Fort Lauderdale Travel Guide - Things to Do & Attractions in Fort Lauderdale

Travel Tips
Travel Tips
Nov 23, 2022


  • Things to know if you're visiting Fort Lauderdale for the first time
  • Getting to Fort Lauderdale - Fort Lauderdale's Airport(s)
  • Transportation in Fort Lauderdale
  • Best Time to Visit Fort Lauderdale
  • Top Attractions in Fort Lauderdale
  • Food in Fort Lauderdale
  • Shopping in Fort Lauderdale
  • Local Customs in Fort Lauderdale
  • Show More

With accolades like “Venice of America” and “The Yachting Capital of the World,” Fort Lauderdale distinguishes itself from its better-known neighbor Miami. A sophisticated urban destination with some of the cleanest beaches and waterways in the world, Fort Lauderdale mixes sun, sea, and sand with old-world charm and luxury services.

Located on Florida’s southeastern coast, Fort Lauderdale is within easy driving distance to nearby well-known cities like West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Miami. As the county seat as well as the biggest city of Broward County, Fort Lauderdale is one of the ten largest cities in Florida. The city’s over 183,000 population reside in 4 districts, and within the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, there are 31 cities or towns such as Lauderdale-by-the Sea, Pompano Beach, and Hollywood.

Fort Lauderdale has a long and rich history of over 4000 years when it was first settled by aboriginal natives. As time passed, the area came under the control of Spain, England, and the United States. Fort Lauderdale derives its name from a series of forts named after Major William Lauderdale in 1838. The area saw its first major development in the 1920s, and since then it has become a world-class international business center for marine, manufacturing, finance, high technology, and of course tourism industries. Fort Lauderdale is also the home to Port Everglades, one of the largest ship terminals in the world, and a major gateway for cruise vacations.

Most visitors to Fort Lauderdale will fly into Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL). While it’s the nearest and main international airport for the city, domestic travelers also have the option to use other airports in the region like Palm Beach International Airport, Boca Raton Airport, and Miami International Airport. Besides renting a car, visitors have several transfer options to go from the airport to the city center, such as private car, shuttle, limo service, taxi, Broward County Transit Bus, and Tri-Rail commuter train.

Fort Lauderdale Travel Guide - Things to Do & Attractions in Fort Lauderdale

Apart from the clean beaches, immense waterways, ample dining options, and most spectacular shopping zones, Fort Lauderdale has a vibrant art scene, pleasant parks, and marvelous museums. Indoors or out in nature, there is an abundance of activities for the whole family. Visitors can enjoy top-class dining with a show on a river cruise, take a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Everglade Park, see the city from above on a thrilling seaplane tour, and be amazed in Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum.

With its brilliant weather and world-class beaches and facilities, Fort Lauderdale is a popular destination year-round. But even here, it is important to know when’s the best time to visit to ensure you’ll have a perfect vacation, weather-, crowd- and money-wise. The periods around Spring Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays are particularly popular and packed, so first-timers should expect higher prices, and it’s advisable to book accommodations months in advance. If you prefer less crowds and lower costs consider visiting in the shoulder seasons, April through May, and September through November.

Not sure where to stay in the city? Fort Lauderdale has many great areas and amazing hotels, choosing the right location depends on the purpose of your visit, budget, and other considerations. If you want to stay in the middle of all the action, the Central Beach area is the ideal location. Not only will you be a short walk away from Fort Lauderdale Beach and nearby attractions, at night the area transforms into a strip of vibrant bars and restaurants. For families who prefer a quieter environment, Lauderdale-by-the-Sea is a quaint beach town with water sports facilities and plenty of dining options.

With luxury shopping and hotel options, as well as million-dollar mansions and yachts, Fort Lauderdale can be a little overwhelming, for the wallet that is. But if you dig a little deeper, the city is a great place for all travelers, including the budget-conscious. Here are some tips for first-timers who want to save a buck or two. With close proximity to several south Florida cities, visitors should broaden their flight search to include West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, and Miami airports for the best deal. Always check the local tourism board for regular discounts on attractions, hotels, and tours. Also search out for free activities, like the beach – one of the city’s best and cheapest attractions.

For visitors to Fort Lauderdale, the Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL) is the closest large airport. It is also the main airport that connects Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, and the Pompano Beach zones. Located only 5 km (3 miles) southwest of the city center, visitors can easily reach downtown hotspots in just a 10-minute drive. The airport has two runways and four terminals, around 30 airlines are in operation to link the city with the rest of the US and the world, including JetBlue, Virgin Atlantic, Silver Airways, Spirit Airlines, and Copa Airlines.

