Fort Lauderdale Things to Do
Fort Lauderdale is a favorite destination for retirees, families, and college students seeking an escape from the cold winters up north so they can spend time enjoying the sunshine, beaches, and other attractions in the area. If you are going to be headed to Fort Lauderdale, here are some things you should do and see while spending time in this Southern Florida community.
BONNET HOUSE MUSEUM & GARDENS
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is a striking historic site and is a must-see in Fort Lauderdale. Set amidst a peaceful seaside oasis overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, the unique 1920s-era house was once the beloved home of free spirited artists Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett. During a guided tour, visitors marvel at original furnishings and artwork created by the owners themselves before exploring the lush 35-acre grounds, home to one of the Southeast’s largest collections of orchids as well as parrots, swans and even wild monkeys. Due to the threat posed by nearby development, the National Trust and the Florida Trust for Historic Preservation listed Bonnet House as one of America’s 11 most endangered sites in 2008.
Fort Lauderdale has a beautiful beach without a crazy party scene (except maybe during the few weeks of spring break for colleges). The beach has sugary sands and crystal clear water. The beach stretches for miles along Route A1A and offers chairs and umbrellas to rent for the day (there are also plenty of showers and restrooms along the beachfront). Along the shoreline is a promenade bustling with tee shirt shops, tourist shops, bars, and restaurants. However, metered parking is limited near the shore. You might be better off taking the bus or a cab to the beach, especially if you plan to visit one of the many bars near the beach.
Las Olas Boulevard
Las Olas Boulevard is the main shopping and dining street in downtown Fort Lauderdale. Most of the shops and restaurants, with the exception of Cheesecake Factory, are independently operated and not chains like McDonald’s or KFC. Las Olas Boulevard runs down to the beach and most people take the Sun Trolley or the bus from the beach to get to the section with restaurants and shops. The trip is about 2 ½ miles.
The Riverwalk park is located in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale and is considered by some to be Florida’s most beautiful mile. The park showcases lush tropical landscapes and winding walkways link together downtown Fort Lauderdale’s attractions, restaurants, and shops. You can easily visit the Broward Center for Performing Arts, the Museum of Discovery and Science, the Florida Grand Opera, Old Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival, and the Stranahan House. All are within walking distance of one another along brick-lined Riverwalk Park. The 22 block district also includes the chic sections of Las Olas Boulevard and Las Olas Riverfront. You can even leave your mark in Fort Lauderdale on the Riverwalk trail with a personalized, engraved signature brick.
Sea Escape Cruise
Taking a Sea Escape cruise is an entertaining way to spend an evening. The cruises offer dinner, dancing, cocktails, bingo, gambling, and various other activities. The ship, by the way, is truly international as it is a Russian vessel (you’ll notice that all of the signs for fire extinguishers and other things are in Russian with English added as an afterthought!) sailing under a Bahamian flag. The crew members come from all around the world. Some of the cruises go all the way to the Bahamas and others simply go around the harbor off the coast of Fort Lauderdale. You have to go to the Cruise Port Terminal to get to the Sea Cruise.
Containing some of the last natural jungle growth in South Florida, Flamingo Gardens is one of the oldest Botanical gardens in this part of the state and a fasicnating place to visit. Consisting of a one-and-a-half-acre free-flight aviary featuring wading birds, a crocodile lagoon, river otter and bobcat habitats, wetlands, and a citrus grove make this lush tropical setting a fascinating place to visit. Visitors can choose to take a narrated tram tour or to walk a lovely paved path to see the grounds. There is also a small museum housed in the original home of the previous owners, which includes period furniture. Several cafes and shops are conveniently located within the grounds.
Sitting on its original site among the gleaming modern high rises of downtown Fort Lauderdale is Broward County’s oldest building and its most popular historical site, Stranahan House. This house is a classic example of “Florida Frontier” architecture. It speaks of the history of Fort Lauderdale as it was built in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, the area’s first permanent white settler, and was first operated as a trading post, set up to service early settlers and Seminole Indians. It contains turn-of-the-century furnishings and historical photos of the area. Daily tours are available at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. and last about 45-60 minutes. No reservations are required.