Fun in the sun. Art and culture. Tons of dining entertainment. There isn’t much that Fort Lauderdale has to offer. If you’re planning a family vacation, this oceanside retreat in southern Florida could be perfect for you. Of course, making the most of your trip means knowing all the best places to visit with the whole squad.
Read on as we cover 16 of the most fun and best things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids.
- Relax on Fort Lauderdale’s Beaches
- Butterfly World
- Young At Art Museum
- Museum of Discovery and Science
- Jungle Queen Riverboat
- Bluefoot Pirate Adventures
- Sawgrass Recreation Park
- Fort Lauderdale Sun Trolley
- Las Olas Gondola Tours
- Flamingo Gardens
- Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
- The Secret Woods Nature Center
- Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
- Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park
- Funky Fish Ocean Camp
Relax on Fort Lauderdale’s Beaches
Fort Lauderdale is situated along Florida’s Atlantic coast, and it boasts an incredible 24 miles of beachfront for you to enjoy. You can expect clear blue water, white sand, and endless opportunities for your family to explore and enjoy.
If you’re staying along the beach, there’s a strong chance your hotel has a private beach for you to enjoy. Beyond that, the area is home to several world-famous beaches. Here are a handful of the best beaches in Fort Lauderdale.
- Deerfield Beach: Just north of Fort Lauderdale, Deerfield Beach is home to the famous International Fishing Pier. Deerfield Beach provides some of the best sunsets in the region.
- Hillsboro Beach: Next to Deerfield, Hillsboro Beach was once a haven for sailors, and it’s home to the Hillsboro Lighthouse. Sailor beware, Hillsboro is home to one of the most treacherous inlets in the world.
- Pompano Beach: A must-visit for families who love to snorkel, scuba dive, or fish. There’s also an interactive playground on the beach for the kids to enjoy.
- Fort Lauderdale – Fort Lauderdale proper offers the most opportunity to dine and shop, and it’s one of the premier beaches in the area for watersports.
- Dania Beach: A laid-back ocean paradise that’s quiet compared to other area beaches, Dania Beach, is perfect for families who like to fish, hike, bike, and explore.
- Hollywood – Hollywood is home to a gorgeous oceanfront boardwalk that offers plenty of entertainment and dining opportunities for the family.
- Hallandale Beach: The last of the Fort Lauderdale beaches, Hallandale offers an expansive playground for the kid, volleyball courts, and oceanfront dining.
Indulge your children’s sense of wonder with a trip to Butterfly World inside Tradewinds Park. For over 30 years, this exhibit has been home to an incredible array of different butterfly species. Today, around 5,000 butterflies representing more than 75 species call Butterfly World their home.
The park is over three acres of natural habitat for butterflies and different tropical bird species. The grounds provide breathtaking scenery, tropical flora and fauna galore, and opportunities to interact with many incredible animals.
Young At Art Museum
The Young At Art Museum is a fun-for-all-ages interactive art experience that’s sure to delight the kids and parents alike. It’s one of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids. The museum was founded over 30 years ago to bring more art to South Florida children, and they’re continuing to deliver on their mission in a new space inside the Broward Mall.
The museum has over 150 pieces of art, including several immersive art installations. Before becoming the latest location of the Young at Art Museum, the space was formerly a clothing store. Realizing an opportunity, the dressing rooms were each turned into Instagram-worthy art installations that will make awesome additions to your vacation camera roll.
Museum of Discovery and Science
Whether your children are getting ready to go off to preschool or college, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Museum of Discovery and Science. This multi-floor museum offers tons of fun and exciting installations, almost all of which are interactive.
Packing all of the different exhibits into one afternoon is a challenge, so the museum is an excellent choice if you’re searching for all-day activity. Here are a few of the must-see exhibits at the museum.
Young kids will love the Discovery Center, an interactive experience focusing on fundamentals like counting, role-playing, and teamwork. The PNC Early Childhood Learning Lab is another just-for-kids space that offers arts and crafts, storytime, music, and more.
