Fort Lauderdale's vibrant arts and culture scene: beyond the beach

beautiful place

Fort Lauderdale, situated just north of Miami, is one of the best cities in Florida for soaking up the sun. While it’s hard to argue with the soft sands and clear waters of Fort Lauderdale Beach, there’s quite a bit more to this city than suntanning and swimming. Florida, in general, has a rock-solid arts and culture scene that’s too often overlooked. Fort Lauderdale is no different, with a host of historical landmarks and the stellar NSU Art Museum that are absolutely worth checking out. 

Fort Lauderdale also punches above its weight class in terms of restaurants, with a bevy of inventive and authentic restaurants showcasing a diverse range of flavors. Las Olas Boulevard is also a gorgeous stretch lined with cafes, boutiques, bars, and restaurants. There’s plenty to do in Fort Lauderdale that has nothing to do with the beach, you just have to know where to look.

Soaking up the city’s culture is a full-time endeavor, and the best way to make sure you can pack in as much as possible is to travel light. If you happen to have a few extra bags or suitcases with you while you’re sightseeing, plan to drop them off at a Bounce luggage storage location in Fort Lauderdale before heading out. You’ll be happy you did!

NSU Art Museum

One of the absolute best art museums in South Florida just so happens to be situated in Fort Lauderdale. With a wide array of artistic styles (namely Cuban, modern European, and contemporary American) represented you’ll find plenty to look at in the impressive William Glackens Collection at NSU Art Museum. The photography and modern collections are particularly well-curated. Still, the eclectic offerings will appeal to basically any art enthusiast and the rainbow-colored facade is gorgeous to admire from outside.

Tour The Bonnet House, Fort Lauderdale’s top historical landmark 

Situated between the Intracoastal Waterway and Fort Lauderdale Beach is a 35-acre plantation featuring one of the city’s oldest buildings. Built back in 1919 as a gift for a wealthy northerner’s wife, the Bonnet House was a winter retreat where the family would retire to work on art and appreciate the wonderful South Florida climate. There are expansive gardens and a protected grove of trees surrounding the massive plantation home. Today, the property has been donated to a land trust, and you can tour the complex, grounds, and plantation home to get an understanding of how the wealthy of yesteryear spent their winters. The lush wooded area surrounding the house is filled with imported monkeys and exotic birds. Guided tours are highly recommended for the full story.

Culture starts and ends at Las Olas Boulevard



Las Olas is undeniably “the place to be'' in Fort Lauderdale. With a buzzy atmosphere and stellar collection of stores and restaurants, you can’t visit Fort Lauderdale without heading to Las Olas Boulevard to hang out. During the day, you can grab a coffee and pastry before window shopping through the many indie boutiques. At night, you can grab a cocktail and walk around sampling street food. 

Tour the Stranahan House 

One of the best examples of Florida vernacular design, the Stranahan House is a well-preserved landmark detailing Fort Lauderdale’s early history. The city was an early trading outpost between European settlers and the Seminole nation, and the Stranahan House was one of the most important commercial properties until the 1920s. You can tour the home and the expansive property to learn about Floridian history, and there’s a riverboat tour exploring the surrounding waterways.   

Take the kids to the Museum of Discovery & Science 



If you’re traveling with the kids to Fort Lauderdale and catch some bad luck weather-wise, you’ll want to bring them to this fantastic science museum for a day of constructive fun. There’s an IMAX theater alongside dozens of fun exhibits. There’s a wide range of programming, from LEGO building activities to deep sea exploration, and even a fun 'Otter Encounter' where the kids can meet some furry little swimmers. 

Head next door to Hollywood to admire the art murals

While it’s not technically in Fort Lauderdale, you can quickly reach this magnificent art mural. Situated on an alley off of Hollywood Boulevard and the Young Circle ArtsPark, this vibrant arts space features work from South Florida artists. At the very least, it’s highly Instagrammable. 

Get an epic meal at Fort Lauderdale’s best restaurants 


Typical Florida usually involves Cuban sandwiches and fresh seafood. It’s hard to argue with that, but cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale boast highly diverse restaurant scenes where you’ll be able to branch out a bit more. Here are a few of Fort Lauderdale’s best: 

  • Takato: Stylish Japanese-Korean fusion food has become a staple in buzzy restaurants around the country, and it’s never been better than this beloved Fort Lauderdale spot. With a Japanese portion of the menu appealing to seafood lovers and a Korean selection satisfying the carnivores, Takato is the ideal date night spot. Just make sure to split the kimchi fried rice.
  • Spud's Coffee: if you want to fuel your Las Olas exploration or day on the beach, stop by this endlessly hip cafe for a delicious cold brew and a breakfast sandwich. Their most popular menu item is the Breakfast BKT, a riff on a BLT that has salty jerk maple bacon, but there are plenty of other inventive creations alongside superb pastries. 
  • Piman Cafe: Haitian food is a staple that most South Floridians will take for granted. But for travelers from other parts of the country, these dishes will be a real novelty. Fort Lauderdale has been blessed with the area’s best Haitian café, which offers crispy, crackling pork griot in a casual, approachable serving alongside tasty rice and pikliz (a traditional Haitian pickled cabbage). Take it to go for a picnic on the beach or hang out on the patio!
  • Larb Thai-Isan: Not only is this the best Thai spot in Fort Lauderdale, but Larb Thai-Isan has become a go-to destination for foodies across South Florida. Even the best Miami spots can’t compete with the traditional Thai dishes that this trendy spot churns out. Expect authentic dishes that go beyond your standard pad Thai but with a slightly modern twist that makes each bowl or plate accessible and Instagram-friendly. 


While Fort Lauderdale is a reasonably easy city to get around, seeing the whole city and waterfront generally requires a car. If you’re on a day trip from Miami or are just flying into the city, there’s also the pesky question regarding what to do with the bags. A day at the beach makes for a tricky luggage situation, as does exploring Las Olas Boulevard, so finding a place to store your belongings while you splash around or sightsee is your best option. Fortunately, the Bounce luggage storage network has plenty of convenient locations in Fort Lauderdale, some near the beach and plenty out near the city’s cultural and dining districts. 

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