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Fun Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale with Kids and Teens

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Things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids and teens abound for vacationers seeking sunshine, water play, and all sorts of fun. Families will find outdoorsy attractions as well as indoorsy play. Plus, the beauty of this beachside Florida city is undeniable. Let’s dive into this list of 12 amazing Fort Lauderdale family activities!

This story is brought to you in partnership with Visit Florida and Visit Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale Beach sunset
Fort Lauderdale Beach sunset (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

1. Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi

Fort Lauderdale is dubbed the “Venice of the U.S.” for its many picturesque canals. Wind your way through 15 miles of waterways during this affordable hop-on-hop-off boat tour. You’ll get a glimpse at how the one percent lives as you gawk at waterfront multimillion-dollar mansions with their mega-yachts parked out front. Along the way, listen to Florida fun facts and history from the crew. A roundtrip Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi journey takes about three hours. Alternatively, disembark for shopping, dining, or sightseeing as you please.

One of the many impressive mansions and mega-yachts along the Fort Lauderdale Waterway
One of the many impressive mansions and mega-yachts along the Fort Lauderdale Waterway (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Drinks and snacks are available for purchase, including alcoholic options for mom and dad (particularly appealing for bar-hopping during happy hour sans kids!). The water is very calm so even motion sickness sufferers (like me) should fare just fine on this boat journey. Strollers are allowed on board but must be folded during the ride.

Whenever I told Floridians or Florida vacationers that my family was headed to Fort Lauderdale, they all said the same thing: “You must take the Water Taxi!” I’m so glad we took their advice.

Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi
Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi (Photo credit: dbvirago, Depositphotos.com)

2. Museum of Discovery and Science

With its tropical rainforest climate, you just may experience rainy weather during your South Florida vacation. What to do when it’s raining in Fort Lauderdale? Take the kids to the Museum of Discovery and Science!

The fun starts even before you enter the museum with the massive Great Gravity Clock. It tracks time using 12 balls gliding on three rails representing 1) minutes, 2) ten minutes, and 3) hours. The balls dip, roll, and climb — setting gears in motion. This giant contraption mesmerizes kids and adults alike.

Great Gravity Clock at the Museum of Discovery and Science in Fort Lauderdale with kids
Great Gravity Clock at the Museum of Discovery and Science (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Once inside, reach the second floor AND see how escalators operate with a see-through moving staircase. Then, walk through time at the Prehistoric Florida Exhibit, stopping to pose for a photo in the mouth of a megalodon shark. Next, set off on an indoor nature hike through Florida Ecoscapes where your family can view native animals like alligators, sea turtles, and sharks. Meanwhile, Go Green! gets kids interested in saving our planet by playing the recycling game.

Megalodon shark photo op at the Museum of Discovery and Science
Megalodon shark photo op at the Museum of Discovery and Science (Photo credit: Travel Mamas)

You’ll find even more fascinating exhibits both inside and outside. My teen daughter’s favorite, though, was the impressive two-story, indoor/outdoor Otters At Play. Sit a spell and watch adorable North American river otters as they alternate between swimming, diving, running, and cuddling.

Kids and teens love Otters At Play at the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Discovery and Science
Otters At Play exhibit (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

3. Las Olas Boulevard

Stroll this thoroughfare and pop into snazzy art galleries, boutique fashion stores, and tempting ice cream shops along the way. Las Olas Boulevard connects Downtown Fort Lauderdale with Fort Lauderdale Beach. It reminded me of Lahaina in Maui or the Gaslamp Quarter in San Diego with lots of eye candy and convivial energy.

Las Olas Boulevard
Las Olas Boulevard (Photo credit: felixtm, Depositphotos.com)

Make dining reservations in advance for sit-down meals in this popular area. Choose from a variety of tempting options from seafood, barbecue, and deli to Mexican, Asian, Italian, and more. Since Florida is home to the highest concentration of Cuban Americans in the U.S., I suggest opting for festive Cuban fare plus cool cocktails and mocktails at Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar.

