Fort Lauderdale is perfect for families and travelers looking to have a bit of a unique experience. And West Palm Beach is best for the slow-traveling younger crowd. These cities may not be as jam-packed as their larger counterparts but they’re certainly worth a visit.
A stark contrast to the highs of neighboring Miami, Fort Lauderdale can be a fulfilling rest. Its more relaxed draws and rather unique quirks are worth the hype. Where else can you see beautiful beaches, a river, and a downtown full of man-made canals?
Rich in tourist appeals, simpler living, and rich history and culture, Fort Lauderdale is a star in itself. If you’re up for a more mellow vibe, funky scenes, and a whole different take on a coastal city, the city is perfect for you. Fort Lauderdale is ideal for the slow traveler, families, and those who prefer to veer away from the noise and dynamic of bigger cities.
What Makes Fort Lauderdale Unique?
Situated around the same coast as Miami, you can expect Fort Lauderdale’s Atlantic front to be adorned with beauty. You can easily find a cool roster of stunning beaches just east of its central area. Some of Fort Lauderdale’s best beaches are some of the US’ most beautiful. Each of Fort Lauderdale’s beaches has its own characteristics, so there’s definitely something for everyone.
Fort Lauderdale is a bit different than its northern counterparts on the east coast. It prides itself more on its mellow approach. With lesser crowds and picturesque views of the Atlantic, you can be sure to have a great experience on any of the beaches.
Most of which are perfect for families and slow and relaxed travelers. This is mostly thanks to their welcoming and laid-back atmosphere. To narrow down your choices, here are some of the best beaches to hit in Fort Lauderdale:
Loggerhead and Vista Park
These beaches are the most recommended in all of Fort Lauderdale for their beauty and vibe. Loggerhead and Vista Park should be at the top of your Fort Lauderdale itinerary. They both best represent what the city is all about with their calm, relaxed, and easygoing atmosphere. With their location fronting the Atlantic, you can expect these beaches to be stunning.
Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
Also boasting a quiet and relaxed scene, Fort Lauderdale is one of the best beaches in all of Fort Lauderdale. However, the beach park isn’t as quiet as Loggerhead and Vista Park. But what it does offer better is the many amenities and facilities it has with many activities for everyone.
From playgrounds to a basketball court, Fort Lauderdale Beach Park offers fun times for families. There are also many rental shops here where you can get many equipment to enjoy your time around the beach park. On top of its facilities, locals that gather here are also very welcoming, making you easily feel like a part of the community.
Las Olas Beach
Las Olas Beach may just very well be Fort Lauderdale’s party beach with all its high-energy features. While it can’t compete against Miami’s South Beach, its line of nightclubs and bars along the promenade is enough to give you an evening high. You can also check out the many restaurants that have a view of the ocean here.
The Venice of America
Fort Lauderdale’s most famous and unique draw is the dozens of canals and waterways that creep through the city. Dubbed the “Venice of America”, the canals sit side by side with the city’s streets. This has created such a charm for the city that it has cemented it into one of the US’ most beautiful cities.
From its trade and commercial-purpose days, it’s now a transportation system and a tourist obsession. The canals are what define Fort Lauderdale. With a total of 165 miles (266 km) of marinas, bays, canals, and other waterways, Fort Lauderdale is more aquatic than most cities in the US.
Thanks to this quirk, it has turned the city into of the most interesting cities to visit. When visiting Fort Lauderdale you can easily have scenes and vibe straight out of Venice or even Amsterdam. The city’s many canals and waterways have allowed its people to devise certain unique twists, like modes of transport and plenty of other touristy gimmicks.
From canal tours and boat transports, you can find a lot of things to experience for fun in the city’s vast network of waterways. Many of these charters and tours can take you around the main canals of the city, as well as the bay itself. As for an interesting twist in transportation, you can take water taxis all over the central part of the canals.
The canals aren’t just great by themselves, if you meander through the many main arteries you can find many canalside wonders. Boat transports can take you to the many cosmopolitan charms that line the canals. You can have shopping centers, entertainment hotspots, and restaurants. Expect to find plenty along the main canals, most especially in the Intracoastal Waterway.
Yachting Capital of the World
With an abundance of water all around its city limits, Fort Lauderdale easily has the most number of docks and marinas in the country. Thanks to this, boats of all sizes love to dock in one of the US’ most iconic cities. You just might see small boats all the way to the super rich’s megayachts here.
Since it has become a maritime haven, yachts from all over the world flock and dock around Fort Lauderdale. Effectively making the city the “Yachting Capital of the World”. The city doesn’t only have boat- or yacht-friendly waters, it also houses an abundance of Yacht services as well.
You can find many companies and shops that service yachts of different kinds. These services can range from yacht building to management services including crew management. This is definitely a yacht-owner refuge.
