Lovingly nicknamed the “Venice of Florida” thanks to the beautiful canals that flow through downtown, Fort Lauderdale is an ideal getaway for Floridians who seek art, culture, and fun. You can get to Fort Lauderdale from Orlando in just under four hours by car, or hop on a quick commercial flight. Once you arrive, go ahead and soak up the upbeat South Florida vibe often found in Miami…without all of the congestion. And while you’re surrounded by sparkling water, you’re sure to spark a little romance.
B Ocean Resort Fort Lauderdale
The architecture of the B Ocean Resort is iconic. Originally opened in 1956, this hotel resembles a clipper ship. The property mixes contemporary and modern luxury with a little kitsch. Bask in the sunshine and comfort of the private beach area while enjoying delicious food and drink options, or catch a one-of-a-kind mermaid show at the world-famous Wreck Bar (more about that later). Make a splash and pool hop at the resort’s two pools. This storied resort is a romantic setting to make your own love story.
Conrad Fort Lauderdale
An all-suite hotel, Conrad Fort Lauderdale is one of the most luxurious resorts on the beach. Each suite has an Italian marble bathroom with amenities that will renew you. Make time to marvel at the 6th-floor Sky Deck with jaw-dropping panoramic views. Dine in one of four hotel restaurants or spoil yourself with in-suite dining. Whether you decide to whip up something to eat or reheat leftovers from a delectable dinner the night before, the gourmet kitchen in each suite comes in handy.
Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa
A centrally-located beachfront hotel, the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort is a great pick for your Fort Lauderdale getaway. Dive into the lagoon-style pool, spend the day jet skiing and snorkeling, or pamper yourself at the spa. If you want to upgrade your stay, consider one of the newly re-designed suites. If your kiddos are tagging along, take advantage of the kid’s club. This resort offers a long list of amenities making it a destination unto itself, while serving as the ideal home base for exploring all that Fort Lauderdale offers.
Need pet-friendly accommodations? Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach welcomes small pets (20 lbs and under) and is a few steps from the beach and well-known attractions like Las Olas Boulevard and The Galleria at Fort Lauderdale. Ocean Manor Resort is also pet-friendly.
You can browse through more accomodations at the official Fort Lauderdale Visitors and Convention Bureau website.
FOR ART & HISTORY LOVERS
Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
Explore one of the most unique residences in the entire Sunshine State at Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. This urban paradise is an estate of two American artists who helped change the landscape of South Florida. Browsing the tropical grounds is inspiring; an oasis nestled among the glitzy high rise hotels and condos along Fort Lauderdale Beach. The flora and fauna of this land beckons you to slow down and appreciate the beauty. Be sure to book the guided tour through the Bonnet House itself. You’ll learn the impressive history of the estate and see original works of art from the early 20th century. Before or after your tour, make time to linger in the grounds. Clear enough memory on your phone because you will be snapping lots of photos!
History Fort Lauderdale
Immerse yourself in the history of the area at History Fort Lauderdale. This attraction is devoted to preserving and sharing the history of Fort Lauderdale. The main museum is the site of The New River Inn, the county’s oldest hotel. There is also the Pioneer House Museum, School House Museum, and the Hoch Research Library, which is one of the most extensive in the state. The grounds and the buildings are picturesque, making this a popular venue for weddings and private events.
Flagler Village / FAT
Surround yourself in art and creativity at Flagler Village. This district within downtown Fort Lauderdale is home to murals galore, art galleries, shops and restaurants. Flagler Arts and Technology (FAT) elevates the art scene and provides a haven for technological advancement in the area.
Within Flagler Village you’ll find Mockingbird Trail. This urban trail provides a space for a myriad of activity including exercise or strolling along to appreciate the area’s beauty. You can also search for the trail’s giant mockingbird. Clues in the form of large, handcrafted concrete and steel public art sculptures are scattered throughout the neighborhood. Traverse along the streets, sidewalks, alleys and through Peter Feldman Park in hopes of finding this bird.
FOR NATURE LOVERS
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
One of Florida’s most unique state parks is Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. In the midst of the kinetic energy of downtown Fort Lauderdale Beach, a natural oasis calls. Florida wildlife is at home home here, and vIsitors have boat access from the intracoastal waterway. The park is a vibrant center for the community of Fort Lauderdale, and residents take pleasure in activities from rollerblading to reading under the shade of palms and oaks. Check out the beach via the pedestrian tunnel under A1A, or head to the Terramar Visitor Center for displays highlighting the area’s natural and cultural history. This natural treasure is all thanks to Hugh Taylor Birch, a Midwesterner who made Florida his second home and wanted to preserve his estate for future generations to enjoy.
Snyder Park offers a new, 1.2-mile bike trail with two different trail grades. The beginner trail grade is suitable for beginners, families, and children. It features gentle gradients and minor obstacles. The intermediate trail grade is suitable for experienced riders with moderate skills. It features challenging terrain with unavoidable obstacles and drop-offs.
Apart from enjoying the park on two wheels, take a stroll through the flourishing butterfly garden filled with a variety of host and nectar plants, such as milkweed, dill, and pentas. If you and your honey are a little more active, play a round of disc golf or volleyball. Or, show your sweetheart how great of a catch you are by catching (and releasing) fish off of the fishing docks. Note: there is a $1/hour parking charge on weekends.
