Most of us have Miami on our radar when we think of places to get away to- especially when we need some sun, great beaches, lively nightlife, and foodie scenes, but the true hidden gem is Fort Lauderdale because it has everything that Miami does, and more.
Known as the Venice of America, Fort Lauderdale is full of high-end shopping, nature preservations, stunning beaches, and yacht-lined canals. While you can still see the Spanish influences in the food, architecture, music, and art, there’s very much a homey feel to the city that can’t be manufactured. The city is what you would expect a laid-back city to be- one that knows that it has a ton to offer- with a lively music scene, a great craft beer trail, and beaches that are free of the crowds- Fort Lauderdale is the place to be, and if you’re thinking of heading there for a weekend- we have the guide for you!
HOW TO GET TO FORT LAUDERDALE: DRIVE, TRAIN, FLY
Let’s just start with saying that next time you’re looking for flights to Florida, start with the Fort Lauderdale airport first because chances are that you’re going to have a better time there, and the flight will be cheaper.
Yes, Fort Lauderdale has its own international airport, and while not the biggest, it is fairly easy to get around in, and has a ton of options for airlines.
If you’re from the South or are exploring different parts of Florida, then we recommend driving as well- having a car is very handy, and will allow you to get around really easily.
When in town, you have your pick of transportation with water taxis, bikes, ride-sharing apps or public transportation- all easily accessible.
WHERE TO STAY IN FORT LAUDERDALE
There isn’t a shortage of places to stay when in Fort Lauderdale- with a range of options from Airbnbs and hotels (and at every price point). We recommend staying at the Plunge Beach Hotel.
It has everything you will need to make your weekend Fort Lauderdale a great one- a great pool, a fun bar, a wide-open lobby to chill out in, comfortable beds, and really easy access to the beach to watch some of the most beautiful sunrises. You can’t ask for anything more. The vibe is extremely laid back, and you can easily feel like home.
While breakfast is not included, there is a cute cafe in the hotel lobby where you can grab coffee and breakfast quickly before you hit the pool or go out exploring.
Address: 4660 El Mar Dr, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, FL 33308, USA
TOP THINGS TO DO IN FORT LAUDERDALE
Ale Trail: The craft beer scene in Fort Lauderdale is completely unexpected- and really worth the experience. You can pop in and get a better taste of the beer culture that is taking over the Greater Fort Lauderdale area with 15 local nano- and micro-breweries and 32 craft brew pubs. With over 500 beers, the trail has something for everyone- even the sour beer loving folks like us!
Our favorite stops on the trail are:
Tarpon River Brewing: Great place to pop in midday or in the evening. We recommend ordering a flight because they have a great selection on tap.
Address: 280 SW 6th St, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, USA
Funky Buddha Brewery: Really fun vibe, and a great patio. They have a few great sour beers on tap.
Address: 1201 NE 38th St, Oakland Park, FL 33334, USA
Invasive Species Brewing: A great vibe, and in one of the hipster-est part of town. A little dark inside but great selection, and fun retro games in the corner.
Address: 726 NE 2nd Ave, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, USA
The Brass Tap: A great patio scene and a wonderful way to end a night while being able to still hear what other people are saying. It’s also a great place to watch the game.
Address: 551 N Federal Hwy #600, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, USA
NOTE: There isn’t a shuttle that takes you from one brewery to the next, so the best idea would be to chart a course before heading out so you can walk from place to place and drink responsibly. Ride-sharing services are available, too.
Visit the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project
If you’re an art lover, like we are, you’re going to love everything about the Downtown Hollywood Mural project.
This is public-private partnership creates an inviting and thought-provoking discussion on the role that art can play in revitalizing an area. You’ll find amazing murals created by some fantastic local and internationally renowned artists. It’s an Instagrammer’s dream!
Hollywood Beach Broadwalk
Grab a friend, put on your comfy shoes, and head out for a walk on the 2.5 mile Hollywood Beach Broardwalk where you’ll discover the perfect pedestrian promenade full of joggers, skaters and cyclists, with seaside cafes perfect for sitting, resting and people-watching.
Catch the sunrise
Catching the sunrise is a real thing- and while the sunsets are on the other side of the State, being on the east end means that you can walk up to the most beautiful sunrises. Be sure to set your alarm so you don’t miss it!
