Scenic views and an outstanding quality of life await you in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, a gorgeous city known for its culture, arts, beaches, waterways, and events. With pleasant ocean breezes year-round, an array of shopping and entertainment opportunities, and over 3,000 sunshine hours each year, it’s a place you’ll never want to leave.
The Greater Fort Lauderdale boasts twenty-four miles of golden shores and pristine beaches. It’s also nicknamed the Venice of America, and rightfully so, for its 300 miles of inland waterways. However, with its growing popularity, beachfront resorts, and luxurious lifestyle, it’s not surprising that it tends to be more expensive than other famous hotspots in Florida. But it doesn’t mean that everything in the city costs money. Thanks to the many free things to do in Fort Lauderdale, visitors get away with not paying for some of the city’s most beloved tourist destinations.
So what are you waiting for? Drop your bags off at a luggage service in Fort Lauderdale and begin your free city adventures! Whether you’re interested in museums boasting art and history, shopping, prefer to be out in the sun, or are looking for family fun, this city in Florida will not disappoint.
Embrace the Sunshine at Fort Lauderdale Beach Park
If you don’t want to swim but are looking for a perfect spot to bask in the sun along the pristine shoreline, head to Fort Lauderdale Beach Park. It’s a family-friendly beach park offering an array of outdoor amenities. These include a picnic area, playground, full basketball court, a non-motorized boat ramp, and sand volleyball courts.
Apart from offering a perfect space for families to enjoy the Florida sunshine by the beach, the park is one of the premier spots for music events and outdoor concerts, like the Riptide Music Festival and the Tortuga Music Festival. You can also take advantage of nearby restaurants, bars, and other beloved beach areas like Las Olas Beach.
Location: 1100 Seabreeze Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Tour Las Olas Boulevard
You’ll never run out of things to do at Las Olas Boulevard, arguably one of the greatest Fort Lauderdale attractions. It’s 2.5 miles long, stretching from the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale at Andrews Ave to Fort Lauderdale Beach. It’s one of Florida’s most well-loved shopping and dining districts and, therefore, a must-visit attraction for all visitors. Obviously, you’ll need to spend to shop and dine, but soaking in the refreshing Floridian atmosphere and the boulevard’s overall atmosphere is one of the best free things to do in Fort Lauderdale.
Near Fort Lauderdale Port, Las Olas Boulevard boasts two world-class museums, ten major international art galleries, 65 shops and boutiques, beaches, and more than 30 al fresco diners. Specifically, some of the attractions you can find there are the NSU Art Museum, Huizenga Plaza, and Golden Lyon Vintage Pub, among hundreds of other listings. Whether you want to eat, dine, or have fun, Las Olas Boulevard is the place to go.
Location: Las Olas Boulevard, Suite 8, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Enjoy Activities at the Fort Lauderdale Beach
If you were to visit Fort Lauderdale, you can’t pass on its beaches, particularly Fort Lauderdale Beach, with its more than 50 activities to enjoy and almost 70 restaurants and cafes. Visiting the beach is free, but you can further enhance your experience with its watersports, spas, shops, diners, and nightlife.
At Fort Lauderdale Beach, you can experience leisure activities like boating, yacht sailing, swimming, and fishing. You can also go for watersports like parasailing, flyboarding, canoeing, kayaking, scuba diving, paddleboarding, or surfing.
To get to Fort Lauderdale Beach, you can start from the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport or Port Everglades. Once you’re at the beach, there are numerous ways to get around, such as using the Riverwalk Water Trolley, The Water Taxi, Broward B-cycle, or the Laudergo MisroMover. As for the parking, you’re recommended to install the PayByPhone mobile application or website to secure your spot.
Location: S Fort Lauderdale Beach Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, FL
See the Impressive Art Collection at NSU Art Museum
NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale boasts a permanent collection of over 7,500 art pieces, including America’s largest and most celebrated holdings by the post-war European Cobra artists. Also included in its collection are works by American painter William J. Glackens and a contemporary art collection of Francie Bishop Good and David Horvitz.
The museum was founded in 1958 and has since been the premier stop for programs and exhibitions covering all facets of visual history. It is housed in an 83,000-square-foot museum building containing 25,000-square-foot exhibition space. After discovering the intricate artwork in the museum, you can stop by the café for refreshments or the store for gifts and souvenirs.
While a visit to the art museum is not free on any day, you can take advantage of its free admission from 11 AM to 7 PM every first Thursday of the month. It also comes with an all-day happy hour at the café. On regular days from Tuesday to Saturday, the museum only opens until 5 PM and noon to 5 PM on Sundays.
Location: 1 E Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Tour Fort Lauderdale with the Sun Trolley
Want to explore Fort Lauderdale for free? With the Sun Trolley, you can enjoy the city’s sights and popular destinations, depending on the route you take from the seven available options. This includes Downtown, NW Community, and neighborhood links, all free of cost. Meanwhile, the Los Olas and Beach links require a dollar for one ride and three dollars for an all-day pass.
To get a free ride, follow its route with the Sun Trolley Tracker application, available for desktops, android, and apple devices. After determining which location to visit, stand along any path to get there. Wait for the Sun Trolley to pass and get your free chauffeur around Fort Lauderdale.
Location: 290 NE 3rd Ave, Fort Lauderdale
Pass By the New River with the Riverwalk Water Trolley
If there’s a free trolley ride to get around Fort Lauderdale’s streets, there’s one for its waters too. The Riverwalk Water Trolley can accommodate 48 passengers through the historic New River.