There are several transfer options between the FLL and downtown. First up, many visitors prefer to rent a car or arrange private transfer services for its convenience, including private car, shuttle, and limo services. Around 12 car rental agencies are available in a building next to Terminal 1. Taxis are plentiful too and can be found outside of the first level (arrivals) of each terminal. Fares are regulated by local law, e.g. to Fort Lauderdale downtown is $19.00 and to Port Everglades is $17.00, an additional $3 is charged from the airport to any destination. For more budget-friendly options, the Broward County Transit (BCT) bus route 1 includes stops at the airport and various locations in town. Visitors can also hop on the Tri-Rail commuter train which connects Fort Lauderdale with many destinations within Miami-Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County. A one-way ticket for the city center is $3.75.

For many international travelers, Miami International Airport is also an option for Fort Lauderdale as the two cities are only 48 km (30 miles) apart. The Tri-Rail train provides the cheapest connection for the price of $3.75 and it takes about 1 hour. Shuttle services and taxis are possible and reasonably priced.

As an alternative to Miami as a major cruise terminal for travels in the Bahamas and the Caribbean, many visitors come to Fort Lauderdale for its cruise port – Port Everglades. Conveniently located adjacent to an airport, Port Everglades can be accessed by car, taxi, bus, rail, and ship. Visitors can arrange a hotel transfer to the port or grab a taxi from downtown Fort Lauderdale which costs around $18-20, depending on your destination.

The easiest way to get around town is by car. For visitors who prefer to rent a car in Fort Lauderdale - and in Florida - it is worth noting that you must have your driver's license, passport, and credit card. Though the minimum age for car hire is 21, some agencies will charge more for drivers under 25 years of age.

For visitors who fancy taking a day trip to nearby locations like Miami or West Palm Beach, the Brightline train system is a convenient and affordable option for those without a car. There are regular departures throughout the day and each ride takes about 30 minutes. Fares start at $10-15 each and upgraded seats with extra legroom, complimentary snacks, and beverages cost $20-$25 each.

Why not cruise the city on a trolley? Sun Trolley provides several routes in downtown, along the beach, and on Las Olas Boulevard. Most routes are free of charge, except if you take the Beach Link and Las Olas Link routes where you’ll be charged $1 per ride or $3 for a day pass. In addition to trolley service, visitors can travel across the county using the Broward County Transit's commuter buses. You can choose to pay $2 per ride (paid in cash on board) or get a day pass for $5. Three-day, one-week, or 10-ride passes are also available.

Fort Lauderdale has a tropical monsoon climate which means hot and humid summers, and short but pleasantly warm winters. While tourists arrive year-round due to its sunny days and stunning beaches, the best time to explore the city is in Spring, from mid-February to May. During this period, the heat and humidity are moderate, and the hurricane season hasn’t fully arrived. The hottest month is August with an average high temperature of 32 C (89 F), and the coldest month is January with an average of 16 C (60 F). If you prefer to holiday in summer and don’t mind the heat, expect short rainfall almost every day with thunderstorms a common occurrence. Note that June through the end of November is the hurricane season.

Crowds are at their peak in Fort Lauderdale from end-November to mid-April, and this is particularly true around the Spring Break, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s holidays. From students to retirees looking to escape the snow elsewhere in the country, this city is everyone’s favorite tropical winter getaway destination. As result, visitors should expect higher prices, and it’s advisable to book accommodations months in advance. Can’t get the right balance between heat and crowds? Consider making your trip during the shoulder seasons - March to May and October to November - a great time to avoid the crowds, enjoy milder weather and even save a few bucks.

With its stunning sun, sea, and sand, Fort Lauderdale is a flourishing and sophisticated tourist destination on Florida's southeastern coast. Besides its white-sandy beaches and amazing waterways, the city also has many museums, natural attractions, as well as interesting historical landmarks.

Since the main attraction for most tourists are the beaches, sun seekers has got to spend a day on the city’s namesake beach – Fort Lauderdale Beach. On this strip of sand, visitors can enjoy a variety of luxury hotels and world-class restaurants. Take a relaxing stroll down the Beachfront Promenade, sit down for a drink in a trendy bar, or play some volleyball with friends in the nearby Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. If you fancy trying other beaches on the region’s 24 miles of sandy shores, consider Hillsboro Beach, Pompano Beach, and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

Often dubbed as “the Yachting Capital of the World” and “Venice of America,” it makes sense for visitors to experience the wonderful waterways, cruises, and water activities this city has to offer. Tourists can choose to explore the water by yacht, water taxi, paddleboard, or gondola. Alternatively, kick up your feet for a floating tour with one of the city’s many cruise companies, enjoy a family-friendly dinner and show on a private island, or go on an afternoon tropical isle cruise to check out the local wildlife.

