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South Florida isn’t exactly synonymous with a cheap vacation, but in the Fort Lauderdale area, you’ll find a surprising number of free and inexpensive activities that don’t skimp on fun. Here are some of the town’s best affordable attractions. 

RELATED: 5 unforgettable Florida road trips for every personality

Bonnet House is gorgeous inside and out. | Photo: Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

It’s easy being green

The waterfront Bonnet House Museum and Gardens is one of Fort Lauderdale’s must-do attractions. The 1920’s estate includes a mansion, art museum, gallery and more. But if the $20 admission price isn’t in your budget, you can feel rich when you spend $10 to see only the gardens, which include tropical landscapes, a rotating collection of orchids and the occasional manatee in the nearby canal.

Rent a canoe, and explore the mangrove trails near the Anne Kolb Nature Center. | Photo: Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Back to nature

Get away from the noise with a visit to the Anne Kolb Nature Center, which is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. Paddle through mangrove wetlands, take the elevator to the top of the observation tower for a view of the Atlantic Ocean and on weekends, observe a feeding in the exhibit hall’s giant aquarium.

Take a free ride

Not only is the Riverwalk Water Trolley one of the most fun ways to get around town, but it won’t cost you a dime. The water taxi runs daily along the New River, allowing passengers to hop on and off near the city’s most popular attractions.

Paint the town

If you like Miami’s Wynwood Walls, then be sure to check out the Downtown Hollywood Mural Project. This is the largest walkable mural scene in Broward County, featuring buzzworthy artists from South Florida and across the world. Stroll through the area anytime, or swing by on the third Saturday evening of the month for a guided tour and a chance to see the artists at work.

When Mother Nature foils your plans, the Museum of Discovery and Science is a great way to occupy the kids | Photo: MODS.

Discover the great indoors

The Museum of Discovery and Science makes a great contingency plan for families on a rainy (or too hot) summer day. Tickets cost $16 for adults and $13 for kids, but with two floors of hands-on exhibits and an IMAX theater ($8 adults/$6 kids), the all-day fun is well worth the price of admission. Plus, from May 1 to September 30, 2018, take advantage of 2-for-1 Summer Savings offers at MODS and dozens of other South Florida attractions.

ALSO: Earn CheapCash, good towards hotels, only with CheapTickets!

Hooray for Hollywood

The Hollywood Beach Broadwalk is your destination for people-watching. The 2.5-mile oceanfront thoroughfare is lined with cafes, boutiques and live entertainment, attracting joggers, bikers and pedestrians. Getting there is easy; ride the Hollywood Trolley with $1 fares between the beach and downtown.

In da house

Get up to speed on Fort Lauderdale’s history with a visit to the Historic Stranahan House Museum. Built in 1901 by businessman Frank Stranahan and his education activist wife, Ivy, the home offers a glimpse into pioneer life. Friendly, knowledgeable tour guides make the experience well worth the $12 admission fee.

Nightlife meets the arts at FATVillage. Credit FATVillage.

Get FAT

On the last Saturday night of each month (excluding December), head to the four-block creative district north of downtown to visit art galleries, watch artists working in their studios, browse the prop warehouse and catch live performances in the street or in one of two theaters. The kid- and pet-friendly Flagler Arts and Technology Village art walk, better known as FATVillage, happens rain or shine.

Chic street

There’s always something happening on Las Olas Boulevard, the main artery of Fort Lauderdale’s shopping and dining scene. Browse the art galleries, clothing boutiques and jewelry stores, then grab a coffee and a croissant at one of the many sidewalk cafes, and watch the beautiful people go by.

Retail therapy

Bargain hunters, don’t miss the deals at Sawgrass Mills—the largest outlet mall in the United States. This shopper’s paradise features more than 350 stores, including Calvin Klein, Under Armour, Tory Burch and So. Many. More.

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Tagged: Beach, Cheap City, USA, City, Family, Florida, FREE!

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Las vegas hotels
Even if you’re on a budget, you can make travel plans to celebrate New Year’s Eve in style. CheapTickets has unveiled the top five cities for New Year’s Eve celebrations and nearby destination alternatives for cheap New Year’s Eve hotels.

From big cities to the beach, you can join the party and save big on your travel budget by staying just a little bit further from the action. The top New Year’s Eve destinations and cheap hotel alternatives are based on hotel bookings on CheapTickets for arrivals December 27-31, 2008. Check out the average daily rates for the big cities versus the alternatives.

