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You'll love these top picks for family fun in Greater Fort Lauderdale. If you're just passing through on your way to a cruise, like me, make sure to add them to your itinerary!
Are you planning a trip to South Florida? With so many awesome places to visit, deciding where to go might get overwhelming.
Although my initial plan was only to fly out for the three-day cruise from Phoenix to Fort Lauderdale, I eventually realized that there are many places nearby worth visiting. I'm glad I took the time to explore South Florida a little bit more and got to experience some of the great attractions in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area.
Getting to Fort Lauderdale
After flying into Fort Lauderdale Airport, I picked up a rental car and started my journey!
First Stop: Fort Lauderdale
Flamingo Gardens is a botanical garden and Everglades wildlife sanctuary situated west of Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale is an easily accessible city, located only an hour away from Miami Beach, 45 minutes 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).
I started my journey in fort Lauderdale because I love the beach (if you don't know this about me yet, welcome to my blog!). The coastline and ocean views are amazing there.
Go Cruising A1A
If you're looking for things to do, driving on A1A is a favorite pastime among locals. Alternatively, you could spend time at the beach or playing water sports. Or if you'd prefer, just lounge and enjoy the sound of the ocean waves crashing nearby.
If getting sand between your toes isn't how you want to spend your day, no problem! There are still plenty of activities in the vicinity of the beach. For instance, you can take a long walk on the pavement next to the beach or rent a bike and explore all that Fort Lauderdale Beach has to offer, such as the Wave Wall and the promenade along the shore. (Fishing, diving, snorkeling, and boat excursions are also available)
But if you're looking to avoid the busier areas, fear not! There are plenty of small towns along the coast that offer more low-key scenery without sacrificing comfort.
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.
After a fun day of exploring, you can relax with a meal and a view. With the ocean on one side and the Intracoastal waterway running through Broward County, there are plenty of beautiful places to choose from. The region is called “the Venice of America” because of its network of more than 300 miles of freshwater canals - it's no wonder that it's considered the “Yachting Capital of the World."
There are plenty of ways to enjoy the waterways in South Florida. Rent a boat, take a gondola ride, or experience the famous Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi. Pick your poison and enjoy!
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.
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?
The AC Fort Lauderdale Marriott Hotel is close to the airport, next to one of Fort Lauderdale's newest shopping areas, and has amazing decor and atmosphere.
Relax at the AC Hotel Fort Lauderdale Airport
The AC Hotel Fort Lauderdale Airport by Marriott, located in the City of Fort Lauderdale near Port Everglades and Fort Lauderdale – Hollywood International Airport, boasts a stylish European design with a touch of simplicity. As one of our newest hotels, it offers all the amenities you need for an enjoyable stay such as free Wi-Fi,, a fitness center, a rooftop pool, and dining.
I like the design of this hotel. It looks modern and upscale, but it's not too masculine or boring. The AC Fort Lauderdale Marriott offers a European-style daily breakfast buffet that has everything you need like coffee, tea, and juice. It is within walking distance of Dania Pointe and a 30-minute drive to Butterfly World.
Then, I was on my way to the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood! Not THAT Hollywood, the Hollywood they have in Florida. Fewer movie stars, but they make up for it by having an amazing beach area. Hollywood Beach is located right next to Fort Lauderdale.
Diplomat Beach Resort Hollywood, Curio Collection by Hilton
For a private beach resort experience, consider The Diplomat Beach Resort. With its convenient location, you can easily access Miami and Miami Beach, as well as the rest of Broward County for family-friendly activities.
The Diplomat Beach Resort Offers Two Beachfront Pools
Nestled against the ocean, this resort features two beachside pools, a kid's water park with slides and sprinklers, as well as a private beach where you can try jet skiing, kayaking, or paddle boating.
Diplomat Beach Resort Offers 33 Floors of Hotel Rooms
With 33 floors of hotel rooms and suites, the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood offers luxury accommodations including opulent Diplomat Suites.
This resort offers many options such as 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
You could see the Atlantic Ocean, white-sand beaches, a cityscape, and the Intracoastal Waterway.
I had an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean from my room!
