Welcome to the Greater Fort Lauderdale Kids EventGuide. Apart from being a vacation paradise for grown-ups, Greater Fort Lauderdale doubles as a haven for kids, whether they live here or are merely visiting. Assorted attractions, activities and dining spots cater to youngsters from tots to pre-teens, providing enough year-around fun to make even adults wish they were kids again.
Watery, educational fun comes via packages offered through several Greater Fort Lauderdale hotels and elsewhere -- including snorkeling, skin boarding, boogie boarding, glass bottom boat trips, scuba and more. Participants are outfitted with professional child-sized snorkels and fins, and the instructors are trained in marine biology and CPR. Programs, developed by diving enthusiast Sarah-Jayne Brown, teach children how to snorkel in a pool and the ocean with lessons on coral reefs and marine wildlife. "Kids do a series of educational activities disguised as fun," she says. Birthday parties and summer camps can be arranged. Participating hotels include the Pelican Grand Beach Resort, the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel and Westin Beach Resort Fort Lauderdale on Fort Lauderdale Beach, Villas by the Sea Resort in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea and the Embassy Suites Deerfield Beach. (954) 712-9900.
Funky Fish Kids Day offers a series of Ocean Adventure Camps offered daily and for longer periods which introduce kids to the flora and fauna of South Florida, with activities at Bahia Mar Beach Resort, Fort Lauderdale, Ocean Sands Resort & Spa, Pompano Beach, and Embassy Suites Deerfield Beach, every day between 10am and 3pm throughout the year, designed for kids 4 to 17. (954) 712-9900.
Kids can experience the real Florida, learn about its flora and fauna, history and culture in an outdoor camping experience at Camp Live Oak, fully accredited for children by the American Camping Association. Camp Live Oak is offered at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale, and Oleta State Recreation Area in North Miami during winter, spring and summer months each weekday from 9AM until 3:30PM, and is open to children aged 5 through 13 with optional before and after child care for parents with full schedules.
Camp Live Oak's Summer session begins as school ends in June, ending when school begins in August, and consists of four programs which can be attended separately or as a package. The first four-week session includes an optional Photo Safari where children aged 8 and up can learn the techniques and joys of nature photography from experienced teachers. The second four-week session offers an optional Starlight Sleep-Over in air conditioned cabins. Completing the summer session are the optional one-week programs of Ocean Quest Camp for kindergartners through 8th grade where ocean reefs and sea life will be examined, and Adventure Camp with a choice of many optional age-appropriate activities. The Winter and Spring programs also offer a range of programs, including instruction in archery, canoeing, swimming, art and science classes, yoga, drumming, camp fire safety and 'leave no trace' environmental awareness programs, mountain biking and much more at both Fort Lauderdale and Miami locations. (954) 491-2917.
As a showcase for more traditional children’s development, Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Discovery and Science (the highest-attended ticketed museum in Florida, with a Blockbuster IMAX Theater) has a treasury of hands-on fun to challenge, educate and delight youngsters. The museum’s Discovery Center for toddlers and pre-schoolers promotes making friends while learning basics and developing motor skills. When school is out, themed day camps for ages 5-12 range from Rocks Rock to Extreme Environment and Strange Defenses. (954) 467-6637
On State Road 84 in Davie, the Young at Art Children's Museum tailors activities for inquiring young minds. Small-fry create their own masterpieces to take home. The annual Children’s Festival of the Arts, staged in May on museum grounds, is the nation’s only outdoor kids’ festival exposing budding artists to all aspects of being real studio artists – from creating art to making multiples, marketing, pricing, showing and selling. Kids keep 100 percent of their profits. (954) 424-0085
On Fort Lauderdale’s Broward Community College central campus, Buehler Planetarium – among the nation’s most advanced – leaves kids starry-eyed with shows that explain the galaxy and the deep beyond in understandable terms. Kids can also take in laser shows or stargaze through powerful telescopes. (954) 201-6681
Other museums with charms for children include the Old Dillard Museum, with insights on African American heritage, (954) 765-6952, and Fort Lauderdale’s Stranahan House, (954) 524-4736, the area’s oldest home once belonging to Ivy Stranahan, Broward’s first school teacher.