Paella from Cuba Libre on Las Olas Boulevard
Paella from Cuba Libre on Las Olas Boulevard (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

4. Flamingo Gardens

Get out of the city and into nature at Flamingo Gardens just 17 miles from Fort Lauderdale in Davie, Florida. This botanical garden, Everglades wildlife sanctuary, aviary, and zoo stretches across 60 acres of tropical landscape. It is home to a spectacular “flamboyance” of flamingoes, which is the literal term for a grouping of these pink-feathered birds. You’ll also find peacocks, outgoing parrots, koi fish, otters, and a rescued black bear named Josh. Before setting out, buy little bags of food from the gift shop to feed the koi and flamingoes. After walking the winding garden paths, take the tram to rest your feet and explore even more of this non-profit attraction.

A flamboyance of flamingoes at Flamingo Gardens
A flamboyance of flamingoes at Flamingo Gardens (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

After exploring Flamingo Gardens, Charles McCool of McCool Travel recommends stopping across the street at Flamingo Road Nursery, “for the tastiest fruit smoothie you will ever have.” Then, he says, “stay to explore the fascinating tropical plants and take some fun selfies (look for the giant chair). And look in the canals when you enter and exit. I always see giant iguanas.” Be sure to walk through their Butterfly Gardens, too, which are stocked with an assortment of nectar plants that attract fluttering beauties galore.

Whimsical owl figures in a fig tree at Flamingo Gardens
Whimsical owl figures in a fig tree at Flamingo Gardens (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

5. Everglades Alligator Airboat Tour

An Everglades boat tour is a must when in Fort Lauderdale with kids. Your family will long remember zipping across the water and pausing to view wild alligators in their natural habitat during an excursion at the Sawgrass Recreation Park.

Sawgrass Recreation Park alligator airboat tour in Fort Lauderdale with kids
Sawgrass Recreation Park alligator airboat tour (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Captain Disco, our Sawgrass Recreation Park airboat captain, shook his head when he told us some people try to put their hands in the water or rile up the gators to get a better photo. Keep your family’s appendages in the boat, please!

After your guided boat tour, be sure to walk through their rescued wild animal exhibits. You’ll get a chance to see iguanas, peacocks, tortoises, and Cannibal — a 1,000-pound alligator!

Alligator swimming near Sawgrass Recreation Park airboat near Fort Lauderdale
An alligator swimming very close to our airboat (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

6. Jungle Queen Riverboat Cruise

As a fun way to explore the Fort Lauderdale waterways, Shelley Marmor of Travel Mexico Solo recommends the Jungle Queen Riverboat. She says, “This vintage riverboat has been offering cruises in South Florida since 1935! The two-story red, white, and blue Jungle Queen is a sight in itself.”

There are daytime sightseeing and dinner cruise options. Marmor recommends the more entertaining evening cruises. She says, “This nighttime cruise has a variety show with everything from Polynesian fire dancers to a magician, and even more. You’ll enjoy an all-you-care-to-eat dinner at Jungle Island’s private island. The cruise goes from 6 to 10 pm, so might be best suited for older kids.” 

Jungle Queen Riverboat
Jungle Queen Riverboat (Photo credit: dbvirago, Depositphotos.com)

7. Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale

Riverwalk Fort Lauderdale encompasses the Riverwalk Linnear Park and the Downtown Riverwalk District. Walk or ride along the walking/biking paths of this beautifully landscaped waterfront area. Then pause to relax or play in one or more of the 10 parks you’ll find along the way. Or, rent a kayak to get out on the water to experience Fort Lauderdale from a different perspective. Exciting events take place here throughout the year, like yoga classes, seasonal festivals, and free jazz brunch concerts on the first Sunday of every month.

Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk
Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk (Photo credit: fotoluminate, Depositphotos.com)

8. Fort Lauderdale Segway Tour

For an exciting way to see the city, book a Fort Lauderdale Segway Tour. Do as my family did and roll through Riverwalk, taking in views of the canals, yachts, and homes of the rich and famous during the 4-Mile Yacht and Mansion Tour. This is a great way to explore Fort Lauderdale while learning some local history and lore. Plus, Segways are way more fun than walking! The tour includes 15 to 20 minutes of training plus about an hour of two-wheeled adventure. A highlight for my family was riding through the beautiful Thrive public art installation, shown below.

