HollywoodBoardwalk270Here are eight free things to do in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to help make your trip an affordable family vacation.

1. Riverwalk: The site of Ft. Lauderdale’s first permanent settlement, Riverwalk is the heart and soul of downtown. Along this winding, red-brick walkway, you can get an ice cream (which is not free) or watch the river traffic.

2. SunTrust Sunday Jazz Brunch: On the first Sunday of every month, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Riverwalk comes alive with jazz and food. The best local jazz bands perform free concerts on four stages along the New River. Food is available for sale, or you can pack a picnic lunch and spread out along the river.

3. Outdoor art festivals: Virtually every weekend, Greater Ft. Lauderdale is filled with art and crafts festivals, including the legendary Las Olas Art Festival in early September. Depending on the festival, you can find the sublime and the ridiculous, or the traditional and the avant garde.

4. Swap Shop: By day, Swap Shop is the largest daily flea market in the world, with a farmer’s market featuring local produce, more than 2,000 vendors, an amusement park, a flea market with antiques, and eating options ranging from corn-dog stands to internationally-known restaurants. At night, it’s a 15-screen drive-in theater—again, the largest in the world. Swap Shop is open every day of the year.


5. The African-American Research Library and Cultural Center: This center is a general-service library, as well as a research facility and cultural center containing more than 75,000 books and related materials that focus on the experiences of people of African descent.

6. Anne Kolb Nature Center: Kayak through some of the park’s 1,500 acres of mangrove forests and marshes, wading through narrow passageways where the bramble from either side touches above your head. Launch your own boat for free or rent one of their canoes or single or double kayaks for $7 an hour or $13 for up to four hours. Call ahead at (954) 926-2480 to confirm.

7. The Old Dillard Museum: This museum promotes the proud heritage of African Americans in Broward County. It’s operated by the School Board of Broward County and is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

8. Plantation Historical Museum: See artifacts from the Seminole and Tequesta tribes, memorabilia from the Fire and Police departments or stroll through the butterfly garden. In December, the Historical Society creates a Winter Wonderland featuring trees decorated in many designs and cultures. Hours are 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.