7 Fort Lauderdale-Area Neighborhoods You Need to KnowBy Jen Karetnick
Greater Fort Lauderdale is generally known as a beach town, and certainly it’s a getaway destination for those who enjoy sand, sun and water. But in recent years, sections of the city have redefined themselves into charming and historic arts, entertainment and cultural districts worth exploration.
As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.
Fort Lauderdale Beach
Not surprisingly, Fort Lauderdale Beach, a stunning stretch of golden oceanfront, is the first place to check out when visiting the city. Opposite the Fort Lauderdale Beachfront Promenade — a series of restaurants, shops, spas and entertainment options — the beaches have been Blue Wave Certified since 1999.
To get the most out of those waves, rent gear ranging from Jet Skis to Segways from vendors like Fun Center Fort Lauderdale. Schedule surfing lessons at Hang Loose Surf School or book a deep-sea fishing charter or snorkeling and diving trip with any of the outfits located at Bahia Mar Yachting Center. A full-service luxury marina with restaurants and other amenities, Bahia Mar is home to the famed Jungle Queen Riverboat, a family favorite that combines sightseeing with a show and a meal.
Hugh Taylor Birch State Park
At the northern end of Fort Lauderdale Beach, Birch State Park is the former estate of Hugh Taylor Birch. He left the 3.5-mile-long barrier island, located between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean, to Fort Lauderdale to preserve as a park.
Birch’s house serves as the Terramar Visitors Center. There, you can access information on the hiking trails, canoe rentals and pedestrian tunnel that leads to the beach, as well as attend ranger-guided walks and presentations about the endangered and threatened habitats and wildlife, including mangroves, dunes, tropical hardwoods, the eastern indigo snake and the gopher tortoise.
After a full day, grab a refreshing craft brew at Park & Ocean, the pub with access to the park. Or walk along A1A to dine at any number of nearby restaurants and cafés, including Yo Mama’s Ice Cream for a homemade sweet treat.
East Las Olas Boulevard
A trendy, mixed-use thoroughfare enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, East Las Olas Boulevard hosts restaurants and bars, many with sidewalk sections and patios. Try American Social, a local favorite for watching televised sporting events and chowing on burgers.
During the day, shop at classic, tropically oriented boutiques such as Tommy Bahama and Lilly Pulitzer or cruise-wear stores like Swimland, and pop in and out of art galleries.
Las Olas runs east to west from Las Olas Marina and the beach to downtown, intersecting the New River. To get around easily without a car, hop the Water Taxi. With 10 locations to board and disembark, it’s less expensive than hailing a ride-sharing service.
Bordering Las Olas Boulevard, the historic Victoria Park is true “Old Florida.” The homes in this LGBTQ+ friendly neighborhood were developed in the 1930s in the “Florida Cracker” style of wood-frame architecture. Many of these houses remain, now renovated and updated, alongside waterfront mansions and condominiums.
Two well-maintained parks, Victoria Park and Holiday Park, are both lifestyle draws, as are the library and archives of the Stonewall National Museum & Archives. At the northern end of town, Parker Playhouse, a 1,167-seat auditorium built in the 1960s, features renowned artists and runs of notable shows.
The homes in this upscale enclave, interwoven with the water, are stunning and worth a look on the way to or back from the beach. Because it’s an urban area, it features a wealth of restaurants and bars, many on the main drag of 17th Street Causeway.
Explore food and drink after water sports or combine them with boating. Pelican Landing, where the seafood is as fine as the views of the anchored, deep-water yachts, is at the famed Pier Sixty-Six Marina. At 15th Street Fisheries, a landmark restaurant, you dine overlooking the historic Lauderdale Marina.
Also on 17th Street Causeway, the Greater Fort Lauderdale Broward County Convention Center frequently hosts shows and festivals open to the public.
Downtown/Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District
Downtown Fort Lauderdale, branded the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District, is Fort Lauderdale’s cultural mecca. Here you’ll find the highly regarded Broward Center for the Performing Arts, overlooking the New River.
Nearby, the Museum of Discovery and Science is a fantastic interactive playground. The Museum houses an IMAX theater and hosts summer sea turtle walks, among other great programs. Next door, the NSU Art Museum Fort Lauderdale houses more than 6,000 pieces in its permanent collection.
For both art and history, visit the 35-acre, century-old Bonnet House Museum & Gardens, where Hugh Taylor Birch’s daughter, a poet and musician, lived with her artist husband. Beautifully decorated, Bonnet House features concerts performed on the veranda.
Another architectural stop, the Historic Stranahan House Museum, provides background on Fort Lauderdale’s founding. Built in 1913 and restored with period furniture, it served as the post office, the town hall and a community center.
The Stranahan House stands at the eastern corner of Riverwalk, the pedestrian-friendly waterfront park encompassing the historic banks of the New River.
Flagler Village/ MASS District/FAT City
Flying under the banner of Flagler Village, this trendy, 300-acre neighborhood, a former warehouse space, is home to bars and coffee shops like Flagler Village Brewery and Brew Urban Café. Flagler Village includes Flagler Arts and Technology District (FATVillage) and Music & Arts South of Sunrise (MASS District).
On the south side, FATVillage is a budding, four-block, nonprofit arts district bordering the train tracks. Now studios and galleries are within walking distance of the Brightline station. Attend the ArtWalk on the last Saturday of every month to experience the buzz for yourself (check the ArtWalk website for a schedule of current events).
The MASS District, toward the east and north, is both alliance and neighborhood. It includes creative businesses and venues such as Radio-Active Records, where you can take in live performances as well as buy vinyl and other yesteryear gear.