Toddlers to Teens: The Top Family Spots in Fort Lauderdale

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Fort Lauderdale might have the reputation for being a party town, what with its spring break history, but more and more people are finding that it’s also a great place for families with young children. Little ones can have their own fun building sandcastles, watching fish from the pier, or collecting seashells and sand dollars at the quaint, family-friendly Lauderdale-by-the-Sea beach, and they also can experience special places catered especially to them.

Here, we bring you the top six can’t-miss activities (plus a few bonus spots) for family fun in the Sunshine State, in order of distance from Port Everglades.

1 - Bluefoot Pirate Adventures, 17 minutes


Located at the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Bluefoot Pirate Adventures gives young children a thirst for the sea life during their hour-long escapade. Children are inaugurated with their very own pirate tattoo (face paint) and taken for a high-spirited treasure hunt along the Intracoastal Waterway. While the friendly and outgoing crew keeps the kids entertained with pirate stories and activities, parents can relax and browse the mega-mansions and massive yachts along the way. When the tour ends, each child receives an official pirate certificate and bag of pirate booty. Tours are $25 per person (ages 3 and up); children under 2 are $5.

Bluefoot Pirate Adventures, 801 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33316. 954-530-8302,

2 - Museum of Discovery and Science, 17 minutes


While everyone can enjoy a day at the Museum of Discovery and Science, there are special exhibits and activities at the museum that children will especially enjoy. Even before entering the front doors, they’ll be enamored by the 52-foot-tall Great Gravity Clock, one of only three in the world. Inside, kids can search for fossils, try their hand at flying an airplane, be a meteorologist on the green screen, and learn about the human body with the hands-on exhibit “Powerful You.” Plus, they can catch one of the nature-and–science-themed films offered at the in-house IMAX Theater, such as Island of Lemurs: Madagascar or Journey to the South Pacific 3D. Entry for children 2-12 is $13, adults are $15, and children 1 and younger are free. Tickets to AutoNation IMAX are sold separately.

Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33312. 954-467-6637,

AutoNation IMAX Theater, 401 SW Second St., Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33312. 954-463-4629,

3 - Young at Art Museum, 24 minutes


In the town of Davie, about 30 minutes away from port, the eclectic Young at Art Museum has been a draw for families since it opened in 1989. At 55,000 square feet, each room is covered from floor to ceiling to support a different theme for kids to learn from, including music, portraits, nature, different cultures, science, and other hands-on exhibits and activities. Entry is $14 for adults and children, with discounts for seniors, military families and Broward County residents.

Young at Art Museum, 751 SW 121st Ave., Davie, FL, 33325. 954-424-0085,

4 - Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, 25 minutes


A smaller beach village just north of Fort Lauderdale, the town of Lauderdale-by-the-Sea recently renovated its pier for better walkability and providing more for beachgoers, including cornhole games, Adirondack chairs, colorful aquatic-themed bike racks and a fishing pier (for a fee, unless you’re just walking). Restaurants, bars and shops are located directly on the beach, making it easy to take food and drinks (no glass, please) directly onto the sand. Visitors to the area can’t leave without stopping by Rhino Doughnuts & Coffee for gourmet doughnuts in mouthwatering flavors such as Chocolate Bacon, Crème Brulée and — on weekends — Drunken doughnuts. Wash them down with the shop’s unique craft-brewed coffee and grab a handmade pastry (muffins, cinnamon buns and more) for the road.  

5 - Butterfly World, 34 minutes


Located westward at Coconut Creek, the sanctuary is a 30-minute drive from the port. Here, families are surrounded by one million butterflies and a variety of birds as they freely flutter and fly about. The large numbers of bright flowers encourage butterflies to land on visitors, giving children the opportunity to see the butterflies up close; and if they’re lucky, one might land on them too (for best chances, wear bright clothing). Entry for children ages 3-11 is $21.95, 12 and up are $26.95, and children 2 and younger are free.

Butterfly World at Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek, FL, 33073. 954-977-4434,

6 - Everglades Holiday Park, 40 minutes

Everglades Holiday Park

As seen on the Animal Planet show Gator Boys, the staff at Everglades Holiday Park use entertainment to help educate the public about Florida’s most famous animal — the alligator. Kids will brag about the opportunity to come face-to-face with these creatures at a live gator show (hosted by a trained specialist). After the show, load the family aboard an airboat to sweep through the River of Grass. Also on the tour guests can see snakes, lizards and unique birds — plenty of fodder for picture taking. Tickets are $28 for ages 12 and up and $15 for children ages 3-11.

Everglades Holiday Park, 21940 Griffin Road, Fort Lauderdale, FL, 33332. 954-434-8111,


Need a little help planning your family’s day out? Here’s an idea:

10 AM

Broward County Main Library, Fort Lauderdale, FL

At the Broward County Main Library, gather around for preschool story time or explore the bookshelves on your own. Not only are there thousands of books available, but kids can also see a real moon rock donated to the library and watch a 3D printer make a bracelet for you to take home.

11:30 AM

Lauderdale-by-the-sea Pier

Head to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea to take a dip in the ocean, build sandcastles and spot fish from the pier. One of the best spots to claim is near the pier; this way, the whole family can be protected by its shadow as the sun moves throughout the day. For boogie boards, sun block, beach towels and swimsuits, WINGS is within walking distance.

2 PM


For lunch, experience local-favorite Jack’s Old Fashion Hamburger House. While the food is being prepared, check out the black-and-white photographs of old Fort Lauderdale on the walls to see how much the area has changed. Open since 1972, this familiar joint has locals craving the burgers and handspun milkshakes.

3:30 PM

After being outside all morning, head indoors to Young at Art Museum, where it’s perfectly OK to touch the exhibits! Create a family portrait, put on a puppet show with recycled materials, attend an oversized tea party, or explore another universe in the Orientation Gallery.

6 PM


Is The Little Mermaid on repeat at home? Make a stop Wreck Bar at B Ocean Resort for the real-life experience. At 6:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday, the mermaids come out for a family-friendly show. Just be sure to get there early as space fills up quickly.

8 PM

Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor

There are plenty of ice cream shops to try, but none is as unique and delicious as the old-fashioned Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor. Create your own masterpiece for dessert, or have the whole family share the Jumbo Sundae while ogling the massive license plate collection on the walls.  


Did we miss your favorite family-friendly Fort Lauderdale experience? Share your suggestions in the comments below!


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