Fort Lauderdale, Florida – Things to Do in One Perfect Day

If you are planning a trip to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, be sure to swim and enjoy water sports on the beach, see the alligators in the Florida Everglades on an airboat tour, visit historic attractions like the Bonnet House, shop in the famous Las Olas district, and take a Jungle Cruise as you admire millionaires’ homes on the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale. Transportation options, including the Sun Trolley and the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi, are fun ways to get from place to place!

Fort-Lauderdale-Beach

Below is a plan for one day that you could stretch out for several days if you have more time. Several hotel recommendations are included at the bottom of this post. Be sure to click on the audio bar at the end to listen to the accompanying podcast for even more information and more of my personal reflections of how to spend a perfect day or longer in Fort Lauderdale.

Everglades Holiday Park

Get up close and personal with alligators as you enjoy a one hour tour of the Florida Everglades. If you only have one day or if you are visiting in the heat of summer, start early to make the best use of your time or to escape the hottest part of the day.

So, get up early and have breakfast in your hotel. Or, get up even earlier and watch the sun rise over the ocean during an early walk or run on the beach. Then, if you only have one day in Fort Lauderdale, make your way to the Everglades Holiday Park to arrive for the first tour at 9 am.

Everglades-Airboat-Fort-Lauderdale
Everglades Holiday Park Airboat

If you are driving from one of the recommended beach hotels, it will take about 45 minutes to drive to the Everglades Holiday Park.

Driving directions from the beach hotels:

Take Seabreeze Blvd. (A1A) South to US 1 South to get on I-595 West. Go 19.7 miles on 1-595 (which will merge into I-75 North) and then take Exit 23 off of I-75 and go south on US 27 for 7 miles to Griffin Road. You will turn right into Everglades Holiday Park at the sign. The exact address is:21940 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33332

Another option is to use the Everglades Holiday Park VIP pickup from your hotel, but you will lose some of your free time on the beach mid-afternoon. Pick up time will be at 9 am. The return time to your hotel will be about 1:00 pm. See more information under the “Everglades VIP Tours” link on the website homepage here:

https://www.evergladesholidaypark.com

Yet another transportation option is to take a taxi/Uber. You may have a wait for return pick up. Taxi fare is about $80 each way.

When you arrive at Everglades Holiday Park, go straight to the ticket counter inside the building and purchase your tickets or show your pre-purchased vouchers that you bought using the on-line link above. You will have your group photo taken just before you board your airboat where you will get up and personal with alligators as you enjoy a one hour airboat tour of the everglades with your private guide. Keep small children away from the sides of the boat. You will be really close to the water and to the alligators!

Fort-Lauderdale-Everglades-Alligator
Everglades Airboat Tour – Alligators!

Pick up your group photo as you exit the boat after the Everglades airboat tour, and follow the signs to the alligator show. The shows run frequently. They run about 15-25 minutes. You will hear some interesting facts about the alligators of the Everglades as the Gator Boys handlers work directly with them in front of you. The Gator Boys Alligator Rescue helps nuisance alligators by giving them a place to live and eat in a natural setting.

Advance Ticket Purchase Considerations:

Everglades Holiday Park – Buy tickets online in-advance to the The regular ticket for the Everglades Holiday Park airboat tour, alligator show, and free group photo is $31.50 per adult, $20.50 per child ages 3-11 (including tax). Book at the link below to assure the time and date of your choice. You can print the tickets or download them to your mobile phone.

https://www.evergladesholidaypark.com/park-hours-pricing-info/

After your morning Everglades Holiday Park airboat tour, head back to your hotel, and get out on the beach for an hour or so before lunch, or enjoy a bit of shopping first.

Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall

If you are a bargain shopper, stop off at Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall on the way back from the everglades. It is the largest outlet mall in the United States! The mall is a stand-out even among other great outlet malls. Here are some highlights: one of only three David Yurman outlet stores in the United States (the others are in Houston and Las Vegas), a Gucci outlet, a large and official Disney Character Warehouse outlet store that carries top merchandise, a Ron Jon Surf Shop and just about every other store you would want to check out!

