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Looking for the ultimate Fort Lauderdale vs Miami guide? You’ve come to the right place!
As two of the most popular spring break destinations in the world, both cities are brimming with beautiful beaches, top-notch restaurants, and lively nightlife cultures.
There are endless sites to see and activities to enjoy in these neighboring cities, which oftentimes makes it difficult to decide which one to choose for vacation or a weekend getaway.
However, even with all of their similarities, both destinations provide completely different vibes depending on the type of experiences you’re looking to have!
Read below to learn everything you need to know about expenses, must-see sites, the best restaurants, top beaches, live music, and more.
Booking a last-minute trip to Fort Lauderdale or Miami?
If so, we have you covered. Here are some top recommended tours and experiences!
Top Tours in Fort Lauderdale
Evening Cruise through Downtown – (Explore Ft. Lauderdale At Night)
LFt. Lauderdale Water Taxi – (All-Day Pass)
Jungle Queen Riverboat – Sightseeing Cruise – (90-minute narrated sightseeing tour)
Top Tours in Miami
Speedboat Sightseeing Tour – (Miami Coastline Cruise)
Little Havana Food & Walking Tour – (The Best Food & Walking Tour in Miami)
Wynwood Graffiti Golf Cart Tour – (Ride around the street arts of Miami via golf cart)
Top Hotels In Fort Lauderdale
Riverside Hotel – (Top Location & Best Rated)
Hotel Maren Fort Lauderdale Beach – (Best Beach Nearby Hotel)
Top Hotels In Miami
The Elser Hotel Miami – (Highly-Rated Located In Downtown)
Loews Coral Gables Hotel – (Top Location & Highly Rated)
Looking To Get Around In Fort Lauderdale Or Miami?
Check out rental car rates here! 🚗
Which City Has The Best Beaches?
Fort Lauderdale Beaches
It’s indisputable that both cities have gorgeous beaches. However, if you’re looking for a more laid-back, relaxing day at the beach, you may want to head to Fort Lauderdale.
It’s widely known that Fort Lauderdale is more family-friendly, which means you’re less likely to see college-age party-goers on the beach or excessive drinking.
Another added bonus is that the city of Fort Lauderdale tends to be cleaner due to the type of tourists it attracts.
This isn’t to say that there won’t be any drinking, partying, or nighttime activities, but there should certainly be less compared to Miami Beach.
Numerous legendary beaches in the Fort Lauderdale area have made debuts in movies, magazines, and postcards.
A few of the most popular beaches in Fort Lauderdale include Las Olas Beach, Ft. Lauderdale Beach, North Ocean Park, and Hollywood Beach.
Fort Lauderdale Beach is one of the largest and most visited beaches to soak up the sun, while Hollywood Beach includes a boardwalk with dozens of fun activities, seafood restaurants, and tiki bars.
It’s no secret that party-goers, singles, and college students love Miami.
Between sunning, surfing, swimming, and dining, there’s always time for a good party — especially on a beautiful beach!
And I’ll tell you, Miami certainly has no shortage of great beaches.
Due to the city’s growing popularity, the beaches in and around Miami attract more crowds, especially around Spring Break week.
A couple of the more lively beaches include Miami Beach and South Beach or “SoBe”.
Both are surrounded by an amazing food culture, art galleries, and plenty of clubs and parties at night.
If you’re looking for a slightly more relaxed beach in Miami to enjoy more scenic views, some great options include Lummus Park Beach, South Pointe Park Pier, and Haulover Beach.
All provide stunning tropical views, crystal blue water, and miles of sand for fun beach activities.
So which city has the better beaches? That’s your call.
If you’re looking to relax with your children or have a more laid-back vacation, then Fort Lauderdale might be your best bet.
If you’re wanting to party the night away and meet new people, Miami should be your first choice.
What’s The Best Airport To Fly Into?
South Florida is a top destination for travelers from all over the world.
For this reason, there are a few different airport options available that make getting there a breeze.
