Endless boating canals, miles of sandy beaches, palms, yachts, luxury hotels, country clubs, bright, green, freshly mowed public parks, shops, restaurants, and oh so many bridges – once an unbeatable spring break destination, Fort Lauderdale has grown up together with the rambunctious students who were once its most devoted visitors. While there’s still plenty of partying all over the city, it does little to crinkle Fort Lauderdale’s classy, sophisticated veneer. Embodying the very best of Florida – beautiful weather, palm trees, shopping, the best beaches in the state, and a bustling, exciting culinary scene, the “Venice of America” is a serious rival to Miami Beach, which is way more famous worldwide, in spite of being in many ways the (albeit tasty) burger to Fort Lauderdale’s delicious steak, seasoned to perfection with a brush of fundamental pleasures found in the sea and the sun and just a sprinkle of luxury.
Plan your trip to Fort Lauderdale
1. WHAT’S THE BEST TIME TO VISIT FORT LAUDERDALE?
2. A FEW FACTS ABOUT FORT LAUDERDALE
3. ONE DAY IN FORT LAUDERDALE ITINERARY
3.1. Start Your Day at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
3.2. Visit the Bonnet House
3.3. Hit the Fort Lauderdale Beach
3.4. Also Check out the Las Olas Beach, Plus Lunch
3.5. Explore the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale
3.6. Discover the Museum of Discovery and Science
3.7. Have Some Fun at the Xtreme Action Park
3.8. Head Back Downtown for Dinner
3.9. Get Ready for a Night on the Town
4. WHERE TO STAY IN FORT LAUDERDALE?
5. DAY TRIPS FROM FORT LAUDERDALE
6. EXTRA TIPS FOR VISITING FORT LAUDERDALE
Similar to many other popular destinations in Florida, Fort Lauderdale has a subtropical rainforest climate. In simple terms, it means that Fort Lauderdale is always warm, with a median temperature of 18 °C (65 °F) or higher throughout the year. The obvious benefit of this is the 12-month beach season. On the other hand, the city also experiences a pretty long wet season, with hot and humid summer months between May and October.
Even in early fall, the humidity often builds up, causing almost daily thunderstorms and sudden downpours. Officially, the period between June 1 and November 30 is considered to be the hurricane season. With all that in mind, the best time to visit Fort Lauderdale would be between December and May. The weather is still warm, which is great, but it also means that the city gets flooded by visitors from other parts of the country looking to escape harsh winter temperatures.
Spring brings with it some of the best festivals in Florida, such as the Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show, the Tortuga Music Festival, and the Las Olas Art Fair. If all you care about is the searing heat and plenty of sunshine, feel free to visit in the summer, as long as you remember to hydrate and pack plenty of high factor sunblock.
The Tequesta were the first inhabitants of the area now known as Fort Lauderdale. After they were displaced by the Spaniards, the Seminole Indians were left as the only group of Native Americans in the area. Years later, during the Second Seminole War, they clashed with Major William Lauderdale, who raised a fort on the site of the current city in 1838. Frank Stranahan, a young man from Ohio, arrived in 1893 and built a house that developed into the area’s first trading post, bank, post office, and town hall.
That house still stands today, and serves as the Historic Stranahan House Museum. When Fort Lauderdale was officially incorporated as a town in 1911, it became the seat of Broward County, which started as a prosperous farming community. Funnily enough, while the warm, humid climate helped the area’s agriculture, only after home air-conditioning became commonly available (after WWII) did Fort Lauderdale and its suburbs experience significant growth. In the 60s, Fort Lauderdale became the Spring Break capital in the wake of the breakthrough success of the hit 1960 film “”Where the Boys Are”.
Today, Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America due to its beautiful beaches, extravagant waterfront lifestyle, and, most importantly, 300 miles of inland canals. The city’s 100 marinas, 50,000 registered yachts, and beautiful, immaculate beaches attract the country’s rich and famous, such as Marilyn Manson, Lee Majors, David Cassidy, and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, all of whom live in the area.
Follow this guide and make the most of your trip even if you’re short on time. These are the top sights and things to do on your one day in Fort Lauderdale.
An oasis of green between the urban city center and the ocean, the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is a wonderful retreat in the heart of the city. Spending a couple of hours at the park is one of the best free things to do in Fort Lauderdale, although there is a whole slew of available activities and opt-in tours of the park, including a guided Segway or bicycle tour.
The park opens at 8, so you can get there early to avoid the crowds and enjoy some peace and quiet that you may come to miss later in the day. The park was donated to the Florida Board of Forestry and Parks by an influential attorney from Chicago, which is why this little slice of heaven still carries his name. You can admire the freshwater lagoon, go fishing, hiking, swimming, canoeing, or wildlife viewing (keep an eye out for gopher tortoises, mash rabbits, opossums, tortoises, etc.).
