It may be the “Yacht Capital of the World,” but that doesn’t mean you have to sail in on a gigantic boat and drop a bunch of cash to have a fabulous Fort Lauderdale getaway. We’ve got your plan for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and everything in between with this quick guide to budget-friendly family attractions in sunny South Florida.
Start the Day Right
Feed your hungry crew and never hear a peep of complaint with a stop at Jet Runway Café. This eatery is right inside the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport, so you can watch the planes taxi and takeoff while you chow down. A few tried-and-true favorites here include the drool-worthy Nutella waffles and the gut-busting breakfast burrito.
Craving something a little different? Grab a cup of Cuban coffee, and fuel up for the day at 925 Nuevo’s Cubano’s, which has been serving some of the area’s best Cuban fare for breakfast and lunch for the past 40-plus years. Bonus: A hearty plate of scrambled eggs with ham, queso, and tostada will only set you back a little over $6.
Enjoy Some Pre-Naptime Fun
After breakfast, take a little time to explore some of Fort Lauderdale’s treasures before putting the kids down for a nap or heading to the beach. Kids age two and younger get in free at Butterfly World, the planet’s largest butterfly park. The kiddos will love all their new winged friends, and parents will love all the sweet photo ops at this Coconut Creek park — just 10 miles from downtown.
If you’d rather see the sights from the water, consider hopping on a water taxi for a little make-shift tour around the city known as the “Venice of America.” If you’re more in the mood for a little swashbuckling fun on the high seas, then set sail with BlueFoot Pirate Family Adventures. The buy-one-get-one-half-price ticket deal will make you say, “Ahoy, matey.”
Hit the Beach
Two things make Fort Lauderdale beaches the best: the soft white sand and the free admission. It’s all sun and games when you’re here, so get ready to relax on the sand and take a timeout to build sandcastles next to the roar of the surf. Time your visit to Deerfield Beach for Dawn Patrol — 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. every Saturday morning — and you can take advantage of free surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, and skim boarding lessons. Rather sleep in past sunrise? That’s OK too. The city’s home to about 23 miles of beaches just waiting for you to sink your toes into.
Fuel Up for the Afternoon
Breakfast may be the most important meal of the day, but lunch can be pretty epic, too. Fuel up before or after the beach at one of the city’s ever-present food trucks, including Nacho Bizness, a mobile taco bar slinging some of the tastiest pulled Korean pork, jerk chicken, and grilled veggie tacos you could hope to eat — and nachos, of course. But if you’re in it to win some parent popularity points, take the kids to Fresh First, where the almond butter and jelly sandwich is a tried-and-true fave.
Before you head to dinner and wind down for the night, explore a few of the other sights along the way. You can’t beat the free parking at Flamingo Gardens, where you can relax among the scenery and keep an eye out for Florida wildlife. It’s a 60-acre botanical garden and Everglade Wildlife Sanctuary as well as a great spot to spend a few hours of the day watching gators, peacocks, and (of course) flamingoes. The Museum of Discovery and Science is another local favorite where you can check out the latest IMAX movie, wander through exhibits, and even laugh at the antics of some otters.
There’s nothing like a day in Fort Lauderdale to work up an appetite. Thankfully, the portions at Mazzola’s Fine Italian Cuisine are huge. Snag a shrimp bruschetta to start, or share a pizza for a quick bite. Hopefully you save room for dessert at Jaxon’s Ice Cream Parlor and Restaurant, because this old-fashioned ice cream shop is too cute to miss. Tip: Split the Kitchen Sink Sundae — you’ll be full, but never sorry.
If you have a little pep left before you turn in, you could cap off the night with a visit to Buehler Planetarium and Observatory at Broward College. Free admission is sweet, and the kids will love gazing at the stars lighting up the Fort Lauderdale sky through the powerful telescope.
With so much to do and see, you can have a ball in South Florida without breaking your budget. Make sure you take oodles of family photos along the way and share them with us on Instagram.