Best Museums in Fort Lauderdale

Fort Lauderdale Museums Offer Inspiration, Education and a Glimpse into Yesteryear

Fort Lauderdale is best known for its place in the sun and for welcoming millions of eager visitors who wish to enjoy it. But aside from the beaches, the fishing and the swimming, Fort Lauderdale is a sophisticated metropolitan area with a number of amazing world-class museums that offer education, inspiration and a precious glimpse into the amazing history of the city, county and South Florida as well. Visiting a museum is always a unique experience, as each one has its own distinct characteristics, style and content. Why not start out with the various historical museums, such as The Fort Lauderdale History Center, The Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum and the ever-popular Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. These museums offer a fascinating glimpse into Fort Lauderdale's storied past with photos, exhibits and tours that will give the visitor a new perspective on the Venice of America. The Dillard Museum is a unique visit for those eager to learn of the contribution of the city's African-American community. This inspirational center offers a history lesson as well as amazing current events. For fishing and swimming fans, there's a museum for both: IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum and The International Swimming Hall of Fame. Where better to exhibit these two sports than here with its world-class fishing options and endless swimming possibilities. And don't forget the arts! The Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art and the Museum of Discovery and Science are true gifts to the city.




Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum
Photo courtesy of Dale Mack

Today, the story of Florida's Seminole Indians is told as well as painstakingly exhibited in an amazing setting at Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Seminole Indian Museum on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in Clewiston, Fla., northwest of Fort Lauderdale. Arrive here, and step back in time. What's more, it's ideal for kids, too! They may just not want to leave. Once on site, start by walking through the museums and enjoying the amazing exhibits and collections on display. Here, learn their spiritual Green Corn Ceremony and Catfish Dance, their lively stick ball game, silver smithing, weddings and other aspects of their 1890s culture. What's more, modern technology eases visitors back in time with a multi-touch Microsoft Surface touch table. Interact with this digital content from the museum's collection. Also, get ready to view the museum's thousands of artifacts that cover 300 years of Seminole history and their living culture.

Recommended for Museums because: There is just nothing else like it. Learning about this segment of Florida's rich history is a must for the entire family.

Dale's expert tip: It's a bit of a drive getting here, but well worth the effort! Experience history first-hand.

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When it comes to family activities in Greater Ft. Lauderdale the Art and Culture Center of Hollywood is a cherished cultural center that is a perhaps the most all-inclusive stop, offering a myriad of art exhibits, theater, music and dance performances for every age. Little ones particularly enjoy lively performances by the Atlantic Coast Theatre for Youth, while older family members are intrigued by compelling gallery displays. Of course, the entire family can also dance and sing along together during dynamic dance and musical performances. Log onto their website for the latest exhibit information. Located right off Young Circle on the popular Harrison Street.

Recommended for Museums because: This museum is a great contribution to the area's appreciation for the arts.

Dale's expert tip: A great peek into the cultural contribution of Hollywood.

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Fort Lauderdale has a rich history which may be overshadowed by the more modern an sophisticated metro area that it has become. Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum chronicles the city's history from the early Seminole era to World War II. It also offers information about the city's historic district and a chronology of its development. Other exhibits feature scale models of historic structures, including a recreation of a Seminole village complete with arts and crafts. Next door is the King-Cromartie House and the New River Inn, both of which feature period antiques and a variety of displays. Guided tours are available.

Recommended for Museums because: A favorite location for generations of locals, Fort Lauderdale history is spelled out in its complete fascination.

Dale's expert tip: Plan to spend several hours here to get the most of this experience.

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Fort Lauderdale's rich history for African-Americans is presented in this inspiring museum. Many of the honors that are due to pioneers in the African-American community in Broward County are not recorded, but it is here through exhibits and lectures and special events that visitors and locals can learn more of this interesting and exciting chapter of local history. Built in 1924, this was the region's lone African-American school for children during segregation. This National Register landmark is now an inspiring tribute to African-American history and educators and houses a great selection of interactive exhibits and on-going events. Groups should call ahead.

Recommended for Museums because: The history of the African-American community in Broward County is an important chapter in the story of South Florida.

Dale's expert tip: Log onto their website for current exhibits.

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Fort Lauderdale History Center

Vacationers are often surprised at the long history of the city of Fort Lauderdale. Once a rustic outpost the Venice of America had all the trappings of a typical early 20th century town. The Fort Lauderdale History Center is just the place to discover the secrets of the bygone eras at this museum detailing centuries of history in Fort Lauderdale. Housed in the charming 1905 New River Inn, the museum features spellbinding temporary and permanent exhibits, with topics ranging from early Florida natives to the Spring Break phenomenon of the 1960s. After diving into the engaging displays, guests enjoy an intriguing guided tour of the 1907 King-Cromartie House and the quaint 1899 Replica School House.

Recommended for Museums because: An absolute must-see to get the full feel of this city's rich and storied history.

Dale's expert tip: Great place for a wedding ceremony and reception.

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If you go weak at the knees over a gorgeous set of wheels, don't miss the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, an exceptional local gem. Established as a non-profit foundation for education to showcase the history of the Packard Motor Company as well as to show the progress and development of skills in American engineering. The museum's reproduction 1920s-era showroom showcases 22 stunning Packard automobiles dating from 1900 to the 1940s, all in perfect working order and boasting unique details, such as special golf club compartments. After admiring the four-wheeled beauties, browse thousands of pieces of automobile memorabilia, ranging from hand-wound dashboard clocks to an incredible array of hood ornaments. A fascinating visit for every age.

Recommended for Museums because: This museum is not something everyone expects in the Sunshine State. It is a treat for auto lovers of every age.

Dale's expert tip: Plan to spend a few hours here. Kids will love it, too!

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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.

Recommended for Museums because: Bonnet House speaks volumes of the history and culture of the city Fort Lauderdale.

Dale's expert tip: Located right on A1A across from the beach, visit both and have a true Fort Lauderdale day.

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Museum of Art
Photo courtesy of

Add some color to your Fort Lauderdale itinerary with the Museum of Art on Las Olas Boulevard. Founded in 1958 and set in an amazing Edward Larrabee Barnes-designed architectural masterpiece, this museum boasts alluring temporary exhibits and a permanent collection of over 6,000 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. Make it a point to check their website often to mark your calendar to experience this true gem and gift to the city.

Recommended for Museums because: This exceptional museum has been nationally recognized for its steady line of world-class exhibits.

Dale's expert tip: A great place to introduce great art to kids!

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The Museum of Discovery and Science
Photo courtesy of The Museum of Discovery and Science

The Museum of Discovery and Science is an exciting hub of inspiration and education for adults and children alike. At this playful and exciting stop you can see sharks and the largest living Atlantic coral reef in captivity. Children will be thrilled to hang out with bats and be charmed by a slithering twelve-foot snake. Here guests can pet alligators, turtles and colorful iguanas and learn about this amazing national park in the Living in the Everglades exhibit. Test your pilot skills in nine cockpit simulators, and for those future rocket scientists, discover America's place in aerospace at Runways to Rockets. Hang on and take a simulated trip to the Moon or Mars! Plan to spend a day with the entire family at this interactive wonderland and let it take you to the stars.

Recommended for Museums because: This world-class museum effortlessly makes learning fun for every age.

Dale's expert tip: Weekends are busy here so, if possible, visit on a weekday.

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Meet 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...  More About Dale