Hit the Beach
You can’t come to a city like Fort Lauderdale- known for its beaches- and not go to the beach, and get some sun. There are multiple beaches that you can check out, and explore- although if you’re staying at the Plunge Beach Hotel, you can just walk the 100 ft to the beach right there!
Get Cultured at Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District
If arts and culture is more your scene, then head over to the Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District, and check out the museums and theatre to get your fill. You can find everything from Opera to ballet.
Take a Water Taxi
Just like in Venice, grabbing a water taxi to do a little house hunting is a great way to explore the canals. Most water taxis have stands that allow you to catch one, and they are a great way to explore the bars and restaurants that line the canals.
Shop till you drop at Las Olas Boulevard
You can’t end your weekend without checking out what the boutiques have to offer- chances are that you’ll find that one of a kind gem that will forever remind you of your time in the Venice of America.
Enjoy the nightlife
Being this close to Miami means that the nightlife scene bleeds over easily. If you’re into exploring what Fort Lauderdale has to offer after the sun goes down, we recommend checking out the following options:
Rooftop @WLO: Great vibes, even better cocktails, and a great lounge feel.
Address: 1 W Las Olas Blvd Suite 700, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, USA
Rhythm and Vine: This is more of a chill out option. More of an indoor/outdoor beer garden than a club. You’ll find different food trucks, a great Airstream bar & local DJs spinning the latest.
Address: 401 NE 5th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301, USA
WHERE TO EAT
Foodies are going to love everything about Fort Lauderdale as it has something for everyone- regardless of whether you’re into fine dining or pub style (wings and tacos). Honestly, you can find everything here, but we highly recommend the following options for different reasons:
MAI-KAI: There’s kitsch and then there’s Mai-Kai- and we’re here for it! Established in 1956, the Polynesian cuisine restaurant is one of the most unique experiences to have in Fort Lauderdale. This tiki-themed restaurant takes the traditional “dinner and a show” recipe but elevates with talented dancers, great food, and a beautiful outdoor garden. People from all over come for special occasions- like birthdays, anniversaries, or for proposals.
Address: 3599 N Federal Hwy, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308, USA
Terra-Mare at the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel: For fine dining and food lovers, there’s no better place to head to than here. Everything, we mean everything, on the menu is great, so the smart choice would be to order a few options off the sharing/appetizers list so you get a chance to try more things on the menu.
Address: 551 N Fort Lauderdale Beach Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33304, USA
THINGS TO NOTE:
Be mindful of mosquitoes and heat stroke, and drink lots of water. We’ve seen too many friends get knocked out for the count because they didn’t take care of their health.
Also, if you’re not planning on drinking a ton, it might be cheaper to rent a car for your stay (you can easily rent one from the airport) rather than using ride-sharing everywhere.
WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO FORT LAUDERDALE
- Bug spray: We can’t stress this enough.
- Hydrocortisone cream: For those times where your bug spray didn’t do a good enough job.
- Afterbite: See above.
- Sunscreen: Sun safety is very important.
- Umbrella: Depending on the time of the year, it can rain and having one on your is always a smart idea.
- Packing cube: You’ll thank us later.
- Camera: We recommend taking either a GoPro, or a small mirrorless (we love SONY), or if you’re looking for professional-level photos, we would suggest the SONY A7Riii
- Travel Insurance: Really important for both national and international visitors.
- Bathing suit: For all the beach time
- Maxi dress: Easy item to dress up or down.
- Shorts: For all the activities on the island. We recommend a pair of white or black ones to dress up for fancier dinners.
- Tanks: Bring a few
- Maxi skirt: Great thing to throw over your bathing suit or dress up if needed.
- Comfortable sandals: You’ll be walking around a lot. We love Birks.
- Sunglasses: Sun safety.
- Hat: See above. Also, a great item for those Instagram shots.
- Poncho: Because there is a possibility of rain.
- Beach bag: To carry your all your beach stuff.
- Going out clothes (dress, or cute shorts and a top): The nightlife scene here makes the effort worth it.
This guide was created in partnership with Visit Florida and the Greater Fort Lauderdale Area.