Close to Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, Lauderdale Lakes is a suburban city with large Caribbean American and African American communities.
Close by you can watch the West Indies play at the only dedicated cricket stadium in the United States. For a Caribbean-style street party, the Miami Broward Carnival takes place in the area every October.
One of many things I appreciate about Lauderdale Lakes is its convenience. For instance, you can get to Atlantic beaches, regional malls, and a galaxy of family attractions in a matter of minutes.
The whole time, Fort Lauderdale, with its shopping, museums, dining and endless canals, is always right there.
1. Swap Shop
Many things in one place, this giant complex is visited by millions of people every year. First up, Swap Shop originally opened as the Sunrise Drive-In theater, in the early 1960s.
When I made this list, the theater was the country’s largest drive-in, with 14 screens. Unfortunately, that amenity was still closed for renovations following a large fire when I went to press.
As you may guess from the name, Swap Shop is also a flea market. Open 365 days a year and covering 88 acres, the market is on a scale that is difficult to comprehend.
For a basic idea of what to expect, you’ll find prepared food and drink, fresh produce, flowers, clothes, power tools, car stereos, jewelry, and a variety of repair services.
To go with all this there’s a carnival for kids and, most surprising for me, a multi-million dollar display of Ferraris. The highlight is a 1965 275 GTB/C Speciale—a truly bizarre sight surrounded by hundreds of flea market stalls.
2. Central Broward Park
The only dedicated stadium for the sport of cricket in the USA is five minutes from Lauderdale Lakes.
Able to seat 20,000, Broward County Stadium opened in 2007, and is used for the one-day and faster T20 forms of this sport.
There have been numerous international games here over the last 16+ years. These have featured the United States, but also the West Indies, who occasionally use the stadium as a home field.
There’s a wide array of other amenities at Central Broward Park. These include facilities for basketball, football/soccer, tennis, netball and pickleball, as well as a waterpark.
In October the park hosts the Miami Broward Carnival, a colorful showcase for the area’s Caribbean-America community.
3. Fort Lauderdale
In Lauderdale Lakes you’re just 15 minutes from a city dubbed the Venice of America. I’ll try to sum up the essentials with this entry.
Start with Las Olas Boulevard, which is the epicenter of Fort Lauderdale’s dining, shopping, and entertainment scenes.
You also need to see the canals that inspire Fort Lauderdale’s nickname. This can be done along the Fort Lauderdale Riverwalk, or on the water. You could catch a water taxi, board a romantic gondola, or join a stand-up paddle board tour.
There’s a range of big-hitting individual attractions to keep in mind. For families, the Museum of Discovery and Science tops the list.
If you want history, culture and Old Florida elegance, the Stranahan House and the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens will deliver.
4. Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Beach
From point to point, one of the nearest public beach access points to Lauderdale Lakes is Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Beach.
Traffic permitting, I timed the drive at about 15 minutes. One of the things I really like about this place is the refreshing absence of high-rise buildings.
Small and walkable, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea Beach feels like an old-school seaside village. There’s a lot of lovely mid-century architecture, and restaurants for all tastes a few steps from the sand.
Another unique detail about the shoreline here is a coral reef about 100 yards out. So you can go diving or snorkeling, and see an astonishing diversity of marine life directly from the beach.
5. Lauderhill Performing Arts Center
In the same complex as Central Broward Park is a modern performing arts center that first opened in 2016.
An LEED building, the Lauderhill Performing Arts Center is a beloved stage for musicals, concerts, movie screenings, dance, the visual arts, and much more.
The centerpiece is a 1,106-seat proscenium theater, equipped with world-class sound and lighting.
There’s a lot going on all year, but the Broadway at LPAC season is always a big draw. The season usually runs from January to April and features three productions. I had an absolute blast watching 42nd Street here not long ago.
6. Vincent Torres Memorial Park
Close to Lauderdale Lakes’ municipal departments, this spot has all you could want from a community park.
A place to be active, Vincent Torres Memorial Park has basketball courts, tennis courts, a senior center, and several multi-use fields.
Above all, this struck me as an excellent place for families to bring children. There’s an up-to-date inclusive playground, with an overhead canopy, and a picnic pavilion close by.
The park is on the Middle River Canal, and you can get onto a waterside trail, which I’ll cover in more detail below.
7. Cypress Preserve Conservation Park
Not to be confused with Cypress Preserve Park in Sunrise, this lush parcel of nature can be found at 2525 NW 49th Ave in Lauderdale Lakes.
