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.
Perhaps the most popular of all Fort Lauderdale area free attractions, the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, located just south of Fort Lauderdale has been named one of America's best boardwalks by a national travel magazine, is a beloved brick-paved promenade forever bustling with joggers, cyclists, sun-worshipers and ice cream cone-devourers. Built in the 1920s, the extensively renovated broadwalk has managed to maintain a delightful sense of Old Florida, with charming shops, sidewalk cafes, cozy inns and playgrounds and the ideal place for every member of the family. Special events such as live music are also well received as well as the weekly market.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Located in the popular Riverwalk area, this prestigious performing arts center brings a wide variety of cultural programs to Broward County. You can experience ballet, theater, musical performances and opera all under one roof. First class facilities feature state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment, ensuring an enjoyable time. Inside this amazing edifice is the Au-Rene Theater. This 2688-seat performance space is used for major international, national and regional productions. It includes a custom-designed and fabricated orchestra shell, which complements the architectural design of the Broward Center's grand auditorium. For Off-Broadway productions, children's theater, film, choirs, concerts, seminars and emerging dance companies, there's the Amaturo Theater - a smaller, yet stately 590-seat fully equipped theater.
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.
This beach chic destination is one of Broward County's exceptional Blue Wave Beaches. The world-famous Fort Lauderdale beachfront boasts four miles of publicly accessible coastline backed by a colorful array of exclusive shops, inviting sidewalk cafes and exciting entertainment venues. And for those who just can't get enough of this world class stretch of coastline real estate, there are some of the finest luxurious condominium options in the world. Once known for being a Spring break party zone for college students, this newly-renovated beach is now a family-friendly destination where visitors can swim, Jet Ski, snorkel and dive in the exceptionally clear waters, or simply stroll along the award-winning wave wall and majestic, palm-lined promenade and enjoy the unique buzz in the air that is Fort Lauderdale Beach.