Miami and Fort Lauderdale are the spring break capitals of the world, but they’ve got more to offer than just parties on the beach.
Both cities contain tropical beaches, diverse cultural restaurants, public transportation, warm weather, entertainment venues, and recreational activities. There really is no way to get bored in either city.
For this reason, choosing which city to visit can be a difficult choice for some travelers. Especially as Miami and Fort Lauderdale reside in neighboring counties of Southern Florida and share so much in common.
However, both of these tropical getaways have their differences too. If you are not a native Floridian, then you are probably not aware of these differences.
Luckily, we know these cities well, and below we break down each city in more detail comparing their beaches, activities, expenses, atmosphere and more! Here’s our honest comparison to help you choose
Miami or Fort Lauderdale: Which has the better beach?
Both have a great coastline, but we’ve found that Fort Lauderdale and its beaches are more suitable for all ages and families.
Whether you want to visit a Fort Lauderdale beach for spring break or a family trip, you will find the atmosphere is relaxing and laid back. The streets are cleaner, the water is blue, and the Venice-style canals are attractive. It is a pleasant experience for all ages.
Fort Lauderdale’s beach offers more than just tanning too. It is a haven for diving enthusiasts, sports fishing, swimming, surfing and volleyball. But if you like snorkelling, visit Lauderdale-By-The-Sea to take an underwater sightseeing tour of the sunken British cargo steamer, SS Copenhagen. It’s super impressive! (Recommended: Scuba Diving in Fort Lauderdale).
Partygoers prefer Miami. Many tourists and vacationers go there to party, surf, swim, sleep and have fun all night long. If you like to socialize and meet new people in a crowded environment, you should choose Miami. The beaches may be dirtier, but the recreational activities are much more fun and lively on Miami beach.
South Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Miami. The locals call it “SoBe,” and it’s known for its Art Deco architecture and exciting nightlife. Trailers can be parked on the beach so it’s possible to to enjoy the beach in privacy or spend the night. That makes it the perfect destination for couples, spouses and party-goers alike.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that one city has better beaches than the other as it all depends on what you consider to be “better.” If you enjoy a beach with fewer crowds and more relaxation, then Fort Lauderdale will be the better choice than Miami. However if you want more excitement and bigger crowds for meeting new people, then Miami’s beaches will suit you more.
Miami or Fort Lauderdale: Which is better for restaurants and eating out?
Restaurants are everywhere in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. The cultural blend of these two cities brings a diverse set of restaurants and cuisines, such as Cuban, Italian, Haitian, Mexican, Chinese, and American cuisine. That makes them perfect foodie destinations!
In Fort Lauderdale, if you want to enjoy a good seafood restaurant then try Sea Watch on the Ocean. It has been a tourist favorite for over 40 years. With the Atlantic Ocean only 50 yards away from the restaurant, you can enjoy the view as you feast on crab tostada, scallops, and shrimp. Make sure you order a side dish of avocado, corn tortilla chips, black beans, and tomato.
Miami has even more restaurants than Fort Lauderdale, and you can find a real cultural diversity amongst the restaurants in the city too.
For instance, the Mandolin Aegean Bistro is a stylish outdoor eatery in the Buena Vista neighborhood of Miami. It serves traditional home-style Greek cuisine on shareable dishes for two. But if you want even more cultural food selections, check out Mamey Miami. It has a nice blend of French Polynesia, Caribbean, and Asian cuisine.
It is difficult to say which city has the best restaurants, but because of the wider variety of restaurants available in Miami, we think this food fight is won by Miami.
Miami or Fort Lauderdale: What’s there to do in each?
Fort Lauderdale has a laid back atmosphere and more beautiful scenery than Miami. You will find more of a luscious tropical landscape in this city, with palm trees and other natural beauty. We recommend you take a walk on The Mockingbird Trail, a walking tour that showcases urban artwork that blends perfectly with the surrounding natural environment.
There is no shortage of museums in Fort Lauderdale either. Check out the Antique Car Museum if you want to see century-old vehicles and cars from the early 20th century. You can also visit the NSU Art Museum to view over 7,000 pieces of art by multicultural artists from Africa, Cuba and Latin America.
However when it comes to activities and things to do, Miami really excels. This city is home to several fantastic museums and many other attractions. If you enjoy watching exotic animals, visit the Zoo Miami to see over 3,000 wild animals and 40 endangered species. Another great attraction for animals lovers is Jungle Island. It features a botanical garden, bird sanctuary and wildlife habitat.
The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens is a 28-acre National Historic Landmark in Miami with an Italian Renaissance-style villa. It features a plethora of decorative and European artwork from the 15th century to the 19th century. The art is proudly displayed throughout the villa house.
Do you love to shop? The Bayside Marketplace in Miami is one of the largest outdoor shopping malls in the country. It is home to over 150 different specialty shops, restaurants, and cafés. There are even live entertainment and music performances every day at the marketplace so you can shop and be entertained at the same time! You’ll find a blend of original boutique shops to popular chain stores here. There is something for everyone in this marketplace.
It is a tough decision, but we would have to say that Miami has the most things to do when comparing both cities. In fact we’ve found that it’s easy to spend a week in this city and still not get bored!
Miami or Fort Lauderdale: Which is cheaper?
Many travellers are on tight budgets lately, so working out which city is cheaper, Miami or Fort Lauderdale, will be on the mind of many.
The reality is that both cities are expensive if you plan to stay at a four or five-star hotel and eat at fancy restaurants. However if you plan to rent an apartment for a month, Miami has slightly lower rent prices than Fort Lauderdale.
Many of Miami’s beaches also give you the option to rent a spot on the beach for the night, starting at $85. So if you come to Miami with a trailer, you can then take advantage of the camp lifestyle and stay in the city on cheap nightly rates!
In contrast, Fort Lauderdale has fewer economical options for lodging and beach camping. That is why most travelers find Fort Lauderdale to be more expensive overall. So for us, Miami wins when it comes to which city is cheaper. (Recommended: Cheap and Free Camping in Florida)
Miami or Fort Lauderdale: Which is the most beautiful?
Miami has become so urbanized with tall buildings, apartment buildings, condominiums, shopping centers, and so on. The only beautiful parts of Miami are the beaches. Everything else inland is not so attractive.
Fort Lauderdale has more natural landscape and beauty than Miami. One of its most popular tourist attractions is the Everglades Holiday Park. If you are a regular viewer of “Gator Boys” on the Animal Planet TV channel, then you might have seen this park featured on it. They offer live gator shows and a chance to watch alligators in their natural habitat. It is safe to visit, so don’t worry!
Of course, Miami has its beautiful spots too. But if you prefer to look at natural tropical beauty with fewer buildings, then you can find more of that in Fort Lauderdale for sure.
Winner: Fort Lauderdale
Miami or Fort Lauderdale: Which is better?
You can’t go wrong with a holiday to either city, but there are several differences that could sway your vacation decision.
If you’re looking for a city with a great beach, energetic vibe, and lots of things to do, then Miami will be the better vacation choice than Fort Lauderdale. It’s also a cheaper city. However if you want a vacation with a laid-back vibe, a tropical landscape, and a family-friendly beach, then Fort Lauderdale will be the better choice than Miami.