On Hollywood’s western fringe at Seminole Native Village, (954) 961-4519, kids can hold baby alligators and steep themselves in Indian lore. Just a hop-skip away is the 500-room Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood (opening in summer 2005) with a dozen restaurants including namesake Hard Rock Café. Apart from casino action for parents, the 86-acre all-new hotel complex has a Seminole cultural center and museum, plus a four-acre lagoon-style pool expanse with a "sandy beach" volleyball area, theme-park-style waterslides, and kiddie pool. (954) 966-6300
In Hollywood, the $50-million Anne Kolb Nature Center and Marina is one of the region’s many parks dedicated to preservation and appreciation of South Florida nature, particularly the Everglades, where children can learn about egrets, anhingas and other creatures amid more than two dozen interactive displays. (954) 926-2410
In Deerfield Beach, Quiet Waters Park in anything but quiet, with plenty in store for kids including Splash Adventure, a high-tech water play system with slides, tunnels and more. Lake activity in the park includes cable water ski adventure and rental boats. (954) 360-1135.
Each July, the USTA Boys' 14 Super National Clay Court Championships -- the nation’s premier clay court tennis tournament for boys aged 14 and under – takes place at Fort Lauderdale’s Jimmy Evert Tennis Center in Holiday Park. Over the years, youngsters of all ages – among them Christ Evert, Jennifer Capriati and Andy Roddick -- have perfected their game at this center, with 21 courts (18 clay). (954) 828-5378
For bicycling or in-line skating away from the street, Cooper City’s Brian Piccolo Park awaits with hours geared to after-school and weekend skating. (954) 437-2626.
Youngsters hungry for nature in the raw can head for Everglades Holiday Park, (954) 434-8111, and Sawgrass Recreation Park, (954) 426-474, to fish, go boating, and watch for alligators. At Billie Swamp Safari, (800) GO-SAFARI, swamp buggy eco-tours and airboat rides await children accompanied by adults, and it’s possible to spend a night in a genuine Indian chickee hut. Davie’s Flamingo Gardens, Botanical Collections & Wildlife Sanctuary , (954) 473-2955 has a Birds of Prey exhibit along with gators, crocodiles, and river otters. In Coconut Creek at Tradewinds Park, Butterfly World, (954) 977-4400, mesmerizes the pint-sized with thousands of butterflies as well as hummingbirds, waterfalls, orchids and roses. For kids hoping to spy sea turtles coming to shore to lay eggs, the place to go is John U. Lloyd Beach State Recreation Area, (954) 923-2833) or Hollywood's North Beach Park, (954) 926-2444. "Funky Fish Kids Day" is a scuba and snorkeling class offered by Ocean Promotion, (954) 561-4499. For the entire family, Greater Fort Lauderdale abounds with Dive Vacation packages with accommodations and optional extras. Virtual reality fishing and sand-castle building are part of the Greater Fort Lauderdale scene for kids, too. The $25-million IGFA Fishing Hall of Fame and Museum, (954) 462-6536, includes the Catch Gallery where youngsters can go deep-sea fishing through virtual reality to reel in marlin or sailfish. The museum’s Discovery Room, designed for tomorrow's anglers, lets kids participate in a broad selection of sport fishing activities. Just off Fort Lauderdale Beach, the International Swimming Hall of Fame (where Tarzan once swam) serves as a training facility for future Olympians. Henning Library and Archive houses the world’s largest aquatic library with more than 5,000 volumes and hundreds of ancient documents dating to 1696. (954) 462-6536.
For just plain screaming fun, Boomer's Dania Beach has go carts, bumper cars, miniature golf, batting cages and the Dania Hurricane wooden rollercoaster. (954) 921-1411
Kid-friendly Greater Fort Lauderdale, of course, has no shortage of sand and surf fun with plenty of space for children to build sandcastles along 23 miles of beachy-keen coastline. Older kids can snorkel on nearby natural and man-made reefs, some within walking distance from the beach. Opportunities also abound for youngsters to fish from the beach, piers, or boats. Fishing never stops at the 24-hour Dania Pier, (954) 927-0640. Boating in the "Venice of America" includes glass-bottom boat tours, sightseeing cruises, and tidewater tours showcasing unique regional ecology. Kids love airboat tours of the river of grass at Sawgrass Recreation Park. Fort Lauderdale’s Jungle Queen lets kids step back into history onboard a paddlewheeler, (954) 462-5596, and the “Venice of America’s” fleet of Water Taxis, (954) 525-7661, offer families a splashy, memorable way to access restaurants, attractions and even get back to hotels or waterfront homes without worrying aoout car seats.
