Though it was never our dream to move to Fort Lauderdale, little by little we let it into our hearts. And it wasn’t long before we quickly grew to cherish some local spots within six months of living there. And we saw the beauty in this South Florida city on the east coast of the Sunshine State. Our favorite things to do around Fort Lauderdale quickly became things we would do over and over again, as habits around such things usually form. Though these aren’t necessarily the tourist attractions to do while you’re in town, we recommend this list for anyone moving there who is interested in finding go-to spots, to repeat visitors in the area or those wanting a more authentic experience when in Fort Lauderdale.
Spot the Murals at Flagler Village’s “Little Wynwood”
One of the first things that made me feel more at ease in Fort Lauderdale – and like we could find a neighborhood that felt like us – was stumbling upon Flagler Village. It’s a small neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale. Flagler Village is near downtown and next to Victoria Park, an area we were interested to live in.
We quickly gravitated towards it for one main reason: it’s incredible wall murals. This street art pulled us in like moths to a flame.
There’s not only street art there but also a few great little shops and restaurants. We loved trying the ice cream at Notorious Creamery (also very Instagram worthy inside). And I had a well-worth-it poke bowl from surfer themed, The Poke House, another day I was craving raw fish.
If you’re into photography and love some good murals, Flagler Village is definitely a not-to-miss thing to do around Fort Lauderdale. (And while you’re in the area you should definitely take a trip south to Miami and engage with some fun things to do in Wynwood, famous for it’s murals.)
Relax at American Icon Brewery Kitchen & Taproom
We always look for chill places to enjoy local craft beer, with a good vibe and enjoyable atmosphere. American Icon Brewery Kitchen & Taproom is simply one of those gems we discovered. It’s right across the railroad tracks from Flagler Village’s “Little Winwood” area.
They have indoor and outdoor seating and a dog-friendly patio outside. They brew their own beer and have daily specials – whether for drinks or food – and TVs inside if you’re craving some sports with your beer or cocktails. Though we wouldn’t say their food is the best by any means, it does the trick if you’re prioritizing beers and atmosphere.
There’s a very large mural of Doors front man, Jim Morrison, painted on the front facade of American Icon. And inside you’ll find imagery of icons like Frank Sinatra, James Dean and Marilyn Monroe. It’s a fun place!
Enjoy Las Olas Boulevard
Another place that made us feel like we could live in Fort Lauderdale was discovering Las Olas Boulevard. We didn’t really have time to research the city before visiting to try to envision ourselves living there. So, although Las Olas Boulevard shows up in many lists of things to do around Fort Lauderdale, we didn’t know about it until we were literally driving it.
It’s a street in downtown Fort Lauderdale with skyscrapers towering above it, very close to the riverfront. In fact, some restaurants on Las Olas have waterfront seating.
One of our favorite spots on Las Olas Boulevard is El Camino. It’s a Mexican restaurant with a great happy hour and plenty of seating that opens onto the sidewalk.
Las Olas Boulevard is closed to traffic a few times a year to host things like car shows and art shows. Even if you aren’t around when those events are going on, there are a good amount of galleries on the boulevard that you can visit. Most of them are open well into the evening to welcome the dinner crowds too.
We also really enjoy a cigar and tobacco shop, called Havana Republic Cigar on Las Olas. It’s small but significant. Be on the lookout for it or you may miss it when you walk by if you’re looking at the other side of the street.
The owners are incredibly welcoming and friendly. Dan tends to know the cigar he wants when we walks into a shop like this but I tend to need more guidance. They’ve always been helpful. We don’t smoke often – maybe half a cigar every two months. But this place makes us want to take it up more! (Which is probably terrible but hey, other things we enjoy are probably worse for us.)
We recommend having dinner on Las Olas Boulevard then going to Havana Republic Cigar for an after dinner treat. Sit outside on their patio for great people watching on a Saturday night and hopefully some tunes from a musician they hire to play on weekends.
Stroll Fort Lauderdale’s Riverwalk
Riverwalk has been around since the 1980’s, over thirty years. This multi-million dollar project is pedestrian friendly. It follows the historic “New River” in Fort Lauderdale, which was used for trade by Native Americans centuries ago. It welcomes locals and visitors to enjoy the views and beautiful scenery along its two and a half mile run.
Several parks are included along Riverwalk, with sculptures and beautiful plants and flowers along the way. One of our favorite things to do is look at the yachts and boats docked on the river.
The video below shows the river 17 seconds in, which is slightly odd it’s not the opening scene. However once you’re into it, it’s a great overview of Riverwalk in downtown Fort Lauderdale:
Listen to Jazz in the Park at Riverwalk
What’s further is the that there’s a monthly “Jazz in the Park” brunch on Sundays in Riverwalk. (Not sure why they call it brunch because they don’t serve anything…unless you buy food from a few limited concessions on site, who may or may not be there.) A conversation with a frequent Fort Lauderdale visitor at Doc B’s bar (see below) educated us about this great event.
It’s free and is the first Sunday of each month from 11:00am to 2:00pm. We recommended getting there before 11:00am to secure your favorite spot in the park. Bring a blanket to sit or lay on, or portable chairs, a picnic for food and drinks and enjoy the tunes. We did see a few vendors selling beer there if you want something stronger than lemonade or water from home.
