Every great destination has its landmarks -- the spots that you just have to travel to. They’re easily seen and recognized from a distance, associated with a specific location in mind.
But it’s the hotspots that aren’t quite as conspicuous that really define a destination. For every famous landmark, there are a dozen hidden gems waiting in the wings, ready to be discovered. Hidden gems are unique places only a few people know about; even the locals have little idea what’s right in their backyards.
Lucky for you, we’re bringing these hidden gems to the forefront, granting them the attention (and praise) they actually deserve. Sprinkle your Fort Lauderdale vacation itinerary with the 26 hidden gems below, and watch as your trip truly becomes one-of-a-kind.
1. Deerfield Island Park, Deerfield Beach
Our first hidden gem is so hidden, it can only be reached by boat. That’s right, Deerfield Island Park is a nature-oriented refuge off the Intracoastal Waterway at Hillsboro Blvd. Hop on the weekend shuttle cruise from the mainland, which runs from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., and embark on a quick journey to the great outdoors.
After you arrive, walk along the blazed trails, and see mangrove bird species, large iguanas, gopher tortoises and the native flora and fauna of South Florida. Serene and picturesque, Deerfield Island Park is the ultimate nature getaway.
2. The Yard, Wilton Manors
Deep in the town of Wilton Manors is an urban oasis called “The Yard.” The outdoor space is so hidden that when you arrive, it’s almost as if you enter a different world. After you park in the designated lot behind a yoga studio, step through the vine-woven gates into a small and quaint village with hipster, artsy vibes.
Straight ahead is The Alchemist, with a garden setting and arguably the best iced coffee in Wilton Manors. As you make your way down the path, there’s a taco restaurant, and a french cafe.
While antiques for sale sit along the sidewalk, you can come across additional unique finds in Lola’s Market. From jewelry to tchotchkes, Lola’s has it all. You can even get your future analyzed by a fortune teller or paint on canvases in the tapestry-filled warehouse.
Behind Lola’s is a mural garden with local artist’s paintings standing tall for all to see. The garden is an ideal photo spot for any social media aficionado. There’s even a mural with a hole in a lion’s mouth that you can pose inside of. It’s the perfect end to the hidden village and the cherry on top of a great afternoon. Move over Wynwood, The Yard makes its mark.
3. Yellow Green Farmers Market, Hollywood
This next spot may not be as hidden as the others, but it’s certainly a gem. A trip to the Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood, Fla. is like being transported to a time before you could go to your nearby grocery store for a snack.
The 100,000-square-foot metal warehouse is complete with a maze full of 350+ vendors selling local vegetables, craft beer, artisanal goods, and more culinary treats. Foodie and craft entrepreneurs set up shop in the weekend warehouse, showing off their latest and greatest. How do they stand out among their competition? They get creative.
From plant-based pastrami sandwiches to green coffee, these vendors sure take pride in their art. Get lost in the colorful aisles and corridors, and send your taste buds down a delicious path of health food heaven.
4. Cruisin’ Tiki, Fort Lauderdale
Enjoy a hidden gem experience with a ride that’s “classic Fort Lauderdale.” Cruisin’ Tikis is a day or sunset activity that’s a guaranteed good time.
Go to The Historic Downtowner, and look for the tiki huts floating on the New River. Then hop on board for a fun tour of the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District. Bonus points if you bring food and have a picnic on the water.
5. Radioactive Records, MASS District
When it comes to cool neighborhoods, MASS District takes the cake. Located in downtown Fort Lauderdale, it’s an artistic hub filled with studios, street murals, and eclectic shops and storefronts. The creatives in MASS District have formed their own little art community, and it’s exciting to see it all unfold.
One notable stop in MASS District is Radioactive Records. A music fan’s dream, the independently owned and operated record shop has been in business since 1995, featuring live performances by musicians, book signings and meet 'n' greets.
Stop by one afternoon and peruse the rows of vinyl records, CDs, cassettes and 8-tracks, as well as turntables, books, t-shirts, and other music-related paraphernalia. You never know; maybe you’ll find a hidden gem from deep within music history.
6. The Atlantic Trailhead, Coral Springs
One would think the Sawgrass Expressway (SR 869) on the west side of Greater Fort Lauderdale is just your everyday freeway. The only fun to be had is either jamming out to Top 40 radio or heading off the exits to the next destination.
However, the interchange between the Sawgrass Expressway and Atlantic Boulevard in Coral Springs has a secret attraction up its sleeves that puts any other freeway to shame. The Atlantic Trailhead is a road tripper’s inside look into the Florida Everglades.
Locals come to the Atlantic Trailhead to both take in the sunset and take photographs worthy of being in National Geographic. Stroll for hours along the Conservation Levee Trail, and embrace the peaceful atmosphere -- a stark contrast from the hustle and bustle of a day’s traffic.
7. Old Dillard Museum, Fort Lauderdale
The Old Dillard Museum building dates back to segregation when it was the first school for African American children in Fort Lauderdale. Today, it’s a museum that offers incredible insights into inspiring pioneers from the local African-American community.
