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Fort Lauderdale on a Budget: Spend a Day on Las Olas Boulevard

I've lived in Fort Lauderdale for over 20 years now, and I want to share tips on how to enjoy my city without emptying your wallet!

Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Las Olas Boulevard, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Las Olas Boulevard Is for Everyone

If you've heard about this wonderful South Florida boulevard, the chances are that you've read about its exclusive boutiques, the gourmet restaurants overseen by celebrity chefs, the intimate and expensive galleries and a host of other features that make the area an ideal playground for the super-wealthy.

But if you're like me and on a budget, that doesn't mean that you can't enjoy the boulevard too. I've lived here for over twenty years now and I'm delighted to share with you some great ideas to help you enjoy our area without breaking the bank.

You'll have just as much fun and when you come to Fort Lauderdale, the boulevard is absolutely not to be missed. Let's start with how to get here.

The Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi

The Fort Lauderdale Water Taxi

Cruise the Venice of America in a Water Taxi

Since its early days, Fort Lauderdale has been known as the Venice of America. Scroll down to the map below and you'll see why. So it's only natural that the only way to travel throughout Fort Lauderdale. The concierge at your hotel will direct you to the nearest water taxi stop.

The boats arrive every fifteen minutes or so—you won't have long to wait—and the crew is invariably friendly and helpful. Many of the captains will tell you about points of interest as you travel, making this a sightseeing tour in addition to a budget-conscious mode of travel.

Tip: If you're intending to spend the day travelling extensively on the water taxi, ask about the all-day, unlimited travel pass. There are reduced rates for children and seniors. Also, retain your tickets as these entitle you to discounts at various Las Olas locations.

The Floridian diner

The Floridian diner

Hungry? Try Our Authentic American Diner

Now you've arrived at the boulevard, your first priority could well be breakfast and what better place than our traditional American diner? The Floridian first opened in the nineteen thirties and I don't think I've ever seen it closed. Even during hurricanes, it's been open, albeit boarded up against the weather.

The diner is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, so if you're looking for breakfast at ten in the morning, or in the early hours after partying, this is the place to go. Don't expect luxury—this is a diner after all—but believe me, this is and always has been a haunt for the rich and famous.

Tip: The Floridian works on a cash-only basis so be prepared. (There is an ATM in the diner but regular charges apply). Don't be fooled—many multi-million dollar deals have been concluded here; high-powered business people congregate here on a regular basis. You might also see celebrities, such is the popularity of this cheap and cheerful diner.

Colee Hammock Park

Colee Hammock Park

Visit Colee Hammock Park

Few visitors to Fort Lauderdale have been to Colee Hammock Park but this is the perfect place to sit and enjoy watching the boats go by. It's an historical area too—even before the first permanent settlers arrived in Fort Lauderdale, a massacre took place here. (But I've been here so many times and never seen ghosts!)

It's a wonderful place for a picnic lunch and there are several places nearby where you can buy excellent (budget) takeout food. You might have to share a little with the many squirrels who live there but that's cool.

This small park totally restores the spirits. Watch the boats go by and enjoy the ancient trees dripping with typically Floridian Spanish moss. This is truly a private oasis and yet is in the heart of Fort Lauderdale.

The Riverside Hotel

The Riverside Hotel

The Las Olas Village and Shops

The Floridian diner and Colee Hammock Park are in the eastern side of Las Olas—the area we call 'the village'. But as you move further west, you'll discover the shops of Las Olas. This is the area in which, should you have won the lottery recently, you could spend a fortune on artworks, antiques, wonderful clothing and expensive jewellery.

But that doesn't mean that there's nothing here for people who are on a budget. If you'd like a treat (and why not?) check out the wonderful bakeries, the ice cream parlours and of course, the window shopping.

If you have room for lunch after your magnificent Floridian breakfast, I recommend Mangos Restaurant and Lounge. Or take a look at the menu at the historic Riverside Hotel (pictured above) which also dates from the 1930s.

Fort Lauderdale's historic Stranahan House Museum

Fort Lauderdale's historic Stranahan House Museum

The Stranahan House: Where Fort Lauderdale Began

Just a few steps west of the Riverside Hotel, you'll find the building where Fort Lauderdale has its roots—the Stranahan House Museum. This is the preserved building which was the first permanent structure in our area, now the most wonderful museum.

The house was originally a trading post; Seminole Indians would paddle up the New River in their dugout canoes to trade furs and produce. Fort Lauderdale's first permanent settler, Frank Stranahan, was its founder and proprietor,

In 1900, he married the area's first schoolteacher—she was just a teenager when she first arrived here—and together they became known as the mother and father of Fort Lauderdale.

There is a fee to join one of the guided tours (at 1, 2 and 3 p.m. every day) but you can stroll in the gardens and grounds absolutely free, soaking up the atmosphere.