Directions: To get there, return from the Everglades as you arrived via 27 North to 75 South and merge onto 595 East. Exit 595 East at Exit 2 toward FL-823/Flamingo Road/FL-84E. Turn left onto South Flamingo Road. The mall will be on your left in 2.5 miles.

Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall website:

http://www.simon.com/mall/sawgrass-mills/about

Las Olas Boulevard Shopping

For a luxury shopping experience drive back to your hotel via Las Olas Boulevard. The main stretch of shopping is about 10 blocks near the historic Riverside Hotel, near Water Taxi Stop 3. There are over 75 shops for antiques, fashion, accessories and gifts, as well as art galleries, and over 30 al fresco dining options in this historic shopping and dining area that is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

Fort-Lauderdale-Las-Olas-Boulevard
Las Olas Boulevard

Directions:

To get to Las Olas via car, return from the Everglades as you arrived via 27 North to 75 South and merge onto 595 East. Exit 595 East at Exit 10A toward I95 North/Fort Lauderdale/West Palm Beach. Keep right and follow the signs for Route 842. Keep right at the fork, follow signs for Downtown and merge onto Hwy 842 E/W Broward Boulevard. Continue on Hwy 842 E/W Broward Blvd. for 2 miles. You will arrive at E Las Olas Blvd. Parking is available at the seven story parking garage at the Riverside Hotel.

If you are not visiting The Everglades first, you can also take the Water Taxi from the recommended hotels in Fort Lauderdale to Stop 3. Yet another option from the recommended hotels is to take the Sun Trolley. Take the Las Olas Link Sun Trolley from Beach Place at A1A or from A1A at Vistamar St.

Las Olas Boulevard website:

https://lasolasboulevard.com

Bonnet House

Instead of shopping, or if you have another day, take a trip back in time to old Florida, and visit historic the Bonnet House right on the beach within walking distance or a short SunTrolley stop from the recommended beach hotels. Built in 1920 on a site that has signs of civilization dating back to 2000 BC, Bonnet House is on the United States National Register of Historic Places,

Fort-Lauderdale-Bonnet-House-Greenhouse
Bonnett House Greenhouse

The house and 35 acres of gardens have changed little since this property on Fort Lauderdale beach was first purchased in 1919. It is amazing to think as you tour the home and gardens that you are right in the middle of Fort Lauderdale beach. You will feel worlds away as you view the home, the gardens, the wildlife, and the artwork. The house is closed on Mondays and holidays. House tours $20 adults, Gardens only $10; Tram ride $2.

Bonnet House website:

http://www.bonnethouse.org

Restaurant Options for Lunch or Dinner:

Have lunch overlooking the water, either at the marina or on the beach.

Some recommended options are:

Coconuts

Coconuts-Restaurant-Marina-Fort-Lauderdale
Coconuts Restaurant on the Marina

Location: directly across from the Marriott Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach on the marina side

Menu options: seafood, salads, chicken, burgers, fish tacos (and a great Sunday brunch!)

Coconuts Website:

http://coconutsfortlauderdale.com

Steak 954

Location: in front of the W Hotel Fort Lauderdale, overlooking the ocean

Menu options: salads, sandwiches (including a grouper sandwich and a burger), steaks

Steak 954 Website:

http://www.starr-restaurant.com/steak954.com/

S3

Location: in front of the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, overlooking the ocean

Menu options: sushi, small plates, sliders, salads

S3 Website:

http://s3restaurant.com

Sea Level

Fort-Lauderdale-Marriott-Beach-Sea-Level-View
Fort Lauderdale Marriott Beach Resort – Sea Level Restaurant – View

Oceanfront at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa

Menu options: flatbreads, burgers, seafood, wings, salads, fish tacos

Sea Level Website:

http://www.marriott.com/hotel-restaurants/fllsb-fort-lauderdale-marriott-harbor-beach-resort-and-spa/sea-level/5152470/about.mi

All recommended restaurants are open from lunch through dinner and have excellent drink and dinner options, as well. You might consider any of them after (or instead of) the recommended Jungle Queen dinner cruise.

