Ft. Lauderdale Locals Guide & Hidden Gems
pink drawbridge raising with boat on new river fort lauderdale

If you’re looking for a truly unique experience off the beaten path, it’s time to explore all that Fort Lauderdale has to offer! From secret bars and tucked away restaurants, to hidden parks and local attractions, this vibrant South Florida city holds an array of undiscovered gems just waiting to be discovered. Whether you have a few days or just a few hours, this locals guide will give you the inside scoop on where to go for an unforgettable adventure. So grab your shades and prepare for an unforgettable journey into Ft. Lauderdale’s hidden gems!


Uniquely Local Attractions

If you’re looking for an adventure off the beaten path, be sure to add these hidden gems to your itinerary. These destinations offer a glimpse into the South Florida region’s culture and natural wonders that you won’t find in guidebooks. Discover ancient and recent history in a museum, witness wildlife in its natural habitat, or explore the natural Florida eco-system. Every memory made at these hidden gems offers a truly unique experience that you’ll treasure for years to come.

Sea Turtle OP Headquarters

Visitors to Sea Turtle OP Headquarters are in for a treat as they discover this hidden gem of an eco-tour center. With a focus on conservation efforts for endangered sea turtle populations, this headquarters provides a one-of-a-kind experience that offers a unique glimpse into the world of these gentle creatures. Located near Fort Lauderdale Beach, Sea Turtle OP Headquarters provides a truly unforgettable experience for those looking to immerse themselves in nature and take part in the conservation efforts to restore it. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast or just looking for a unique adventure, you won’t want to miss out on the chance to explore this small but impactful facility.

Young At Art Museum

Located west of Fort Lauderdale, the Young At Art Museum is a beloved local favorite for families looking for a fun and educational outing. With a variety of interactive exhibits and creative programs, visitors of all ages can explore and appreciate art in new and exciting ways. From the colorful WonderScapes exhibit to the immersive CultureScapes experience, there’s something for everyone at the Young At Art Museum. This local hidden gem is a great resource for families looking for an educational and creative stop on their South Florida vacation.

front exterior with landscaping of peaked roof building at ah tah thi ki museum

African-American Research Library and Cultural Center

This library and museum is rich in history and culture, providing visitors with an enlightening experience. Here, you can expand your knowledge and explore the many contributions made by African Americans to South Florida society. The library’s impressive collection includes books, newspapers, and other resources that document the history of African Americans. In addition to that, the library hosts cultural events and community programs, providing a platform for individuals to connect, inspire, and celebrate. Overall, the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center is a true hidden gem that reflects the proud and vibrant spirit of African-American culture.

Secret Woods Nature Center

Just a stone’s throw away from the bustling city of Fort Lauderdale, the Secret Woods Nature Center is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With over 2 miles of winding trails that lead through thick and lush foliage, this park provides a refreshing break from the stresses of daily life. Immerse yourself in the wonders of nature as you hike through the serene landscapes of mangrove forests, butterfly gardens, and a tranquil boardwalk that takes you deep into the heart of the wetlands. Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply enjoy a leisurely stroll in the great outdoors, Secret Woods Nature Center is a local destination that should not be missed.

Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

Tucked away in the South Florida wetlands about an hour west of Fort Lauderdale, the Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum is a treasure trove of the history and culture of the Seminole Tribe. Visitors who make the journey are rewarded with a unique and immersive experience that honors the rich heritage of the Seminole people. From informative exhibits to interactive demonstrations and a scenic boardwalk that winds through a cypress dome, there’s something for everyone at this one-of-a-kind museum. Whether you’re a history buff, nature lover, or simply looking for a memorable day trip, make sure to add this hidden gem to your must-visit list.

