Las Olas Boulevard (particularly the stretch between 6th and 11th Avenues, near downtown) is a lively destination for shopping, dining and people watching. During the day, you can hop a boat for a tour of the intracoastal canals that wind through this picturesque section of Fort Lauderdale, or stroll along the Riverwalk, a 1.5-mile stretch of boardwalk along the New River that links many of the city's historic and cultural landmarks. At night, festive diners spill out of sidewalk cafes, and romance-seekers ride in horse-drawn surrey carriages.
For a peaceful beach experience, head for Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, located on a barrier island where you can rent a canoe, go inline skating, bike along a scenic circular road or hike the trails. Be sure to look for the underground tunnel that leads from the park straight to Fort Lauderdale Beach.
Just a short distance from Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is Bonnet House, a plantation-style house dating back to the 1920s. Once a winter retreat for the artist Frederic Clay Bartlett, the home sits amid lush tropical gardens and is decorated with art by Frederic and his third wife, Evelyn.
For an easy "time stands still" getaway, head to nearby Delray Beach. The heart of the community -- shops, boutiques, art galleries and fashionable restaurants -- runs from the ocean along Atlantic Avenue. Definitely check out Old School Square, which has a number of restored 1920s buildings.
For an exotic and serene experience, drive to the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. The fascinating museum is devoted to Japanese art and culture, and the beautiful garden includes everything from fish-filled ponds and Zen gardens to pathways that wind in and out of pine woodlands.
The Jungle Queen Riverboat has been a Fort Lauderdale institution for more than 60 years; it offers daytime sightseeing trips up the New River and evening dinner cruises with famed barbecue ribs and shrimp.
There are more than 40 golf courses in the Fort Lauderdale area, and with south Florida's year-round balmy climate, getting the chance to swing a few shouldn't be too difficult. The city's tourism website offers a full list of options at Sunny.org/sports.
Fort Lauderdale Beach bustles with activity. Lined with waterfront hotels and an array of restaurants with oceanfront patios, this beach is where you'll go to see and be seen.
Compared to other beaches in the area, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, located just north of Fort Lauderdale beach and south of Pompano Beach, is a quiet hideaway. Though still close to hotels and beachfront dining venues, it's less frenetic and makes a great place to spend a lazy afternoon. Plus, conditions for snorkeling and diving are ideal there -- there's a reef within swimming distance.
John U. Lloyd Beach State Park is a great place to be active or just relax and watch the cruise ships go by. You can rent canoes and kayaks, go surf fishing, take a hike or have a leisurely lunch on one of its 300-plus picnic tables.
Dania Beach, just south of Fort Lauderdale, is one of the area's best-kept secrets. Warm sands, shady palms and a quaint fishing pier are at this calm beach, and with just a little legwork, you'll discover a historic arts and antiques district, ice cream parlors, and plenty of pubs and seafood restaurants, all encompassed in a small beach town with big character.
Hollywood Beach, with its famous 2.5-mile "Broadwalk" -- an asphalt strip along the beach that is filled with street performers, couples walking hand in hand and families with young children meandering along in the sunshine -- was featured in the film "Marley and Me." It's the perfect setting for a day at the beach. Get involved in sports of all sorts (bike riding, rollerskating, kayaking and beach volleyball), or simply soak up the sun -- loungers and cabanas are available for rent. Shops and restaurants are close by too.
Even if you don't have kids in tow, the Museum of Discovery and Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale is worth a visit. You can catch an IMAX film, learn about Florida's prehistoric past and check out living creatures from river otters to tropical fish.
Art lovers will want to check out the city's Museum of Art, also downtown. Part of Nova Southeastern University, it hosts a variety of eclectic exhibitions.
A fun way to see the sights when you're short on time is to hop on the Water Taxi, one of South Florida's top attractions. The Water Taxi combines transportation with a guided boat tour, taking passengers from one end of the city's Intracoastal Waterway to the other with 13 hop-on/hop-off stops, including the Las Olas Riverfront and Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. The Fort Lauderdale Route links up to a Hollywood Route with another half-dozen stops.