Fort Lauderdale: Top Attractions

fort lauderdale
Big Cypress Reservation  (courtesy, Visit Florida)

Fort Lauderdale long-ago shed its spring-break zaniness to become a year-round destination for families, boaters, and those sun-seekers less obsessed with all-night partying. The canal-laced region combines more than 20 miles of beach with cultural attractions and eco-adventures.

Billie Swamp Safari
The Seminole nation's Big Cypress Reservation on the edge of the Everglades has rivers of grass, forests of mangroves, and islands of hardwoods. Wind through this region in a swamp buggy as your guide describes 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 (there are thought to be less than 50 of these native Florida cats left in the wild). Also available are airboat rides and overnights in a traditional dwelling.
Big Cypress Reservation: 800.949.6101, www.seminoletribe.com.

Butterfly World
More than 150 species of butterflies flit about in the Butterfly World's netted enclosure ready to land on the shoulders of any passersby. Wear red, their favorite color, to increase your chances. The laboratory explains the breeding cycle to guests who, if lucky, might get to see a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. Tradewinds Park, home to Butterfly World, also has miniature golf and a petting zoo.
Butterfly World: 954.977.4400, www.butterflyworld.com

Museum of Discovery & Science
Eight interactive areas plus special exhibits teach kids about science the fun way at this Fort Lauderdale establishment. In Sound, children whisper, scream, and sing to change colors and shapes. Gizmo City is (unsurprisingly) loaded with gadgets. Learn about levers by lifting a 500-pound weight and (try to) understand electronics programming by operating a robot. In Runways to Rockets, learn about gravity by "launching" a space vehicle.
Museum of Discovery & Science: 954.467.6637, www.mods.org

The World's Best Beaches
Why go to Florida if you're not going to hit the beach? Stroll the renovated Fort Lauderdale Beach promenade or head to Hollywood Beach, with its six miles of pristine sands, to walk or bike the paved Broadwalk. The John U. Lloyd Beach State Recreation Area in Dania, three miles south of Fort Lauderdale, is a 251-acre park with sandy beaches and nature trails. In June and July sign up for a nighttime turtle watch.
Additional Info: 800.22.SUNNY, www.sunny.org

Wannado City
Wannado City takes dress-up games to the next level. At this $40 million enterprise, kids ages four to 11 get to pretend like they have a job in one of 250 careers. They can act as archaeologists, TV anchors, paramedics, animal trainers, bankers, and other professions sure to leave parents with a temporary glow of pride. The wannabees are also introduced to money-management by deciding how to parcel out their earnings. Since Wannado is located in Sawgrass Mills Mall, allow plenty of time for shopping.
Wannado City: 888.WANNADO, www.wannadocity.com

Funky Fish Kids Day
Sign your children up for a Funky Fish Kids Day and watch them revel among the fascinating fish and make new playtime friends. It's a five-hour supervised program that allows children to snorkel in a pool and in the ocean as well as reel in facts about reefs and conservation. Discover Scuba programs are available for ages 10 and older. Funky Fish uses the facilities of several resorts.
Funky Fish Kids Day: 866.728.2201, www.funkyfishkidsday.com

The Jungle Queen & Riverfront Cruises
Dubbed the "Venice of America" because of its 300 miles of navigable waterways, Fort Lauderdale is a boater's paradise. But even if you're not cut from the same mold as Gilligan and the Skipper, family quality time can still be had on the water. Consider the Jungle Queen, an ersatz riverboat that cruises the New River for three hours, pointing out Millionaire's Row and other mansions of the rich, and occasionally, famous. Riverfront Cruises offers a similar route, but cruises for only 90 minutes, perhaps a better option depending on the restlessness of your kids.
The Jungle Queen: 954.462-5596, www.sunny.org
Riverfront Cruises: 800.499.2248, www.anticipation.com/anticipation/riverfront

Water Taxis
Both fun and practical, the water taxis of Fort Lauderdale offer rides to 20 regularly scheduled stops along the New River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Pick-up points are near restaurants, shops, and hotels. Beat the road traffic to South Beach by hopping on a water taxi to this trendy spot for dining and promenading. SoBe departures leave twice weekly.
Water Taxis: 954. 467-6677, www.watertaxi.com

Museum of Art—Fort Lauderdale
Once focused on CoBrA canvases—art from the avant-garde movement started in Copenhagen, Brussels and Amsterdam (the name borrows from the first letters of these cities) in the post-WWII period—the museum now keys in on Latin American art. Its major exhibitions now feature artists from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, and Argentina. Temporary installations cover a wide field. "Space to Experience, the Sculpture of Magdalena Abakanowicz," with its life-size, often unsettling "crowds" should interest teens. The exhibit runs through October 11, 2005.
Museum of Art—Fort Lauderdale: 954.525-5500, www.moafl.org

Sawgrass Mills
If your teens whine for brand-name clothes, but you wail about the prices, spend a day at Sawgrass Mill. As the largest mall in Florida, its claim to fame are its 300 or so off-retail shops, many with upscale names such as Neiman Marcus Last Call, Nordstrom Rack, Off 5th Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet, and Ralph Lauren Factory Store. Non-shoppers in the family can watch a movie or two at the 23-screen theater.
Sawgrass Mills: 954.846.2300, www.sawgrassmills.com

Published: 8 Apr 2005 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

Best Hotels in Fort Lauderdale

$224-$274
Average/night*
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#1
Riverside Hotel
$116-$134
Average/night*
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#2
Mary's Resort

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