Fort Lauderdale Swap Shop & Thunderbird Drive-In

Hidden away in west Fort Lauderdale lies a local favorite that boasts two unique experiences in one location: the Swap Shop & Thunderbird Drive-In. This eclectic spot is the perfect escape for those looking for a break from the typical movie theater experience. With one of the largest flea markets in South Florida, you can peruse a wide variety of goods before settling into your car for a flick under the stars. This Swap Shop & Drive-In Movie Theater offers nostalgia, community, and a one-of-a-kind experience that keeps locals coming back time and time again. It’s no mystery why this hidden gem is a beloved local favorite.

row of cadillacs in auto exhibit room at dauer museum of classic cars

Dauer Museum of Classic Cars

If you’re a car enthusiast, you’ll definitely want to make your way to the Dauer Museum of Classic Cars in Fort Lauderdale. This impressive collection features some of the most iconic and rare automobiles from the 1950s to the 1990s. From sleek sports cars to luxurious vintage rides, you’ll be transported back in time as you admire the stunning craftsmanship and design. The museum’s passionate staff are more than happy to share their knowledge and insights, making for an unforgettable visit. It may not be the biggest museum in the area, but the Dauer Museum of Classic Cars is certainly one of the most unique hidden gems.

Stonewall National Museum & Archives

Located in Downtown Fort Lauderdale, the Stonewall National Museum & Archives is a hidden gem just waiting to be discovered. This cultural institution is dedicated to preserving and celebrating LGBTQ+ history, culture, and identity, providing a safe and welcoming space for all. From art exhibits to educational programs, their diverse range of offerings serve as a reminder of the progress that has been made and the work that still needs to be done. Whether you’re looking to learn more about LGBTQ+ history or just seeking a place to connect with like-minded individuals, the Stonewall National Museum & Archives is a must-visit destination.


Unexpectedly Tasty Dining

Whether you’re in the mood for a quirky dive bar, a cozy speakeasy, or a themed restaurant, Fort Lauderdale has something to satisfy every palate and whim. And when it comes to local favorites, the options are endless. From hidden gems off the beaten path to iconic establishments that have been around for decades, the city’s foodie scene is brimming with personality and flavor. So, why settle for a run-of-the-mill meal when you can indulge in one of these one-of-a-kind eateries?

Rooftop @1WLO

If you’re looking for a truly exceptional rooftop experience, look no further than the hidden gem that is Rooftop @1WLO. High above the bustling city streets, this luxurious rooftop oasis boasts stunning panoramic views of Fort Lauderdale that are second to none. Whether you’re stopping by for a quick drink after work or settling in for a night of top-notch entertainment, you’re sure to be blown away by the breathtaking scenery and unparalleled atmosphere. From the chic decor to the top-notch service, everything about Rooftop @1WLO is designed to be something truly special. So if you’re looking for a way to elevate your evening, don’t miss out on the chance to discover this hidden gem for yourself.

modern style bar area with orange lighting at milk money bar kitchen

Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine

Step into Havana 1957 Cuban Cuisine and transport yourself back in time to the glamorous, golden era of Cuba in the 1950s. With its traditional decor and authentic Cuban fare, Havana 1957 offers a chance to experience “un dia en La Habana.” Indulge in the rich and flavorful taste of dishes like ropa vieja and ceviche, all while sipping on a mojito or other signature Cuban cocktail. Located at The Shops at Pembroke Gardens, this local favorite is the perfect spot to gather with friends or family and savor the delicious flavors of Cuba. Bring your appetite to this hidden gem of a restaurant and experience the magic of old Cuba right here in Florida.

15th Street Fisheries

Located on the picturesque waterfront of Fort Lauderdale, 15th Street Fisheries has become a local favorite for both tourists and residents alike. This classic seafood restaurant offers a relaxed atmosphere where you can soak up the breathtaking views of the marina while savoring the mouthwatering flavors of the sea. Whether you prefer a romantic dinner for two or a family outing, 15th Street Fisheries provides the perfect ambiance for every occasion. Be sure to try their famous smoked fish dip or indulge in their fresh catch of the day. With its friendly service and delicious cuisine, it’s easy to see why this gem has been dubbed a local favorite.

Park & Ocean

Tucked away in the lush landscape of Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale, lies a hidden gem that’s perfect for anyone looking for a unique dining experience. Amidst the shade of beachfront trees, Park & Ocean offers a feast for the senses with their delicious food and tranquil ambiance. And if you’re feeling adventurous, why not try one of their recreation rentals? Kayaks, paddleboards, and bicycles are just a few examples of the fun things you can do to work up an appetite before dining beachside. Whether you’re a local searching for something new or just passing through, Park & Ocean is a must-visit spot for anyone craving a relaxing outdoor dining experience.