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
Dania Pointe is the perfect destination for a fun-filled day out with the family. With an impressive variety of over 100 stores and restaurants, you're guaranteed to find something to your taste.
If you need a break from all the sunshine, why not explore some of Florida's best stores like Urban Outfitters, Anthropology, FiVe BELoW, PANDORA, Tommy Bahama, and ULTA BEAUTY?
Visit wonderful restaurants such as Firebirds, Lime, Cucina, Bento, Rodizio Grill, and Marlin Bar. Or take part in Wellness Wednesdays on the 2nd Wednesday of each month followed by Night Market Fridays on the 2nd and 4th Friday. Every Saturday is Cultural Saturday, Sunday is for families and every weekend enjoy live entertainment!
Las Olas Boulevard
The Boulevard runs from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beach at A1A, and it's a mile-long pedestrian strip. You can find plenty of restaurants (my favorite is Louie Bossi), bars, and shops along the way, or you can just enjoy a leisurely walk.
Las Olas is renowned for its chic restaurants, bars & cafes, shops, salons, and commercial businesses - you can find everything from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beach at A1A.
Anne Kolb Nature Center
Anne Kolb Nature Center is located right on the Flamingo, so you'll want to make sure you have sunscreen and sunglasses! Also, try to avoid wearing white or you might look like a ghost. If this isn't enough information for you, keep reading to find out all the different ways you can play in Fort Lauderdale.
This is a great way 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
Check in one hour before departure for this fully interactive, family-friendly 1-Hour Pirate Adventure Cruise. This cruise is perfect for those who want to explore and find some adventure along Fort Lauderdale’s Intracoastal Waterway!
Get Welcomed by the Crew
Welcome to the pirate ship! The crew will give you face painting ‘tattoos’ and teach you how to talk like a pirate. Kids can dress up as pirates for an extra bit of fun. You'll hunt for sunken treasure and fight against the evil pirate ‘Barnacle Bill’ with water cannons.
Activities on the Trip
key As you and your kids sail the beautiful bay, you'll get to explore a pirate's domain and see all the amazing houses and boats. Your kiddos will love learning about pirates, treasure maps, and mysteries of the sea throughout this thrilling pirate adventure in Florida! By the end, Mom or Dad will receive a certificate proving their child is an official Pirate as well as each child receiving a Treasure Bag full of goodies.
The Back Story
Frederic Clay Bartlett, an artist from Chicago, and his second wife Helen Louise Birch build Bonnet House on South Florida oceanfront property in 1920. The land was given to them by Hugh Taylor Birch, Helen's father who was a prominent attorney, real estate investor, and naturalist in Chicago. In 1931 Frederic married Evelyn Fortune Lilly after the death of first wife due to breast cancer. Lilly enjoyed spending her winters at Bonnet House until 1995.
The estate, now a major museum for historic preservation, environmental education, and creative expression was established by the Bartletts for this very reason. The Bonnet House is open from Thursday – Friday 11 am-3 pm, and Saturday to Sunday from 11 am-4 pm.
If you're looking for a way to see Fort Lauderdale that will guarantee fun for your group, look no further than Cycle Party! One of our most popular activities is the Bar Crawl. A knowledgeable local guide will drive the party bike as you visit renowned bars and eateries in some of the city's coolest neighborhoods - all while pedaling away!
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 few as 6 people can join the tour, but bikes can accommodate up to 16.
Downtown Hollywood Mural Project
The Downtown Hollywood Mural Project is an outdoor contemporary art mural program in downtown Hollywood, Florida. The project was established by the Hollywood Community Redevelopment Agency in August 2012 and is among the most walkable of all Broward County mural projects.
"Downtown Hollywood: Where Art Meets History" mural project won "Best Public Art 2013" by the New Times Broward. The 18 murals were completed and dedicated in a ceremony attended by hundreds of people in summer 2013.
Downtown Hollywood ArtWalk
The Downtown Hollywood ArtWalk occurs on the third Saturday of each month and is free for anyone to attend. During the walk, there is usually a muralist working on their painting while people watch. The artist will talk with viewers about what they're creating and why.
A1A in Hollywood Beach is a favorite among tourists and locals alike for its serene atmosphere and lovely view.
