Tips + Trends

Hitting the Beach on a Budget? Find Wallet-Free Fun in Fort Lauderdale

As the yacht capital of the world and “Venice of America,” Fort Lauderdale has a flashy side, to be sure. So you might be surprised to learn how many cool experiences here won’t cost you a thing — and we’re not just talking about those syrupy sunrises over the Atlantic Ocean each morning.

Outdoor yoga classes along the Riverwalk, Segway and surf lessons, and star-gazing at the local planetarium are just a sampling of the wallet-free adventures to be had.

Try Surf, SUP and Skimboard Lessons

Make the 20-minute drive south to Deerfield Beach for dawn patrol. From 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Saturday, Island Camps provides all the gear you need for free introductory lessons on surfboards, stand-up paddleboards and skimboards.

They’ve been offering lessons to the community for some 30 years. And there’s no age limit or experience level necessary to take part — the only requirement is that you can swim. Do register online in advance, however, to reserve your spot.

Do Yoga in the Park

An active group spirit takes over the Riverwalk Park Esplanade in downtown Fort Lauderdale every Monday and Wednesday evening at 6:30 p.m., when people looking both to unwind and exercise show up for complimentary, hour-long Cardio Mix classes

Seeing the flow of the Tarpon River (a branch of the New River) while you flow through the movements adds to the positive vibes.

Jazz Brunch by the River

things to do in Fort Lauderdale
Feel the groove at a jazzy brunch. (Photo: Alamy)

Every first Sunday of the month throughout the year, top local jazz acts take to three stages along Fort Lauderdale’s scenic Riverwalk, and locals descend with their picnic gear for a true Sunday fun day.

Vendors set up along the Riverwalk to sell beer and food during the alfresco jazz brunch, which runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. And you can, of course, bring your own picnic brunch and adult beverages, too.

Peer at the Planets

For all the bright lights of Fort Lauderdale, you don’t have to venture very far from town for a marvelous view of the Milky Way.

Every Wednesday night from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., the Buehler Planetarium at Broward College invites the public out to see what’s happening in the sky using their super-powered telescopes.

Marvel at Manatees

You could pay to see these gentle giants in a man-made lagoon at one of Florida’s many marine attractions or zoos. Or you could just head to Secret Woods Nature Center and stroll the trails and boardwalks over the south fork of the New River to spot manatees.

The animals are only seen here from around December through February, when they enter the river to escape colder water temperatures in the ocean. But it’s worth visiting this pristine, 60-acre nature preserve year-round to see all manner of wading birds, butterflies and snakes from the safety of the boardwalk.

Cruise on a Segway

things to do in Fort Lauderdale
Test your balance — and explore — on a Segway. (Photo: Getty Images)

“No balance, coordination or expertise needed,” says the website. What more motivation do you need to sign up for a free Segway lesson? They’re held in the safe environment of the sidewalk outside the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society.

Lessons last about 15 minutes and take place before or after Segway Fort Lauderdale’s scheduled tours (which do have a fee). All you have to do is call in advance to reserve your space for the lesson.

If you want to pay for a full tour, it’s a fun way to cruise the Riverwalk and get close to the area’s waterfront mansions in some of Fort Lauderdale’s prettiest neighborhoods. Riders must weigh at least 70 pounds to take part in the tours.

Ride the Riverwalk Water Trolley

With water everywhere, boats offer a fun and scenic way to get around Fort Lauderdale. And while you have to pay for the city’s water taxi , the water trolley won’t cost you a cent to ride when you board between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 11 p.m.

The bubble-windowed boat makes eight stops on the north and south sides of the New River, depositing you close to the restaurants, museums and entertainment districts along Las Olas Boulevard. Plus, there’s a free app where you can track the trolley’s movements in real time to minimize waiting time.