There are excellent natural exhibits catering to South Florida’s wildlife and history, both on land and in the ocean for the whole family. You can also check out some of the local animals as you take in an immersive indoor simulation of the area’s natural wildlife habitats.
Outside, the Science Park is an interactive experience that helps teach the concepts of physics and engineering in familiar ways.
Other notable installations at the museum include a Science Theater with mind-blowing daily demonstrations, an IMAX theater, flight and weather simulations, and much more.
Jungle Queen Riverboat
The historic Jungle Queen has been sailing the waters of Fort Lauderdale since 1935, and it’s a great way for your family to see the area and learn more about its history. Over 85 years and four boats later, the Jungle Queen offers 90-minute sightseeing cruises by day, and at night, they serve up their famous barbecue on evening dinner cruises.
The daytime show is a narrated 90-minute tour of the New River, known as the “Venice of America,” with sailings at noon and 2:30 pm. At night, the Jungle Queen offers a sightseeing cruise and variety show featuring music, comedy, magic, and fire dancing.
After a historic sightseeing tour through the New River, guests are treated to the Jungle Queen’s famous all-you-can-eat BBQ dinner, complete with baby back ribs and BBQ chicken. Your family will then enjoy an entertaining variety show complete with music, magic, comedy, and fire dancing.
Bluefoot Pirate Adventures
Tell your kids to walk the plank on this interactive pirate boat tour that’s fun for the whole family. Passengers aboard the Bluefoot are in for an adventure as captains Black Sparrow and Crawfish narrate a guided tour through the Intracoastal Waterway. While the captain regales the older sailors with historical tales of the sea, your young pirates are in for quite the adventure on the ship’s rear.
The kids can engage in a treasure hunt, battle opposing pirates with water cannons, and learn to talk pirate with lessons from the swashbuckling crew. Get to the dock a half hour early so the crew can outfit the whole family in sailor tattoos to commemorate your journey across the seas.
Sawgrass Recreation Park
No trip to South Florida is complete without a tour of the Everglades, and there’s no better way to see this impressive ecosystem than at the Sawgrass Recreation Park. The Park offers acres of pristine swampland, which is home to a variety of creatures, including the Florida Alligator, turtles, iguanas, and much more.
At the park, you can take a guided fan boat tour during the day or hop on one of their exciting red-eye Gator Nights night tours, which run on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This tour is sure to provide thrills as you and the family fly through the backwater trails at up to 40mph.
These guided tours are steeped in history and provide an incredible glimpse into the history of the Seminole people, the Florida Panther, and of course, gators. After the boat tour, your family can take in the reptile museum or mine for shark’s teeth and gems at the Sawgrass Mining Company.
Beyond the guided tours, there’s plenty of opportunities for your family to explore and enjoy the park on your own. The park features a boat ramp, fishing, campsites with electric and water hookups, and tons more.
Fort Lauderdale Sun Trolley
The Fort Lauderdale Sun Trolley is a historic part of the city, and it’s the perfect way for you and your family to get around town and enjoy all Fort Lauderdale has to offer. The Sun Trolley has operated continuously since 1992 to provide locals and tourists alike with an easy and affordable way to get around town.
Recent improvements have made the Sun Trolley better than ever. Each of the five lines offers a predictable, set schedule so you’ll always know when you and the family can hop on the bus to your next destination. The Trolleybuses are sure to invoke feelings of nostalgia, and they take influence from the trolley lines of San Francisco and London’s famous double-decker buses.
Best of all, riding the Sun Trolley line is free for the whole family. It’s never been easier to get to where you’re going in Fort Lauderdale, thanks to the Sun Trolley. Altogether, there are six different trolley lines that link different parts of the city together.
- Riverwalk Link – For exploring the area surrounding the New River.
- Las Olas Link – Connects you to Fort Lauderdale’s bustling downtown area with shops and dining.
- Beach Link – Transportation to and from world-famous Fort Lauderdale beach.
- Downtown Link – A favorite of residents, this trolley offers stops at the BCT central terminal, Flagler Village, and the courthouse.
- NW Community Link – This trolley is a direct connection to the Tri-Rail and offers stops along Broward Boulevard.