Walk through Victoria Park Neighborhood
This neighborhood is just north of Las Olas Boulevard. The reason we love walking around is because it’s a beautiful area full of ranch homes where no two houses look quite the same. The landscaping in the neighborhood is always impressive and well kept.
If you’re interested in a family-friendly neighborhood to go bike riding or walking, and enjoy some fun architecture as your scenery this is a wonderful place we like to navigate as Fort Lauderdale locals. (We liked it so much we rented an apartment there.)
Get Wings and Beers at 3 Sons Brewing Co.
Thank GOODNESS we could find a brewery with great wings in Fort Lauderdale! 3 Sons Brewing Co. is very close to the airport – just five to ten minutes away depending on traffic, actually.
We discovered the reason their wings are so good is because the owner, who has three sons from what we understand, is from the Buffalo, New York area. And guess what? Dan’s from there too! So if anyone can judge great Buffalo Wings, it’s him. They make their own sauces (including blue cheese to dip them in like true Buffalonians do) and we give it two thumbs up.
Actually all their food we have tried is delicious. And their beer, which is the reason most people are draw in here…it’s great.
Visit Doc B’s Bar and Good Spirits to Connect with Locals in Fort Lauderdale
Two restaurants and bars right between Flagler Village and Victoria Park that we found ourselves going back to time and again were Doc B’s and Good Spirits Fifth and Fed. They’re right across the road from each other. (As in about a 15 second walk away.)
Both have great food, great drinks and welcoming staff. We knew we were in a spot locals go as soon as we noticed how many neighborhood residents were there the first time we visited – people the bartenders, servers and managers knew by name.
It’s a little far to walk there from our neighborhood in Victoria Park, but it’s only about a five to seven minute drive. Both have happy hour specials during the week.
Drive A1A through the Fort Lauderdale Area and Beyond (North is Better)
Dan and I both enjoy driving. And one of the fun things to do is to drive road A1A, which is on the “island” that runs north and south along the intracoastal in Fort Lauderdale.
There’s a lot of waterfront property along A1A so it’s common for wealthy people to buy or build mega-mansion homes there. Which means there’s a lot of “how the other half lives” peeking for you to do as you drive A1A.
We enjoy doing this once in a while so much (and it’s so great to do if you need to isolate from people because you do it from your car) we added it to our list of 25 Affordable Date Ideas during social-distancing.
We recommend driving from Fort Lauderdale north on A1A, towards Delray Beach and Boca Raton. The scenery is much more interesting in that direction rather than going south towards Miami.
Appreciate Everglades National Park with an Everglades Tour around Fort Lauderdale
I don’t think I ever fully appreciated the National Parks in the United States until visiting Yellowstone National Park for the first time, in Montana in 2019. But ever since then my love for nature and the preservation of the parks, overall, has really deepened.
My excitement for visiting Everglades National Park grew tenfold after learning we’d be in Fort Lauderdale for Dan’s job much more often. Thus, when I had the opportunity to go on an Everglades National Park Tour, with Sawgrass Recreational Park (a family owned and operated business), I jumped at the chance. It’s only a 30 minute drive inland from the coast of Fort Lauderdale.
What ensued was a chilly, yet wonderful morning tour on a sunny winter day. It’s such a unique ecosystem and an airboat ride is really the only way to explore its splendor. Note that you can do this for a day trip from a cruise port or near the airport if you have about half a day’s time.
Spend an afternoon at Morikami Museum and Gardens
Morikami is north of Fort Lauderdale. It’s maybe about a 30 to 40 minute drive depending on exactly where you’re driving north from. It is what totally turned my perspective of the area around. I wasn’t keen on leaving Raleigh but Dan knows me all too well. So one trip down to Florida – when he had already moved and I was still bouncing back and forth between North Carolina and Florida – he took me on a surprise date.
We drove up to a sign that said “Morikami Museum and Gardens” and I nearly cried tears of joy. I have a deep love for all things Japanese, including Japanese gardens. And I instantly felt more welcomed into the area as we walked around Morikami. It was the first thing that gave me a positive impression of the area and like I could, in fact, find things to appreciate about South Florida.
They have gardens that takes about an hour or so to walk around including a great collection of Bonsai trees. There is a museum inside as well with an exhibit that rotates every six to 12 months. Their museum shop is pretty good and has a lot of Japanese imports or Japanese themed items for sale (including kimonos). And they also have a restaurant on the premises that serves Japanese food, of course.
Relocating to Fort Lauderdale?
On another personal Fort Lauderdale favorites note: if you’re relocating to Fort Lauderdale and need a realtor we HIGHLY recommend MaryEllen Closius of The Keyes Company. She’s a godsend who goes by the title of “Real Estate Agent”. She’s been such an ally in our move and an all-around shining light in the area.
Heading to Florida? Also check out:
- Everything You Need to Know About the Best Fort Lauderdale Everglades Tour
- Fun Things to Do in Wynwood, Miami in Addition to Seeing Murals
- Things to Do at Walt Disney World Besides the Parks