Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale With Kids

by Nikki M. Mascali
Originally Published: 

With lots of beachfront to explore—and seemingly endless days of warmth and sunshine—Fort Lauderdale is a great family-friendly vacation destination any time of year. Here are some ideas for what to do on the beach and in Fort Lauderdale, Florida with kids.

Kid Attractions in Fort Lauderdale

With so many beaches, there’s bound to be some long-lost treasure to unearth. Bluefoot Pirate Adventures, ranked the No. 2 tour in Fort Lauderdale by TripAdvisor, will teach your mini swashbuckler how to speak and dress like a pirate so they can fend off rivals like “Barnacle Bill” and head home with their booty. Bonus: Bluefoot also has booze cruises if adult buccaneers need their own high-seas adventure.

Animal lovers in the family can get up-close-and-personal with five different reptiles and mammals for 45 minutes at Animal Encounters at Everglades Holiday Park. The experience even includes professional photos to capture the kids’ delight (and maybe your horror) when a snake inevitably coils around them.

Fort Lauderdale weather can be HOT, so if you need indoor recovery time or want to avoid a rainy-day meltdown, Flippo’s (formerly Funderdrome) offers 8,600-square-feet of air conditioning and interactive activities for kids of all ages, including a laser maze, sports court, obstacle courses and arcade.

Just because you’re on vacation in Fort Lauderdale with your family doesn’t mean you all can’t expand your mind and creativity. Young at Art is a hands-on, multimedia museum that blends art, architecture, history and cultures from all over the world for a truly unique experience.

The Museum of Discovery & Science is a cool must-visit, boasting the 52-foot-tall Gravity Clock, an Everglades airboat simulator, an otter habitat, an exhibit about Florida’s prehistoric past, the five-story AutoNation IMAX Theater and so much more— you won’t hear whines of “I’m bored” for quite some time.

Best Restaurants in Fort Lauderdale for Kids

There are plenty of great kid-friendly restaurants in Fort Lauderdale, but Jet Runway Café at Fort Lauderdale’s Executive Airport is sure to be a hit if you have a wannabe pilot. While there are good options for breakfast, lunch or brunch (especially the café’s famous fried bread pudding), the best thing on the menu is watching all the snazzy private planes taking off and landing.

Gilbert’s 17th Street Grill is a family-owned, family-friendly restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, though the kids may pass on the self-proclaimed “hottest burger” in town in favor of a jumbo hot dog, panko-breaded chicken tenders or ribs.

Make a classic Fort Lauderdale memory with a Jungle Queen riverboat cruise, which has been around since 1935. Tickets include an all-you-can eat buffet and post-dinner variety show, both on a tropical island. The island also has soft-serve ice cream and exotic critters to see in case anyone needs a timeout.

For more land-based dining, head to Shooters Waterfront where the menu ranges from sushi and seafood to filet mignon and an Impossible burger. The kid’s menu has chicken fingers, sliders, grilled cheese and tomato or crunchy coconut shrimp. There’s even a menu for the four-legged kid! And frose!

Alcohol-free Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlour and Restaurant in nearby Dania Beach has a menu big enough to please even the pickiest of eaters and memorabilia-covered walls that’ll occupy everyone’s attention until the food comes. Be sure to save room for a dessert or seven because it’ll be hard to pick just one.

If everyone’s screaming for just ice cream, let them take control of their dessert destiny with the ample sundae bar at Yo Mama’s Ice Cream, which is made fresh every day. Craving salty and sweet instead? It shares a spot with Pops Corn gourmet popcorn.

Best Resorts in Fort Lauderdale for Kids

There are lots of choices for best places to stay in Fort Lauderdale with kids, like the oceanfront Pelican Grand Beach Resort. The property features a gorgeous pool, Fort Lauderdale’s only lazy river and a private beach with free chairs and umbrellas. There’s a kid-friendly restaurant and ice cream shop on-site, plus a rooftop Swedish spa and the O2K Lounge with themed drink nights for mom time.

Close to Fort Lauderdale restaurants and shopping destinations, High Noon Beach Resort offers an array of rooms, apartments and efficiencies with full bathrooms and refrigerators, two heated pools and on-site laundry. But the main attraction is its beach where you can swim, snorkel, dive, fish and laze around.

Lago Mar Beach Resort & Club has a 500-foot private beach with private cabanas, a 9,000-square-foot lagoon, tennis courts, putting course, spa, a children’s playground and plenty of dining choices. Bonus: There’s no resort fee!

Outdoor Activities in Fort Lauderdale for Kids

Obviously beaches are the main attraction for any family-friendly vacation in Fort Lauderdale, including Fort Lauderdale beach, where your family can sunbathe, swim, snorkel and shop. Hollywood Beach has a boardwalk promenade for biking, walking and jogging, tons of outdoor cafes, a trolley, a children’s water playground in Charnow Park and lots more. For more laidback beach time, head to Lauderdale-By-The-Sea where a reef is within swimming distance and the village motto is “Relax, You’re Here!” Ahhh …

Considered Fort Lauderdale’s Central Park, you can bike, swim, camp, hike, fish and enjoy lots of other family-friendly outdoor activities that are sure to tire everyone out at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. You can also learn about its namesake, the Chicago attorney who donated his estate Terramar (“land of the sea”) to be this public park in 1941.

Spread across 60 acres, Flamingo Gardens features more than 3,000 species of native plants and trees, a native wildlife sanctuary with alligators, turtles, otters, panthers and yes, flamingos. Plus, kids can touch and smell everything in the children’s garden, you can get a glimpse at South Florida life in the ’30s inside the Wray Home Museum or sit back and enjoy a narrated tram ride through 42 jungle-like acres of the gardens.

Imagine the bragging rights if you came home from your family-friendly vacation in Fort Lauderdale with a surfer or two in tow. EZride Surf School offers lessons seven days a week with CPR-certified and professional surf riders.

Local Wildcards in Fort Lauderdale

Stretching across 1.5 million acres, the Everglades are an important part of South Florida. Fort Lauderdale’s proximity to this natural wonder makes for many unique vacation experiences, but wonder what it’s like at night? Find out on the hour-long Red Eye Everglades airboat tour, which takes you through Sawgrass Recreation Park after dark to witness how native reptiles and wildlife spend their evenings.

Fort Lauderdale is known as the “Venice of America,” so take the family on a 75-minute private gondola ride through the city’s canals with Las Olas Gondola. They provide Italian-style music, ice, glasses and plates — you bring your own snacks and drinks (including booze!).

The world’s largest butterfly house—and TripAdvisor’s No. 1 thing to do in nearby Coconut Creek—Butterfly World has more than 20,000 winged beauties, hundreds of exotic birds in six aviaries, a Bug Zoo, botanical gardens and cafes.

A Water Taxi will get you to many Fort Lauderdale’s attractions and parks, but it’s also a truly one-of-a-kind way to get around—and see—town for you and the kids. The best part? An all-day pass ($28 for adults, $14 for ages 5-11) lets you hop on and off as you desire.

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