Are you planning a trip to south Florida? You will want to make sure to be able to find some great free things to in Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood Beach! These cities make up a huge section of the southeastern coast of Florida. In this part of Florida, you have a totally different feel than the rest of the state. There are cities with vibrancy, busy streets, arts districts, clubs, festivals, while still having the common Florida features of palm trees and beautiful beaches. The water is SO clear in the southern part of the state, if you are visiting the are you will definitely want to get to the beach and hit the ocean!
Since the area is so big, I have split it into sections, from North to south, so that if you are navigating this area for the first time, you can know what may be within driving distance of you, and what may not. There is a map located at the bottom of the page as well that will help you to see what is close by. Be aware of peak traffic times when trying to get to some of these destinations.
1. Ft. Lauderdale Beaches
On the North side of Ft. Lauderdale, you will find the famous beach “Lauderdale-by-the-sea“. Whether you are here for the fishing or for the tourism, you will want to check this place out. At this location, you will find a stretch of beach with a reef just off shore that you can swim to! – which makes it a fantastic spot for diving. You will also find Anglin’s Fishing Pier, a historic pier popular for both fishing or for sightseeing. The pier is open 24 hours a day, has a bait shop on site, and extends 900 ft out into the Atlantic Ocean!
Heading south, you can visit the beach in Ft. Lauderdale right across from Hugh Taylor Birch State Park. This park is a state park with beautiful Florida scenery, trails, and an education center – The Terramar Education Center. The parking at the state park is $6 per car, and there is a tunnel access to get to the beach.
There are several other ares of this stretch of beach you can visit and use, including Ft. Lauderdale Beach Park, Las Olas Beach, and Earl Lifshey Ocean Park, and more. However, the two listed above are my favorite choices.
2. Downtown Ft. Lauderdale and Plantation
In the downtown area, you will find the Ft. Lauderdale Riverwalk. This is a stretch of city with shops and restaurants, with a view of the New River. A popular place to spend an afternoon and people watch or enjoy a cup of coffee (or lunch or dinner!). If you happen to be visiting on the first Sunday of the month, look for the Suntrust Sunday Jazz Brunch, a free concert. While you are at the river walk, you can also stop by Bubier Park, a park right along the water, which has a fountain and a green space for running and playing.
About 15 min south of the downtown are, you can find the Secret Woods Nature Center (pictured above). Here you can explore well maintained trails and boardwalks along the canals. It’s a urban wildlife area and it’s fairly close to get to from Davie, Dania Beach, or Ft. Lauderdale. They have a nature center for the kids with wildlife displays from the local area. Plus, shade!! Enjoy this little piece of nature while you are in the city!
Another fun and unique activity in Ft. Lauderdale, is one of the few remaining drive in movie theaters in the state. This theater is about 15 min from downtown. The Swap Shop Theater has a flea market in the same location as the drive in theater. Tickets are $7 for adults, and $2 for children’s 5-11.
If you happen to be in town on the first Thursday of the month, you can visit the NSU Art Museum for free (normally $12 for adults and free for children).
3. Dania Beach
Heading south towards Hollywood, there are a couple of day trip areas to choose from. One is the Dr. Von D. Mizeell Eula Johnson State Park. This is a beach side state park, with tons of undeveloped land right on the ocean. Access is $6 per car. Stop here if you are looking for some peace on the beach.
Dania Beach also has it’s own fishing pier going out into the ocean, plenty of beach accesses, and it is close to Anne Kolb Nature Preserve, which has free admission. The preserve has a large network of trails and boardwalks through the mangroves. You can get a great view of the park from their observation tower. The preserve also offers a gift shop and small nature center and boat tours! The pontoon boat tours are $5 for adults and $3 for children. If you don’t want to take a tour you can launch your own boat or kayak here as well.
4. Hollywood Beach
Another spot to use your boat, kayak or paddle board is at West Lake Park in Hollywood Beach. This park has a beautiful and large lake to boat or paddle around. It also has a playground, tennis courts, trails, biking paths, more! Their entrance fee is $1.50 on weekends and holidays, but free during the week.
Also in Hollywood Beach take a short or long walk along Hollywood Beach Broadwalk, (not to be mistaken for boardwalk!). The broadwalk is a large street that runs along the water with views of the beach. Along this road, you will see many cute shops for window shopping and interesting restaurants. You can walk or there is even a bike lane! There are three parks along the 2.5 mile stretch as well! Hop on the free electric shuttle, called the Sun Shuttle if you are staying in the area or just want to take a ride around. The shuttle route takes you to and from downtown Hollywood, US 1, and Hollywood Beach.
Downtown Hollywood is known for their historic district and the Arts Park at Young Circle. The Arts Park has a playground, splash pad, live glass blowing demonstrations and more. This is a fun place to walk around and you can also check out Hollywood’s mural project in this area of town, where many artists have put up displays. You can find the mural map here.
That about sums it up for the best of budget friendly in the Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood area! Have a suggestion? Just email us! If you are more of a nature buff than a city person, you can travel about 45 min or so west of Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood to the Florida Everglades. I will be adding a section about this area on its own separate page! Also, don’t miss our page on nearby West Palm Beach!