Hollywood Beach Broadwalk
The Broadwalk is the perfect place to get some exercise while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. You can rent a bike or roller skate from there, or if you prefer, you can walk cycle, or skate. If walking, cycling, or skating isn’t your thing, street performers and artists will gladly accept payment to make your day more enjoyable.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
If you're looking for a casino that offers both slots and blackjack, this is the place for you. And if you're looking to have some fun and dance to live music, this casino occasionally offers that too!
Culture Center of Hollywood
Appreciate art and culture at the Fort Lauderdale Art and Culture Center.
The Back Story
The house was built on a piece of land that used to be owned by Mr. and Mrs. Jack Kagey, who were some of the first Hollywood residents. The gorgeous Mediterranean Revival mansion was made in 1924 and is a great example of this style.
Not only does this museum not charge an entrance fee, but it also allows visitors to interact with all of the exhibits. Each exhibit has its own display case that offers more in-depth information about its history. If your family enjoys art, pay a visit to this wonderful location!
Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi
A thrilling way to see Fort Lauderdale is via water taxi! You can purchase an all-day or evening pass to cruise around on the Water Taxi and explore 10 different stops. While you're aboard, you'll get to enjoy a narrated tour of the city's homes, boutiques, yachts, and history.
- 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
Looking for a romantic way to explore the canals and waterways of Ft. Lauderdale? Riverfront Gondola Tours offers private gondola rides for up to 6 passengers! Enjoy a peaceful 90-minute journey through some of Florida's most stunning scenery.
Fueled by Electricity
Electric gondolas are silent and emissions-free, as they run on electricity. For a more luxurious experience, you can book a dinner cruise on the Grand Princess with First Class partner restaurant Casa Sensi.
What’s Included in the Tour
If you book a tour starting at 12:30 p.m. or later, you can enjoy a dinner cruise on the riverfront with Casa Sensi catering aboard the gondola.
Take a Romantic Ride on Las Olas Gondola
Experience all that Fort Lauderdale has to offer by taking a ride on an authentic, Venetian gondola. As you sit back and relax, professional gondoliers will lead you along the picturesque canals – giving you a taste of why this city is nicknamed the Venice of America. Cruisin’ Tikis Fort Lauderdale.
On a one-of-a-kind floatable tiki bar, you may go for a ride on the New River in Fort Lauderdale. Bring your 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)
Sunset Surf Sand (S3) on Fort Lauderdale Beach offers delicious local cuisine, stunning views of the ocean, and an elegant-casual atmosphere that makes it the perfect spot for a beachfront meal.
Dance to Live Music at Shooters
Shooters serves up Floridian cuisine with a view of the Intracoastal Waterway since 1982. It's the perfect place to relax with some food and drinks, catch live music, and enjoy the dockside views.
MomJunky Travel Tip:
Shooters is also a Fort Lauderdale water taxi stop.
People Watch Harborwood Urban Kitchen & Bar
The Hyatt Centric Las Olas has a breathtaking view of the skyline that is perfect for people-watching, enjoying downtown views, and trying delicious food and drinks.
The Harborwood Urban Kitchen & Bar uses fresh ingredients from the area to create contemporary American dishes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Check out a Rooftop Bar KU DE TA
You'll be hard-pressed to find a better rooftop bar in coastal Florida than KU DE TA. This chic hotspot, located atop the Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, boasts 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 a swanky speakeasy inside the Hyatt Centric Las Olas. The decor has a vintage 1920s vibe, and it's much more intimate than other places in the area because reservations are required and there's a $50 per person food and beverage minimum.
Flagler Village Artsy, Greater Fort Lauderdale's first food hall is located by Historic Sistrunk-- the town's liveliest area. At Sistrunk Marketplace, you'll find an assortment of foods, a brewery and distillery, a marketplace, event spaces, and even a DJ school!
Dine at the Boatyard Restaurant
The Boatyard is a cozy seafood restaurant in Fort Lauderdale that offers the best daily catches and seasonal American cuisine prepared with only the finest ingredients. With its ‘Eat Local, Be Coastal’ attitude, The Boatyard welcomes guests for brunch, lunch, and dinner indoors or out on their stunning patio overlooking the docks. They also have vegan-friendly options!
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!