For history buffs, Fort Lauderdale doesn’t disappoint either. Bonnet House Museum & Gardens is a historic home and beautiful designated landmark of the city. The stylish house was built in 1920 with many collections of art and personal treasures on display. The expansive estate is an oasis of coastal wilderness with formal gardens include a hibiscus garden and the Orchid Display House. For more old-world splendor, check out the Stranahan House Museum, King-Cromartie House, and Pioneer House Museum.

While the food scene in Fort Lauderdale is not as famous as its beaches, but visitors will still be treated to a wide array of cuisines and top-quality restaurants. The most readily available food in town is its amazingly fresh seafood dishes, you can find a great place selling delicious fish or shrimp around every corner because the locals are fond of eating seafood too. Visitors have got to try Fort Lauderdale’s many shrimp creations, whether it’s a large plate of shrimp scampi, baked stuffed shrimp, or coconut shrimp, you are in for a treat. For some of the freshest seafood in the city, check out Shooters Waterfront, Blue Moon Fish Company, and Coconuts.

It’s easy to find restaurants in Fort Lauderdale that serve casual American fare. Amongst all your usual comfort foods, try “the best damn hoagies in town” at LaSpada’s. As far as a hearty sandwich goes, this small sandwich shop has a cult status amongst the locals. Be sure to try the “Monster” hoagie, Italian meatball extravaganza, and the signature Meat Blanket.

The most favorite dessert item of the region is Key Lime pie. A staple on south Florida menus, this creamy pie is a combo blast of nuts and a vibrant flavor of key lime. Some of the best places to try this delicious dish include Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill, Coconuts, and Casablanca Café.

As one of the country's foremost vacation destinations, there’s no shortage of retail opportunities in Fort Lauderdale. From luxury shopping malls to cute local boutiques, it has it all. What the city also has is Las Olas Boulevard, the city’s most elegant and legendary shopping street. Starting from SW 1st Avenue in the Central Business District, this major commercial street is lined with architecturally unique and attractive shopping malls, dozens of diverse dining options, 10 incredible international art galleries, two top-class museums, and over 60 fashion boutiques that sell accessories, gifts, and more.

If that’s too glitzy and fancy in your opinion, here is something more down-to-earth - Fort Lauderdale's Swap Shop. Known for many years as the South's biggest flea market, this place is a bargain hunter’s dream. Whether you’re looking for a good deal, some knick-knacks for the house, or that special addition to your collection, you can find it in this massive market of more than 2000 vendors. Oh, the Swap Shop is also the home to "The World's Largest" 14-screen drive-in movie theater.

Perhaps the most popular high-end shopping mall in Fort Lauderdale, the Galleria is a favorite haunt for local and visiting shopping enthusiasts. A stone’s throw away from the beach on Sunrise Boulevard, this upscale shopping center has numerous well-loved stores, international and domestic, like Neiman Marcus, Macy's, and the Apple Store.

Fort Lauderdale is a relatively safe place to visit, except during the peak and rowdy period of Spring Break when the crime level is slightly elevated. Visitors should stay vigilant as petty crimes like theft and vehicle burglary are quite common. So don't leave any valuables in your car, be on guard after dark, and travel in groups at night especially for female travelers. For emergencies, dial 911 for police, fire brigade, and ambulance services.

Like elsewhere in the United States, the US Dollar ($ or USD) is the official currency. Tipping is hugely important in the US, the standard tip in the country between 15-20%.

The United States of America, also known as the USA or the United States, is the world’s fourth-largest country by size, covering approximately 9.8 million square kilometers (3.8 million square miles). Located in North America, the United States shares land borders with Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. There are 50 states, a federal district, as well as Indian reservations, and unincorporated territories. Population-wise, the USA ranks third in the world with roughly over 330 million people. The capital city is Washington, D.C., and the state capital of Florida is Tallahassee.

The most commonly spoken language in the United States is English (American English). Besides English, the second dominant language spoken in Fort Lauderdale is Spanish.

There are six time zones in the US, and Fort Lauderdale resides in Eastern Standard Time (EST). It is 5 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT-5). From mid-March to early November, Fort Lauderdale time will enter Daylight Saving Time (Eastern Daylight Time), hence it will be 4 hours behind GMT (GMT-4).