Beach and Water Sports

Just enjoy sitting on the beach under an umbrella. Or, for an active option, walk along the beach between the Fort Lauderdale Beach Park and the Bonnet House at the other end of the action, a two mile walk along the beach. If you are walking south from the Bonnet House, the ocean will be on your left and the restaurants, bars, and hotels of Fort Lauderdale will be on your right. Stop and rest for a while when you get to the park. See the map at the bottom of this webpage:

http://myfortlauderdalebeach.com/about-my-fort-lauderdale-beach/getting-around-fort-lauderdale-beach/

For an even more active option, enjoy a variety of active water options at the main location of Aloha Water Sports at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort at 3030 Holiday Drive, within walking distance or trolley stop distance of recommended beach hotels. Options include parasailing, wave runners, paddle boarding, water trampoline, boat rentals, surf board rentals, and Sea Rocket boat rides. Some activities require advance reservations.

Website:

http://www.alohawatersports.com/index.html

Jungle Cruise and Dinner

If you are going on the recommended Jungle Cruise dinner cruise, make your way to the Bahia Mar Yachting Center at 801 Seabreeze Boulevard by 5:30 pm. Parking is available at the Bahia Mar Hotel for a set rate or across the street at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park for a per-hour fee. Limited Handicap decal parking is available at the dock.

Fort-Lauderdale-Jungle-Cruise-Boat
Jungle Cruise River boat

Buy your tickets or present your 2 for 1 Groupon for the Jungle Cruise dinner cruise. Board the boat right away to get the best seats (near the sides) and to buy sodas, beer, wine or liquor at the bar.

From 6 pm until 10 pm, you will cruise down the Intracoastal Waterway in Fort Lauderdale and stop at a private island and to enjoy a really good family style dinner and show before returning to the Yachting Center. Operating since 1935, this fully narrated cruise down the “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale’s New River, sailing through Millionaire’s Row with homes (and yachts!) of the rich and famous is a real highlight of Fort Lauderdale. In fact, it was named one of Fort Lauderdale’s top attractions by USA Today. After about an hour of sailing, you arrive at a private tropical island in the middle of the river. You will disembark the boat and be treated to an All-You-Can-Eat Family Style Dinner featuring barbeque baby back ribs, chicken, peel & eat shrimp and all the fixings. Live entertainment is presented during dinner, followed by a variety show after dinner. Then, you will return to the cruise and sail back enjoying the evening stars and/or Florida sunset.

The regular price of the dinner cruise is $54.95 per adult, $31.95 for children 3-12. Closed on Monday. Shorter day and evening cruises are available, as well. Purchase ticket vouchers in advance in order to receive a discount. Groupon almost always has vouchers for at least 25% off. After you purchase the Groupon for your cruise, call the Jungle Cruise office and make your reservation. They will need your Groupon voucher number. Call the box office to reserve at least 24 hours in advance at (954) 462-5596. See the Jungle Cruise website:

http://www.junglequeen.com/our-cruises.html

After the dinner cruise, head back to the beach to walk along the sidewalk, stopping to enjoy the nightlife or just gaze at the ocean as you end your perfect day in Fort Lauderdale. Directly across the street from the Yachting Center, you will see the Fort Lauderdale Beach Park, a great place to sit on a bench or on the sand and watch the sun set as the cruise ships head out to sea. If you walk north (with the ocean to your right) you will quickly come to the busiest section of Fort Lauderdale Beach. Walk along the sand or cross the street to people watch and/or stop at one or more of the many bars or shops between here and the Bonnet House at the other end of the action.

One Perfect Day in Fort Lauderdale – Day Planner:

 7:30 am – Get up early and have breakfast in your hotel. Or, get up even earlier and watch the sun rise over the ocean during an early walk or run on the beach.