Shaded walkways on Las Olas Boulevard

Shaded walkways on Las Olas Boulevard

Other Points to Note

These might also interest you:

  • See the image above. The boulevard has many 'secret' breezeways and passageways. Keep your eyes open! These are wonderful places to sit in the shade or enjoy an ice cream or treat
  • Las Olas Boulevard is incredibly dog-friendly. All restaurants with outside dining areas will be pleased to accommodate your furry friend. Many businesses along the street have bowls of water for your thirsty dog
  • To the west of the boulevard, you'll find the Museum of Discovery and Science which is a wonderful attraction (as they say 'for children of all ages'). It also houses an IMAX theatre
  • A hidden gem just off Las Olas is Cinema Paradiso—an arthouse theatre that shows indie and foreign films and is the host of the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival in October every year
  • Las Olas Boulevard starts at the beach and ends at the Museum of Art. The distance between the two is just over two miles. It is a lovely walk but in warm weather, you can travel the boulevard on the Sun Trolley. Just watch for the bright red trolley and hail it as you would a cab
  • The boulevard is divided into four distinct areas. See below.
The Four Areas of Las Olas

The Four Areas of Las Olas

Experience the Four Areas of Las Olas

Modern, glamorous, quirky and luxurious, Fort Lauderdale has much to offer, but you have to know where to look!

1. The Modern Business District

Although we refer to the western side of the boulevard as the 'business district' there is still much to offer the visitor. The Museum of Art is well worth visiting (don't miss the lovely café) and you'll see public art in this area too. The modern architecture is fabulous, with many fountains and water features.

Tip: For breakfast or lunch, CJ's Café has budget-conscious, delicious daily specials.

2. The Shops

This is the area that most people think of when they recall their visit to the boulevard. The shops are mostly privately-owned (no chain stores) which means that they are highly individual. Many of the buildings here date from the 1930s and have a distinctly Mediterranean feel

Tip: For a splendid evening glass of wine, visit Preston's Bar in the Riverside Hotel. There's a lovely tropical garden there, which is great fun.

3. The Village

If you're familiar with Key West, then you'll know what I mean when I say that this part of the boulevard has the same feel to it. There are small, quirky stores plus great budget-conscious dining options. You'll find utilities here too, such as the post office, dry cleaners and our local chemist shop.

Tip: You'll find the best budget dining options in this area. Surroundings are unpretentious, but from pizza to tacos, you won't be disappointed

4. Millionaires' Row

It's in this area that you'll see the most luxurious waterfront home, many with their own sleek yachts moored right outside. There are also the Las Olas Isles—residential areas that mix multimillion-dollar homes with quirky Mid-Century Modern architecture. It's a lovely walk from here down to the beach.

Tip: Two of the Isles (Hendricks and Venice) offer waterfront vacation accommodation that might suit your budget . . . and what better location? Midway between Las Olas and the beach—perfect.

© 2014 Jackie Jackson

Comments

Jacque on January 13, 2018:

I am going to Fort Lauderdale in a couple of weeks! I am so excited! Thanks for the great tips.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 09, 2014:

Thanks so much @favored! It was such a lovely article to write because it's such a marvellous place :)

Fay Favored from USA on September 07, 2014:

I'm so proud of you! Way to go girl - Hub of the Day! Congratulations.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 06, 2014:

Thanks for dropping by @mySuccess8!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 06, 2014:

Hi @aerospacefan - somewhere you'd probably enjoy is the Museum of Discovery and Science. It's ostensibly for kids but I love the place!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 06, 2014:

Hi Dressage Husband - it wasn't a lens, it was written from scratch here.I'm still waiting for the transfer with bated breath! Thanks so much for your comments :)

mySuccess8 on September 05, 2014:

Another beautiful holiday destination revealed, thanks for sharing!

John Lannoye from Chicago on September 05, 2014:

Excellent hub. I am traveling to Ft. Lauderdale in a few months and am book-marking these tips. Excellent hub (just started following you!)

Stephen J Parkin from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada on September 05, 2014:

Good to see Giant Squid with the HOTD again! Was this one of your lenses? It looks great here. Wonderful photographs. Well done.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Thank you TJ! Be sure to come to Fort Lauderdale soon - it's wonderful :)

Tawnya from NE Ohio on September 05, 2014:

Nicely done, Jackie! I spend a great deal of summer time in Florida, but have never been to Ft. Lauderdale. Next year, I'm going to make sure I get there as well. Beautiful pictures.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

@junecampbell - let me know when you arrive :)

June Campbell from North Vancouver, BC, Canada on September 05, 2014:

You've done a remarkable job with this hub. I am ready to start packing right now!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Thanks so much @mumsgather! That's lovely to think that I'm an inspiration :)

mumsgather on September 05, 2014:

Congratulations on HOTD! That's an inspiration to all of us ex-Squidoo folks.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Hi rebekahELLE! Thank you so much for your comments and for the welcome. It's lovely to hear from a fellow-Floridian :) We used to go to St Pete quite a lot so I'm familiar with your lovely area. The book is truly amazing. It's so well-researched. It's quite astonishing to think that Fort Lauderdale was a tiny pioneer settlement a hundred and twenty years ago.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on September 05, 2014:

Wonderful hub! I used to live in Miami and we visited Ft. Lauderdale often. It is absolutely as gorgeous as you have shown here. The book about the early days sounds interesting. I love reading historical novels. We now live on the Gulf coast of Florida and it's beautiful over here. It's not quiet as crowded as the southern east coast of FL. Congrats on HOTD and welcome to HP!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Thanks Susan!