TOP NEW YEAR’S EVE DESTINATIONS AND ALTERNATIVES FOR CHEAP HOTELS

  1. Las Vegas Strip $154.50 / Las Vegas off-Strip $137.42
  2. New York City $256.53 / Newark, NJ $80.95
  3. Orlando, FL $93.43 / Kissimmee $75.32
  4. Cancun, Mexico $289.74 / Cozumel $165.71
  5. Miami Beach $197.22 / Ft. Lauderdale $91.81

LAS VEGAS STRIP/OFF-STRIP: If you’re planning to ring in 2009 in Las Vegas, booking one of the Las Vegas hotels off the Strip can save you up to 11 percent. Just take a quick cab ride downtown to partake in the New Year’s fireworks and live music on the Strip and at the Fremont Experience.

NEW YORK CITY/NEWARK: Newark is just a short train ride from Times Square, so you can take the train to see the ball drop and save an average of 68 percent on your hotel room.

MIAMI/FT. LAUDERDALE: Miami’s New Year’s Eve celebration is better than ever with Bayfront
Park’s free fireworks show, the annual Big Orange Festival — which
drops a 35-foot orange ball to a laser show and fireworks. Stay in one of the Fort Lauderdale hotels just 30 minutes away and celebrate average hotel savings of 53 percent.

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Tagged: City

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‘Tis the season for holiday travel. And while that may bring visions of flight delays and long security lines, don’t despair. CheapTickets wants to spread some holiday cheer. We’ve compiled a list of free holiday events in a selection of cities across the country, and we’re sharing them here in a two-part series. Consider it our holiday gift to you.

If you’ve got airline tickets and hotel reservations for one of these warm-weather destinations, you’ll have plenty of ways to celebrate:

Los angeles hotels
LOS ANGELES

  • The Light of the Angels: This seven-minute multimedia light display runs nightly December 4-31 at 7, 8, 9 and 10 p.m. at NOKIA Plaza. A key feature of the program is a 37,500-pound tree with 11,000 lights.
  • Marina del Ray Holiday Boat Parade: A fireworks show kicks off the event just before 6 p.m.; then boats decorated with lights circle through the harbor. December 13.
  • DWP Light Festival: From Thanksgiving weekend to the end of December, this mile-long Crystal Springs Drive route in Griffith Park turns into L.A.’s most awesome display of holiday lighting. Open 5 -10 p.m.

SAN DIEGO — San Diego has a ready list of 25 free activities for holiday travelers to enjoy. Here are a few highlights:

  • Coronado Christmas Open House and Parade: Santa arrives by ferry, and a concert follows the parade.
  • Balboa Park: Free organ concerts with holiday music. Sundays at 2 p.m. at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. And don’t miss the "Whoville" decorations outside the Old Globe Theater in honor of the production "How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
  • La Jolla Christmas Parade and Festival: December 7
  • Mission Bay Christmas Boat Parade of Lights: Over 100 brightly lit boats parade along Mission Bay. December 13
  • Horse-drawn carriage rides: In Escondido. December 1, 8, 15, and 22; 5-9 p.m.

NEW ORLEANS

  • Cathedral Christmas Concerts: Local choirs perform holiday music in the historic St. Louis Cathedral in Jackson Square. Select evenings at 6 p.m. from December 1-22.
  • Cooking Demonstrations: Celebrated local chefs share their secrets for making delicious recipes. Select days at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m. December 2-20.

FORT LAUDERDALE

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Tagged: City, FREE!

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Cheapflights
Airfare to cities across the U.S. and Puerto Rico is on sale. AirTran Airways is offering cheap flights for fall and winter travel. So if you want to take a vacation, check out airfares like these:

  • Atlanta to San Juan: $244
  • Chicago to Miami: $204
  • New York to West Palm Beach: $184
  • Minneapolis-St. Paul to Dallas/Fort Worth: $264
  • Denver to Fort Lauderdale: $284

These cheap flights don’t include taxes and are for round-trip travel through January 30, 2009.

You could plan a long weekend in Los Angeles, or a relaxing getaway in Phoenix. No matter where you want to travel, you’ll save on airfare with this sale from AirTran and CheapTickets.

Hurry, sale ends October 14.

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Tagged: City, Flights, FREE!, Limited-time Offers

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The holiday travel season is fast approaching, and if you’re planning to head out of town for Thanksgiving or take a Christmas vacation, take note: CheapTickets has identified the top 10 holiday travel destinations for 2008.

The list includes a mix of big cities and beach vacation destinations, with Florida and Mexico cities grabbing the most spots. According to CheapTickets’ data, Las Vegas hotels are the most popular for holiday travel, while travelers also have booked plenty of rooms in New York hotels and Cancun hotels.

Travel deal alert: Average rates are less than $100 at Las Vegas hotels, Orlando hotels and Fort Lauderdale hotels.

Check out these popular travel spots and average daily hotel rates.