8:15 am – Drive to Everglades Holiday Park. (Or – use their Everglades Holiday Park VIP pickup from your hotel, but you will lose some free time on the beach mid-afternoon.)

9:00 am – Get up and personal with alligators as you enjoy a one hour tour of the everglades. 10:30 am – Hop back on the trolley and ride to Stop #12, The Bonnet House, and take the tour.

10:30 am – Head back to your hotel, and get out on the beach for an hour or so before lunch. OR:

Shopping Option – If you are a bargain shopper, stop off at Sawgrass Mills Outlet Mall on the way back from the everglades. It is the largest outlet mall in the United States!   -OR- For a luxury shopping experience, head back to your hotel via Las Olas Boulevard and enjoy the over 75 shops and art galleries in this historic district.

Sightseeing Option – For a trip back in time to old Florida, visit historic Bonnet House right on the beach within walking distance or a short trolley stop from the recommended beach hotels.

12:30 pm (or 1:00 pm if you are returning from the Everglades Holiday Park VIP Tour) – Have lunch overlooking the water, either at the marina or on the beach.

Recommended options are:

Coconuts – directly across from the Marriott Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach on the marina side

Steak 954 – in front of the W Hotel Fort Lauderdale, overlooking the ocean

S3 – in front of the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort, overlooking the ocean

Sea Level – oceanfront at the Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa

1:30 pm – After lunch, get out and enjoy the beach and/or your hotel pool for several hours.

An active option – Walk along the beach between the Fort Lauderdale Beach Park and the Bonnet House at the other end of the action, a two mile walk along the beach.

A more active option – Enjoy a variety of active water options at the main location of Aloha Water Sports at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort.

4:00 pm – Get ready for your dinner cruise.

5:00 pm – Walk, drive, or take the Sun Trolley, the Water Taxi or taxi/Uber to the Bahia Mar Yachting Center.

5:30 pm – Buy your tickets or present your 2 for 1 Groupon to take the Jungle Cruise dinner cruise.

6:00 pm – Begin the 4-hour cruise down Fort Lauderdale’s “Venice of America” and see the homes (and yachts!) of the rich and famous on your fully narrated tour. You will stop at a private island and enjoy a dinner and show before returning to the Yachting Center.

10:00 pm – Head back to the beach to walk along the sidewalk, stopping to enjoy the nightlife or just gaze at the ocean as you end your perfect day in Fort Lauderdale.

Fort Lauderdale Hotel Recommendations

Make your hotel reservations at a hotel directly on the beach (of course!). Some beachfront hotel options are:

Hotel Option 1 – Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach – website:

http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/fllco-courtyard-fort-lauderdale-beach/?scid=bb1a189a-fec3-4d19-a255-54ba596febe2

Free Wi-Fi included for all guests registered and booked through www.Marriott.com. Free fast Wi-Fi. No resort fee. Valet or outdoor parking is $36 per day plus tax. Room prices begin at about $200 per night.

Rooms have floor to ceiling windows for excellent viewing of Intracoastal Waterway and/or ocean, especially on higher floors. Note that elevators can be slow. Corner guest rooms have two walls of windows. Top floor rooms have high ceilings, too! There are no balconies.

Marriott-Courtyard-Fort-Lauderdale-Beach
Marriott Courtyard Fort Lauderdale Beach – View from corner room

Location – Between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway in the heart of the action. Within short walking distance of recommended restaurants, water taxi stops 7 and 8, sightseeing cruises, and Fort Lauderdale Beach Park.

Hotel Option 2 – Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort – website:

http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/florida/hilton-fort-lauderdale-beach-resort-FLLFSHH/index.html

Breakfast and free Wi-Fi included for Hilton Gold and Diamond members.

All rooms are large…either studio suites or larger suites. All have Intracoastal Waterway and/or ocean views. Valet (only) parking is $42 per day plus tax.

