Fort Lauderdale's Best Attractions: Amazing Beaches and So Much More
By Dale Mack
Fort Lauderdale Local Expert
With all of the things to do and see in a city, deciding how to spend time can be quite an agonizing decision. 10best has narrowed all of the available attractions in Fort Lauderdale, Florida to a list of the most appealing and reputable, to aide in your decision making. You can rest easy knowing that any choice you make from our list is sure to please. And remember, it's not just the beaches people come to see. Fort Lauderdale and all of Broward County offers attractions and activities for every interest. History speaks at the Stranahan House and Bonnet House Museum & Gardens. Here guests see what life was like a century ago in old Florida. The city and county's parks such as the The Hugh Taylor Birch State Park welcome nature lovers who enjoy hiking, biking, and picnicing. Take a drive west of the city to Sawgrass Recreation Park and enjoy the wonders of the Florida Everglades. To see nature up close and personal visit the amazing Butterfly World or watch the flamingo's at Flaming Gardens. Fort Lauderdale's museums are world class. Plan to spend time at the amazing Museum of Discovery and Science and the Museum of Art. Exhibits will not only entertain but educate. Perhaps one of the most popular attractions is the Jungle Queen Riverboat, where you will tour Fort Lauderdale and Broward County from its famous waterways on a guided tour. And of course there is Fort Lauderdale Beach, which has welcomed the world for decades.
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. (954-524-4736)
A truly phenomenal experience, Butterfly World awaits the true nature lover in us all. Located approximately fifteen miles north of downtown Fort Lauderdale in beautiful Coconut Creek, this fascinating exhibit has been entertaining and instructing adults and children of all ages since its opening in 1988. Guests enjoy walking through a screened-in aviary that looks like a tropical rain forest and is filled with some two thousand caterpillars and multicolored butterflies. Outside the aviary are extensive gardens, including a rose garden, a small pond, a gift shop, and a pavilion containing mounted specimens of exotic insects and butterflies from around the world. (954-977-4400)
Jungle Queen Riverboat Tours
The Jungle Queen Riverboat Company actually has several boats and offers two distinct tours. The Sightseeing Cruise is about three hours and takes you up the New River, past the fascinating Millionaire's Row, through downtown Fort Lauderdale, a bit of the Everglades, then a stopover at the Jungle Queen Indian Village, a tropical island environment with macaws, rare plants and birds, and even alligator wrestling. The Bar-B-Que and Shrimp Dinner Cruise lasts for four hours and includes a fascinating trip up the New River with an island stopover for an all-you-can-eat shrimp and ribs dinner and a show. Reservations are required. (954-462-5596)
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. (954-473-2955)
Sawgrass Recreation Park
While most visitors expect the Florida Everglades to be a large swamp crawling with alligators and snakes and reptiles of every kind, they find so much more. This gift of nature is a mosaic made up of many forms of wildlife and birds in their natural habitat. The Sawgrass Recreation Park for a fun way to learn more about the Everglades. Visitors take a narrated airboat tour where the guide points out native flora and fauna. Next is the alligator and reptile exhibit. Then, travel through reconstructed Seminole villages where Indian guides explain tribal customs and history. Finally you'll visit the vanishing species exhibit, which includes birds and a Florida panther. The entire tour lasts about two hours. Afterwards, you may visit the gift shop or cafe for refreshments. Fishing licenses, guides, and boat rentals are also available. (954-389-0202, 800-457-0788)
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
Walk from the beach into one of Fort Lauderdale's favorite tranquil parks, The Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. This immediate getaway is a 180-acre park that lies on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and the Inland Waterway. Popular for its peaceful beaches and swimming, salt water fishing, and surfing on the north shore. The area includes freshwater lagoons, mangrove swamps, and a hardwood coastal hammock. The park also boasts a nature walk, an exercise course, canoe rentals, picnic areas, and a concession stand. Take a stroll and pause to watch a parade of boats as they pass by on the waterway. The Terramar Visitor Center is unmanned, but visitors can request a ranger-guided tour of the beach hammock nature trail. (954-564-4521)
Bonnet House Museum & Gardens
Nestled in the heart of Fort Lauderdale Beach along A1A is the fascinating Bonnet House Museum & Gardens. Built in 1920, this breathtaking estate is on the National Register for Historic Sites and is a remarkable tribute to a bygone era. It is the former home of artists, Frederic and Evelyn Bartlett. The family bequeathed the property to the Florida Trust in 1983. The plantation style home reflects the Bartlett's penchant for European art and architecture. The estate overlooks a lagoon and comprises 35 acres of lush botanical beauty, wetlands, a fruit grove, lily pond, boathouse, shell museum and a theater surrounded by a moat. There is a walking trail and swans, monkeys and other wildlife live on the property. Tours are available Tuesday through Sunday. Workshops and lectures are available to the public. The site is available for special events. The gift shop features numerous unique items. (954-563-5393)
Museum of Art
Drawing art lovers to the heart of downtown and adding some color to their Fort Lauderdale itinerary is the Museum of Art. Founded in 1958 and set in an Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed architectural masterpiece, this museum boasts alluring temporary exhibits and a permanent collection of over six thousand works, many reflecting the vibrant South Floridian and Caribbean cultures. Art enthusiast or not, visitors are awed by magnificent Picasso ceramics, significant works by American painter William Glackens and contemporary designs by over 90 exiled Cuban artists. Visit the museum's website for their monthly itinerary of fascinating lectures, wine tastings, films, tours, family activities and more. And don't forget a stop at the museum's Books and Books for a line of related items to purchase as a memento. (954-525-5500)
Museum of Discovery and Science
Showing just how much fun science can be, Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Discovery and Science is a thrill for the entire family. Everyone will enjoy this interactive museum featuring exhibits on ecology, health, and outer space. Focusing on the local environment, displays include the Everglades Airboat Adventure, a real coral reef with sea creatures and tropical fish and a replica of an oak forest complete with mosses, lichens, and air plants that grow without soil. And here you won't have to wait for a hurricane to blow in to feel its incredible force. Visitors are in awe as they experience hurricane force winds in the Storm Center -- all very safely! The museum also houses an IMAX theater with a five-story 3-D screen that shows a changing roster of amazing films. (954-467-6637)
Fort Lauderdale Beach
One of the most popular beaches in all of Florida, Fort Lauderdale Beach draws millions of visitors each year to join in on all the fun. Florida is known for its warm temperatures and miles of beautiful beaches, and Fort Lauderdale is no exception. The beachfront area is known for its cleanliness and the variety of shops, amazing dining options and nightlife destinations that are nearby, not to mention the abundance of parking available in the area. Visitors and residents alike gather here to enjoy volleyball, boating, wind surfing, jet skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving and deep-sea fishing, just to name a few. The beach also boasts an attractive wave wall, a curvy and eye-catching wall that lines the beachfront.
About Dale Mack
Dale Mack has been involved in Fort Lauderdale tourism and promotions for over twenty years. Working for Travelhost Magazine in Dallas, Texas, he was especially drawn to the edition published by the Fort Lauderdale Associate Publisher; the city's beauty, its energy and the fun-in-the-sun atmosphere. When an opportunity came to relocate to Fort Lauderdale by another company, Dale accepted. He has spent the last nine years discovering "the Venice of America" and South Florida itself. Dale is the author of three children's books and numerous articles. He has also worked as a copywriter for the South Florida real estate market.
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