For exposing youngsters to South Seas wonders, Fort Lauderdale's Mai-Kai has a Tamarii (Polynesian for children's) Menu. Kon Tiki Chicken, Bora Bora Beef, Society Island Shrimp, or Captain Cook's Cooked Ribs accompany fried or steamed rice, beverage and dessert. Even better, for kids under 12, there's no charge for the exotic yet wholesome Mai-Kai review -- fire dancers and all. During summer, kids' shows are hosted on Sunday evenings. (954) 563-3272.
Rainforest Cafe at Sawgrass Mills, known as a "Wild Place to Shop and Eat, " serves up Jungle Safari Soup, Leaping Lizard Lettuce Wraps, Flying Dragon Pepperoni Pizza and more amid an indoor rain forest atmosphere with waterfalls and aquariums. (954) 851-1015.
For half a century or close to it, Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor in Dania has churned up ice creams and toppings on premises daily for malts, shakes, huge sundaes and more. Retro candy is big here, and kids love the Mile Long All Beef Hot Dog. For parties of four or more, the trademarked Kitchen Sink is topped by sparklers and big enough for a pint-sized army. (954) 923-4445.
Steeped in lore better than any history class, Cap's Place Island Restaurant -- for the past 75 years accessible only by ferry from a Lighthouse Point embankment -- has been known for Hearts of Palm Salad, Cap's signature Key Lime Pie, and seafood from lobster and stone crab to pompano, cobia, wahoo and more. A Minnow's Menu for the under 12 set includes Fried Island Chicken Nuggets, pasta, burgers and shrimp. (954) 941-0418.
At the Broward County Main Library’s annual Children’s Reading Festival in April, nationally known storytellers, theater, music, magic, poetry and more are geared to entertain and motivate. Activities include Moonlight Tales, Jazz and Java, and a Great Book Giveaway. (954) 357-7397
Each Mother’s Day weekend, the City of Fort Lauderdale produces the nation's largest outdoor Cajun/Zydeco Music Festival promoting music, history, families and culture of Louisiana. Crazee Kid’s Zone has games, contests, crafts, a children’s watermelon sacrifice, dancing around the May pole and more. Children learn to dance at the Crazee Crawfish Stage, Fort Lauderdale Festival Grounds. (954) 828-5934
Greater Fort Lauderdale hosts assorted spectacular sporting events packed with kid-appeal such as the monthly Davie Five Star Championship Rodeo, a real-life Wild West adventure with bull riding, barrel-racing and calf roping at Davie Arena. (954) 384-7075. Kids can catch Greater Fort Lauderdale’s professional sports action with the Florida Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, (954) 835-8326; and the Baltimore Orioles in spring training from mid-February to the end of March at Fort Lauderdale Stadium, (954) 776-1921.
Since shopping can be as popular with youngsters as adults (especially when tied to prospects of food and entertainment fun), Greater Fort Lauderdale again reigns as a kid-pleaser. Sawgrass Mills, the world's largest outlet mall, has a Polo Ralph Lauren Kids Factory Store, Osh Kosh B'gosh, Baby Gap Outlets, Disney's Character Premier, KB Toys, GameRoom, Toy Works and more. Other kid magnets for shopping include The Gallery at Beach Place (for on-the-beach shopping), Las Olas Riverfront (Fort Lauderdale’s downtown entertainment and retail complex with multi-screen cinemas, and Fort Lauderdale’s renowned Swap Shop, (the world’s largest indoor/outdoor flea market with a daily free circus and carnival rides).
Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades, among the world’s top cruise ports, brims with family-friendly cruise ships sailing into the Caribbean while hopping with youth activity all year long. Come summer and holiday periods like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, child-oriented activity on ships takes on added zest with pumped up programs for tots through teens. Check CruiseGuide for specials.
This page is intended to be an overview only. For a complete list of current Fort Lauderdale-area events, please have a look at the Fort Lauderdale EventGuide.
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