Daily resort fee of $35 includes Internet access, 2 daily adult bike rentals for 2 hours, morning yoga classes, 2 bottled waters daily, 2 beach chairs, 2 daily kids activities, 20% off spa, 10% off gift shop, free kids dinner with adult entrée, and local/toll-free calls. Room prices begin at about $300 per night.

Location – Between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway in the heart of the action. Within short walking distance of recommended restaurants, water taxi stop 8, and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.

Hotel Option 3 – W Hotel Fort Lauderdale – website:

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/fllwh-w-fort-lauderdale/

Daily resort fee of $35 includes 2 beach chairs And an umbrella, 2 complimentary bottled waters for the beach located at the concierge, 1 complimentary Sip Ticket (redeemed at Living Room), daily fitness class (Beach Boot Camp/Yoga). 2 four-hour bicycle rentals, and in-room high speed Wi-Fi. Valet (only) parking-$39 to $45 daily. Room prices begin at about $400 per night.

W-Fort-Lauderdale-Aquarium
W Fort Lauderdale – Aquarium

Location – Between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway in the heart of the action. Within short walking distance of recommended restaurants, water taxi stop 8, and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park.

Hotel Option 4 – B Ocean Fort Lauderdale – website:

http://www.bhotelsandresorts.com/b-ocean/

Daily resort fee of $35 includes 2 beach loungers, 2 bottles of water daily, Wi-Fi., and participation in the B Borrowed program that includes bicycle rentals (reservations required) and beach sports equipment. Valet parking -$39 daily, self-parking is available for $35 daily. Room prices begin at about $200 per night.

Location – Between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway. Within walking distance of recommended restaurants, water taxi stop 7, sightseeing cruises, and Fort Lauderdale Beach Park.

Hotel Option 5 – Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort and Spa – website:

https://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/fllsb-fort-lauderdale-marriott-harbor-beach-resort-and-spa/

Daily resort fee of $30 includes beach umbrella, 2 welcome drinks, and resort activities. Water sports are available on site. Valet parking -$41.34 daily, self-parking is available for $35 daily. Room prices begin at about $350 per night.

Location – Between Fort Lauderdale Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway. Within walking distance of recommended restaurants, water taxi stop 7, sightseeing cruises, and Fort Lauderdale Beach Park.

Transportation options:

All recommended hotels are near water taxi stops and on the Beach Link Sun Trolley route, daily 9:30 am – 6:30 pm, $1 per ride or $3 per day. Transfers to other routes available. The Water Taxi Day Pass is $28.

See websites:

Water Taxi – http://watertaxi.com

Sun Trolley – http://www.suntrolley.com

Fort-Lauderdale-Sun-Trolley
Sun Trolley

A note about getting around Fort Lauderdale: Consider renting a car and picking it up at the airport when you arrive. Rental cars are quite inexpensive in Fort Lauderdale. You can then avoid the cost of taxi/Uber from the airport to the beach, and you will have the flexibility to see some of the sights away from the ocean without spending valuable time waiting for taxi/Uber or tour operators (like the recommended world-class don’t miss sight of the Everglades). When you consider timesaving, it will probably be worth the cost of the rental. (Taxi from Fort Lauderdale airport is approximately $20 each way to beach hotels. Taxi from Miami International Airport is approximately $80 each way to Fort Lauderdale beach hotels.)

Note that I do not receive commission from any of the above recommendations. These are just my personal recommendations to help you enjoy a perfect day or days in Fort Lauderdale! Every effort has been made to ensure that the content provided is accurate and helpful for our readers at publishing time. However, this is not an exhaustive treatment of the subjects. Please contact me at cindy@oneperfectdayin.org with updates and suggestions based upon your experiences.

If you are looking for more fun in south Florida, check out my Key West 2018 post and podcast at:

Key West, Florida 2018 Update

Remember to click on the audio link below to listen to the accompanying podcast for even more information about Fort Lauderdale.

Until next time, I hope all of your travel days are just perfect!

Cindy


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