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Be Amazed at the Free Things to Do in Fort Lauderdale



Visiting Fort Lauderdale doesn't have to break the bank. While the city has a reputation of being world class, the idea that it costs a small fortune to enjoy yourself here is just not true. There are plenty of free things to do – quality things to do – and they will interest every member of the family. From Fort Lauderdale Beach, which is probably what everyone thinks of when they arrive, can be visited for free. And what about the majestic Florida Everglades? It's just a short drive west of Fort Lauderdale and is a wonder to behold. And for the perfect Sunday morning relaxation join hundreds, if not thousands, of jazz enthusiasts at the Sun Trust Sunday Jazz Brunch in beautiful Downtown. Take in a bit of history and local flare at the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. Stroll this Oceanside wonder which is lined with unique shops, restaurants and family entertainment. Speaking of history, Fort Lauderdale is the home to African-American Research Library and Cultural Center. This is a treasure in the city and is full of history that will fascinate all ages. And just when the urban setting gets a bit too close, take a stroll in a natural setting in various parks scattered throughout the city such as the Secret Woods Nature Center. Escape in nature and relax. What's more, it's all free!


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Stonewall Street Festival
Photo courtesy of Dale Mack


Held in honor of Greenwich Village's Stonewall Rebellion in 1969, this celebration of human rights, free thought and social awareness is one of the state's most eagerly anticipated Pride events. Taking place is the island city of Wilton Manors, which is known for its high number of gay residents and businesses and its continual celebration of diversity, the city comes to life even more during Stonewall. The streets are closed off for this event and the festivities are electrifying. Folks from all walks of life are welcome and encouraged to join in the fun, which includes a parade, food, drink and plenty of music.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A truly classic experience as you arrive only by boat and get that island feel.

Dale's expert tip: While this is known for being a predominately gay event, people from all walks of life enjoy these festivities.

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Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum


If you go weak at the knees over a gorgeous set of wheels, don't miss the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum, an exceptional local gem. Established as a non-profit foundation for education to showcase the history of the Packard Motor Company as well as to show the progress and development of skills in American engineering. The museum's reproduction 1920s-era showroom showcases 22 stunning Packard automobiles dating from 1900 to the 1940s, all in perfect working order and boasting unique details, such as special golf club compartments. After admiring the four-wheeled beauties, browse thousands of pieces of automobile memorabilia, ranging from hand-wound dashboard clocks to an incredible array of hood ornaments. A fascinating visit for every age. Donations are welcome.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The history of the automobile is an interest of every generation and this museum should not be missed.

Dale's expert tip: Plan to spend a few hours here. Kids will love it, too!

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The name says it all: Fish Local Knowledge. And that's important to those travel to Fort Lauderdale to experience deep sea fishing in only the way anyone can right here in South Florida. Captain Mike will welcome you aboard the "Local Knowledge," a clean, custom built 43-foot Hatteras Sport Fisher with all the amenities. You can relax, enjoy yourself and be confident that Captain Mike and his crew have vast experience fishing these waters fabled. For those who are not as experience with the equipment, don't let that stop you; the crew will help. Fishing trips on the Local Knowledge include bait, tackle, and licenses. All you need to bring is what you want to eat and drink.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Who doesn't come to Fort Lauderdale and not want to fish? This is pure South Florida tradition.

Dale's expert tip: Kids are welcome to join you on the Local Knowledge. Let them experience the thrill of deep sea fishing.

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Buehler Planetarium & Observatory


Located on the A.Hugh Adams central campus of Broward College is the Buehler Planetarium & Observatory. This fascinating facility is one of the most advanced planetariums in South Florida with its Zeiss M 1015 projector and its modern digital audiovisual equipment. You've seen the sand and the sea; now see the stars sprinkled across the Ft. Lauderdale sky. One of few free attractions in the area, the Buehler Planetarium & Observatory enables visitors to spend an evening gazing at the majestic night sky through a collection of high-tech telescopes. From glowing moons and flashing stars to the vivid orbs of planets, the views are truly spectacular and, on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings, completely free.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Unlike anything else in South Florida this is a must-see for astronomy enthusiasts.

Dale's expert tip: A great place to ignite an interest in science for the kids.

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Secret Woods Nature Center


Rediscover serenity at the Secret Woods Nature Center Fort Lauderdale. Completely free, this well-loved attraction's 55 acres of unspoiled nature among the endless urban development of South Florida are truly priceless, both figuratively and literally. The park, set amidst a towering oak forest surrounded by alluring swampland, boasts an enchanting butterfly house as well as an interpretive center featuring a working beehive and reptile habitat. After learning about nature, visitors can immerse themselves in its arresting beauty on two scenic trails. Great place to brings the kids for an up close and personal experience with nature at its finest. Take a lot of pictures and leave only footprints.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Set amidst the urban sprawl of South Florida this natural setting appeals to everyone.