Susan Zutautas from Ontario, Canada on September 05, 2014:

Congrats on HOTD! WTG!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Thank you @Merrci - I hope when you visit again you'll call in and say hello :)

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Thank you so much @beliza!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

@Relationshipc - those are seagrapes - aren't they gorgeous? They become a wonderful purple colour when they are ripe. Apparently the early Fort Lauderdale residents used to eat them. They look so tempting but I've never been brave enough :)

Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on September 05, 2014:

Just back to say Congratulations on Hub of the Day!!!

Merry Citarella from Oregon's Southern Coast on September 05, 2014:

Great article, BritFlorida. It makes me want to visit Florida again. Congrats of Hub of the Day!

beliza on September 05, 2014:

Beautiful!

Kari on September 05, 2014:

Love the history of the place. What is that growing on the picture of the The Stranahan House?

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Blessed is definitely the word, @Nancy Owens. Thank you so much for visiting.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Thank you so much @ologinquito -I very much appreciate your support.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Thanks Deb! It's a wonderful place so easy to write about.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

Thank you Barbara! Come soon and we'll have a glass of wine on the deck :)

Nancy Owens from USA on September 05, 2014:

Congratulations on your Hub of the Day! I love the photos here. You are blessed to live in such a colorful place.

ologsinquito from USA on September 05, 2014:

Congratulations on HOTD. I truly enjoyed reading all of your articles on Squidoo.

debW07 on September 05, 2014:

Congratulations on Hub of the Day!! This is a visually pleasing piece with a great deal of useful information. Excellent!

Barbara Tremblay Cipak from Toronto, Canada on September 05, 2014:

Congratulations Jackie on HoTD! And you make me want to go back there for a holiday (beautiful photos)

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

@CatherineGiordano - thanks for dropping by. The photos were taken by my other half :)

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

@LindaSmith1 - I hope you make it here one day. It's a lovely area.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

@aka-rms - thanks for the congrats! When you visit, come and have a glass of wine with us :)

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on September 05, 2014:

@RTalloni - thank you. What a surprise! Sorry to make you homesick though :)

Jim from Kansas on September 05, 2014:

Sounds like a very interesting place to visit. Congratulations on HOTD.

Catherine Giordano from Orlando Florida on September 05, 2014:

Beautiful pictures and a terrific guide for a visitor.

LindaSmith1 from USA on September 05, 2014:

I lived in Floriday, but never made it to Fort Lauderdale.

Robin S from USA on September 05, 2014:

Looks like a fun place to explore the next time we get to Florida. Congratulations!

RTalloni on September 05, 2014:

Congrats on your Hub of the Day award for highlighting this beautiful place! Florida was my home and you've made me homesick. :)

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on August 25, 2014:

@esmonaco - thank you so much! I hope you make it back here soon. There are always changes but Fort Lauderdale remains wonderful :)

Eugene Samuel Monaco from Lakewood New York on August 25, 2014:

Jackie, Great advise and tips from you as always, Our daughter lived in Fort Lauderdale for 4 years, we always visited every Thanksgiving, would love to make another trip down :)

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on August 23, 2014:

It's wonderful. I hope you come here one day.

Angela F from Seattle, WA on August 22, 2014:

Sounds like a beautiful place to spend the day.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on August 22, 2014:

Yes, it's pretty busy! Especially at certain times of year. Thanks for reading!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on August 22, 2014:

Oh, you must try to. Jupiter isn't far away and you'll have a wonderful time here. There are some fabulous photo ops.

Mary Beth Granger from O'Fallon, Missouri, USA on August 22, 2014:

Thanks for a very informative lens. We stay in Jupiter each March so I will keep this place in mind for a day trip.

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on August 22, 2014:

It's fabulous and highly recommended. If you ever come out this way,let me know and I'll let you into even more wonderful places to go :)

Sylvia from Corpus Christi, Texas on August 22, 2014:

Wow...looks like a wonderful place for a vacay! The pictures are awesome.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on August 22, 2014:

As soon as I saw the title I had to read this. I lived in the Lauderdale area for many years (Boca, Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Wilton Manors, Ft. Lauderdale, Coral Springs, Hallandale) before I moved to Central Florida in 1987. I miss the true Florida charm of South Florida. It just got too busy for me, but it sure is pretty down there!

Jackie Jackson (author) from Fort Lauderdale on August 22, 2014:

Thank you! The best place in the world, I think :)

Maria Burgess from Las Vegas, Nevada on August 22, 2014:

I love your description of Ft. Lauderdale. It makes me miss Florida. Your pictures are amazing!