The Etna Rosso

If you’re looking for an authentic Italian dining experience, look no further than The Etna Rosso. This hidden gem has been a local favorite for years, and it’s not hard to see why. Situated along Fort Lauderdale Beach, The Etna Rosso offers a warm and inviting atmosphere complemented by delicious food and impeccable service. From zesty pizzas to savory pastas, every dish is prepared with fresh, locally-sourced ingredients that will leave your taste buds craving for more. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply looking for a night out with friends, The Etna Rosso is the perfect spot for a memorable meal.

Milk Money Bar & Kitchen

Among the bustling streets of Downtown Fort Lauderdale, Milk Money Bar & Kitchen is a true hidden gem. This cozy establishment offers guests a warm and inviting atmosphere where they can kick back, relax and enjoy a delicious meal or signature cocktail. The menu is filled with a variety of mouthwatering options, ranging from classic American fare to global dishes with a twist. Whether you’re in the mood for a juicy burger, a fresh salad, or a decadent dessert, Milk Money Bar & Kitchen has you covered. So if you’re looking for a new spot to grab a bite, head on over to this hidden gem and get ready to indulge in something truly special.

men playing blues instruments on stage with blue and purple lighting at blue jean blues

Blue Jean Blues

Deep in the heart of Fort Lauderdale lies a hidden gem that calls to all patrons who are seeking a truly authentic musical experience. Blue Jean Blues is a vibrant spot that boasts a chill atmosphere and soulful tunes that will transport you to another time. This intimate venue is the perfect destination for music lovers who want to enjoy jazz and blues music while indulging in delicious cuisine. Every night, the club comes alive with the sounds of talented musicians, who take the stage and captivate the audience with their skillful melodies. With its unique charm and undeniable ambiance, Blue Jean Blues is a must-visit location for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in Fort Lauderdale’s incredible music scene.

Rm 901

Concealed within the luxurious Hyatt Centric Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale lies a cocktail bar that only a few select people know about – Rm 901. This secret speakeasy is the epitome of exclusivity, with an entrance that can only be found by those in the know. Step inside and be transported back to the Prohibition era, with dimly lit ambiance coupled with jazz music and classic cocktails. The attention to detail is truly impressive, with waitstaff decked out in period clothing and even secret passageways leading guests to intimate nooks in which to enjoy their libations. Rm 901 is the ultimate escape, perfect for those in search of a true hidden gem.

Nanou French Bakery & Café

Nanou French Bakery & Café has become a beloved local favorite, drawing in crowds of loyal customers every day. This charming little spot offers a taste of authentic French cuisine near Fort Lauderdale Beach, transporting diners to the streets of Paris with every bite. From savory croissants to delicate macarons, every exquisite pastry is expertly crafted to perfection using only the finest ingredients. Whether you’re in the mood for a hot cup of coffee or a light breakfast, Nanou is sure to satisfy your cravings and leave you planning your next visit.


Coconuts in Fort Lauderdale has quickly become a local favorite for waterfront seafood restaurant. With its prime location on Seabreeze Blvd, visitors can enjoy both the upscale dining experience and the casual setting. You can even bring your own boat and raft it at the dock, or bring your furry friend on a leash to enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. Coconuts’ local fresh cuisine is second to none. It’s no wonder that both tourists and locals alike have fallen in love with this restaurant. If you’re ever in Fort Lauderdale, Coconuts is a must-try dining experience you won’t forget.

interior of sunken ship themed bar with seating and porthole style windows aquarium at the wreck bar

The Wreck Bar

Situated within B Ocean Resort in Fort Lauderdale is an unexpected hidden gem, a maritime-themed bar that is the talk of the town. Dubbed as The Wreck Bar, this establishment offers a unique experience that transports you deep into the ocean’s depths. The ambiance is cozy, and the porthole views add to the entire oceanic vibe of the place. But the highlight of The Wreck Bar’s entertainment is the mermaid shows that provide an incredible underwater spectacle. To say that The Wreck Bar is a must-visit would be an understatement. Make a date with the sea, and head down to this incredible bar today!