Marinas and services aside, Fort Lauderdale also boasts the ideal weather condition for boats and yachts. The city has consistent sunny and warm days, with gentle to moderate sea conditions. Fort Lauderdale is perfect for docking and water charters. Not to mention the canals around the city are consistently gentle and safe.
The city isn’t only big on its waterfront charms, it is also a haven of culture and a warden of history. You can explicitly see all of its cultural and historical value in the many museums you can find across the city.
Fort Lauderdale has an extensive roster of museums that can be collectively considered one huge museum. From science to art, your eyes will surely be opened in any of the following entries. Here are some of the most famous spots:
NSU Art Museum
The NSU exterior design is its biggest telltale of the treasure trove it holds inside. Decorated with a modernist facade, the NSU Art Museum has to be the most interesting piece of culture you’ll ever encounter in Fort Lauderdale. For both art lovers and curious visitors, the museum houses a rich collection of art that spans multiple floors.
With its 6,000 artworks that came from different parts of the world, you can easily understand why the museum is one of the city’s must-visit spots. You can marvel at the works of Europeans and, of course, American artists as well.
Historic Stranahan House Museum
Perhaps the beacon of the city’s history, the Historic Stranahan House has seen Fort Lauderdale’s earliest years. Built in 1901 by Frank Stranahan, it is the oldest residence in the entire city. The house was initially built to be the city’s community and trade center. It was then turned into the official residence of the city’s founder later on.
Now, it is one of Fort Lauderdale’s must-visit sites, especially if you’re interested in how the city came to be. The museum inside features many displays that showcase the historic points of the city, along with a glimpse of Stranahan’s life.
Museum of Discovery and Science
For the ever-curious children and adult science geeks, the Museum of Discovery and Science is the best place to visit. The museum also has several interactive displays and features. You won’t only be educated here, you’ll also be entertained.
The museum features over 200 interactive displays. They are categorized into different sections across the complex. And if you’re up for a bit of an adventure inside, you can check out simulated tours through the Everglades National Park. The show’s genius exhibition can virtually transport you further south into the Sunshine State.
West Palm Beach
Underrated, quiet, and lowkey, West Palm Beach is a great escape from the noise and energy of its neighbors. Most of the Florida East Coast may be energetic and lively, but West Palm Beach is a little beacon of simplicity and warmth.
What Makes West Palm Beach Unique?
Thanks to warmth, and laid-back attitudes, the city has a growing LGBT scene. In fact, it has one of the largest and most respected LGBT communities in the entire country.
The city proudly boasts an urban center full of shopping stores and entertainment hotspots. It also offers gay-friendly and -owned spots, from hotels and restaurants to bars. It may not be as jam-packed and high-powered as Miami or Orlando, but it is a haven of fun and acceptance through and through.
Apart from its LGBT-friendly scenes, West Palm Beach’s best testament to its inclusivity lies in how its people and officials accept them. Since 1990, the city’s history has had several progressive points to cater to the LGBTQ community’s welfare.
In 1994, the city’s commissioners passed the WPB Equal Opportunity Ordinance. This policy prohibits discrimination in private and public employment. It also covers housing and public accommodations based on sexual orientation.
And in 2018, West Palm Beach passed an LGBTQ-inclusive resolution. Which confirmed the city’s commitment to combat bullying in city facilities and activities.
The Eponymous Downtown West Palm Beach
Downtown West Palm Beach is a pleasant and popular attraction noted for its distinct shopping and dining area. Some of West Palm Beach’s trendier eateries may be found here. You can also find a variety of entertainment alternatives such as bars, live music events, and nightclubs.
West Palm Beach’s downtown is noted for holding a wide range of events. Music festivals to outdoor movies to Christmas celebrations can be held here. You can also expect to find a variety of rotating events throughout the year. You might catch music festivals and even outdoor movie evenings beneath the stars, depending on when you come.
Nature-Loving Small City
The Sunshine State isn’t just famous for its gorgeous Atlantic coasts and resort cities. Southern Florida is gifted with natural life making it home to a plethora of wildlife and nature conservatories and parks. Florida is, after all, the US’ park capital.
Here are some of the many parks you can find around West Palm Beach:
McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary
McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary is a working wildlife sanctuary, not a zoo. It takes in and treats hundreds of injured or homeless animals from the South Florida area each year. Visitors can learn about the facility and engage with a variety of animals during guided on-site excursions.
Visitors can learn about the rescue procedure here as well. Check out how the sanctuary assists local wildlife officials in capturing injured animals. You can also get a tour of the rehabilitation center, which includes a treatment clinic and a recovery area for orphaned or injured animals. All earnings from the sanctuary tours go toward the care and maintenance of the animals.
Mounts Botanical Garden
Mounts Botanical Garden is the largest and oldest public garden in West Palm Beach. It has approximately two thousand different tropical plants from six continents. Mounts house an abundance of various plant species. This includes an exotic-trees garden, tropical-fruit garden, herbs garden, and citrus and palms garden.