- Neighborhood Link – Offers stops to Dillard High School, the African American Research Library, Childnet, and more.
Each of the six lines offers transfer points that connect it to one or more of the other Sun Trolley lines, so it’s easy for you to get from one line to the next as you explore other parts of the city.
With over 9,000 square feet of awesome installations to explore, Funderdome is fun for the whole family, and its interactive games and exhibits promote fun, inclusiveness, teamwork, and fitness.
Some of the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids include a massive climbing wall, the Sky Trail rope challenge course, laser maze, ball blasting arena, multi-sport court, and a cavernous maze and playground that’s fun for kids of all ages.
Funderdome also offers a dedicated play area for young children and plenty of special events. Be sure to check their calendar to see if there are any exciting events planned for when you’ll be in Fort Lauderdale.
Las Olas Gondola Tours
With Fort Lauderdale’s New River known as the “Venice of America,” a gondola tour makes too much sense. The Las Olas Gondola Tour is perhaps the best way to spend a day on the historic New River, and the tour company does an excellent job of turning a fun day on the water into an immersive learning experience.
Gondolas tour the canals of Fort Lauderdale, rain or shine, and they offer tours at several points in the day. The daytime tour is perfect for learning more about the area while viewing the incredible mansions that sit alongside the canal. The sunset and evening cruises are a perfect romantic escape if you get some time away from the kids on your trip.
Each gondola features a spacious front seating area with a cocktail table, and the crew provides ice, glasses, and plates for you to enjoy snacks and drinks while enjoying the beautiful scenery of the Fort Lauderdale shoreline.
No trip to Fort Lauderdale would be complete without an afternoon saying hello to one of the world’s quirkiest natural wonders, the Pink Flamingo. Just east of Fort Lauderdale, nestled against the Everglades, is the ideal destination for seeing these incredible birds up close, and there’s so much more to do at Flamingo Gardens beyond mingling with the birds.
Flamingo Gardens was founded in 1927 by the Wray family, who began the preserve as a citrus plantation and botanical garden. With help from the U.S. government, who were intrigued by the sub-tropical climate of Fort Lauderdale, hundreds of additional species of tropical plants, flowers, and trees were added to the grove.
Over the years, this wildlife preserve and botanical garden have grown to house incredible flora and fauna, flamingos, and other animals. The whole family will find tons to enjoy, including special events that change with the seasons.
The park features over 60 acres of botanical gardens with more than 3,000 different species of rare and tropical plants and flowers. There’s also a wildlife sanctuary that provides an amazing habitat for sick or injured animals. You’ll also get up close and personal with some of the Florida locals, including gators, bears, bobcats, panthers, peacocks, and much more.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
When you’ve had your fill of the beach, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park offers perhaps the best way for your family to soak up all the natural wonders that Fort Lauderdale has to offer.
The park’s namesake, Hugh Taylor Birch, was one of the first settlers in South Florida, and he purchased about three miles worth of prime real estate in Fort Lauderdale. At the time, people thought he was crazy for spending $3,500 on this stretch of land that had virtually no farming prospects or access to freshwater.
After Birch passed away in the early 1940s, he returned the land to the state, and his vision for an expansive natural park for all to enjoy has since been realized. Visitors can spend a day exploring the park and all there is to do and enjoy guided tours with the park staff on Friday and Saturdays.
From hiking and climbing to fishing, kayaking, and snorkeling, Hugh Birch offers something for everyone to enjoy. There’s plenty of amenities within the park, including a restaurant, and entry to the park is very reasonable. There aren’t many better ways to spend a day when you’re in Fort Lauderdale.
The Secret Woods Nature Center
Under a dense canopy of mangroves is a truly beautiful slice of the south Florida landscape from a time long ago. The Secret Woods Nature Center is an expansive 57-acre preserve that’s home to an abundance of wildlife, incredible trees, flowers, and plants, and arguably the best hiking and walking trails in the state.