Teen on Fort Lauderdale Segway Tour
My teen daughter on our Fort Lauderdale Segway Tour (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Nighttime tours are available as well as daytime adventures. For an extended Segway option, choose the 8-Mile “Venice of America” Tour, which includes the Yacht and Mansion Tour plus a nature and wildlife experience during which you might spy sea turtles, blue herons, iguanas, and ducks. Foodies will want to sign up for the Segway Food Tour on Las Olas, which includes stops with tastings at three to four restaurants. There is no minimum age for kids to ride but participants must weigh at least 70 pounds.

View of 15th Street Fisheries from the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi
View of 15th Street Fisheries from the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

9. Eat Fresh Seafood

Since Fort Lauderdale is located right on the Atlantic Ocean, seafood should be on your family’s vacation menu. For an entertaining place to get your fish fix, head to 15th Street Fisheries right on the water at the Lauderdale Marina. The Fisheries Dockside is casual, with live entertainment on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Dining upstairs is a more refined affair and reservations are recommended. Buy shrimp from the onsite dock store for the memorable experience of feeding large tarpon fish, which jump from the harbor water to grab their treats! Bonus: 15th Street Fisheries is a Water Taxi stop, making reaching the restaurant part of the fun.

Crab Claws at 15th Street Fisheries
Crab Claws with bread and a sweet potato at 15th Street Fisheries (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

For a luxurious seafood dining experience, reserve a table at GG’s Waterfront in neighboring Hollywood, Florida. The indoor dining room boasts hip, elegant décor and live music. Or, choose the covered waterfront terrace for views that can’t be beat. For the ultimate splurge, order the Grand Chilled Seafood Tower from their raw bar for a selection of lump crab, oysters, shrimp cocktail, clams, Maine lobster, and tuna poke.

Chilled seafood at GG's Waterfront
Chilled seafood at GG’s Waterfront (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

10. Bluefoot Pirate Adventures

Argh, mateys! Climb aboard for a swashbuckling good time out on the water with Bluefoot Pirate Adventures. The fun starts on land when children get gussied up in their seafaring temporary tattoos and gear. After setting sail, young pirates search for treasure and shoot water cannons at the bad guy, Barnacle Bill. Meanwhile, parents can enjoy the Fort Lauderdale Intracoastal Waterway views. All ages are welcomed but kids ages 3 to 10 will especially love this excursion.

Bluefoot Pirate Adventures in Fort Lauderdale with kids
Bluefoot Pirate Adventures in Fort Lauderdale with kids (Photo from Bluefoot Pirate Adventures’ Facebook page)

11. Shopping at Sawgrass Mills

On your way back from Flamingo Gardens or Sawgrass Recreation Park, stop at nearby Sawgrass Mills. This is the largest outlet shopping mall in the U.S. with over 350 stores, including 70 luxury brands like Coach, Versace, Gucci, Kate Spade, and more. For kids, look for stores like LEGO, Carter’s, and GameStop. Be sure to pose with the painted alligator statues for a darling photo op!

Sawgrass Mills also makes a great place to dine, with all sorts of restaurants onsite. A food court offers quick, affordable fare. For a sit-down meal, select from such options as the healthy Seasons 52 and the kid-pleasing Rainforest Café or Cheesecake Factory and its sister restaurant Grand Lux Café.

Kids posing with one of the painted alligator statues at Sawgrass Mills in Fort Lauderdale
My kids posing with one of the painted alligator statues at Sawgrass Mills (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

12. Fort Lauderdale Beaches

No list of things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids would be complete without the beach. Of course, beaches are one of the primary draws for visitors to Fort Lauderdale. And with 24 miles of sandy shores, there are plenty of beaches to choose from.

