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Fort Lauderdale excursions + city guide

Fort Lauderdale Beach sunrise

Do you have a city you seem to just… end up in all the time? For me, that’s Fort Lauderdale. While I’ve somehow never been to Miami, I’ve found myself in its northern neighbor at least five or six times over the last few years. At first, I wasn’t all that thrilled about the repeat trips, but as I started to dig deeper, I realized there’s actually tons to do in the area—even if it’s a little bit spread out geographically. Check out this guide to my favorite Fort Lauderdale excursions and things to do around the city for the next time you’re in Florida!

FORT LAUDERDALE EXCURSIONS + CITY GUIDE

WHEN TO VISIT FORT LAUDERDALE

This one can be a little tricky. I used to think South Florida was warm all the time, and that’s not exactly true. Sure, it’s warm relative to other parts of the United States, and it can be beach weather in December. But the thing is, it’s not reliably warm in the winter months. (On my last trip, right before the holidays, it was about 60° to 65° F and sunny. Warm enough for a nice beach stroll? Sure. Warm enough to swim or sit out at the pool? Not for me, at least.) I’d recommend heading farther south (Mexico, anyone?) for winter and checking out Fort Lauderdale in the spring instead.

Also, don’t let a rainy forecast scare you too much—weather can move in and out of this area extremely quickly!

Kayaker

WHERE TO STAY IN FORT LAUDERDALE

Unless you’re in town before a cruise and really need to be close to the port, I recommend staying on Fort Lauderdale Beach. Even if you’re not planning to swim or sunbathe, you can’t complain about ocean and sunrise views, right?

Resorts line the beach, and many of them have nice oceanfront restaurants. As a result, you can walk up and down the street for lunch and dinner, making this pretty much the only part of the city where you could get away without having a car. (I’d still probably rent one anyway, at least for a day or two to get to the nearby National Parks, but it’s nice to have the option to go without!).

I really like where the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach in particular is situated, and I had a great experience there last year that I’ll review in depth soon. If you’re looking for a lower price point, I also had a nice experience at the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach, which is a DoubleTree by Hilton property. (Of course, I always lean toward using points if possible so that price isn’t a concern—to learn more about how, visit the 52 Cities free resource library or check out an upcoming points and miles masterclass!)

Bahia Mar beach
Bahia Mar pool

WHERE TO EAT IN FORT LAUDERDALE

BREAKFAST

JB&C – Short for Juice Bar & Cafe, JB&C’s got the killer combination of fresh, healthy food and a gorgeous interior. Think acai bowls, avocado toast and major plant envy. 

JB&C
Acai bowl

Warsaw Coffee Co./Milk Money Bar – Milk Money shines at breakfast, where you can choose between healthy options and more traditional breakfast classics. You can get your caffeine fix at Warsaw Coffee, which sits within Milk Money.

The Alchemist (Wilton Manors location) – I recommend The Alchemist not so much for the food as for the location. This is the place to grab something quick, be it a coffee drink or a bagel sandwich, and eat it in a leafy garden or while strolling around Wilton Manors (more below on what you’ll find there!).

LUNCH

El Vez – Baja-inspired Mexican restaurant El Vez would be great any time of day, but if you visit while it’s light out, you can enjoy its colorful decor and gorgeous ocean views in addition to its signature seafood dishes.

El Vez food
El Vez

Hummus Factory – If you think all hummus is created equal, you haven’t been to Hummus Factory. You’ll hear Hebrew as soon as you step through the door, so you know it’s good.

DINNER

Lona Cocina Tequileria – The perfect spot for a Mexican dinner al fresco, set to the sound of ocean waves. Definitely go for the guacamole and margaritas.

Point Royal – Located inside The Diplomat Beach Resort, Point Royal is a bit south of Fort Lauderdale. But it’s worth the drive for dinner in this stunning space—particularly if you like raw bars.

