Things to do in Fort Lauderdale - free
The best things in life are free - especially in Fort Lauderdale
Did you know that there are dozens of wonderful things that you can do in Fort Lauderdale (Florida) that are completely free?
At all times of year, visitors flock to the area for many reasons and below, as I've just been celebrating my twentieth anniversary of moving here, I have outlined just a few of my favorite Fort Lauderdale places that won't cost you one single penny to enjoy.
Fort Lauderdale is often referred to as The Venice of America and The Yachting Capital of the World and these two descriptions often make people think - quite wrongly - that Fort Lauderdale is an expensive place to have fun.
It's true that if you want to spend a lot of money here it's perfectly possible! But there are so many things you an enjoy locally without spending a single penny.
Here are some of our best-kept secrets; the places that the locals go. As well as free options, there are also many low-budget ways to see and enjoy our beautiful area.
Fort Lauderdale is justifiably famous for its beach but the area has so much more to offer! But let's start right there ... on the beach...
Photographs © Andy Royston.
FORT LAUDERDALE BEACH
It's completely free to enjoy Fort Lauderdale Beach - you can even get married on the beach with no fees to pay. When it's time to leave the beach, head for Las Olas Boulevard. Right on the corner you'll see the famous Elbo Room - the spring break bar that was featured in the Iconic movie Where the Boys Are
The best time to enjoy the beach is at dawn. The beach is almost deserted at that time apart from a few fishermen and energetic people who are enjoying their morning exercise as the sun rises over the horizon.
THE LAS OLAS ISLES
Walk west from the beach along Las Olas Boulevard and you'll come across the Las Olas Isles. See multi-million dollar homes and fabulous yachts. The isles are a great photo opportunity. Do you remember the scene in Marley and Me where the dog ran beside the car? That was filmed right here on the Las Olas Isles
In addition to the luxury homes, you'll also see interesting Mid Century Modern architecture on the Las Olas Isles. Watch too for 'Wally's' - our MCM gas station. If you won the lottery, which wonderful home would you choose?
Historic waterfront park
COLEE HAMMOCK PARK
A little further west is Colee Hammock Park. There is no charge to sit by the river in the park and watch the river traffic go by. This park was the scene of a massacre in the 1800s! But now, it's a peaceful place to sit and soak up the atmosphere and watch the boats go by.
Colee Hammock Park is a great place to have a picnic lunch and there are several inexpensive places nearby that sell great takeout food from sandwiches to sushi. If you're lucky enough to be in the area on Sunday, enjoy strolling around the Las Olas Sunday Gourmet Market and choose tasty organic treats to take to the park for your picnic.
Famous Las Olas
LAS OLAS BOULEVARD
Continue to walk west to experience Las Olas Boulevard itself. This street was the first thoroughfare in Fort Lauderdale and today offers an eclectic mix of places to shop and to dine. The avenue has a Mediterranean feel with sidewalk cafes, unique stores and galleries, plus exciting bars and restaurants. It's a great place for people-watching and a wonderful place to stroll and soak up the atmosphere.
For the price of a cup of coffee or an ice cream, you can enjoy watching the world go by from a sidewalk cafe. Watch too for the covered breezeways along the boulevard. Many have water features and are a cooling place to sit and relax.
Historic Stranahan House
THE HISTORIC STRANAHAN HOUSE
As you approach the middle of Las Olas Boulevard, there's a true gem to be seen - our own historic house. This is the oldest home in Fort Lauderdale and the city began right here when Frank Stranahan became the first permanent resident in 1897. The house is situated right on the New River and was a trading post in its early days.
Although there is a fee to tour the interior of the house, it's free to enter and enjoy its grounds. Sit under the shade of the huge sea grape tree and imagine life in the days when Seminole Indians used to pole up the river in their dugout canoes to trade goods. As you sit at this peaceful spot, see the very place where Frank Stranahan took his own life by jumping into the river. The house is said to be haunted ...
Linear waterfront park
This beautiful linear park offers a wonderful stroll along the New River. There are also historic homes to be seen here too. As you can see from the photograph, there are numerous places to sit and enjoy the view along with picnic tables for a waterfront al fresco impromptu meal. Watch the boats go by. If you're at the Riverwalk on the first Sunday of the month, there's a free jazz brunch with many stages and performers.
Near the end of the Riverwalk Park is the Museum of Discovery and Science. There is a fee to visit the museum and its IMAX theater but stop by and take a look at the amazing Gravity Clock in the foyer at no charge.
More things to see and do - Click on a thumbnail to see an enlargement of each photographClick thumbnail to view full-size
The Village - Las Olas is famous but many people miss out on the quirky, Key West-style village. Here are some features to watch out for.Click thumbnail to view full-size
GETTING AROUND IN FORT LAUDERDALE
This distance between the Elbo Room at Fort Lauderdale to the Museum of Discovery and Science is approximately three miles. This is a great and scenic walk, especially if you call in at various landmarks along the way. However, sometimes if the weather is warm, you might prefer to use public transport. As excellent budget options, I recommend:
THE FORT LAUDERDALE WATER TAXI
This is a great way to travel throughout the Venice of America. Buying an all day ticket gives you unlimited travel.
THE SUN TROLLEY
These brightly colored trolleys can be hailed in the same way you would a cab. Fares are low and the trolleys are air-conditioned and have facilities for the handicapped.
This wonderful service allows you to rent a bicycle and return it to any one of their rental depots.
All photographs © Andy Royston and used with written permission.
© 2013 Jackie Jackson