Learn about the rich history of African-American educators and citizens in Fort Lauderdale at this National Register landmark. You’ll witness an inspiring tribute to African-American history and an impressive selection of interactive exhibits and on-going events.
8. Snake Warrior Island, Miramar
Welcome to Greater Fort Lauderdale’s most archaeologically significant area. Hidden close to I-95 in the urban Miramar, Snake Warrior Island is the oldest eastern Glades settlement of the Seminole Indians.
It’s not hard to pinpoint why natives chose this area to settle; the marshlands have stunning views complete with the chatter of herons, moorhens and wood ducks around you. Hike along the trail, and learn about the detailed events and characteristics of the Seminole tribe settlement on your journey. It’s inspiring to see how the Native Americans lived on the soil we know today.
9. Stonewall National Museum & Archives, Wilton Manors
Who would have thought that the nation’s largest LGBT+ museum is located in South Florida? LGBT+ travelers find The Stonewall National Museum & Archives in Wilton Manors, a city with one of the largest LGBT+ populations in the U.S., a must-visit attraction.
The museum addresses a unique set of topics from the Stonewall Riots to LGBT+ relationships to NYC’s LGBT+ club culture. Tour the exhibits, then find a book of choice at the Stonewall National Library inside.
10. Fern Forest Nature Center, Coconut Creek
How many fern species can you name? Not a lot? Well, it’s safe to say that the average person wouldn’t know many. Fortunately, this 247.1-acre urban wilderness area takes its name from the 30 species of fern found there.
If you’re looking for a serene setting for a family gathering or special event, the Fern Forest Nature Center is Coconut Creek’s best-kept secret. The outdoor space has a picnic shelter, nature trail, amphitheater and event hall -- plus a beautiful view at every fern.
11. Packard Antique Car Museum, Fort Lauderdale
The Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum holds the largest collection of Packard cars and historical memorabilia dating back to the 1900s. This hidden gem truly has something for every car lover out there.
Browse through the industrial age’s proudest accomplishments: hood ornaments, old gas station signs, carburetors, gear-shift knobs, horns, lighters and ashtrays, lamps, vintage magazines and photos, plus an exhibit dedicated to President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
12. Central Broward Regional Park Stadium, Lauderhill
While popular American sporting events take over every park in suburbia, Central Broward Regional Park Stadium brings a hidden gem of a game to center field. Cricket matches take place at this vibrant park, where fans gather to celebrate the international sport.
You can watch high-stakes matches, like West Indies taking on India in the T20I Series, or just come to learn more about a sport you may not know much about. Lauderhill offers an array of diverse activities, like these cricket games, that brings different cultures to light.
13. Circle House Coffee, Flagler Village
With a mural painted on the street-facing side of this small building, you wouldn’t think there’s a huge coffee shop located within. Circle House Coffee in downtown Fort Lauderdale creates a surprising setting for the perfect morning cup o’ joe.
With a drive-through, an awning-covered outdoor space with tiered steps and board games and a designated brainstorming area, Circle House Coffee really gets your creative juices flowing. Try the delicious Chai Tea, and top off your visit with a homemade vegan pastry.
14. The Nauti Dawg Marina Cafe, Lighthouse Point
The Nauti Dawg Marina Cafe is a hidden gem with personality. Because it has such a funny name, people might not expect this eatery to have such an elegant, waterfront view.
Concealed within a quaint residential community inside Lighthouse Point, Nauti Dawg is a canine-friendly establishment serving breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner six days a week. Locals love the “Yappy Hour” with dog-only deals that range from bacon to filet mignon. Bring your pup, and bask in the glow of the Hillsboro Inlet.
15. Betty’s Soulfood Restaurant, Fort Lauderdale
Get a taste of black southern cuisine at Betty’s Soulfood Restaurant. Located on Sistrunk Blvd. in downtown Fort Lauderdale, Betty’s serves catfish, fried chicken, cornbread, collard greens, candied yams and much more.
Order the chef’s oxtail specialty, then enjoy the gospel classics on the jukebox all afternoon long. With a menu large in scope and small in price, Betty’s got Soul.
16. Cap’s Place Island Restaurant, Lighthouse Point
Cap’s Place has been bringing fresh seafood and local history to Lighthouse Point for over 85 years. You read that right -- Cap’s Place is a national landmark and Florida’s oldest restaurant.
Formally a 1920s speakeasy, the restaurant is a short boat ride to a secluded coastal pine and cypress island on the Intracoastal. Join the notable figures from the past who have enjoyed Cap Knight’s menu, from Winston Churchill and George Harrison to the Temptations and Mariah Carey.
17. 925 Nuevo’s Cubano’s, Fort Lauderdale
Cuban cuisine has made its mark in South Florida, and the food at 925 Nuevo’s Cubano’s sure does the country justice. Once a Cuban family home in the 70s, the restaurant has been serving the Fort Lauderdale community for more than 40 years.
