Fort Lauderdale tends to go a little more under-the-radar in South Florida in terms of places to visit, especially compared to Miami. However, Fort Lauderdale has a lot of the perks of Miami, without the crowds and the wild energy of Miami. Interestingly, Fort Lauderdale is called the Venice of America, because there are more than 300 inland waterways. You can take boat tours and cruises of the Fort Lauderdale waterways and see celebrity homes and sprawling mansions, citrus groves, and the Everglades.
For example, the Jungle Queen is the area’s famous cruise ship for sightseeing, and you can learn about history and enjoy wildlife at the same time.
Along with the waterways and the waterfront homes, there are a lot of other reasons to consider a trip to Fort Lauderdale.
There are an abundance of shops, bars, and restaurants as well as Sawgrass Mills, which is an outlet mall that makes shopping for designer labels affordable. Sawgrass Mills is actually the second largest mall in Florida.
Below are some tips that can help you plan a trip to Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale on a Budget
If you want the South Florida experience,but you don’t want to pay Miami prices for that, Fort Lauderdale can be a good compromise. Fort Lauderdale is still high-end, but there’s more flexibility to stay on budget here than many areas in South Florida.
There are small hotels that are not directly on the beach but are still close, within walking distance in fact. You can also find great Fort Lauderdale rentals on sites like Airbnb. Many times, even though it might be outside the tourist centers of Fort Lauderdale, you can find entire houses that are available for short-term rent with amenities like private pools.
Las Olas Boulevard
If you’re planning a trip to Fort Lauderdale, it would be a challenge to miss Las Olas Boulevard, often called the heart of the city.
Las Olas Boulevard goes from the beach at A1A over the Intracoastal Waterway. There are dozens of restaurants, clubs, shops, and bars. There are also galleries, specialty shops, museums, spas and pretty much everything you can think of. While you stroll along Las OlasBoulevard, you’re also against the backdrop of the beach and the beautiful ocean.
Riverwalk is another can’t-miss stop in Fort Lauderdale. Riverwalk includes the Downtown Riverwalk District and the Riverwalk Linear Park. This area is waterfront in the central downtown area of Fort Lauderdale. Along with shops and restaurants, there are regular events such as Monthly Sunday Jazz Brunch at Riverwalk, where local artists perform on three stages.
Snorkeling and Diving
You may not even know it, but Fort Lauderdale is a hub of diving and snorkeling. The water is almost always warm because of the gulf stream, with temperatures ranging from 72 in the winter to 80 in the summer. Currently, Fort Lauderdale is also home to the largest collection of warm-water wrecks in the world.
It’s the only place in the continental U.S. where you can dive on a living coral reef directly from the beach without a boat if you go to Lauderdale-By-the-Sea or Hollywood. Swimming just five minutes from shore will give you a great experience.
Some of the shipwrecks you can visit in the Fort Lauderdale area are:
- The SS Copenhagen which is a steamship that ran aground in 1900 in 25 feet of water. It’s now an underwater museum popular with divers, as well as an archeological site.
- Usikusiku was built in South Africa and was eventually donated to Broward County for their artificial reef program. The boat is locatedin Hollywood, and its part of a set of wrecks that go for more than a quarter mile.
- The Captain Dan was a U.S. Coast Guard tender, and this artificial wreath is now full of barracuda, parrotfish and many other types of fish.
If you’re going to visit Fort Lauderdale, you will likely fly into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL), which is only around five miles by car from downtown Fort Lauderdale. There’s also Miami International Airport (MIA) which is around 30 miles south of downtown Fort Lauderdale. Farther away is Palm Beach International Airport, around 45 miles north of Fort Lauderdale.
While you’re there, you will probably want to rent a car, because this is the fastest, easiest way to get around. Fort Lauderdale isn’t known as a hub of public transportation, and while you can take a water taxi on the waterways, it’s not the most efficient way to get around.