Hillsboro Lighthouse at Hillsboro Beach
Hillsboro Lighthouse at Hillsboro Beach (Photo credit: stephstarr9363@gmail.com, Depositphotos.com)

Deerfield and Hillsboro Beaches

Deerfield Beach and Hillsboro Beach are two of the best spots to see near Fort Lauderdale with kids,” according to Guide Your Travel‘s Victoria Heinz. She says, “Both beaches have parking, lots of restaurants, and little shops to explore. Most days the water is calm and perfect for swimming. Older kids can try watersports like paddleboarding or jet skiing while the younger ones play in the sand. There is also a nearby pier at Deerfield Beach, which you can walk on for a small fee. It’s a fantastic sunset spot as well as a great place to grab dinner with the entire family.”

Dr. Von D. Mizelle-Eula Johnson State Park
Dr. Von D. Mizelle-Eula Johnson State Park (Photo credit: Georgialh – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37392691)

Dr. Von D. Mizelle-Eula Johnson State Park

For some of the best snorkeling near Fort Lauderdale, Travel To Merida‘s Shelly Marmor suggests Dr. Von D. Mizelle-Eula Johnson State Park. She says, “Formerly named John U. Lloyd State Beach Park, this beautiful beach is located just one city south of Fort Lauderdale, in Dania, Florida. There is a large fishing pier and the always fun waterfront Quartdeck Restaurant, so the kids will really love this beach. The current is often pretty calm, and the large underwater reef is only about 100-feet from the shoreline.” Although you can’t rent snorkels and masks here, fins are available.

Wave Wall along Fort Lauderdale Beach Promenade
Wave Wall along Fort Lauderdale Beach Promenade (Photo credit: sepavone, Depositphotos.com)

Fort Lauderdale Beach

You can’t miss pretty palm-lined Fort Lauderdale Beach. Monica Fish from Planner at Heart says, “Whether you want to relax on the beach, explore the shops at a leisurely pace, or fill your day with thrilling adventures — you can have it all right on the Fort Lauderdale Beach Promenade. Follow the iconic Wave Wall along the coastline to find your perfect beach spot or fun activity. Vendors offer cabanas and umbrellas, jet skiing, windsurfing, parasailing, boats, bikes, and Segways. You can also find larger tour companies that offer scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing lessons, and fishing charters for older kids and teens. Meanwhile, younger families will enjoy the beach playground at Sebastian Street.” Fish recommends parking at Marriott’s BeachPlace Towers, “as a central base on Fort Lauderdale Beach that includes a three-level shopping center, restaurants, conveniences like CVS, and even an escape room.” 

Lounge chairs for guests at B Ocean Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach
Lounge chairs for guests at B Ocean Resort on Fort Lauderdale Beach (Photo credit: Colleen Lanin)

Beach Accommodations

If beach play is your family’s primary objective, then you’ll want to book a Fort Lauderdale hotel somewhere on the water like B Ocean Resort. That’s where my family rested our water-loving souls during our Florida vacation. Located directly on Fort Lauderdale Beach, guests can relax beneath orange and white striped umbrellas while ordering blender drinks and food right to their loungers. Then, steps away, cool off with a dip in the Atlantic or the pool’s oceanview pool. Take a look at additional beachfront hotels and resorts in Fort Lauderdale.

Beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Beautiful Fort Lauderdale, Florida (Photo credit: Levranii, Depositphotos.com)

Explore More of Florida

For even more things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids, read these tips from Visit Florida.

Go further south with this list of 21 things to do at Hawks Cay Resort in the Florida Keys.

Want to know where else to take the kids in Florida? Check out the best Florida family vacation destinations that both parents and children love!

If you’ll be headed to Walt Disney World, then take a look at the best things to do in Orlando with kids.

Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale with Kids and Teens

Save These Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale with Kids

For future reference, save this list of Fort Lauderdale family attractions. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Which of these kid-friendly Fort Lauderdale activities appeal most to you? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: My family’s accommodations and some of our activities and meals were discounted or comped during our Fort Lauderdale vacation. I will receive monetary compensation related to this blog post. All opinions are mine, as always!

