Fort Lauderdale is a top South Florida travel destination. It offers a more affordable, quiet, and family-friendly alternative to nearby Miami.
Of course, there is still a fair amount of nightlife that happens in the city.
You also want to be careful if you’re driving because South Florida roadways are known for being packed with traffic and sometimes rowdy or even unsafe drivers. The Florida Turnpike, I-95 and I-595 all go right through the city.
Beyond the importance of being careful behind the wheel, the following are the main things you should know before you plan a trip to Fort Lauderdale.
Flying into Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL) is a lot easier and less expensive than flying into Miami. The FLL airport primarily services domestic flights and connections, and several of the main budget airlines in the U.S. fly into it, including Spirit and JetBlue.
The Fort Lauderdale Airport, technically known as Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, is somewhat small and easy to navigate. It’s between Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood, and it’s about 20 minutes by car to both.
Ft. Lauderdale was once known as being a spring break hub, but that’s not necessarily as true now. Miami has taken over that role in many ways.
You’ll often see families, snowbirds, and other types of visitors who want something a little quieter.
The beaches are clean and quiet, and travel is at a high in the winter.
Fort Lauderdale boasts more than 300 miles of inland waterways, and it’s close to the Everglades. Because of the waterways, it’s often nicknamed the Venice of America.
The weather is pretty good year-round, but there can be unpredictable periods of rain and storms.
Where to Stay
There are tens of thousands of hotel rooms in and around Fort Lauderdale. You can also do a home or apartment rental.
Some of the most well-known hotels are centered around what’s called The Strip. This is an area of A1A running from Las Olas Boulevard to Sunrise Boulevard, along the Atlantic coast. This is a pedestrian-friendly area, and you can walk to the beach, enjoy a number of cafes, and it provides easy access to other parts of the city.
If you want a luxury experience, opt for The Ritz-Carlton. It’s beachfront, and the rooms on the upper floors offer amazing views. The Pelican Grand Beach Resort has a 500-foot private beach and a lazy river.
Another popular place to stay is The Atlantic Hotel & Spa. The pool looks out over the ocean, and all the rooms have a private balcony.
For families, a great option is the beachfront Westin Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort.
Another favorite is the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach. It’s an all-suite resort that’s ocean-front. Some of the rooms have kitchens, and it’s chic and stylish but also appeals to families.
What to Do
There’s no shortage of things to do in and around Fort Lauderdale.
Fort Lauderdale Beach is the most popular attraction. It’s a wide, sandy stretch of beach, and the water is often calm. It’s also clear and much less chaotic than Miami Beach.
If you go to Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, there are facilities for volleyball and basketball, there’s a playground, and there are picnic areas with grills.
For outdoor lovers, think about Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. It’s between the Atlantic and the Intracoastal Waterpark. You can canoe and kayak, or you can bike the two-mile paved path.
Gulfstream Park is a racetrack that opened in 1939, and you can still see a race every Wednesday through Sunday.
For shoppers, go to Las Olas Boulevard or Sawgrass Mills. Las Olas Boulevard features retail options and art galleries. Sawgrass Mills is one of the country’s best outlet malls, with hundreds of shops located about 14 miles from downtown Fort Lauderdale.
The Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District spans 22 blocks and is home to the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
Seminole Hard Rock Casino is around 10 miles from Fort Lauderdale’s downtown. It’s a massive casino—the largest in South Florida.
Taking a Jungle Queen Dinner Cruise will let you see Millionaire’s Row, and Butterfly World features botanical gardens, aviaries, and of course, butterflies.
Where to Eat
There are so many types of restaurants in Fort Lauderdale for all tastes and budgets. It’ll likely be hard to narrow them down if you’re planning a trip.
For something affordable, you might go to Alchemist Café or Hot Diggity Dogs and More.
Good moderately priced options include TacoCraft Taqueria and The Foxy Brown.
High-end options include Rivertail, YOLO, and Steak 954.
While there’s probably plenty to keep you occupied in Fort Lauderdale without a day trip, if you want to take one, there’s a lot of options for those as well.
Miami is a good one because it’s only 30 miles to the south of Fort Lauderdale.
Miami Beach gives you a lot of the natural beauty of Fort Lauderdale but a more lively and vibrant atmosphere.
If you have a little more time on your hands, a day trip to The Florida Keys can be visually stunning.
The Florida Keys are something everyone should see at some point if possible. This collection of islands and coral reefs goes from the southern tip of Florida and into the Gulf of Mexico. The islands are all connected by roads and bridges. The closest key to Fort Lauderdale is Key Largo, and the one that’s most distant is Key West.
The Everglades are to the south of Fort Lauderdale and are a UNESCO site with wetlands and mangroves.
Finally, another good day trip option from Fort Lauderdale is Delray Beach. It’s only about 30 minutes by car from Fort Lauderdale, and there are white sand beaches as well as a number of art galleries and displays and cultural exhibits. It’s definitely a cultural haven.
Fort Lauderdale offers something for everyone, and options for all budgets, making it a great travel destination.