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Where to Play, Eat, and Stay in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Insider Guides
by Rebecca L. Rhoades Dec 15, 2023

South Florida’s Gold Coast is renowned for its blue skies, pristine beaches, and ritzy lifestyle. Anchored by Miami to the south and Palm Beach to the north, this stretch of Atlantic coastline has long been a playground for the rich and famous. Smack dab in the middle of the Gold Coast is Fort Lauderdale. The tropical metropolis is sometimes overlooked for its glitzier neighbors when it comes to vacation locales — the city was once best known as the capital of spring break pilgrimages and, in more recent years, as a popular cruise ship port — but thanks to recent development, a thriving arts and culture community, an evolving culinary scene, and its laid-back vibe, Fort Lauderdale is now one of the state’s must-visit destinations.

With average winter temperatures ranging between 64 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit, Fort Lauderdale’s seven miles of balmy beaches (and 24 miles for the entire Greater Fort Lauderdale area) offer a great escape from the winter cold. Whether you’re looking for a classic sand, sun, and sea holiday; family-friendly fun; or some of Florida’s best dining, these are the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale.

Things to do in Fort Lauderdale

See the city by Segway


Photo: Segway Fort Lauderdale

Many visitors come to Fort Lauderdale for its sandy beaches. But head away from the beach, and you’ll find that the city offers tree-lined neighborhoods full of eye-catching architecture, a bustling downtown, and verdant parks. You can see all this and more on a Segway Fort Lauderdale tour. Several options are available, but the most popular is the four-mile, one-hour Yacht & Mansion tour, which includes plenty of stops for selfies and opportunities to learn about the sites. No previous skills are required; you’ll receive one-on-one training from your guide and have time to practice before hitting the streets.

Take a ride on a Water Taxi


Photo: Rebecca L. Rhoades

Known as the “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale offers 300 miles of navigable waterways. For an intimate look at the canal system that crisscrosses the city — and the multimillion-dollar homes and megayachts that line its shores — hop aboard a Water Taxi. For just $35, you’ll get unlimited rides for one day. Start your day at the historic Stranahan House and head north for an afternoon of shopping at the Galleria Mall or south to the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort in Hollywood. The free water trolley takes passengers farther inland where they can enjoy lunch and a sightseeing stroll along the Las Olas Riverwalk.

Cruise on a Jungle Queen Riverboat


Photo: Rebecca L. Rhoades

For another way to experience the city’s waterways, the Jungle Queen is a re-creation of a classic riverboat that offers sightseeing and dinner cruises along the New River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Playing to the tourist crowd, the Jungle Queen’s captain makes sure to point out the opulent mansions of celebrities, rock stars, and corporate elite that line Millionaire’s Row while offering stories about the city’s history and its people. A full bar with snacks is available for both cruise options, while dinner is an all-you-can-eat barbecue feast, followed by a live variety show, on the Jungle Queen’s private island.

Stroll the Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale


Photo: Rebecca L. Rhoades

Fort Lauderdale may be famous for its miles of pristine beaches, but head west, and you’ll find that a lot of the action now happens along the riverfront. Also known as the Las Olas Riverwalk, this green promenade spans about a mile on both banks of the New River, from the Stranahan House Museum to the William H. Marshall Bridge. Walk, bike or skate along the scenic winding pathways, which are lined with shops, eateries, parks, and memorials. Relax on a public bench or restaurant patio and watch boats traversing the water or locals walking their dogs.

Stop by the Stranahan House Museum


Photo: Visit Lauderdale

Built in 1901 by Fort Lauderdale’s founding father, Frank Stranahan, the Stranahan House Museum is the oldest existing structure in all of Broward County. It initially served as a trading post for settlers and the Seminole Indians, but in 1906, it was renovated into a residence for Stranahan and his wife, Ivy. Today, the green-and-white wood-frame structure has been restored to what it looked like in 1915. Admission is by ticketed guided tour only. Show your water taxi ticket for a discounted tour.

Visit the NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale


Photo: Visit Lauderdalle

Located on Los Olas Boulevard, in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s arts and entertainment district, this 83,000-square-foot modernist building has more than 25,000 square feet of exhibit space. It houses world-class collections of American and European modern and contemporary art, as well as Picasso ceramics, Latin American and Cuban art, and the country’s largest holdings of avant-garde CoBrA artists. The NSU Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale is also one of the few museums in Florida to put on fashion exhibitions.

Where to eat and drink in Fort Lauderdale

Sistrunk Marketplace & Brewery


Photo: Rebecca L. Rhoades

If you’re traveling with a large group, or simply just like sampling a variety of dishes, then the Sistrunk Marketplace is for you. Located about two miles from the beach, the food hall features 10 different locally owned restaurants, ranging from Mexican, Korean, and Southern cuisine to pasta and pizza. There’s also a butcher, an oyster bar, a distillery, and a brewery. Order what you want at each food counter and then find a seat at one of the long communal-style tables. Whether it’s street tacos from Hot Lime, BBQ chicken fries from Chop Shoppe, or bruschetta and fresh pasta from Mari’s Kitchen, you’ll find something for every member of your family.