Dale's expert tip: Escape the urban jungle quickly in this serene nature center.

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African-American Research Library and Cultural Center


Visitors in search of free places to go in Fort Lauderdale should consider the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center and its magnificent 60,000-square-foot library, one of four black research libraries in the U.S. The grand facility houses over 85,000 books and documents along with riveting exhibits, a 5,000-square-foot art gallery and a state-of-the-art auditorium that hosts comedians, jazz performers and entertaining theater productions. Collection highlights include gowns, awards and photos donated by Emmy Award-winner Esther Rolle of the hit TV show "Good Times", who grew up in near-by Pompano Beach. Also on exhibit are eight unfinished Alex Haley manuscripts.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: Being one of four black research libraries in the U.S., this is a true gem in Fort Lauderdale.

Dale's expert tip: Interesting place to learn more of Fort Lauderdale's rich history.

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SunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch is a truly-unique Fort Lauderdale experience right along the scenic Riverwalk. This free, live, outdoor concert series brings the area's best local jazz artists. Take your pick to hear the soulful sounds on four different stages on the first Sunday of each month from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome to attend, including well-behaved, leashed pets. There is plenty of room to set up chairs, blankets and picnic baskets to experience the fabulous entertainment. Patrons can also stroll along the historic brick-lined walkway to enjoy live music while browsing items from local merchants and enjoying food from area restaurants. The SunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch is sponsored by SunTrust and is produced by the City of Fort Lauderdale's Parks and Recreation Department.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The city's jazz enthusiasts gather together for this local tradition.

Dale's expert tip: Don't forget the suntan lotion. There isn't a lot of natural shade in the park.

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Everglades Holiday Park
Photo courtesy of Dale Mack


The whole family will be thrilled at this live experience where you can come face to tooth with grinning gators at this most raved-about family attraction in the magnificent Everglades. An easy drive west of Fort Lauderdale, you will climb aboard a state-of-the-art covered airboat and be learn from knowledgeable guides at the Everglades Holiday Park. Be entertained and educated while passengers delight in striking panoramic views of the Everglades, colorful exotic birds and, of course, enormous wild gators that sidle right up to the boat. Afterward, a sidesplitting and informative live gator show affords the opportunity to hold and take pictures with a young alligator.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: The Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and an easy drive west.

Dale's expert tip: Visitors 16 years and younger are admitted free of charge.

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Hollywood Beach Broadwalk


Perhaps the most popular of all Fort Lauderdale area free attractions, the Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, located just south of Fort Lauderdale has been named one of America's best boardwalks by a national travel magazine, is a beloved brick-paved promenade forever bustling with joggers, cyclists, sun-worshipers and ice cream cone-devourers. Built in the 1920s, the extensively renovated broadwalk has managed to maintain a delightful sense of Old Florida, with charming shops, sidewalk cafes, cozy inns and playgrounds and the ideal place for every member of the family. Special events such as live music are also well received as well as the weekly market.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: A classic local favorite and a place where visitors always want to see.

Dale's expert tip: Weekends get busy and parking is slim so a weekday stroll may be a bit easier.

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This beach chic destination is one of Broward County's exceptional Blue Wave Beaches, and enjoying it free. The world-famous Fort Lauderdale beachfront boasts four miles of publicly accessible coastline backed by a colorful array of exclusive shops, inviting sidewalk cafes and exciting entertainment venues. And for those who just can't get enough of this world class stretch of coastline real estate, there are some of the finest luxurious condominium options in the world. Once known for being a Spring break party zone for college students, this newly-renovated beach is now a family-friendly destination where visitors can swim, Jet Ski, snorkel and dive in the exceptionally clear waters, or simply stroll along the award-winning wave wall and majestic, palm-lined promenade and enjoy the unique buzz in the air that is Fort Lauderdale Beach.

Recommended for Free Things to Do because: This is the number one attraction that draws the world to Fort Lauderdale.

Dale's expert tip: This is the one. From fabulous to glamorous, this where people come to see and be seen.

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Meet Dale Mack

Dale Mack has been involved in Fort Lauderdale tourism and promotions for over twenty years. Working for Travelhost Magazine in Dallas, Texas, he was especially drawn to the edition...  More About Dale

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