My family recently spent a vacation enjoyng Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We (mom 43, Dad 41, Daughter 5) packed our days doing a huge range of activities, here are our favorites:
Bluefoot Pirate Adventures
Bluefoot Pirate Adventures is a heck of a good time for any family with young children. Our five year old daughter purchased a pink bandana, eye patch & plastic sward for an additional the $7 – then was allowed to rummage through a trunk filled with smocks and belts to finalize her outfit. Once dressed the adventure crew added a tattoo to her arm then we were ready to board. The pirate ship cruises throughout the intracostal waterway. While on board you discover sneaky Barnacle Bill has stolen your ship’s treasure chest’s key. No worries though, Mate Cannonball KiKi along with Captain Sparrow help round up the kids and lead them through a memorable, fun and hilarious adventure including squirting Barnacle Bill as he rode by in his smaller boat. Eventually they got the key which opened a treasure chest full of goodie bags for the kids. Most of the parents sat in the back while the kids interacted with the crew towards the front – but parents can engage as much or as little as they want, especially if a child is shy. The only downside to this adventure is my daughter has now changed her name to Mermaid Crystal and seems to only respond when I call her by this newfound name. Put this adventure at the top of your list if you’re looking for a swashbuckling good time.
Fort Lauderdale’s Water Taxi service has been taking locals and tourists through the intracostal canals through Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, Florida for over 20 years. Their route consists of 22 different stops (if you take them all) and a fleet of 19 different types of boats. We spent a great day hopping off and exploring many areas, then hopping back on the boat to continue our journey. We parked our car at the restaurant Flip Flops this is right next to (Shooters, a higher end restaurant). We grabbed a casual lunch at Flip Flops, perfect for families, then walked through the restaurant to the dock where we caught our water taxi. The taxi comes with tour guides who pointed out celebrity homes, mansion, yachts and gave us lots of history and trivia. To top it off they sell beer and water on the boat! Space is limited but they will accommodate collapsible strollers with no problem. Occasionally the boats are full and you will have to wait for the next one. Our favorite stop was number 4, The Shops & Restaurants at Las Olas. We did a little shopping, browsed through art galleries and splurged on sweets at Kilwins. Overall the water taxi price is a little steep but we made a whole day of it so it was worth it. Be sure to bring a sunhat, sunscreen and a camera.
After spending the day enjoying the intracostal waterways, sight seeing and boat hopping, we drove to Fort Lauderdale-By -The-Sea. The powder white sand and crystal blue water is enchanting and a perfect end to our day. We did some shell collecting and caught a gorgeous sunset. This adorable town is just 1.5 square miles and is part of the “Gold Coast” in Broward County, Fla. This beach side community is set between Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach. There is a small center of the town that has an open plaza with shops and entertainment. It didn’t take long for our daughter to spot the giant Legos and a super sized connect four game. For $2/head there is a nice pier extending from the shore out into the ocean, but we opted to enjoy what was free. This is a very clean, colorful, adorable area of Fort Lauderdale. It even has a pet store where you can not only buy a pooch with a fabulous wardrobe but gourmet candy for yourself.
Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Show
For dinner we hit the famous, iconic Polynesian restaurant Mai-Kai. This legendary restaurant is surrounded by lush gardens and waterfalls, and once inside you’re surrounded by Polynesian entertainment and kitschy charm. It’s rumored Mai-Kai has the best tropical drink menu anywhere in the world! My daughter and I tried some non-alcoholic mocktails which were awesome, the rest of our party enjoyed the real drinks and agreed, indeed they may be the best. Although we sat in the bar area, we walked through the show area and stood long enough to see some incredible hula and a sward dancer swallowing fire. If you walk to the back of the restaurant, the door open to incredible gardens. These gardens are filled with tiki dolls, tropical plants, waterfalls and kitschy charm. Tip: Wednesday happens to be 1/2 price happy hour on all drinks from 5-7, free appetizers and live music. Show up early as it gets crowded quickly!
Everglades Tours Air boat rides
We were really excited to experience the Everglades while in Florida. We got an insider tip that the best tour group is Everglades Tours. This is actually part of Sawgrass Recreational Park. This experience not only offers air boat rides through the everglades with up close sightings of alligators, but a park you can enjoy either before or after your boat tour. We were lucky enough to see an alligator on our boat tour. During our park experience we saw alligators, snakes, lizards, Florida panther, black leopards, a bobcat and about 15 other species of animals. We watched a large alligator feeding and my daughter had a chance to hold a baby alligator. You truly feel the rich history when spending time in the Everglades. I left with a deeper respect for these remarkable species and the endangered, fragile environment where they reside.
Southport Raw Bar
If you’re looking for a classic seafood restaurant, check out Southport Raw Bar. This restaurant boasts it’s the oldest raw bar in Fort Lauderdale and sell more oysters than anyone else. We sat dock side and loved both the oysters as much as the view. They also had a nice children’s menu.
Flamingo Gardens is a gorgeous wildlife sanctuary and home to many permanently injured and non-releasable Florida wildlife. This incredible sanctuary has bobcats, alligators, panthers, eagles, otters, peacocks and flamingos. We loved watching the playful otters swim and climb around throughout their playful habitat which included a picnic table and chairs which they climbed throughout. Flamingo pond was one of our favorite areas in the park which is home to vibrant Caribbean Flamingo. Their habitat is a lagoon surrounded by lush vegetation. I think the highlight for us was probably the 25,000 square foot free-flight aviary house. This atrium allowed us to walk freely among 250 different birds, all contained withing a lush, swampy, cypress forest. We spent a long time in here watching the different birds and discovering unusual vegetation. Of course you exit through the gift shop so we took home plenty of souvenirs. There is a garden tour available via shuttle which we did not do, it is included in admission. The facility is stroller accessible. Bring sunscreen, bug spray and a hat.
Pompano Beach recently underwent a mega redevelopment process and revitalized its beachfront and historic downtown. A bonus about this beach is you can park right up along the beach so there’s no schlepping through long parking lots with all of your beach gear. The pristine white sand beaches now match the new pier and fun playgrounds lining the beaches. We really enjoyed the beachside playgrounds and of course burying my boyfriend in the sand. We picked this beach over Ft. Lauderdale beach due to the closer parking.
Wreck Bar Mermaids
If you really want to wow your kids, take them to B Ocean Hotel & Resort in downtown Fort Lauderdale! They host a free mermaid show (Fridays and Saturdays) inside their lobby bar, Wreck Bar. This bar has underwater views of their outdoor swimming pool – the windows are located behind the bar, so patrons and tourists all gather around for the shows. The shows are Fridays and Saturdays at both 6:30 & 9:30. The 6:30 show is child appropriate, the 9:30 show is not. My daughter was mesmerized when she saw the mermaids swimming around. Their costumes were exquisite and the mermaids definitely had talent as they kept their eyes open underwater and waved at the patrons. This was a really fun free entertainment and if you are in town on a Friday or Saturday should try to see this short show.