There are over twenty separate gardens here, as well as other attractions. Each section includes signage explaining the diversity and history of the plants on display.
Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society
The Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society are a 23-acre (9.3 ha) site housing almost 700 animal species. It is conveniently located just within the downtown area. It features a range of permanent exhibits as well.
A reptile house, a tiger exhibit, and a koala and wallaby section are among the zoo’s other attractions. The zoo also features many exciting displays for younger visitors. This includes an interactive play fountain and a safari train that takes visitors throughout the zoo.
On top of its modern attitudes, and chic streets, West Palm Beach also has small twists of its own. If you’re for more a vintage charm in the city, head to the city’s iconic Antique Row just south of downtown. It is an interesting neighborhood that houses over 50 shops and businesses that sell old and vintage pieces.
Here, you can find stores that sell antique items and historical collectibles. Classic art, vintage furnishings, as well as modern household items are also on offer here. If you’re up for buying some 17th- to 20th-century items, Antique Row may give you just that.
If you’re here for the vibe and aesthetic of it all, alongside the shops you’ll find a selection of specialty stores and art galleries as well. The area is also a very picturesque place to stroll around and get lost in. Antique Row’s other specialty is its roster of cafes and top-rated restaurants speckled throughout.
Which Is Better – West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale?
If you’re looking for a vacation with the right balance of fun and laid-back feel, Fort Lauderdale is the better option. It has history, chill beaches, and interesting cityscapes, Fort Lauderdale often comes next to Miami.
West Palm Beach on the other hand doesn’t offer as many activities as Fort Lauderdale.
Is West Palm Beach Cheaper Than Fort Lauderdale?
Among the two, West Palm Beach is cheaper than Fort Lauderdale. Prices and services tend to vary, but mostly Fort Lauderdale can be a bit more expensive. Upon comparison, Fort Lauderdale is 9.1% more expansive than West Palm Beach.
West Palm Beach vs. Fort Lauderdale for Families
Both cities are actually some of the most family-oriented places in Florida. But when it comes to family-friendly thrills and fun, Fort Lauderdale is better for a family vacation.
West Palm Beach vs. Fort Lauderdale for Nightlife
Fort Lauderdale’s nightlife may not be as grand as Miami but it certainly is the better option. West Palm Beach is more relaxed and quiet, it has its fair share of fun at night but is not as interesting as Fort Lauderdale.
How Far Is West Palm Beach From Fort Lauderdale?
West Palm Beach is approximately 41 miles (66 km) from Fort Lauderdale, directly. If you’re planning on taking the road, the driving distance is around 45.7 miles (73.6 km).
Which Airport Is Better – Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach?
Both airports have modern facilities and host several airlines. They both also have lesser passenger traffic. But West Palm Beach Airport tends to be smaller, and thus lines are shorter. Fort Lauderdale on the other hand is a bit bigger and is more congested and busier.
Is It Cheaper to Fly Into Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach?
Passengers tend to get better rates flying into Fort Lauderdale compared to West Palm Beach, and even Tampa. Part of the reason why is because of how Fort Lauderdale Airport receives more flights and passengers regularly. It is the more touristy city after all.
Is It Better to Fly Into West Palm Beach or Fort Lauderdale?
It is generally better to fly into Fort Lauderdale because of better airport conditions, and better flight deals.
How to Get From Fort Lauderdale Airport to West Palm Beach
You can get to West Palm Beach from Fort Lauderdale Airport by driving or taking a bus.
Is There a Shuttle From West Palm Beach Airport to Fort Lauderdale Airport?
There are no particular shuttle services that can take you from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale Airport. But there are bus companies that offer these services.
How to Get From West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale Airport
You can get to Fort Lauderdale Airport from West Palm Beach by driving, or by taking the bus.
Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach by Uber
You can take an Uber from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach thanks to their proximity.
How Much Is an Uber From Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach?
Uber rides cost depending on the type of service, where they range from 107 to 339 USD.
Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach by Train
You can get to West Palm Beach from Fort Lauderdale by train with Tri-Rail. Trips are available every hour from 6 AM to 9 PM.
How Much Is the Train From West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale?
A train ride from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale can cost around 5 to 8 USD.
How Much Is Brightline From West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale?
One-way tickets can cost around 11 to 35 USD, with trips every four hours.
How Long Is the Tri-rail From Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach?
A train ride from Fort Lauderdale Station to West Palm Beach Station via Tri-rail typically takes an hour.
How Long Does It Take to Go from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach?
Depending on your mode of transport you can get to West Palm Beach from Fort Lauderdale in an hour or less.
Is Fort Lauderdale or West Palm Beach Closer to Miami?
Fort Lauderdale is closer to Miami, with just less than an hour of travel.