7 Best Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, FL

 7 Best Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Get ready, because there are lots of great things to do in Fort Lauderdale, Florida!

The city of Fort Lauderdale is named for a Second Seminole War fortification built on the banks of the New River in 1838.

That year, Major William Lauderdale led a detachment of Tennessee Volunteers south along the east coast of Florida. Their mission was to capture Seminole agricultural lands and battle the elusive Indian warriors.

Altogether, three forts named after Major Lauderdale would be constructed.

The first is at the fork of New River. The second is at Tarpon Bend. The third and the largest is on the beach at the site of Bahia Mar. None of the forts survive today.

Today, Fort Lauderdale is famous for its great weather, beaches, arts, culture, and events.

7 Best Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, FL

Fort Lauderdale beach
Fort Lauderdale beach

The greater Fort Lauderdale area has twenty-three miles of sandy white beach to enjoy and with over 3,000 hours of sunshine every year and winter temperatures ranging from the 50s to the 80s.

It's a balmy, picturesque place to explore. In fact, it's a stop on the Best RV Road Trips in the U.S.

1. The Riverwalk

In the heart of downtown, the Riverwalk covers both the north and south banks of the New River.

Hundreds of years ago, settlers and Native Americans would bring their wares along the shores to be bought, sold, and traded. It was the birthplace of the city so it’s fitting that it is now the centerpiece of Downtown Fort Lauderdale.

We’re going to focus on the museums and historical buildings here but there are a ton of other things to explore. There's everything from fashion boutiques and art galleries, to remarkable restaurants, cafes, and cocktail bars.

You could spend all afternoon strolling along this famous street and riverfront, taking in all the city has to offer.

One of the best ways to get around is the free Riverwalk Water Trolley which stops at 8 points along the Riverwalk, 4 on each side. The trolley runs daily from 10 am-10 pm.

2. Museum of Discovery and Science

With two floors and packed with hundreds of interactive exhibits, the Museum of Discovery and Science explores a variety of different fields of science.

You can explore the wetlands of the Everglades with a ride on the Everglades Airboat Adventure. Then experience hurricane-force winds in the Storm Center.

Plus, understand Florida’s prehistoric past with a giant prehistoric megalodon, saber-toothed cat, and an Imperial mammoth.

And enjoy the playful antics of North American river otters in their two-story indoor/outdoor habitat. There’s also a spectacular six-story-high IMAX theater.

The museum is open year-round, Mon-Sat from 10 am-5 pm, and Sun from 12 pm-5 pm.

3. History Fort Lauderdale

Our next stop is History Fort Lauderdale which houses a historic village with the largest concentration of historic buildings remaining in Broward County.

There are four different museums here that explore and preserve the local history including:

  • Fort Lauderdale History Museum
  • 1907 Pioneer House Museum
  • 1899 Schoolhouse Museum
  • Hoch Heritage Center/Research Library

The museum is open year-round, hours are 12 pm-4 pm Mon-Fri and 9:30 am-4 pm on weekends. There are guided tours daily at 1, 2, and 3 pm. Always call and check ahead.

7 Best Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, FL 2
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4. Historic Stranahan House Museum

The Stranahan House showcases the home built in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, Fort Lauderdale’s founding father and his wife Ivy Cromartie Stranahan, the area's first school teacher.

The house has served as a trading post, post office, community center, town hall, and home to the Stranahans. This is a place that has been pivotal to Fort Lauderdale since it was built and played a significant role in the economic and social life of this community.

Admission to the museum is by guided tour only. Tours are given daily at 1, 2, and 3 pm and last about 45-60 minutes.

Let's keep this going – Here are a few more things to do in Fort Lauderdale

5. Bonnet House Museum and Gardens

To get some more local history, take the trolley north to its final stop at the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens.

The Bonnet House was created by Chicago-born artist Frederic Clay Bartlett in 1920. The land where the house was built was given to him and his wife, Helen Louise Birch as a wedding gift from her father Hugh Taylor Birch.