 
About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Cristina Petrini says

    I like that you don’t talk about the “usual places” that everyone is talking about. I want to discover others and if possible even more beautiful and reading you I always succeed! Thanks!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Cristina – Oh, thank you so much! We’re always striving to give a complete picture of a destination!

  2. Talya Stone says

    The beaches look wonderful! I also love the look of Flamingo Gardens and The Science and Discovery Centre – looks like a fantastic place to families to visit with lots to see and do,

  3. Fort Lauderdale looks like a wonderful place to visit with family. I love that there are so many opportunities for fun and explorative learning there.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Leanne – Yes! The beach is fantastic, of course, but there’s much more to explore in Fort Lauderdale!

  4. Heather Klein Wolf says

    I live within driving distance of Fort Lauderdale. Las Olas restaurants and the beach are my family’s favorite spots to visit.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Heather – You’re so lucky! I would love to live within driving distance of Fort Lauderdale! Really, there are so many pretty and diverse places to visit in Florida.

  5. I grew up in Fort Myers, Florida, on the other side of the state. We hardly ever traveled to the east coast so I didn’t know some of these were there. My family has done an Everglades airboat ride, just from the other coast.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Stephanie – There are so many Everglades airboat options in Florida — always a fun choice! Hopefully you can get a chance to experience the other fun activities in Fort Lauderdale someday!

  6. Fort Lauderdale looks like an amazing place for families. So much to do and see!

  7. Looks like such an adventure for the whole family who want to give this a go. Never knew about the Flamingo Gardens before this, but would love to visit it when we go visit Florida

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Kat – I’m so glad we discovered Flamingo Gardens — such a lovely addition to any Fort Lauderdale vacation!

  8. Ntensibe Edgar says

    Wow….this is how Fort Lauderdale looks like, away from the movies? I’d love to visit the beaches and board the water taxi!

  9. Beth Pierce says

    Every time I visit new places, I always look for botanical gardens. The flamingos garden was amazing! I’d love to visit here someday

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Beth – I’m the same way! I loooove to visit botanical gardens. Flamingo Gardens really was so pretty and the birds and other animals added to the fun.

  10. briannemanz says

    Fort Lauderdale looks perfect for a family vacation. it will be fun to bring the kids

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      I always thought of Fort Lauderdale as just a spring break destination for college kids — was I wrong! There’s really so much to do in this beautiful city with kids of all ages!

  11. Elizabeth O says

    I am definitely saving these things to do in Fort Lauderdale with Kids. They’re always in search of new places to explore

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Elizabeth – Thanks much for stopping by and for saving the story! So glad you like our Fort Lauderdale tips!

  12. Gervin Khan says

    Such a lot of fun and memorable things to do in Fort Lauderdale. I am pretty sure my kids will enjoy this place.

  13. We have wanted to visit FL for a while. It sounds like there is just so much to do there, and it is nice to have so many things to choose from!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Marysa – Agreed! There’s a nice array of activities from mellow to thrilling in Fort Lauderdale. I hope you can visit sometime soon!

  14. I’m sure as they get older it’s harder to entertain kids and teenagers. Great that this has such a diverse list of activities to keep everyone entertained.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Nyxie – I love activities that keep all ages entertained and thankfully Fort Lauderdale has a bunch of them!

  15. Emman Damian says

    I really want to visit Fort Lauderdale! I heard so many good things about it. Maybe next year?

  16. Emily Michelle Fata says

    So many amazing things to do in Fort Lauderdale! I have to visit one day.

  17. I miss Ft Lauderdale! What a beautiful place!

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Erin – I was really taken aback by how pretty Fort Lauderdale is! I want to go back someday!

  18. We did the Bluefoot Pirate Adventures when my son was little. It was actually so much fun! We loved Ft. Lauderdale in the daytime, but at night the beach felt a little sketchy. Maybe it was just our area… we researched by hotel stars, not neighborhoods.

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says

      Rosey – Good to know – thank you for sharing! The only place we wanered at night was Las Olas, which felt very safe. As with all big cities, I am sure there are areas to avoid at night. So glad to hear you enjoyed Bluefoot Adventures, though!

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