Rare Find Shopping

From vintage boutiques to artisanal markets, these hidden gems showcase the best of what the local community has to offer. Whether you’re looking for unique jewelry, handcrafted textiles, locally sourced produce, or one-of-a-kind home decor – these local shops and marketplaces have got you covered. So why not step off the beaten path where you can discover some of the most unique shopping in Fort Lauderdale? You never know what treasures you might find!

Marando Farms & Ranch

One of the local favorites in the Fort Lauderdale area is Marando Farms & Ranch. This unique location offers much more than just fresh produce and farm-raised meats. Visitors can peruse the store area, grab a bite to eat at the on-site cafe, and even interact with a variety of friendly farm animals. The quaint setting is perfect for a day trip, or simply for stocking up on locally sourced goods to enjoy at home. Marando Farms & Ranch truly has something for everyone, making it a must-visit destination for foodies and nature-lovers alike.

To the Moon

Tucked away in the Wilton Manors neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale, there’s a hidden gem that’s out of this world. To The Moon is a candy store that’s more than just a place to satisfy your sweet tooth, it’s also filled with toys, gifts, novelty items and cards. Step inside and you’ll be transported to a wonderland filled with colorful treats from all the candy and snack brands. It’s the perfect place to find unique treats and toys that will inspire your inner child. So if you’re searching for something out of the ordinary, blast off “To the Moon” and experience an adventure that’s truly sweet.

indoor flea market with stalls of produce and steer statue at yellow green farmers market

Radio-Active Records

Are you a music enthusiast looking for a unique place to discover new artists? Look no further than Radio-Active Records, the go-to music shop and venue for local favorites. This beloved establishment offers an impressive selection of vinyl records and CDs, showcasing up-and-coming musicians and established acts alike. As a true gathering spot for music lovers, Radio-Active Records also features in-store performances by top-notch musicians, frequently hosting signing and listening events that allow you to experience the magic of live music up close and personal. Make Radio-Active Records your next destination for a night of great tunes, great vibes, and great community.

Yellow Green Farmers Market

The Yellow Green Farmers Market in Hollywood, FL is a shopping haven for locals. Just south of Fort Lauderdale, this unique outdoor market offers a vibrant and diverse collection of locally grown produce, artisanal goods, and exotic foods. Whether you’re looking for fresh vegetables, homemade baked goods, or one-of-a-kind crafts, you’re sure to find something special at this bustling marketplace. And with live music, entertainment, and a friendly atmosphere, the Yellow Green Farmers Market is more than just a place to shop – it’s a community gathering place that celebrates the best of local culture and cuisine. So come explore this hidden gem and discover the flavors and textures of local culture!

Old Florida Book Shop

Lovers of antique and rare used books, take note! Tucked away among Fort Lauderdale’s historic streets lies a true hidden gem for bibliophiles: the Old Florida Book Shop. Its shelves are stacked with treasures waiting to be discovered, from first edition classics to obscure titles you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. Whether you’re seeking to add to your own collection or searching for a unique gift, this charming store is a must-visit for shoppers who appreciate the thrill of finding something truly special. With a cozy atmosphere and knowledgeable staff on hand to guide you, the Old Florida Book Shop is a true delight for anyone with a passion for the printed word.


With its beaches, shops, and nightlife, Fort Lauderdale is the perfect place to relax and enjoy yourself. This guide to the hidden gems of this lively town has just scratched the surface of what this wonderful city has to offer. Whether you want to soak up some Florida sunshine or search for a new favorite restaurant, Ft. Lauderdale has something for everyone. From cultural venues to local shops and markets, visitors and natives alike have plenty of exciting experiences available when they want to get out and explore. The next time you’re in Ft. Lauderdale, don’t forget to check out these hidden gems! For more information about this amazing city, check out our Fort Lauderdale Vacation Guide today and plan your dream vacation. Have fun exploring everything Fort Lauderdale has to offer!