You’ll see enormous land crabs, majestic birds, soaring palm trees, dense mangrove forests, and much more as you tour the trails. There’s also an excellent nature center with regular exhibitions and special events centering around the diverse habitats that make up the park.
Almost all of the trails are along boardwalks, so all the kids can get in on the fun, even if they’re still in strollers. Be sure to take a stroll down the Laurel Oak Trail for your best chance at seeing the giant land crabs and mangrove crabs that are among the many critters who call The Secret Woods their home.
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Journey back in time to the turn of the 20th century, when Florida was among the last of the natural frontiers of America. The landscape was truly wild, and that’s reflected in the Bonnet House, which is a palatial estate nestled into the dense sub-tropical landscape of Fort Lauderdale.
The Bonnet House has roots with Hugh Taylor Birch, who gave the land to his daughter Helen. Helen Louise Birch developed the land with her husband Frederic Clay Bartlett before her untimely passing in 1931. Bartlett lived in the home with his second wife, who maintained a summer residence here into the 1990s.
Today, the home is one of the nation’s most famed house museums, and it serves as a historic landmark of Fort Lauderdale, a museum and art gallery. Beyond the home itself, the grounds are incredible and well worth a leisurely stroll with the family.
The expansive property has an abundance of different ecosystems, from ocean beachfront to tropical forest, and a variety of different animals call the grounds their home. You may even see manatees relaxing in the boathouse canal as you tour the property.
Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park
A historic coastal retreat that represents one of the area’s last undeveloped coastal ecosystems, Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park has deep roots in the civil rights history of South Florida. The park is named for an area civil rights leader who led the “wade-in” protests for the desegregation of the area’s beaches.
Today, the park is a welcome respite from the fast pace of the nearby city, and it represents some of the best opportunities for fishing, boating, swimming, watersports, and hiking in the Fort Lauderdale area.
The Whiskey Creek Hideout within the park is your one-stop shop for everything you’ll need while you’re there. Here, you can rent a kayak, paddleboard, or beach necessities to enjoy while you’re in the park. You can also grab a bite and a drink at the restaurant or purchase necessities like ice or water.
Like many of Fort Lauderdale’s best attractions, you’re never far from the local wildlife. Whiskey Creek runs through the park, and it’s a protected waterway for the Florida Manatee, which are often seen relaxing in the quiet tidal waters. From the beach, look towards the horizon line, and you’re bound to see dolphins swimming along the shore.
Funky Fish Ocean Camp
If you are looking for the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids, the Funky Fish Ocean Camp is the perfect area destination. The camp is open year-round from 9-3 pm on the weekdays and 10-3 pm on weekends. Parents can drop off their kids age 4-17 for a day of excitement and adventure along Fort Lauderdale’s premier beach.
For the kids, the day begins with high-energy introductions from the staff and other kids at camp, followed by snorkeling in the waters beyond one of the area’s private beaches. They’ll follow that up by designing and creating their own art, such as a custom t-shirt or beach bracelet. Next, a guided skimboarding class awaits with the camp counselors, who are all pros of skimming along the sand.
After a healthy lunch, the children can participate in a variety of oceanographic activities to boost their knowledge of the ocean and their connection to nature before completing the day with a boogie boarding lesson.
On Fridays in the summer, guests of the camp are treated to a ride aboard a 42’ catamaran before embarking on a snorkeling adventure. In addition to the abundant sea life, kids can see the Copenhagen shipwreck and view North America’s only living coral reef.
There are five different Funky Fish Ocean Camp locations at resorts throughout the Fort Lauderdale area, so you’re never far from a day of fun and adventure. As for the adults, we’re sure you can find a way to entertain yourselves while the kids are at camp for the day.
Are you still looking for accommodation and hoping to stay not too far from the airport? We’ve created a handy list of the best hotels near Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport for families to make your vacation planning easier!
More about our TFVG Author
A seasoned traveller, Dad, and avid sports tourist, James foundered The Family Vacation Guide to share his expert vacation experiences- especially when it comes to being a travelling family man.
Featured in Travel articles such as Travel + Leisure, TripSavvy and SFGate, you know you're reading some of the best vacation tips online.