The whole ride guides visitors through numerous points of interest. This includes the Florida Grand Opera, Museum of Discovery and Science, Esplanade Park, Riverfront Plaza, Huizenga Plaza, Broward County Courthouse, Las Olas Shops and Restaurants, and Stranahan House. You can also track the water trolley’s route through the Sun Trolley Tracker application. This ride is free from 11:00 AM to 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM to 11:00 PM daily.
Location: Riverwalk North, Fort Lauderdale
Stroll along Fort Lauderdale Beachfront Promenade
You have the options to jog, bike, or stroll along the world-famous Fort Lauderdale beachfront promenade. But to fully enjoy the atmosphere and sights in the area, take your time walking around and stop by your favorite beach.
The city’s spectacular coastline is punctuated by an array of restaurants, shops, entertainment venues, and sidewalk cafés where you can take a break and sip refreshing drinks. If you’re done walking, you can participate in different activities, like boating, jet skiing, snorkeling, and windsurfing. These often cost, but swimming and playing beach volleyball with your friends or loved ones are fun, free activities to enjoy.
Location: A1A between Las Olas & Sunrise Boulevards, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Explore the Secret Woods Nature Center
Your Fort Lauderdale experience won’t be complete without a visit to one of its many nature centers, one of which is the 56-acre Secret Woods Nature Center. It’s renowned for being the first urban wilderness area in 1978 in Florida, protecting cypress trees, mangroves, and tropical hammocks. The preserve is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and is accessible to all visitors for free.
The first hiking trail leads you to Butterfly Island, where different kinds of native butterflies dwell. After a short walk, you’ll reach the Nature Center Complex and the Monarch Interpretive Center, where you can find an overview of the preserve. For the main trails, your options include the New River Trail passing by the floodplain forest and mangroves, and the Laurel Oak Trail passing by the upland forest and cypress swamp.
Location: 2701 W SR 84, Dania Beach
Visit the Anne Kolb Nature Center
Another must-visit nature center in Fort Lauderdale is the Anne Kolb Nature Center. The preserve is named after the environmentalist and county commissioner who created the Urban Wilderness Park system in Broward. She also pushed for the protection of this mangrove forest. Currently, it welcomes all its visitors for free, granted they don’t bring their pets or use a skateboard or bicycle.
When in the Anne Kolb Nature Center, stop by the main building where a 3,500-gallon saltwater aquarium and nature-themed works from local artists are exhibited. It also offers an opportunity to learn about the importance of the mangrove forest and its many inhabitants.
As for other things you can do in the center, one of your options is signing up for a narrated tour in a pontoon boat. Additionally, you can visit the five-level observation tower, the fishing pier, and the amphitheater, among many other attractions.
Location: 751 E. Sheridan St, Hollywood
Discover Attractions and Sights at Riverwalk Arts & Entertainment District
You can’t visit Fort Lauderdale and not see the magnificent sights and attractions at the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District. It’s the city’s cultural epicenter, offering something for every interest and creative taste. It is set in downtown Fort Lauderdale, along the New River, and is a stunning place to stroll.
Broadway fans can watch the show at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, while architecture and nature lovers can benefit from the tours and exhibits at the Bonnet House Museum and Gardens. It is also home to numerous green spaces, movie theaters, restaurants, and other top attractions like the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society and more. Entry to most of these cultural sites and venues isn’t free, but you appreciate the views along the river and attend free events and tours.
Location: 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale, FL
Learn History at the African American Research Library and Cultural Center
African American Research Library and Cultural Center (ARLCC) is the third of its kind in the United States to feature extensive collections related to African-American cultures. It is housed in a 60,000-square-foot facility, home to over 85,000 books, documents, manuscripts, and artifacts to educate people about the colorful and rich histories, cultures, and heritage of Africans, African Americans, and Caribbeans.
On the first floor are a 300-seat auditorium, an exhibition area, a conference room, a seminar room, a Harambee room, and a gift shop selling Afrocentric products. As you head to the second level, you’ll find more services and amenities. These include youth and adult services, magazines, special collections of research materials, music, artwork, monographs, and more. Since its opening in 2002, AARLCC has become an essential part of the community, hosting recreational programs, classes, educational activities, and cultural events.
Location: 2650 Sistrunk Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Go to Fort Lauderdale Fire and Safety Museum
Many cultural centers and museums in Fort Lauderdale typically require an entrance fee, but not its Fire and Safety Museum. It is located in the Historic Fire Station 3, designed by a renowned architect Francis Abreu in 1927. The fire station was decommissioned in 2003 and transformed into a museum in 2008.
In addition to touring the historic West Side Fire Station 3, visitors can also see the 1942 Chevrolet/Pirsch pumper and 1992 American La France pumper, which replicates Fort Lauderdale Engine 1. There are also hands-on exhibitions for kids, allowing them to touch and hold the fire equipment. The Fire Museum is open only on the last Saturday of the month, between 10 AM and 2 PM.
Location: 1022 W Las Olas Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Enjoy Free Fun and Entertainment in Fort Lauderdale!
There are so many things to love about Fort Lauderdale. While it’s a renowned beach destination in South Florida, it offers much more than the sun, water, and sand. Take a tour of the waterfront, find peace and healing at the nature centers, and learn about local history and culture at free museums in Fort Lauderdale. Once you’ve been to the top tourist spots in the city, take the time to explore the off-the-beaten paths and discover its hidden gems.