Sistrunk Marketplace & Brewery: 115 NW Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33311

Louis Bossi’s Ristorante Bar Pizzeria


Photo: Visit Lauderdale

From the decor — tin ceilings with rustic wood beams, tufted leather booths, exposed brick walls, and an expansive zinc-topped bar — to foods ranging from handmade salumi and pastas to wood-grilled meats, this lively downtown Italian restaurant gives off old-school vibes. The best seats in the house aren’t inside but out back in the garden-like courtyard. A fanciful vine-covered wrought-iron gazebo anchors the open-air space, which features brick pathways, fire pits, and a bocce court. Start with a salumi and cheese plate. The pastas are tender and the sauces savory, while the Neapolitan-style pizzas are topped with farm-fresh ingredients.

Louis Bossi’s Ristorante Bar Pizzeria: 1032 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301

El Vez


Credit: STARR Restaurants

James Beard Award-winning restaurateur Stephen Starr brings Mexican classics to the South Florida beach. Located on the first floor of the W Fort Lauderdale, this outpost of Starr’s beloved Philly eatery offers an ideal respite from the sun and sand. Escape the heat and humidity in the 300-seat dining room, or enjoy the ocean views from the wide-open patio while you’re sipping an ice-cold margarita. The menu features plenty of light bites that won’t weigh you down, from guacamoles and ceviches to a variety of tacos, including vegetarian and vegan options.

El Vez: 401 N. Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

Milk Money Bar & Kitchen


Photo: Rebecca L. Rhoades

Equal parts casual breakfast spot and chic cocktail lounge, this cozy neighborhood eatery serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. The main dining room showcases concrete floors, wood tables with industrial metal chairs, a vibrant psychedelic mural that wraps around the large front windows and entrance, and a walk-up coffee counter. An adjacent wood-paneled alcove is filled with tufted black leather booth seating. The lounge, with its large U-shaped bar, overlooks an intimate outdoor patio. Start your day with breakfast standouts such as the challah French toast with lemon ricotta cream cheese filling and berry compote; the huevos rancheros, a deconstructed take on a Mexican favorite with thick slices of pork chorizo; and the shakshuka, which comes in both vegan and non-vegan options.

Milk Money Bar & Kitchen: 815 NE 13th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304

Olive & Sea


Photo: Courtesy of Visit Lauderdale + Will Pryce

One of Fort Lauderdale’s newest dining establishments, this fashionable rooftop restaurant at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina hotel, located minutes from the Port Everglades cruise terminals and overlooking the famous 17th Causeway Bridge, opened in early August. The menu is Mediterranean-focused and features locally sourced seafood. Start with a traditional mezze appetizer that includes hummus, baba ganoush, labneh, and tzatziki along with housemade breads. Skewers of swordfish, filet, chicken, or meatballs are customer favorites. The food is complemented by a creative craft cocktail program that infuses drinks with spices, herbs, and citrus.

Olive & Sea: 1881 SE 17th St., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

The House on the River


Photo: Visit Lauderdale

Opened in May 2023, this upscale modern American restaurant resides in the second oldest building in Fort Lauderdale. The charming 19th-century house on the shores of the New River maintains its homey feel, with multiple Instagram-worthy dining rooms. It’s also purported to be haunted. But there’s nothing scary about the food. The roasted carrots with honey whipped ricotta melt in your mouth, while the burrata caprese toast is topped with fresh prosciutto, bite-size cherry tomatoes, and a tangy balsamic glaze. Main dishes are mostly seafood or beef. The whole bronzini glistens with capers, cherry tomatoes, and olive oil, and the fork-tender Chianti-braised short rib sits on a mountain of garlic whipped potatoes.

The House on the River: 301 SW 3rd Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312

Where to stay in Fort Lauderdale

We hope you love these Fort Lauderdale accommodations! Just so you know, Matador may collect a small commission from the links on this page if you decide to book a stay. Listed prices are accurate as of the time of publication.

There are more than 500 hotels in Fort Lauderdale, ranging from budget stays near the airport to AAA Five Diamond beachfront accommodations. In fact, State Road A1A, or “The Strip,” which runs along the Atlantic Ocean, is lined with large resort hotels. The W Fort Lauderdale is ideally situated at the corner of Bayshore Drive and North Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard. It offers easy walkability to the bars and shops on the southern end of The Strip, and Las Olas Boulevard is just a five-minute ride away, but it also provides privacy and quiet.

The hotel features 517 rooms, all with ocean or Intracoastal views, ranging from 363-square-foot standard king or double queen rooms to the 2,600-square-foot Extreme Wow penthouse suite that Lady Gaga stayed in. The property also includes a luxurious spa, rooftop pool, and numerous dining options.

How to get to and around Fort Lauderdale


Photo: Yingna Cai/Shutterstock

Traditionally, the most convenient way to get to Fort Lauderdale has been to fly into Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, located about 20 minutes from the beach and less than 10 minutes from the Port Everglades cruise terminals. However, the Brightline passenger rail, which now extends from Miami to Orlando, makes it easier for travelers to select a different and possibly cheaper airport or start their vacation in other areas of the state, such as Disney World, before hopping the train to Fort Lauderdale.

Once in town, you don’t need a car. From the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel — formerly the famous Yankee Clipper — on the southernmost end of the barrier island to the Pelican Grand Beach Resort, one of the few hotels right on the beach, Fort Lauderdale is a great walking destination. Plus, the Water Taxi or ride-share services such as Uber or Lyft can easily get you to all of the major attractions.

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