You can also tour Hugh Taylor Birch’s former home, a gorgeous Art-Deco style mansion with exhibits about his life, but also about ecology, ecosystems, and the history of the region. The house is located south of the park across Sunrise Boulevard. You can pay for a guided tour, which is well worth it for the wealth of information the guides can provide on this majestic home and plantation, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Among other things, the place where the house is located contains a treasure trove of archeological evidence dating back to 2,000 BC. The location is also the site of the first contact between the Spanish settlers and the local Native American population, which was later eradicated due to diseases and displacement.
Not that there aren’t any indoor activities in Fort Lauderdale, but you can’t exactly expect to come to the Sunshine State and stay cooped up inside with the air-conditioning blasting on max. No, you’ll want to hit the beach. The closest beach and one of the most beautiful beaches in the city is the Fort Lauderdale Beach. Just head to the oceanfront and look around. Everywhere you look, it’s all Fort Lauderdale Beach – more than seven miles of golden sand washed by the most beautiful turquoise ocean. It is a very popular destination with the recognizable Wave Wall and the long brick-paved promenade lined with bars, restaurants, outdoor cafés, nightclubs, and fancy shops.
If you are looking for things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids, the beach is your answer. Water sports, spas, bike rentals, a Fun Center and a Pirate Center, the Fort Lauderdale Beach has it all, not to mention museums and art galleries. You could easily spend the whole day there, but show some restraint if you want to get around to all the other things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
Admittedly, keeping track of Fort Lauderdale beaches can be quite challenging for a first-time visitor. Basically, this is how it works. You’ve got the Hugh Taylor Birch State Park and the Bonnet House slightly to the south. The Fort Lauderdale Beach is right there near the Bonnet House and the Las Olas Beach is further to the south. The whole neighborhood is called Central Beach. It takes about 20 minutes to reach the Las Olas Beach on foot from the Bonnet House.
If you feel like it, go for a walk along the beach and take in the sights, including luxurious resorts and gorgeous condominium complexes. If you want to grab a bite to eat, the nearby Coconuts Fort Lauderdale stands out as an excellent choice. You can enjoy some great seafood dishes and watch the yachts cruise by as you relax on the spacious outdoor terrace. The food options include an excellent seafood platter, phenomenal oysters, tasty coconut shrimp, succulent lobster roll, and many others.
If you’re looking for things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids, take them to Coconuts for a great meal and then let them watch as the waiters feed the fish scraps. If you’re having trouble finding the restaurant, it is located right by the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum.
Speaking of museums, the early afternoon after lunch might be a good time to escape the searing heat and check out a couple of indoor activities in Fort Lauderdale. In terms of museums, the aforementioned International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum is certainly an option for fans of the sport who are interested in seeing Olympic medals and other memorabilia on display.
The NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale near the Tarpon River is a considerably more popular choice, with more than 6,000 works of art showcasing the visual history of human civilization. The modernist building where the museum is situated is an architectural achievement in its own right, designed by Edward Larrabee Barnes. Notable exhibitions include the impressive William Glackens collection, the stunning ceramic works by Pablo Picasso, and the remarkable section dedicated to Native American, African, and Oceanic Tribal Arts.
Less than half a mile away, across the street from Esplanade Park in front of the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, you can check out the Museum of Discovery and Science, whose exciting interactive exhibits have made touring this museum one of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids. Highlights include the Storm Center, the gigantic megalodon, the mammoths, the realistic FA-18 cockpit simulators, the marvelous IMAX 3D Theater (largest in Florida), and many others.
To get to the last two museums, grab an Uber/taxi from Las Olas Beach or catch bus number 11 from Las Olas Beach/Birch Road. The bus ride takes under 20 minutes for the 17 stops. Get off at Andrews Avenue/2nd Street.
In case you don’t feel like visiting both museums, pick one that suits your interests and spend some extra time there. When it comes to other fun things to do in Fort Lauderdale, nothing beats the Xtreme Action Park. You can get there in under 15 minutes by car or half an hour by bus (number 14 from Central Terminal to Powerline R/NW 51 P, total 27 stops).
With a recently opened virtual reality entertainment center, a half-mile go-kart track, escape rooms, and bowling lanes plus a bar, Xtreme Action Park’s got a little bit of something for everyone. Best of all, the action park is open until 10 PM, which lets you spend some extra time at the beach or one of the museums without having to worry about making it there on time.
There are a couple of fast food joints near the Xtreme Action Park if you get hungry from all the adrenaline and excitement. If you’d like to sit down for a proper dinner, check out TacoCraft Taqueria & Tequila Bar, located back on 2nd street not far from the Museum of Discovery and Science. TacoCraft serves excellent Mexican street food with a modern twist, prepared using local, seasonal ingredients. The exciting graffiti art and painted murals give the restaurant a distinct urban feel, in line with its location in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s bustling downtown culinary scene.
