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It’s hard to rival Miami, with its glitzy beaches, artsy neighborhoods and strong Cuban coffee. But the city’s neighbor to the north has plenty going for it. If you’re heading to South Florida, don’t miss these things to do that you’ll only find in Fort Lauderdale.

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Add some color to your Instagram feed with a visit to Butterfly World. Credit Bob B. Brown/Flickr.

Visit the world’s largest butterfly park

Bragging rights go to Butterfly World, home to more than 20,000 live butterflies and birds from around the globe. In addition to marveling at the gentle creatures, you can hand-feed lorikeets (think small parrots), explore the Bug Zoo, take a gardening workshop and find your moment of zen at the waterfall.

Catch a jai-alai match

Plenty of metro areas offer pro football, baseball and basketball teams. But the Fort Lauderdale area is one of the few places you can watch professional jai-ali, the fast-moving game with balls flying at nearly 200 miles per hours. Fall in love with the sport at The Casino @ Dania Beach.

The Great Gravity Clock at the Museum of Discovery and Science will keep the fun ticking on your vacation. Erluko/Flickr.

Ride an airboat… indoors

The family-friendly Museum of Discovery and Science offers the Everglades Airboat Adventure, a simulation that allows you to experience the twists and turns of an airboat ride, minus the mosquito bites. Other MODS highlights include two floors of hands-on learning, an IMAX theater and a new outdoor Science Park.

Las Olas Boulevard lined with shops and restaurants in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Walk on water

Las Olas Boulevard, Spanish for “the waves,” is Fort Lauderdale’s trendy thoroughfare for shopping, dining and entertainment. As you stroll along tree-lined Las Olas, score a new outfit in a boutique, browse the art galleries and settle in at a sidewalk cafe for a happy hour cocktail and people-watching.

Bonnet House is stunning inside and out. Credit Lisa Jacobs/Flickr.

Marvel at one of America’s best orchid collections

The historic Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is home to one of the country’s most extensive rotating displays of orchids, as well as an annual orchid festival. The house itself is nothing to sneeze at, either: a century-old mansion full of the paintings and art collection of the home’s original owner, Frederic Clay Bartlett.

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Take a free trolley boat ride

Whoever said there’s no such thing as a free ride has never embarked on Fort Lauderdale’s Riverwalk Water Trolley. The complimentary water taxi cruises the New River daily, allowing riders to hop on and off at some of the city’s most popular attractions.

 

Shop at America’s largest outlet mall

If you like your malls big and your deals even bigger, then head to Sawgrass Mills. The shopping complex is the largest outlet mall in the United States, with more than 2 million glorious square feet of retail therapy from Burberry, Nike, Lego and other factory stores.

See highbrow art in a low-key museum

College art galleries don’t usually get much buzz, but the Nova Southeastern University Art Museum is worth a visit for its diverse exhibitions, lecture and film series, and permanent collection that includes work by Andy Warhol.

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Tagged: Florida, Miami

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Dalia Colon

Dalia Colon

Dalia is a multimedia journalist in Tampa and the Smart Travel Insider for VISIT FLORIDA. Follow her on Twitter @daliacolon.
Dalia Colon

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