Authentic items like polla a la plancha, puerco al horno, plantains, black beans, and rice, complement the vibrant setting, with an artsy outdoor bar and tall Cuban flags waving on the side of Andrews Ave. Go to 925 Nuevo’s Cubano’s, and feel like you’re in the pastel paradise that is Cuba.
18. Jaxon’s Ice Cream Parlor & Restaurant, Dania Beach
There’s nothing like a scoop of ice cream after a day out on the beach, and, with year-round sunshine, Greater Fort Lauderdale never lets ice cream parlors go out of style.
Head to Jaxon’s in Dania Beach for a treat that will definitely cool you off. The old fashioned parlor menu includes malts and shakes, colossal parfaits and the famous Kitchen Sink®, which satisfies its very hungry customers (to put it lightly).
19. Rhythm & Vine Beer Garden, Fort Lauderdale
This evening hotpot takes hidden gem to another level. Just because it’s located in Flagler Village, an up-and-coming residential area in the heart of downtown, doesn’t mean it’s easy to find.
With large boxwood bushes concealing the majority of the establishment, Rhythm & Vine Beer Garden is a 21+ bar perfect for a cool night out. The beer garden features a different food truck every night, plus an airstream bar and wooden picnic tables for groups of friends to eat, mingle and play fun games like Jenga®.
As the sun goes down, the inside bar parties it up with guest DJs. There are also comfy couches to lounge on and observe the locals who choose to dance the night away. Rhythm & Vine gets an A+ for its ability to balance chill hideaway with the hottest place in town.
20. Round Up Country Western Bar, Davie
Adding a little “Yeehaw!” to this list, Round Up Country Western Bar brings cowboy culture to South Florida. Brush up on your square dancing skills, and mosey on down to Davie to join country music fans for a night to remember.
Don’t be shy! The staff at Roundup will teach you the moves as you groove. There’s a reason why Round Up has been named the #1 Dance Club & Best Country Bar in South Florida.
21. Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale
From local bands to nationwide hits, Culture Room provides a stellar lineup to Fort Lauderdale’s underground music scene.
It’s not your typical venue; it’s located in an ordinary shopping plaza on US 1. The average person wouldn’t look twice, but local music fans know that the stage at Culture Room is one of the best in the area. The venue has a two-story standing area and an outdoor patio bar.
Culture Room’s super intimate setting gives you an up-close and personal look at your favorite performers, making for a once-in-a-lifetime, rockstar experience.
22. George’s Alibi Monkey Bar, Wilton Manors
LGBT+ visitors let loose at George’s Alibi Monkey Bar, one of South Florida's longest-running gay restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. An award-winning gay bar, George’s has some of the best entertainment in the city.
People come from all over to enjoy the fun drink specials, thriving social scene and, most of all, the popping playlist. Hit the dance floor at George’s in Wilton Manors, and you won’t be sorry.
23. Glitch Bar, MASS District
On the outside, Glitch Bar looks like an art warehouse located by some train tracks. On the inside, it’s game on all night long.
Glitch Bar is what the cool kids call a “barcade.” Dozens of free, throwback arcade games sit throughout the three-roomed bar and are yours to play. Skeeball and Donkey Kong are just the start to this gaming adventure. You can go around trying out games, while the neon lights set the mood for the vintage dancefloor. You can have a go at the menu’s creative drinks -- there’s even one with a popsicle in it. A great date night or bro-mantic spot, Glitch is a must for the competitor in all of us.
24. The Wilder, Fort Lauderdale
The Wilder is an Instagrammer’s dream come true. The hip bar has a Monaco meets Chateau Marmont feel. Juxtaposing old and new, The Wilder includes three rooms each with a distinct personality: a whimsical cocktail bar, a secluded outdoor terrace, and sophisticated event space.
The cocktail ingredients vary from peacock feather garnish to pink Himalayan salt. Try the “Let’s Flamingle” for a fruity kick, or go for the “Blackjack” for a coffee-filled surprise.
25. Axe Throwing Society, Pompano Beach
A unique concept, the Axe Throwing Society mixes nightlife with catharsis. Patrons can let out any anger they have in this indoor ax-throwing experience in Pompano Beach.
For $20 per hour, you can hurl sharp blades at wooden targets for your own enjoyment. After you give it a shot, you can entertain yourself with TV, shuffleboard and more in the sports bar atmosphere. The space is also home to the only official World Axe Throwing League in South Florida. When it comes to nightlife, this spot is right on target.
26. The Wreck Bar, Fort Lauderdale beach
The end of our list of hidden gems really makes a splash. The Wreck Bar truly offers something so rare, you have to see it to believe it.
Do you believe in mermaids? Because this hotel bar might change your mind. In the B Ocean Resort, you can enjoy the beauty of living mermaids from a porthole view while sipping on a tropical cocktail.
The Wreck Bar’s underwater mermaid shows are world-famous and rightfully so. From Mermaids and Mimosas to the AQUAMEN Underwater Burlesque Show, this hidden gem is a Greater Fort Lauderdale experience that’ll stay in the spotlight of your mind for years to come.