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Fort Lauderdale - Attractions

Fort Lauderdale beach

Bonnet House

Another of Fort Lauderdale's historic residences, the Bonnet House is a beautiful estate filled with native southern Florida and imported tropical plants, including an extensive orchid collection. To see the house and grounds you have to be on one of the tours, which are offered twice a day Wednesday through Sunday and last a little over an hour. The house is in northern Fort Lauderdale, between the beach and the Intracoastal Waterway, an easy walk from downtown.

International Swimming Hall of Fame

Quick: How many litres of water does it take to fill a competition pool? If you said 2,171,670 you're enough of a swimming wonk to really enjoy the International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum. There are thousands of photographs, medals, uniforms (including those embarrassing USA warm-up suits from the 1984 Olympics), paintings, sculptures (a great one of Johnny 'Tarzan' Weissmuller with anatomically accurate hands designed by a prosthetic corporation) - the list goes on. An automated theatre shows footage of swimming films, including old newsreels, on a huge TV - it's worth the ticket price in itself.

Museum of Art

Fort Lauderdale's Museum of Art is one of Florida's best. Reopened in 1985 in brand new (and architecturally impressive) digs just off the New River, the museum's permanent collection includes works by the likes of Picasso, Matisse, Dali and Warhol. Equally impressive are the growing collections of Cuban and ethnographic art, including large African and South American exhibits. You can't ever really know what you're going to see on a particular visit, as the size of the collection far outpaces the available space. If you're visiting in the autumn, keep an eye out for the Hortt Memorial Exhibition & Competition, which showcases the best of area artists. The museum is centrally located in downtown Fort Lauderdale, north of the New River.

Museum of Discovery & Science

Fronted by the Great Gravity Clock, Florida's largest kinetic energy sculpture, the Museum of Discovery & Science is one of the best environmentally oriented museums in the state. Exhibits reveal the mysteries of computers, ecology, energy, health, sound and space. The Florida Ecoscapes exhibit introduces visitors to Florida's 10 different ecosystems: you pass through a series of forests, swamps and sloughs - petting friendly stingrays, observing a fascinating synthetic beehive - all the while surrounded by appropriate animal noises. The museum also raises many endangered species, and several times a day the baby crocodile and sea turtle hatchlings are brought out for inspection.

Also on hand, the Manned Maneuvering Unit simulates weightlessness; you sit in a high-tech NASA chair and use air jets to launch up to a satellite and aim it correctly at earth - and then get scored in how you do. The Blockbuster IMAX 3-D theatre in house offers virtual-reality-type helmets and goggles (no more red and blue plastic glasses!) to compound the amazement of watching their five-storey movie screen.

The Discovery museum is in northwestern downtown Fort Lauderdale, north of the New River.

Stranahan House

One of Florida's oldest residences and now a registered historic landmark, the Stranahan House is on the New River in the southeastern section of town. It was constructed as the home and store for Ohio transplant Frank Stranahan, a trader who built up a small empire through dealings with the Seminole Indians. Eventually, Stranahan became despondent over losses in the land and stock market busts of the late 1920s and over the collapse of his Fort Lauderdale Bank, and he committed suicide by jumping into the New River. The house, originally constructed in 1901 and expanded several times over the years, is a perfect example of Florida frontier design. Constructed from local pine, the house features wide porches, exceptionally tall windows and a Victorian parlor, as well as tropical gardens.

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