The days when Fort Lauderdale was a Spring Break sensation are long gone. Today, the beachside communities of Broward County – which are sandwiched between Miami-Dade and Palm Beach – are the perfect playgrounds for families looking for sun-drenched adventures. Naturally, many of them include the beaches and water as part of their allure.
Aim for the Atlantic
Spending lazy days sliding your toes through the fine white sand – or dipping them into the blue-green surf – certainly counts as a family activity. Fort Lauderdale’s wide, flat beaches are highly regarded for their beauty, but they’re also reassuring for parents. Their geography, and the extra safety of lifeguard stands, make it easy to watch small children building castles or playing in the shallows. Plus, the generally gentle waters allow for beginners to easily learn activities like stand-up paddleboarding and surfing.
Parents who prefer to spend some time tanning, lunching on Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, or shopping on Las Olas Boulevard before reuniting with children and visiting family attractions in the afternoon don’t need to feel guilty either. At least, they don’t if they book at hotels like the Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach, or the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, which feature the excellent Funky Fish Ocean Camp, running from 10 am to 3 pm 364 days per year. Along with snorkeling lessons taught by a pro, children learn to skim board, boogie board, and paddleboard. At the Conrad, where the camp is called GO H2O!, the instructors hold degrees in marine science. Nearby, the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach offers daily kids’ activities, including youth fan favorites such as a bracelet-creation station, sand-art crafts, origami lessons, and keepsake tie-dye t-shirts. These activities rotate on a monthly basis.
In Hollywood, The Diplomat Beach Resort offers a Destination Family Diplomat Kids Club package that includes a variety of amenities, including complimentary meals, access to the Kid’s Club, games such as ping-pong and corn hole, and arcades on the property, as well as welcoming treats in the room. In addition to the various educational activities, bounce house, and deck basketball at the club (sign children up for half-day, full-day, or night-out sessions), a terrific Dip + Slide is open at the Upper Pool from 9:30 am to 6 pm daily.
Out of the Water
Even when you’re away from the beaches, you’re never far from water in Fort Lauderdale. Take advantage of the scenic surroundings by using it to travel – opt for the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi instead of an Uber of Lyft. GALLERYone – a Doubletree Suites by Hilton Hotel, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina and the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach – a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel all have water taxi stops, making these boats a convenient mode of transportation for the whole family.
In fact, hop on and glide to dinner at 15th Street Fisheries, just one of the stops for the water taxi. Located within the historic Lauderdale Marina, the Fisheries is a landmark restaurant, renowned for both its seafood and for the tarpon that swim near the pilings, looking for a handout. Kids love to look at the extravagant yachts and feed those large game fish while they wait for their food to arrive.
If you prefer to have the meal serve as part of the entertainment itself, reserve an afternoon or evening with Jungle Queen Riverboats. In service since 1935, these New River cruises, which embark and disembark from the Bahia Mar Yachting Center, offer sightseeing, comedy shows, barbecues, and even petting zoos with tropical wildlife. You can find the option that fits your family, with activities suited to your children’s ages, by visiting the website before booking.
Bluefoot Pirate Family Adventures is another way for the whole crowd – kids and adults alike – to enjoy Fort Lauderdale’s stunning views together. This interactive, pirate-themed cruise, where every crew member is in character, completely absorbs children, and parents only have to relax and admire the gorgeous private homes that line the Intracoastal Waterway. Keep in mind, though, that no food service is on the Bluefoot boat, which departs from Bahia Mar.
A Little Landlubbing
After an afternoon of exciting activities with children in greater Fort Lauderdale – whether it’s investigating the history of the native tribe at the Seminole Okalee Indian Village or exploring the Everglades in an airboat at Sawgrass Recreation Park – calming down the kids doesn’t always work. So why try? Take them to Mai-Kai for an attention-grabbing show featuring Polynesian drummers and dancers, as well as dinner. A veritable institution in the region, Mai-Kai is also well-known for its tropical drinks, divided into categories (non-alcoholic, mild, medium, and strong). Parents who have things to do with kids the next day – and those whose turn it is to sleep in – can judge for themselves which ones to order.
If you prefer to burn off some energy instead, look no further than Hollywood Beach’s Broadwalk. At just over two miles, this path that runs parallel to the ocean is ideal for running, walking, and biking. For wheels of all kinds, ranging from beach cruisers to “limos” that seat entire families, visit Sun & Fun Cycles. Your ride will take you to the shops and restaurants that line the Broadwalk, and allow you to collect everything from souvenirs to smoothies without a spill.
Indeed, a light, breezy beach bike ride during a South Florida sunset is the perfect activity with kids to end the day. It ensures a good night’s sleep for the whole family, so that the next one begins in the same mindful, relaxing way.