CheapTickets’ 10 Most Popular Holiday Getaways
1. Las Vegas / $97.74 6. Riviera Maya, Mexico / $284.21
2. New York City / $273.95 7. Miami, Fla. / $134.49
3. Cancun, Mexico / $194.62 8. Chicago, Ill. / $135.52
4. Orlando, Fla. / $83.80 9. Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / $87.02
5. Oahu, Hi. / $151.08 10. Puerto Vallarta, Mexico / $155.18

The data is based on the average price for all hotel bookings on CheapTickets compared to the listed destinations for arrivals November 24 – December 31, 2008.

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Tagged: City, International, Tips & advice

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Lauderdaleblog
Travel to Fort Lauderdale this fall and enjoy specials at your favorite restaurants.

Dine Out Lauderdale, a six-week food fest, features three-course menus for just $35 at participating restaurants.

Jackson’s Steakhouse and 15th Street Fisheries are just some of the Fort Lauderdale restaurants offering specials during Dine Out Lauderdale. You also could try restaurants in several Fort Lauderdale hotels. 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott is serving a lobster appetizer, followed by seared yellowtail snapper and banana creme brulee. The Grill Room on Las Olas at the Riverside Hotel is offering a choice of duck, red snapper or filet mignon, with chocolate truffle torte for dessert. See the full list of participating restaurants.

Dine Out Lauderdale includes restaurants in Hollywood, Dania Beach and other area communities. The event runs from October 1 to November 14.

Here’s a tip: CheapTickets’ Fall Beach Sale offers an extra $100 off beach vacation packages of four nights or more, so you can save even more on your Fort Lauderdale vacation.

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Tagged: City, Events, FREE!

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By Heather Leisman

This week’s Deal of the Day is in Fort Lauderdale, a hot Florida vacation spot with beautiful beaches, and also great shopping, theater and art galleries.

One of the Fort Lauderdale hotels we’re highlighting is the three-star Inverrary Vacation Resort. Right now the hotel is offering 20% off its rates when you stay for two or more nights. I found discounted rates for $55 per night September 26-29.

Plus, with our Fall Beach Sale, you can save an extra $100 on flight + hotel vacation packages of four nights or more. Just book your vacation by November 23 and use the promotional code FALLBEACH100.

And for more about what makes the Inverrary Vacation Resort this week’s pick among Fort Lauderdale hotels, check out my video.

CheapTickets resources:

Heather Leisman is senior director of merchandising for CheapTickets.

Tagged: City, FREE!, Off-season

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Finding cheap hotels just got easier. CheapTickets has identified ten beach vacation destinations where you can get great rates on hotels this fall.

CheapTickets’ Fall 2008 Off-Season Deals include top vacation spots in Florida, Mexico, Hawaii and the Caribbean . You could take the family to Orlando, explore historic downtown Puerto Rico or enjoy the beautiful beaches and lush landscape of Maui. So if the fall chill starts to make you miss summer weather, just check out the low rates at hotels in these hot spots.

The top ten off-season destinations and average daily hotel rates in the table below are based on hotel bookings on CheapTickets for travel from August 18 through December 17, 2008.

Top Fall 2008 Off-Season Travel Destinations
1. Fort Lauderdale, Fla. / $77.91 6. Riviera Maya, Mexico / $219.25
2. Miami, Fla. / $110.10 7. Maui, Hi / $177.46
3. Puerto Rico / $143.27 8. San Diego, Calif. / $111.32
4. Cancun, Mexico / $166.13 9. Jamaica / $172.44
5. Orlando, Fla. / $69.03 10. Oahu, Hawaii / $129.10

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Tagged: City, FREE!, International, Off-season

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Offseasonblog
When are cheap hotels even cheaper? When you book them during a less-than-popular travel time. And now CheapTickets reveals these travel deals just in time for your summer vacation.

The CheapTickets 2008 Summer Off-season Travel Report highlights destinations in Florida, the Southwest and The Bahamas with savings of up to 56 percent (based on hotel bookings for May 30 – August 15, compared to average monthly rates).

Grand Bahama Island, with its white sand beaches and tropical vibe, is a great travel deal in the summer. One of the Grand Bahama hotels where you can save is the Sheraton at Our Lucaya Beach and Golf Resort. CheapTickets found rates of $90 a night for August 4-7.

Phoenix, Arizona, known for its golf courses, spas and stunning scenery, can be a cheap vacation destination in the summer.  The Carefree Resort and Villas is one of the Phoenix hotels with low summer rates. CheapTickets found rates of $67 a night when you travel July 14-17.

For a cheap Florida vacation this summer, Fort Lauderdale may be a good pick. This sunny city has golf, nightlife and miles of beaches, and hotel savings averaging 34 percent in the off season. One of the Fort Lauderdale hotels with low summer rates is the Fort Lauderdale Grande Hotel and Yacht Club, where CheapTickets found rates of $99 a night for July 23-26.

CheapTickets resources:

Tagged: FREE!, Limited-time Offers, Off-season, Tips & advice