawgrass Mills Mall in South Florida. Sawgrass Mills Mall is a Simon Center outlet mall with the claim to fame of being the largest outlet and value retail shopping destination in the United States.

With over 350 stores, Sawgrass Mills Mall has something for every fashionista and budget. Outlets for designer labels are plentiful with some of the most popular ones being outlet locations for Burberry, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tory Burch and more. There are also outlets for Nike, Gap, Tommy Hilfiger and other popular brands. Department stores include Neiman Marcus and Saks Off 5th, which carry even more designer labels. Budget shoppers will enjoy perusing through T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. You can even stock up on necessities while shopping at Sawgrass Mills Mall as there is a Target and Bed, Bath and Beyond onsite.

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Flamingo Gardens

Flamingo Gardens

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Florida is known for having one of the most tropical landscapes in the United States, and the Flamingo Gardens in Fort Lauderdale is a top spot to experience that ambiance. A botanical garden and Everglades wildlife sanctuary, Flamingo Gardens includes over 3,000 species of flowers and plants, including rare, tropical and Florida-native ones.

The Everglades area serves as an important part of the Florida ecosystem, as it is a vast subtropical wetland home to a variety of endangered species. Flamingo Gardens pays homage to this part of Florida's landscape by having a wildlife sanctuary on it premises where birds (including flamingos), alligators, otters and other creatures of the Everglades and Florida can reside if they have been hurt and are no longer able to live in the wild. As a result, over 90 types of animals that are native to Florida can be found here.

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Hollywood Beach

Hollywood Beach

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Los Angeles isn’t the only place with a famous Hollywood. In Florida, Hollywood is known for its gorgeous stretch of coastline, vibrant boardwalk and people watching. When visiting the area, you can lay down a towel on the soft sand of Hollywood Beach or rent a bike to coast down the boardwalk framing the gorgeous stretch of sand.

The boardwalk is what Hollywood Beach is most famous for. Called the Hollywood Beach Boardwalk, it stretches down the coast for two and a half miles and is made up of brick stones in varying shades of red. Walkers, joggers, bikers and rollerbladers are all welcome to cruise down the boardwalk at their own pace while being inches from the white sand beach and the aqua sea water beyond it. Numerous seaside restaurants and a couple of family-friendly parks can be found along Hollywood Beach Boardwalk and there are often free concerts at the Hollywood Beach Theatre.

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Dania Beach Pier

Dania Beach Pier

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Dania Beach Pier stands out from other piers because it is predominately a fishing pier. Even if you’re a novice at fishing off the side of a pier, Dania Beach Pier makes it easy for you. While fishing or simply walking the pier you also get to take in the sparkling blue of the ocean and the pretty coastline of Dania Beach.

The pier has fishing pole rentals onsite and bait you can buy, making it easy for visitors to join in the fishing fun. While you’re likely not going to set any world records with what you catch off Dania Beach Pier, there is a variety of fish you might find at the end of your line including Yellowtail Snapper, Grouper, Bluefish and many others. For those who want to do some night fishing, the pier is lit so you’re able to see what you’re doing. Dania Beach Pier has other amenities as well, including restrooms, benches and tables for cleaning fish.

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Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood Florida

Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood Florida

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The Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood in Florida is a multi-tiered venue with a hotel, casino, restaurants, spa, and nightlife entertainment all on-site. It features 500 luxury suites, award-winning dining experiences, and performance venues hosting popular music and comedy acts. There’s also the Beach Club, a tropical pool, and a fully-equipped spa for those who just want to relax.

Like all Hard Rock Cafes, the main emphasis here is on food and fun. However, the Hard Rock Cafe Hollywood, Florida provides the space and functionality to host events and meetings of all kinds; while it’s ideal for groups who like to play and party all through the night, it’s also set up to accommodate things like corporate meetings and networking events.

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Port Everglades

Port Everglades

Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is the embarkation and/or disembarkation point for many Caribbean and Atlantic cruises. If you arrive in town a day or two early or stay around after your cruise, you can take advantage of the southern Florida location with shore excursions to Everglades National Park or glitzy Miami.

Or hang out in Fort Lauderdale itself, where you can explore the Venice-like string of canals and relax on the sandy beaches made famous in the spring break movies of the 1960s.

The canal area and most popular stretch of beach, starting at Las Olas Boulevard, is a 4-mile (7-km) cab ride north from the cruise port, but because you’ll be getting on/off the ship with your luggage, chances are you’ll need transport to or from your hotel, first. Many of the chain hotels offer shuttle service to and from the port, and many cruise lines offer transport to and from the airports; check with your hotel or cruise line.

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