The closest airport to Miami is Miami International Airport (MIA). Miami International is a quick 20-minute drive to most parts of the city.
It’s also the gateway for many travelers arriving in the U.S. from South America and the Caribbean.
In fact, it offers the most international connections of any airport to other parts of the world.
On the other hand, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL) offers more domestic flights, especially for low-cost carriers such as Spirit, Southwest, and JetBlue Airlines.
It’s a great option for those looking to spend the majority of their vacation in Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, Pompano Beach, or Delray Beach.
You will find much fewer crowds at FLL than at MIA, and you’ll experience less traffic getting into Ft. Lauderdale.
If you’re planning to visit Miami, FLL is still a great choice as it’s only 30-40 minutes north of Miami and still easily accessible.
Which City Has The Better Restaurant Scene?
This one is a tough one since both Miami and Fort Lauderdale have amazing restaurant scenes.
Both cities enjoy incredible cultural blends from numerous countries around the world including Cuba, Mexico, Haiti, and China.
In short, if you’re a foodie, you can’t go wrong with either destination you choose!
Since Miami is a larger city, it may come as no surprise that it’s home to a larger restaurant scene than Ft. Lauderdale.
Because of this, you can find just about any type of cuisine your heart desires from new American and Mediterranean, to Chinese and authentic Cuban.
Miami also has numerous food halls and markets that are popular among locals and visitors alike.
Take for example the Time Out Market Miami. It features food from some of the cities as well as pop-ups from up-and-coming Chefs.
Miami also hosts the South Beach Wine & Food Festival (SOBEWFF) every February.
The event features intimate dinners, late-night parties, fun booths to sample foods, and live cooking shows.
While Miami might be the star of the show, don’t pass up the Fort Lauderdale foodie scene.
Fort Lauderdale is known for having some of the best Cuban food in Florida at Padrino’s.
This local favorite serves empanadas, plantain sandwiches, and Cubanos.
Other top-rated restaurants include The Alchemist Cafe for deli sandwiches and coffee, and Sea Watch on the Ocean for great seafood and striking ocean views.
Which City Is Cheaper To Visit?
Given how expensive travel is at the moment, people are no doubt taking expenses into account when considering Fort Lauderdale vs. Miami.
To be fully transparent, both cities can be expensive depending on the type of experience you want to have.
If you plan to stay at four or five-star hotels and resorts and eat at Michelin-star restaurants, you’ll spend a pretty penny.
It’s also completely possible to be on a budget and still enjoy the best of what both destinations have to offer.
Although Miami is a well-known vacation destination for the rich and famous.
This has unfortunately caused prices in many parts of the city to skyrocket for restaurants, hotels, and nightclubs. But, there are plenty of affordable ways to enjoy the city, too!
Miami On A Budget
If you want to save money on lodging, look to stay at hotels or Airbnbs that are further away from the beach.
The closer to the beachfront a property is, the more expensive the price tag becomes.
Many resorts near the water or on the beach also make guests pay excessive fees for services, food and beverage, and sometimes, just because they feel like it!
Oppositely, make sure you don’t book something too cheap.
Miami is known to be a generally safe city, but it also has a darker side depending on what part of the city you’re looking to stay in.
If something seems to good (or cheap) to be true, it probably is.
Only use verified websites for booking hotels and Airbnb’s, and never give out your personal information or credit card information to an individual person.
If you’re saving money on a big expense like lodging, you’ll likely have more to play with.
You can stretch your dollar even further by dining at mid-range cafes and restaurants, or going on small group tours versus private excursions.
Plenty of beaches are also free to enjoy, while some only charge to rent umbrellas, chairs, or other beach equipment like boogie boards or snorkeling gear.
Fort Lauderdale On A Budget
When it comes to affordability, many think that Fort Lauderdale is easier on the wallet.
This is true when it comes to the sheer amount of affordable things to do in Fort Lauderdale vs. Miami.
One of the most popular activities to partake in is a water taxi tour through the “Venice of America.”
