Bucket List Worthy Let's Save Some Dough
Fort Lauderdale’s luxurious beach resorts and five-star dining options might not scream “budget vacation destination,” but yacht rides and expensive spa retreats aren’t all this coastal city boasts. These 15 activities under $20 will ensure you experience the best that Fort Lauderdale and its surrounding areas have to offer without breaking your budget.
All day passes for the Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi run over the $20 mark, but that doesn’t mean you have to count out this experience. Hop aboard the taxi after 5 p.m. for the discounted “moonlight madness” rate, and you’ll enjoy unlimited rides in Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood for $15.
Just a few minutes south of Fort Lauderdale — in the town of Hollywood — you’ll find the ArtsPark at Young Circle. Sculptures, fountains, an innovative playground, a visual arts pavilion and plenty of park activities provide a creative, fun-filled afternoon for the whole family. And you can find some of the tastiest cheap eats in the area when food trucks invade the ArtsPark on Mondays between 5:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Jet ski and surfboard rentals can empty your pockets pretty quickly, but boogie boarding provides all of the wave-riding fun you’ve been seeking without the high price tag. Aloha Watersports rents professional-style Morey boogie boards to get you out in the water and keep you safe in the south Florida waves.
Cost: $15 for 60 minutes
Travel and Leisure chose Hollywood’s boardwalk as one of the best in America, and for good reasons too. This 4-kilometer-long, paved boardwalk is the perfect place to grab a bite to eat or browse its beachy shops. Three oceanfront parks with water fountains and playgrounds make it a fun place for the kids too.
Cost: Free (as long as you don’t go overboard on the shopping)
Cruise a little bit south of Hollywood to watch world-class thoroughbred horse racing at Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino in Hallandale Beach. Races take place Thursday through Sunday, so bring your good-luck charms and a few extra dollars for betting.
Cost: $12 indoor betting carrel, $8 indoor TV carrel, $3 indoor carrel
The Atlantic Coast Kayak Company offers some of the most affordable kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals in the Fort Lauderdale area. Launch at their Richardson Park site in Wilton Manors, Fla., and spend an hour observing giant iguanas, manatees, rare birds and some of the area’s most beautiful scenery.
Cost: $16 for one hour (kayak or paddleboard)
Surf lessons in the Fort Lauderdale area aren’t cheap. But you can avoid the $50 (and up) learn-to-surf price tags by registering for free lessons with Island Water Sports on Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. Register on the Island Water Sports website before your visit to take advantage of their free morning surf, skim and paddleboard lessons.
You don’t have to be a car buff to enjoy your time at the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum; although, you may be one when you leave. The museum bares a striking resemblance to a 1920s Packard Motor Company showroom, and it is home to over 22 Packard cars (and tons of memorabilia) from the 1900s to the 1940s.
Cost: $8 per person
Flamingo Gardens is one of Florida’s most amazing wildlife sanctuaries with more than 90 species of animals native to the state, breathtaking botanical gardens and a 1930s Wray Home Museum. Bring your camera for alligator, otter, bob cat, black bear, eagle and tons of flamingo sitings.
Cost: $18 ages 12 and up, $15 ages 65 and up, $10 ages 3-11
A day at a water park rarely runs less than $20 per person, but Paradise Cove — at the C.B. Smith park in Pembroke Pines — maintains an unbelievable affordable price. The park features numerous water slides, two water playgrounds, a lazy river and plenty of places to relax in the shade.
Cost: $9.50 per person (all day admission)
Airboat rides are some of the most exciting and popular ways to tour the Florida Everglades. Hop aboard a 30-minute tour at the Sawgrass Recreation Park and skim across the water as you learn about the area’s unique ecosystem.
Cost: $19.50 ages 13 and up, $10 ages 4-12
Soaking in the rays on the beach doesn’t cost a dime, but when you’ve had enough of the sun, stroll over to Fort Lauderdale’s famous Beachfront Boardwalk. Grab a bite to eat, browse the shops, catch some live music or simply cruise this stretch of A1A (on foot, bike or roller blades) taking in the non-stop action.
When you’re too sunburned to hit the beach or are looking for an activity the whole family will love, Boomer’s offers indoor and outdoor activities from bowling and mini golf to bumper boats, laser tag and fun family rides.
Cost: $19.99 for the Starter Value Pack (tickets to three attractions)
No bargain shopper’s trip to Fort Lauderdale is complete without a visit to the largest flea market in the South. Haggle for low prices on goods from around the world, shop for fresh produce, enjoy some cheap eats or catch a movie at the drive-in theater. Don’t forget to bring cash, because it’s needed for the drive-in and many of the vendors.
Cost: Flea Market – free, drive-in theater – $7 per person
The Anne Kolb Nature Center isn’t just one of Florida’s largest urban parks, it’s home to a 13,249-liter aquarium, a 21-meter-tall observation tower, a hands-on EcoRoom, a fishing pier along the Intracoastal Waterway and tons of other indoor and outdoor activities. Hiking, biking and boat trails make it an adventure oasis away from the beach.
Cost: Free on weekdays, $1.50 per person on weekends and holidays