What you get at Cypress Preserve Conservation Park is a thick stand of native woods. There’s a half-mild nature trail that almost never leaves the shade of the canopy, and is furnished with interpretive signage.
Also here is a garden planted with species that are known to attract butterflies. With a grill and two pavilions, this park is an ideal spot for a picnic in winter, spring or fall.
8. Cho A Dong Oriental Food Market
To get a true feel for the area, I think it’s worth checking out local spots like this family-owned market.
At a strip mall on North State Route 7, Cho A Dong Oriental Food Market is full of exotic items you won’t find elsewhere.
The narrow aisles here are a treasure trove of Asian cuisines, from Vietnamese to Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Filipino.
If you want to make pho soup, okonomiyaki, tteokbokki at home, or just want to stock up on instant noodles, you’ll find what you need here.
9. DRV PNK Stadium
All of Greater Miami was gripped by Messi fever when I was in town. The greatest soccer player of all time had recently joined the MLS team Inter Miami.
For the time being, the 21,000-capacity DRV PNK Stadium is the home of Inter Miami, who also train at this property by Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
The stadium opened in 2020, and is expected to host the team until Freedom Park opens closer to downtown Miami.
With Lionel Messi on the team, demand for Inter Miami tickets had gone through the roof. The cheapest tickets were selling for four times the normal price.
10. Xtreme Action Park
The largest and most acclaimed family entertainment center in South Florida is ten minutes from Lauderdale Lakes.
Xtreme Action Park has just been named as a National Family Entertainment Center Location of the Year when I was there. At 250,000 square feet this place is simply huge.
Taking center stage is the karting track, which has two layouts and gas-powered karts that can reach 45 MPH. This is complemented by escape rooms, a 150+ game arcade, a roller rink, VR Games, an XD dark ride, laser tag, a ropes course, and mini golf.
Near the track is the Pit Stop Kitchen, a giant eatery with floor-to-ceiling views of the racing action, and more than 50 LED TVs.
11. Uncle Bernie’s Amusement Park
One of the surprises hiding at Swap Shop is a small but endearing amusement park. Akin to a family entertainment center, Uncle Bernie’s has 15 different rides and attractions.
Mostly for younger kids, Uncle Bernie’s offers carnival-style bumper cars, a carousel, flying dragons, and a log flume. In the mix are midway games, and shows with characters from movies and video games.
To save money you can purchase packs for one, two or three hours of unlimited rides, and get access to a reserved area with picnic tables.
12. Fern Forest Nature Center
Ensconced in Greater Miami’s urban environment, there are a lot of fragments of the nature that once covered South Florida.
The largest patch close to Lauderdale Lakes is 250 acres of hardwood hammock, cypress/maple swamp, and open prairie in Coconut Creek.
A lot of the terrain at the Fern Forest Nature Center is impassable at ground level. There’s a whole half-mile of boardwalk in this damp landscape, where you can see the 30+ fern varieties that give the center its name.
I had a great time on the Wetlands Wander and at the exhibit room, which goes into detail on the local ecology, and has a live display of native reptiles.
13. C-13 Canal Greenway Trail
For me, one of the most underrated things about the communities in the Miami metropolitan area is the huge network of waterways.
Lauderdale Lakes is practically divided into two by the Middle River Canal. Long sections of the banks have been left free of development, except for a grassy space and a paved trail.
Using Vincent Torres Memorial Park as a starting point, you can travel for a couple of miles east or west along the canal.
At Highway 441 the C-13 Canal Greenway Trail crosses Highway 441, and continues east as far as Oriole Elementary School.
This is a relaxed part of Lauderdale Lakes, with lots of palm trees and occasional wildlife sightings.
14. Broward Mall
You’re never more than a few minutes from a thriving mall in Greater Miami. An excellent local choice is the Broward Mall, which was in great shape when I had a look around a few months back.
I went on a weekend and this place was packed. Known as Westfield Broward until a recent ownership change, the mall has up to 100 tenants.
These are mostly in the middle of the market, with brands like Hollister, Foot Locker, Loft, Yankee Candle, Pandora, Dillard’s, H&M, JCPenney, and Macy’s.
The food court was doing well too, with ten options, from Panda Express to Haagen-Dazs. You’ve also got the 12-screen Regal Broward, with stadium seating and a premium RPX screen.