Everglades Holiday Park
There’s no way your trip to South Florida can be complete without a trip to The Everglades, or at least an airboat ride. The unique airboats at Everglades Holiday Park are covered, making it possible to experience Florida’s wild beauty in any weather and with a bit of reprieve from the oppressive heat of the South Florida sun. Before or after your airboat tour you can get up close with exotic animals. These intimate encounters last 45 minutes and do require advance reservations.
FUN FOR EVERYONE
Cruise the Canals on a Boat Tour
No visit to the “Venice of Florida” is complete without a tour of the city’s scenic canals. There are so many boat tours from which to choose it can be a little overwhelming. Two of the most well known are The Jungle Queen and The Carrie B. Both are a little touristy, especially The Jungle Queen, which offers a few different tours including one that makes a stop at its own tropical isle where exotic animals call home, or an evening cruise with a luau on the tropical isle. However, it’s a classic; The Jungle Queen has been operating tours in the area since 1935.
Carrie B Cruises puts more emphasis on the ritzy, glitzy side of Fort Lauderdale, cruising past yachts and waterside mansions. This is a great option if you want to see how the rich and famous soak up the South Florida lifestyle.
Museum of Discovery and Science
Florida’s most-visited museum is right here in Fort Lauderdale. If your three perfect days in Fort Lauderdale find you with some rain in the forecast this is a great way to spend that rainy day or get out of the heat for a while. If you have kids along with you the Museum of Discovery is a must! You can explore countless hands-on exhibits, come face to face with some of Florida native animals, and be blown away by the IMAX theater. Don’t miss the outdoor exhibit area too!
FAT Village Artwalk
Last Saturday of each month, 6-10pm
521 NW 1st Avenue
New River Marketplace at History Fort Lauderdale
Fourth Saturday of each month, 7am-1pm
231 SW Second Avenue
Set under the shade of historic live oaks, the Marketplace features a selection of original art, antiques, furnishings, collectables, clothing, jewelry, luxury bath fixtures and more. Food and beverage is available to purchase onsite. Live music adds to the charm of this free event.
DRINK & DINE
Mai Kai Polyneisan Restaurant and Show
Tiki drink enthusiasts make pilgrimages to Mai Kai, and upon setting eyes on it for the first time you’ll immediately understand why. The Mai Kai has been in operation since 1956 and it proudly stands as a living time capsule of America’s fascination with tiki culture in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The entire place is lush, dripping with tropical tiki touches. Have dinner in one of the dining rooms, each named after a different island and offering views of the famous stage show. Or, visit the Molokai Bar for the beloved daily happy hour (all drinks are half off!). Before you depart you absolutely must head to the gardens and stroll through the winding pathway and grotto.
The Wreck Bar
Journey into the B Ocean Resort and escape to The Wreck Bar. Originally opened in 1956, this hotel resembles a clipper ship. The main attraction of The Wreck Bar is the one-of-a-kind mermaid show, an underwater burlesque show in fact. This show is fun and titillating. The performers are impressive considering their performance takes place underwater without the use of air tanks or hoses. It is a unique date night to be sure. The show is free, but a minimum $30 food and beverage spend per person is required. Gratuity for the performers is appreciated as well. The food selection is fabulous as the menu is from The Naked Crab, the resort’s signature restaurant.
Funky Buddha Brewery and Kitchen
Upon walking into Funky Buddha you’re sure to be impressed by its size and popularity. Once you browse the beer and food menus it’s easy to see why this is one of Florida’s most-loved breweries. Funky Buddha excels at producing beers that are flavored with imaginative ingredients. Be on the lookout for creative craft beers like Maple Bacon Coffee Porter, Key Lime Pie Tart Ale, or French Toast Double Brown Ale. And no need to worry about having to find a place to eat, Funky Buddha has a food menu that pairs perfectly with their beers.
Invasive Species Brewing
Invasive Species Brewing is a favorite brewery among Fort Lauderdale locals. The vibe inside is part natural Florida history museum, part taxidermy office. What makes Invasive Species Brewing unique–besides the decor–is that their focus isn’t on becoming a largely distributed craft beer company. Instead, they want to be creative and be appreciated by the locals. Be sure to chat with your bartender or server about the beers that are available during your visit and they’ll guide you on the best options for your taste. Head out back to enjoy the beer patio.
Dining on the ocean is a must-do when in South Florida. Boatyard brings a casual sophistication to your dining experience. The seafood-focused menu offers fresh daily catches and seasonal contemporary American cuisine in an upscale, yet laid-back atmosphere with inventive cocktails. Bruch is a great way to enjoy a blissful morning dining on the water, and the Monday – Friday happy hour is a budget-friendly way to enjoy this beautiful restaurant. Reservations are recommended.
The waterside views offered at Pelican Landing are sure ignite romance and put a relaxed sigh on your lips. Located at Pier 36, you’ll enjoy lovely views and great food and drink. The food menu is one of the most creative, yet approachable menus in the area. Live music is offered Thursday – Sunday. The Sunday Funday brunch offered from 10am-2pm is quite popular, mostly thanks to the unlimited house-infused Bloody Marys and mimosas.
Andy’s Live Fire Grill
A local favorite, Andy’s Live Fire Grill provides unique flavors with their live fire grilled approach. The Tri-Tip for Two is the signature dish of their Santa Maria-style grilling and the perfect choice for a unique date night meal. Enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail or night cap at Andy’s rooftop bar and lounge.
Check out the rest of our Three Perfect Days getaway series for more romantic getaway inspiration.
Feature image credit: Visit Lauderdale