There are a couple of tacky nightclubs literally next door to TacoCraft Taqueria & Tequila Bar, so you may not want to barge in through the first door with a shiny sign hanging over it. As TacoCraft’s very name suggests, you can start your night out there with a couple of tequilas or margaritas before you venture out in search or other things to do in Fort Lauderdale after dark.
If live music, a large beer selection, and a large outdoor patio sound like something you would appreciate, you can visit Poorhouse, located across the street. An authentic, gritty rock bar frequented by locals and the generally unpretentious, chill crowd, this bar has become a real Fort Lauderdale landmark.
The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
1 North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
There’s only so much you can say about The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale – only so much that words are able to convey when you’re talking about a luxury oceanfront hotel featuring a 29,000-square-foot tropical sundeck with an infinity pool and private cabanas. The rooms all come with balconies, floor-to-ceiling windows, spacious marble bathrooms, and flat-screen cable TVs. The comfortable interiors all feel very warm and welcoming, with subtle touches of luxury that enrich and build upon Fort Lauderdale’s laid-back lifestyle. Highlights include the positive, friendly, and professional staff, the great on-site restaurant, and the excellent spa.
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood
1 Seminole Way, Fort Lauderdale
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood is so much more than just a hotel. A major entertainment center and venue with six concert stages and nine restaurants, this hotel is truly larger than life. The rooms all stay true to the spirit of Hard Rock, with leather accents, polished hardwood furnishings, and décor that feels steeped in musical legacy. Select rooms offer great views of the hotel’s outdoor pool area, which features cabanas, water slides, and a sun deck. You can literally stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood and never leave, chilling day after day at the Rock Spa®, trying Japanese and American-inspired fine dining, attending comedy shows and concerts, and playing at the casino. A small slice of Vegas in a setting that makes it unique and special.
Bahia Mar – Fort Lauderdale Beach – DoubleTree by Hilton
801 Seabreeze Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
Outdoor swimming pools seem to be a given at Fort Lauderdale hotels. Bahia Mar – Fort Lauderdale Beach – DoubleTree by Hilton also has one, in addition to a number of other excellent amenities, such as the on-site water sports facility with Jet Skis for rent, the private walkway to the beach, the modern fitness center, and a 250-slip marina. If you stay at this hotel, you’ll never run out of things to do in Fort Lauderdale, whether you decide to make your own adventure or relax in the comfortable, well-appointed rooms with sweeping ocean views.
The Hotel Deauville
2916 North Ocean Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale
With both private rooms and dormitories and a large pool in the grounds outdoor, The Hotel Deauville is an ideal choice for travelers looking for a hidden gem where they can relax and enjoy their vacation at a very reasonable price. The hostel’s location is unbeatable – mere minutes from Fort Lauderdale’s best beaches, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. In case you choose to go somewhere a bit further away, you can use the hostel’s bicycles. Additional highlights include the newly renovated lounge and kitchen area and the overall feeling of peace and quiet that makes The Hotel Deauville feel like home away from home.
One of the many advantages of staying in Fort Lauderdale are the numerous day trips and organized tours to other popular destinations and landmarks within the general area. Miami is literally a stone’s throw away, and you could realistically go to Orlando and visit one of the famous amusement parks there. However, there a couple of day trips that really stand out among the rest.
A day trip to the Florida Everglades is one of them, with exciting airboat tours and alligator shows to boot. From Fort Lauderdale, you can easily reach Key West, the iconic island city and the southernmost point in Florida. And if that’s not enough, you can go for broke and head for the Bahamas – amazingly, also in a day. To learn more about these day trips from Fort Lauderdale, consult this article.
While the average temperature in Fort Lauderdale is very warm (around 75 degrees Fahrenheit), it can still occasionally get quite cold, especially after heavy rains. Always pack a coat and a change of clothes for any type of weather, doubly so if you’re visiting during the winter months.
When it comes to the beach, remember that Fort Lauderdale is facing the Atlantic Ocean, so don’t venture out too far if you’re not a good swimmer and remember that there are all kinds of critters in the water, including jellyfish and needlefish. The bigger threat, however, is the powerful sunshine – and you will need plenty of sunblock to keep your skin from burning. It’s best to avoid the sun in the middle of the day and always seek out shade. If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Fort Lauderdale Itinerary, feel free to share them in the comments below!
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If you have any other propositions for this One Day in Fort Lauderdale Itinerary feel free to share it in the comments below!
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Anca is a travel writer and the founder of One Day Itinerary - the biggest collection of travel itineraries for those who are time-limited or just want to maximize their time while traveling. Although she easily becomes homesick for Croatia, she thinks travel is essential to her happiness. She has traveled to more countries than she is years old and doesn’t plan on changing that fact. In her travel guides she aims to inspire people to travel whenever they have a spare day (or two).