Family Vacations to Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Deerfield Beach, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida
Deerfield Beach (courtesy, Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB)

Fort Lauderdale Highlights

  • Stroll the "Broadwalk" and swim at Hollywood Beach.
  • Cruise the Intracoastal Waterway.
  • Walk with butterflies at Butterfly World.
  • Role-play careers at Wannado City.
  • Ride a swamp buggy through the Big Cypress Reservation.

Fort Lauderdale long-ago shed its spring-break zaniness to become a year-round destination for families, boaters, and sun-seekers. And beyond the perfect climate, the canal-laced region combines more than 20 miles of beaches with cultural attractions and eco-adventures.

Stroll the renovated Fort Lauderdale Beach Promenade or head to Hollywood Beach, with its seven miles of white sands, to walk or bike the paved Broadwalk. The John U. Lloyd Beach State Park, three miles south of Fort Lauderdale in Dania, is a 288-acre park with sandy beaches, nature trails, and in June and July, nighttime turtle watches.

Dubbed the "Venice of America" because of its 300 miles of inland waterways, Fort Lauderdale is naturally a boating paradise. The Jungle Queen, an ersatz riverboat, cruises the New River, pointing out Millionaire's Row and other mansions of the rich, and occasionally, famous. Both fun and practical, water taxis offer rides to 20 regularly scheduled stops along the New River and the Intracoastal Waterway.

Fort Lauderdale has its share of off-the-beach and out-of-the-water attractions. At the Museum of Discovery & Science, kids manipulate gadgets, learn about levers by lifting a 500-pound weight, and get to understand programming by operating a robot. More than 150 species of butterflies flit about in Butterfly World's netted enclosure, ready to land on the shoulders of any passersby. (Wear red, their favorite color, to increase your chances.) Tradewinds Park, home to Butterfly World, also has miniature golf and a petting zoo.

Wannado City, located in Sawgrass Mills Mall, takes dress-up games to the next level. At this indoor role-playing enterprise, kids three to 13 get to pretend they have a job in one of 100 careers, including as archeologists, TV anchors, paramedics, detectives, chefs, and ER doctors. The wannabees are also introduced to money-management by deciding how to parcel out their earnings. Meanwhile, parents can stretch their budgets at Sawgrass Mills Mall, a mega-complex with 350 or so off-retail shops.

Take a day trip from Fort Lauderdale to the Seminole Nation's Big Cypress Reservation on the edge of the Everglades, a place with rivers of grass, mangrove forests, and islands of hardwoods. Wind through this region on a Billie Swamp Safari swamp buggy as a guide explains native traditions. Alligators sleep on the creek banks, razorback hogs grunt through the grassland, and the panthers, once prominent in these parts, lie in the shade of an enclosure. Also available are airboat rides and overnights in a traditional dwelling.

Tip: Beat the road traffic to Miami's South Beach by taking a water taxi to this trendy spot for dining and promenading.

Recommended Side Trips: Miami, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Naples, and Marco Island's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 6 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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