Once a popular destination for Spring Break college crowds, the Greater Fort Lauderdale area in south Florida's Broward County now attracts a much broader range of tourists. Families traveling to the region with children will find a variety of recreational and educational kid-friendly activities and attractions that are also enjoyable for parents and older siblings.
Like most vacation spots in Florida, the coastline is a major draw in Fort Lauderdale. The area encompasses 23 miles of beaches, several of which are temporary homes for sea turtles that come ashore to nest. Among these is Hillsborough Beach, home to the Hillsborough Lighthouse. Older children who are able swimmers can dive or snorkel over the three-tier natural coral reef at Lauderdale-By-The-Sea.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale area offers a variety of activities and attractions for young nature enthusiasts. Among these is Butterfly World, which is home to thousands of live butterflies of various colorful species, as well as lorikeets, hummingbirds and an insectarium. At the 60-acre Flamingo Gardens, a botanical garden and wildlife sanctuary, children can observe 70 species of native Florida birds, as well as flamingos, alligators, otters and panthers.
Also accessible from Fort Lauderdale is Everglades National Park, which teems with wildlife, including crocodiles and alligators, white-tailed deer, opossums and more than 350 avian species. The Billie Swamp Safari, located on a Seminole Indian reservation, offers airboat rides through the Everglades, as well as several animal shows.
Fort Lauderdale Duck Tours provide amphibious tours of Fort Lauderdale that includes the city's historic district, as well as the homes on Millionaire's Row. Children under the age of three ride for free.
For even more hours of family fun, visit Boomers, which offers rock-climbing, laser tag, go-karts, bumper boats, miniature golf and the largest wooden roller coaster in Florida.
There are several kid-friendly museums in the Greater Fort Lauderdale area, including the hands-on Museum of Discovery and Science, which features a number of permanent interactive exhibits. Highlights include the Great Gravity Clock --- the largest kinetic energy sculpture in the state --- and an ecology exhibit that contains the largest living Atlantic coral reef in captivity.The museum is also home to the AutoNation IMAX Theater, which boasts the largest screen in South Florida.
At the Young at Art Children Museum, kids can enjoy several interactive experiences, such as a recycling exhibit and paper-making workshop and the Global Village, meant to foster cultural tolerance and awareness. The museum also offers one-day art camps for children.
The Fort Lauderdale Children's Theatre produces shows for children, including Shakespearean plays, and also offers theater classes and summer camps for kids between the ages of 3 1/2 and 18.
The whole family can enjoy the performances at the Mai-Kai Restaurant and Polynesian Revue. Children under 12 can see the show, which features Polynesian music and dance, for free. The Wreck Bar at the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel also puts on a live, kid-friendly mermaid show every Friday night.