Fort Lauderdale, found between the dazzling Florida coastline and the subtropical wilderness of the Everglades, is practically humming with energy from its thriving arts and cultural scene, its delicious dining, and its stunning scenic surrounds. But you don’t have to drop much dough – any, in fact – to enjoy the best of Fort Lauderdale. So, put away your wallet; here are some of the best free things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
Listen to live music
How better to spend the first Sunday of every month than listening to jazz en plein air on Fort Lauderdale’s beautiful Riverwalk? The best local jazz musicians play the regular SunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch on three separate stages, offering you the perfect cultural excuse to enjoy the sunshine and tuck into a hearty picnic while you’re at it.
Learn to surf
Everyone should try their hand at surfing when visiting Florida; the swells are too good not to. And with Island Water Sports offering free lessons on Saturday mornings at Deerfield Beach, there is no reason not to have a go. Register online beforehand to bag a spot and then get ready to learn. And don’t worry if you’re a total novice or you’re in Fort Lauderdale with the kids, the lessons are open to all – including little ones. But if surfing fails to impress, you can always try your hand at stand up paddling or skimming; Island Water Sports offers free Saturday lessons for those sports, too.
Go on an Art Walk
With plenty of regular Art Walks taking place in and around Fort Lauderdale, art lovers can make the rounds during their visit, enjoying the area’s art and ambience after-hours for no money whatsoever. Island City/Wilton Manors hosts theirs on the third Friday of every month, with Downtown Hollywood on the third Saturday. But on any day of the week, the thriving arts community, FATVillage (Flagler Arts and Technology Village), is a great place to explore to experience some of the best art in the area.
Treat yourself to some culture
There’s a whole host of great free things to do in Fort Lauderdale for those of a cultural inclination. Car enthusiasts will love the Ft. Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, with its collection of pre-war Packards, while the world-class showrooms at the Design Center of the Americas offer enough in the way of fabric and furnishings to inspire any budding designer. Alternatively, put a cultural and literary spin on your day with a visit to the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center. Home to over a million items in its Special Collections alone, the 60,000-square foot facility is a great place to learn about the African, African-American and Caribbean cultures through exhibits, manuscripts and documents.
Have a beach day
It’s safe to say that, with 23 miles of Blue Wave certified beach in the area, spending a day at the beach is one of the best free things to do in Fort Lauderdale. Picturesque and pristine, the beaches are not only scenically splendid, but they also offer plenty of opportunities for free fun, from the playgrounds at Pompano to peaceful picnicking at Dania Beach, from snorkelling to see the three-tier coral reef at Lauderdale-By-The-Sea to strolling along the beautiful Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. Whatever your free activity of choice (perhaps you just want to kick back with a book and soak up the rays?), there’s a beach in Fort Lauderdale that’s sure to fit the bill.
Gazing at the wonders of the universe is free every day, sure, but on Wednesday evenings at the Buehler Planetarium & Observatory, weather permitting, visitors are invited into the Observatory for free to use the telescopes and marvel at the stars up close.
Enjoy family fun on Fridays
The ArtsPark at Young Circle is the place to be on Fridays if you’re looking for free things to do in Fort Lauderdale with the family. Starting at 5pm, the Funtastic Friday event features face painting, bouncy castles, games and more; essentially everything you could want to keep the little ones entertained. But the fun doesn’t stop there; the ArtsPark Movie Night kicks off at 8pm, just as Funtastic Friday ends. Gather up your belongings – don’t forget the kids – and make your way over to the ArtsPark Amphitheater to settle in for a great family-friendly flick, all for free.
Discover the green spaces
When it comes to free things to do in Fort Lauderdale, nothing is easier, or more satisfying, than discovering the myriad green spaces in the area. Found just outside the Florida Everglades, the area is teeming with nature reserves, natural areas and, of course, the Everglades themselves.
The 57-acre Secret Woods Nature Center is a great choice for the whole family with its very own Butterfly Island and wetlands, plus they offer fun free events, like Jamming in the Park (just bring an instrument and join in) and regular guided nature walks. Or spot wading birds and see what a Mangrove tree looks like at the Anne Kolb Nature Center. And budding naturalists should make sure to visit Snake Warriors Island and the Fern Forest Nature Center, which are both part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.
Have you experienced some of the best free things to do in Fort Lauderdale? What were your favourites? Tell us in the comments section below.
Written by Giverny Tattersfield