Fort Lauderdale long ago shed its spring break zaniness to become a year-round destination for families, boaters, and sun-seekers. There are so many things to do with kids in Fort Lauderdale and the surrounding region, both on and off the water.
With 24 miles of beach in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, including the seven-mile stretch of sand in Fort Lauderdale itself, there are plenty of places for you and your kids to swim and sun.
Dubbed the “Venice of America” because of its 300 miles of navigable waterways, Fort Lauderdale offers all kinds of adventures on the New River and the Intracoastal Waterway. Try kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, jet skiing, and sightseeing cruises. Just getting around on the water taxis is fun for kids.
Fort Lauderdale is filled with family-friendly attractions. These are some of the best things to do with kids in Fort Lauderdale.
Head for the Beach
One of the region’s many strands, Fort Lauderdale Beach stretches for seven miles between Las Olas Boulevard and Sunrise Boulevard, providing an inviting space for kids and families. Sandcastle building, relaxing to the rhythmic lapping of waves, and swimming, surf permitting, are time-honored pastimes on the palm tree-lined shores.
While you’re at the beach, stroll the Fort Lauderdale Beachfront Promenade, an inviting paved pathway separated from the sand by a low-rise wall reminiscent of curling waves. You can people-watch while checking out the hotels, shops, and restaurants that line the streets across from the beach.
For family selfies, pose by the giant blue beach chair on the sand across from DC Alexander Park and gather next to the large “Greetings from Fort Lauderdale” postcard opposite Las Olas Oceanside Park.
Learn About Science
One of Florida’s most popular museums, the Museum of Discovery and Science engages kids—and adults—with more than 300 interactive exhibits, science shows, and an IMAX 3D Theater whose six-story high screen puts you in the middle of the action. This noteworthy museum, located across from the Riverwalk’s Esplanade Park, is one of the best things to do with kids in Fort Lauderdale.
At Science Park, the outdoor, hands-on area, younger kids learn how simple machines work by hoisting themselves up in a chair via pulleys and spinning a wheel to turn an axle to power a giant fan. The Discovery Center is a haven for blowing giant bubbles, burying items in a sandbox, and other sensory play for kids six years and younger.
Get blown away with your older kids by the force of hurricane-strength winds simulated at the Storm Center. Find out what happened to giant sharks, saber-toothed cats and other critters in prehistoric Florida, tackle surgery using a robotic simulator at Powerful You!, and plan, build, test, and refine your inventions at the Hangar Makerspace.
Stroll Along the River
Riverwalk, a great place for family strolls and adventures, is another of Fort Lauderdale’s memorable pedestrian-friendly paths. The route stretches along the New River’s north and south banks in downtown, connecting some ten city parks and outdoor plazas.
Pack a picnic lunch and pedal the route on bikes or roll along on a Segway tour. Guided kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding tours also take you and your kids out on the New River.
The walkway winds you close to the Historic Stranahan House Museum, the 1901 home of Frank Stranahan, an artist influential in founding the town, and to the 85,000-square-foot NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale.
For adults and teens interested in art, the NSU facility is a find that can fill in a gap in art awareness. The permanent collection focuses on Latin American contemporary art, especially works created by women, Black, and Latinx artists, and 19th to 20th-century African art.
Browse the Shops on Las Olas Boulevard
Las Olas Boulevard is another iconic Fort Lauderdale stroll. Boutiques, shops, galleries, and restaurants line this elegant avenue that reaches from downtown Fort Lauderdale to the beach at A1A.
Consider arriving after the beach but before dinner. That way, you and your kids can graze on snacks, browse, and then settle in for an early dinner at restaurants that serve burgers, barbecue, sandwiches, salads, and seafood.
Pick up an extra sweatshirt or rash guard for your teens at Quiet Storm Surf Shop, sundresses from South Moon Under, and hand-crafted chocolates from Hoffman’s Chocolates. Ann’s Florist and Coffee Bar is a good family choice for a latte break. Kids enjoy the merry mix of flowers, pastries, and cute gifts, and you will appreciate the coffee or a glass of wine.
Add to the family fun by arriving via water taxi. From the beach, board the boat at stop #5 and get off at stop #1 in the heart of the boulevard.
See the Birds at Flamingo Gardens Estate
Sized just right for young animal lovers, the Flamingo Gardens Estate in Davie combines an animal sanctuary with tropical botanical gardens on 60 acres.
Most of the critters living at the Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary cannot return to the wild because of permanent injuries. Peacocks strut about the greenery, and pink flamingos stretch their curvy necks to poke for plants in their pond.
At the Birds of Prey Center, kids get up-close views of owls, hawks, falcons, golden and bald eagles, and various south Florida species. The center releases the chicks born in captivity into the wild. With more than 250 birds representing 45 species flying freely through the aviary, the 25,000-square foot space is a-flutter with bird calls and the flapping of wings.