Both lovers of art and ecology, they decorated and built this unique house to compliment the surrounding land. It served as a winter retreat where Helen could compose music and sing while Frederic, a talented and aspiring artist, could work on his art in a place full of inspiration and natural beauty.

Frederic’s art is one of the main attractions of the Bonnet House Museum, as well as the artwork that they collected over the years.

It is gorgeous here, the house gets its name from the beautiful Spatterdock Lily or Bonnet Lily and there are ponds with bonnet water lilies and tropical gardens surrounding this historic 35-acre courtyard-style waterfront home.

The inside is magnificently ornate as well. You can explore the Main House and gardens but don’t miss the Shell Museum Complex. It showcases shells from around the world, Orchid House, and the Bartlett’s private Bamboo Bar.

The Bonnet House is open 9 am-4 pm Tues-Sun and guided tours are available every day on the hour from 9:30 am to 3:30pm. Make sure you check ahead to verify the schedule.

6. The Beaches

After you’ve discovered the Riverwalk and Las Olas Boulevard, it’s time to head all the way down Las Olas Boulevard to the beach!

The easiest way to do this is to take the Sun Trolley along the Beach and Las Olas loop.

If you’re looking to relax at the beach, Las Olas Beach and Fort Lauderdale Beach offer miles and miles of sugar-sand beaches to enjoy.

And the last on our last, but not the last at all when you are looking for things to do in Fort Lauderdale – this beautiful State Park.

7. Hugh Taylor Birch State Park

A short walk from the Bonnet House and the hustle and bustle of local restaurants, shops, and beachside condos is another gem in the Florida state park system, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.

In 1893, Chicago attorney Hugh Taylor Birch came to South Florida in search of a secluded area for his home. He settled in a small village called Fort Lauderdale that included a store, a few houses, and the remains of the old Fort Lauderdale Army Post.

Purchasing ocean-front property for about a dollar per acre, he eventually owned a three-and-a-half-mile stretch of land along the beach.

In his twilight years, Birch wished to preserve his subtropical paradise from the development springing up around it. He donated his estate for use as a public park on December 31, 1941.

Today, the park is one of the most unique features in Fort Lauderdale. It is frequently compared to Central Park in New York City as both are seen as an island of peaceful green vegetation in the midst of a bustling city.

There are several hiking and biking trails throughout the park as well as spectacular beaches.

The Exotic Trail runs through the middle of the park and traces a path through the exotic gardens of the former estate of Hugh Taylor Birch, Terramar. There are more than 200 species on display and the trail leads you past interesting botanical species such as Arjan from India, natal plum, and a Zulu fig tree.

Your Favorite Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

We'd love to hear about your favorite things to do in Fort Lauderdale. Please share in the comments!

We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.

Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter. 

That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys. 

Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.

All together these guides are over 300 pages of content! 

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

3 Comments

  • Another little known attraction in the Fort Lauderdale area is the International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF). It is located at 1 Hall of Fame Drive just south of the Fort Lauderdale airport. If you are interested in swimming, water polo, diving or synchronized swimming, you will want to visit the ISHOF.

    As a SCUBA diver, I am always looking for interesting places to dive. The waters off the Fort Lauderdale beaches are home to many coral reefs and wrecks. The dive sites have a full range of difficulty from beginner to advanced dives.

  • Another must do in Fort Lauderdale is to take a tour of the Jungle Queen Riverboat. This is a great way to see the inside of the city along the miles and miles of canals.

  • Fort Lauderdale is our home base once again. It’s where we lived until 2003 when we sold our house and went full-time RVing until downsizing and part-timing.
    Yves beat me to the mention of the Jungle Queen Riverboat Cruises. It’s where we take visitors if they are new here.
    Jim Gallagher is right, too. Chris and I scuba dive from our kayaks directly off the beach. I often catch lobster for dinner.

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