ETARU Hallandale – Buzzy Japanese spot Etaru is another another establishment that’s worth a short trek south. The grill set in the center of the restaurant is a focal point.

Etaru Hallandale

Burdock Coast – Seafood is the name of the game at Burdock Coast, but its vegetable sides are impressive in their own right.

Terra Mare – This sleek, sophisticated restaurant inside the Conrad prides itself on serving food that’s locally sourced. Sharing is encouraged!

Coconuts – I’m putting this in the “dinner” section because I didn’t have enough to make a section just for pie. But if you want to eat along the water and can stand a little kitsch, check out Coconuts for the key lime pie and blackberry mojitos. 

WHERE TO DRINK IN FORT LAUDERDALE

COFFEE

Wells Coffee Co. – This roastery, started in 2013, now has a brick-and-mortar home in the Flagler Village area. It holds a coffee shop within it so you can try the product on the spot!

Wells Coffee Co. menu
Wells Coffee Co. beans

Bean to Brew – This colorful cafe’s walls are bedecked with art, both inside and out, where you’ll find murals of Andy Warhol and others you may recognize. It offers single-origin coffees, teas and espressos, as well as home-made breakfast and lunch items and pastries.

ALCOHOL

The Wilder – I didn’t actually get to have a drink at this gorgeous cocktail bar, but one look at the interior told me it’s worth a visit. This one is as Instagram friendly as they come and my suspicion is that the fare is as high-quality as the decor.

The Wilder
The Wilder

Laser Wolf – This epic beer bar is divey in all the best ways. Its selection is fantastic and it’s even got a little outdoor courtyard where you can enjoy your beer in the grass on a nice night. 

Laser Wolf

Hunters Beach Bar – Speaking of epic dives, if you’re looking for a place to hang out that features really, really strong pours and maybe a jukebox for good measure, Hunters is perfect. Don’t let the picture on its website put you off; when I went, it was much less “spring break” and much more “middle-aged people having the time of their lives on the dance floor while everyone else sat at tables made of neon surfboards and enjoyed their drinks in peace.”

THINGS TO DO IN FORT LAUDERDALE

Hit the beach – The city boasts more than 7 miles of public beaches that you can enjoy all throughout the year. If it’s too cold for swimming, check out opportunities to fish, play volleyball, run along the promenade and so much more.

Flagler Village – Like so many across America, this once-warehouse district has transformed into one of the city’s hotspots. Trendy cafes and restaurants, boutiques and street art are now its hallmarks, and it’s a fun place to walk around and explore.

The Yard – The Yard at Wilton Manors is like a hidden, leafy neighborhood filled with places to eat, shop and stroll. You’ll find lots going on on a weekend morning!

See the canals – Fort Lauderdale has garnered comparisons to Venice for its massive web of waterways. You can hop on a tour or water taxi to see the city’s 165 miles of canals up close.

Canals

DAY TRIPS FROM FORT LAUDERDALE

Miami – A top-notch dining scene, the street art of Wynwood, Little Havana and so much more are less than 30 miles away. Miami makes a super easy day trip from Fort Lauderdale, or a great additional stop on a multi-city itinerary if you want more time to see it all. 

Everglades National Park – The Everglades is home to a one-of-a-kind ecosystem that exists within its 1.5 million acres of wetland. Take a tour boat or kayak out on the water, bike around the pinelands or go wildlife spotting: Alligators, crocodiles, turtles, manatees, dolphins, birds and more all call the area home!

Biscayne National Park – The best way to see this water-based park is with a tour, be it one that includes snorkeling around coral reefs and a shipwreck or just a cruise out Boca Chita Key and lighthouse. If you’re considering one, it’s best to book in advance, as they fill up!

STILL ON MY LIST

Brew Urban Cafe – This coffee shop is part of Next Door, a local events space and hub for arts and culture.

Hope this city guide helps you plan your Fort Lauderdale excursions! What are your favorite things to do in Florida? Let me know in the comments! >>

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