The tour includes 15 stops and doubles as a water tour and a shuttle between East Oakland Park Boulevard and the 17th Street Causeway.
During certain times of the year, the water taxi company also provides day cruises to Miami Beach so you can experience both cities in one day for a much more affordable option.
For additional savings, use your water taxi ticket for discounts at select restaurants, bars, shops, and museums.
For lodging, the rules for booking lodging are similar. The further away from the beach you go, the more affordable the hotel and Airbnb’s will be.
Many hotels away from the beach feature apartment-style suites, which are more spacious and great for small groups and families.
Fortuna Hotel is a short walk to Ft. Lauderdale Beach, and Tranquilo Hotel is in close proximity to plenty of great shops and restaurants.
When To Visit For The Best Prices
The price of your vacation in both of these destinations will also depend on the time of year you choose to go.
South Florida is a popular destination year-round, but you’ll likely find the best prices from June to August.
Keep in mind that even though the snowbirds have left, these months mark summer for South Florida which means high temperatures.
It’s also the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season, so it’s smart to keep an eye on the weather while planning your trip.
Does Miami Or Fort Lauderdale Have Better Shopping?
Shopping In Miami
The clear winner for this category is most definitely Miami. Since it’s a larger city, Miami has endless shopping opportunities from cute boutique shops to popular shopping malls and upscale retail chains.
In fact, it’s home to one of the largest outdoor shopping malls in the U.S., the Bayside Marketplace.
Here, you can find more than 150 shops — both local boutiques and chain stores — that sell everything from local food to clothing and handmade jewelry.
On certain days, you can also enjoy live music while you walk around the market.
It’s not a trip to Miami without a stroll down the historic Flagler Street is the heart of Miami.
The street, known as the Downtown Shopping District, is home to hundreds of stores ranging from low-cost to mid-range.
These shops include Macy’s, Marshalls, Ross Dress for Less, Target, Zara, and the Cuban-based La Epoca.
Shopping In Fort Lauderdale
Just because Miami has a higher volume of shops, doesn’t mean that you should overlook the shopping scene in Fort Lauderdale.
There are plenty of places to buy souvenirs, clothes, beachwear, and unique gifts in and around the city.
Some of the most popular places to enjoy a day of shopping include Las Olas Boulevard and the Galleria at Fort Lauderdale.
If you want a little taste of everything, Las Olas is the best place to go.
This vibrant street is home to art galleries, sidewalk cafes, bars, medical clinics, jewelry stores, high-end fashion boutiques, and top restaurants.
It’s the premier one-stop shop in Fort Lauderdale!
Which City Is More Scenic?
This one is definitely a toss up and depends on what you’re looking for!
If you’re seeking a more urbanized surrounding (think high-rises and more traffic flow), Miami is your best bet.
Although the city is home to plenty of the world’s best beaches and not everything is concrete, the skyline still steals the show with the outline of condominiums and shopping centers.
If a more natural landscape is what you’re seeking, Fort Lauderdale is for you.
There are plenty of places to lounge under palm trees with your toes in the sand without a condo stealing Mother Nature’s spotlight.
There is also the Everglades Holiday Park close by. Not associated with Everglades National Park, it’s a 29-acre attraction park within the wetlands of the Florida Everglades.
Here you can enjoy airboat rides and supervised animal encounters with critters like pythons, birds, gators, and lemurs!
Final Thoughts- Fort Lauderdale vs Miami
When it comes to Fort Lauderdale vs Miami, it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you prefer a calmer atmosphere with easy access to beaches and nature trails, then Fort Lauderdale might be the best option for you.
But if exciting nightlife and diverse cultural experiences are more your speed, then Miami is sure to provide all that and more.
Whether you choose Fort Lauderdale or Miami, one thing is certain – you will be in for an unforgettable experience!
Book Your Next Trip! For Accommodations and short-term rentals, I recommend Booking.com as they are the best in the business when it comes to rates and places to stay.
To Book Activities- For activities, I suggest booking with Viator, they have thousands of 5-star activities to choose from!
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