The gardens are spectacular. Meander through areas filled with tropical ferns, crotons, colorful ginger and heliconia flowers, and thousands of orchids. Save the narrated tram tour for the end of your visit when little feet need a rest.
As your vehicle winds through stands of Live Oak nearly 200 years old, and a section planted with tropical rainforest vegetation, you gain a sense of what Florida looked like before development.
Visit Bonnet House Museum and Gardens
A green oasis amid Fort Lauderdale’s high-rises, the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens lies on a 35-acre barrier island between the Intracoastal and the Atlantic Ocean. Hidden by tall palm trees and surrounded by lush tropical plants, the 1920 home showcases the leisurely lifestyle of the very rich of the twentieth century.
Although that alone isn’t likely to interest youngsters, enchant kids by asking them to go on an animal spotting safari in the gardens. Monkeys scamper in the trees, and the artist owners decorated the home and the grounds with whimsical animal art.
Ask your young explorers to spot the cats, leopards, elephants, giraffes, ostrich, mounted fish, and zebras in the carvings, sculptures, murals, and paintings.
Get Back to Nature
Locals love Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, a hidden gem in the middle of Fort Lauderdale. The park, whose 180 acres stretch from the Atlantic Ocean to the Intracoastal, maintains its coastal wilderness, a haven of ocean, beach, dune, mangroves, and maritime forest, while enticing visitors with eco-adventures.
You and your kids can hike or rent bikes to pedal the 1.9-mile trail through hardwood forest to the beach. Shorter paths cut through stands of sea grapes, gumbo limbo, and wild coffee plants and lead to freshwater sections favored by gopher tortoises.
Swim in the ocean and practice stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking on the lake. Check the schedule for guided sunset kayak tours, a great family activity. Before you leave, snap a family selfie in front of the 200-foot wide strangler fig with its wide curtain of finger-like roots.
Learn About Social History
Swim and learn about a place that made history at the Dr. Von D. Mizell-Eula Johnson State Park. Civil Rights Movement leaders Mizell and Johnson led wade-in protests in the 1950s and 1960s to desegregate the beach. The two-mile-long swath, a fine example of undeveloped coastal ecosystem, is in Dania, close to Port Everglades.
Consider a Friday night sunset kayak outing from the mangroves here to the Intracoastal Waterway, guided by BG Whiskey Creek Hideout outfitters. The company also offers full moon tours, a real adventure for families to share after dark, and rents paddle boards, kayaks, and canoes for daily use.
Admire Butterflies and Birds
Butterfly World’s Tropical Aviary feels like a magical place to kids. Thousands of brilliantly colored butterflies flutter around you on your walk through the lush tropical landscaping. At 10 acres, with 20,000 live butterflies and tropical birds, Butterfly World ranks as one of the world’s largest butterfly parks.
Look through the glass at the Research Center, and you might catch sight of a butterfly emerging from its cocoon. Kids also enjoy feeding the jewel-colored lorikeets, peering at insects in the Bug Zoo, and ogling the macaws, parrots, and other tropical birds in their aviary.
Shop at Sawgrass Mills
If your teens agitate for brand-name clothes, spend time at Sawgrass Mills, an outlet shopping center in Sunrise. With 350 stores in 2.5 million square feet of retail space, Sawgrass Mills ranks among the U.S.’s largest off-price malls.
And discount doesn’t mean your fussy progeny won’t recognize the fashions. Kate Spade, Jimmy Choo, and Tory Burch are among the designer brands located at The Colonnade Outlets. Your teens might also like cruising J.Crew, Hugo Boss, Gap Factory, Diesel, H & M, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Since many shops stay open until 8pm or 9pm, there’s no need to skip beach time. Make an evening of your visit here. Consider arriving in the afternoon, browsing and buying, then tucking into dinner at one of the scores of restaurants and eateries that include the Cheesecake Factory and Johnny Rockets. Non-shoppers in the family can watch a movie or two at the multi-screen theaters.
Cruise the Waterways
Fort Lauderdale is all about life on the water. Take advantage of the myriad waterways by boarding a sightseeing cruise. Popular tours take you along the New River to see the waterfront mansions on “Millionaire’s Row”, fronted by sleek mega-yachts. From the wide open decks of the Jungle Queen, an ersatz Mississippi paddlewheeler, catch the breezes and the scenery.
Explore the Everglades By Airboat
The Everglades rate as one of Florida’s natural gems, a subtropical wilderness of mangrove swamps and sawgrass prairie cut by watery channels. Airboats hover above the water’s surface as they zip through the swamps and grasses. It’s the perfect combination for youngsters: a thrill ride combined with wildlife.
With the help of expert local guides, you and your kids might spot alligators and crocodiles lurking in the swamps. Look out, too, for great blue herons, hawks, and eagles in the distance.
Spend time experiencing the best things to do in Fort Lauderdale with kids before exploring the Caribbean aboard one of our luxury cruise ships. Browse our cruises from Fort Lauderdale and book your next getaway today.