SOUTHEAST FLORIDA:
SUN, SAND and Sizzle

BY KARA FRANKER

SouthEast Florida Tourism Guide

Whether you’re searching for a laid-back beach town, a bustling big city or your own private island, Southeast Florida appeals to every type of traveler. While well-known areas such as West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and Key West continue to draw crowds, there are plenty of hidden locales for those who prefer to venture off the beaten path.

WHAT’S NEW

A number of new hotels, restaurants and shopping destinations are opening across Southeast Florida.

On the luxe end, Four Seasons is introducing new properties in Miami Beach in 2016 and in Fort Lauderdale in 2018 adding to an already impressive existing portfolio featuring hotels in Palm Beach and Miami. A new Starwood’s Aloft property opens in Coral Gables in 2016 and new hotels have already opened in Brickell, Doral and South Beach.

Downtown Miami’s skyline continues to evolve with the addition of massive commercial construction projects, including new venues such as the cutting-edge home of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science in Museum Park next to the Pérez Art Museum Miami. Over the next few years, expect a wealth of new shopping opportunities and hotels with the addition of Brickell City Centre scheduled to open in fall 2016 and Miami Worldcenter set to break ground in late 2015.

Adding to the trendy neighborhoods of Wynwood and the Miami Design District, a resurgence is happening in the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, where you’ll find the Vagabond Hotel, a hip restored relic from the 1950s. MiMo, short for Miami Modern, describes a design aesthetic unique to Miami that was influenced by American fascination with futurism, jets and space exploration.

The City of Doral is getting a major update with an influx of retail projects, restaurants and a project called CityPlace Doral. The development will include more than 20 new restaurants, shopping, a movie theater, bowling alley and luxury residences. The project is similar to the CityPlace West Palm Beach, where you’ll find a variety of boutiques and dining locales.

On a more somber note, the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center is a highly anticipated institution scheduled for construction in Dania Beach.

For those looking to cruise the open water in 2016, the Port of Palm Beach and Pearl Sea Cruises will be launching a 10-day cruise to Cuba.

Much of South Florida and the Florida Keys offer a lively LGBT community and culture, especially Key West, South Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Key West’s street scene became even more colorful in 2015 when the City of Key West installed four permanent rainbow crosswalks at the intersection of Duval and Petronia streets in the heart of the island’s LGBT entertainment district. The project marks the first time in Florida that all four corners of an intersection have been connected with rainbow crosswalks.

ARTS AND CULTURE

Offering a wealth of art and cultural experiences ranging from historic museums and tropical gardens to live music and performing arts, there’s no shortage of things to do.

Brimming with artistic flair and a vibrant artist community, Key West’s cultural institutions, like the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, offer glimpses into a nostalgic place and time of this Nobel Prize winner’s writing career in Florida. Originally built as a carriage house in 1829, the Red Barn Theatre is a cultural cornerstone in Key West. Take another step back into time at the Audubon House & Tropical Gardens, originally built by the Geiger family in the 1840s. Nearby, the historic Old Post Office and Customs House currently serves as the Key West Museum of Art & History, which showcases exhibits on local history, famous personalities, maritime history and works by local artists.

Visit the Harry S. Truman Little White House, once a naval station’s command headquarters, which served as the winter home for the late President. The Mel Fisher Maritime Museum features interesting archaeological artifacts, such as Spanish coins and memorabilia, pulled from the depths of the sea.

In Islamorada, visit the Morado Way Arts and Cultural District for a variety of hands-on pottery classes, educational seminars as well as the Third Thursday ArtWalk featuring artists, vendors and entertainment.

Miami is filled to the brim with a never-ending list of museums, art institutions and live music venues. Head to American Airlines Arena in the downtown area for live concerts by major recording artists. Or catch an entertaining show at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County, the largest performing arts center in Florida.

Located in Museum Park in downtown Miami, the Pérez Art Museum Miami is Florida’s contemporary hub, which showcases art from around the world, as well as western pieces, including photographs, paintings and sculptures. All artwork is from the 1940s onwards, including locally inspired art, which reflects Miami’s diverse and culturally rich background. Also in Museum Park, the recently opened Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science (formerly known as the Miami Science Museum) features interactive science exhibits, a planetarium, the Weintraub Observatory, a Sea Lab and the Falcon Batchelor Bird of Prey Center.

Broward County is home to its fair share of art and cultural institutions. Catch a play or concert at the Broward Center for Performing Arts, the Stage Door Theatre, the Parker Playhouse and others. All have been bringing in great live performances for years. View some of the hottest musical acts in the world at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. The popular venue hosts everyone from classic rockers to comedians and talk show hosts.

In Delray Beach, visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens and the Delray Beach Center for the Arts at Old School Square to get a taste of local art and culture. From January 14 through April 17, 2016, the Cornell Museum of Art WILD exhibit features internationally recognized artists whose contemporary works are inspired by nature and illustrate the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Visit the Arts Garage in Delray Beach for a variety of theater productions, performing arts classes and a contemporary art gallery. The Boca Raton Museum of Art in Mizner Park houses an array of rotating exhibits and a combination of modern and contemporary art collections. The Wick Theatre & Costume Museum hosts a collection of shows as well as the nation’s largest collection of original Broadway wardrobes.

In Palm Beach County, the Cultural Council serves as the centerpiece for the art and cultural community, offering endless tips for planning your trip. Built in 1902 on the eastern bank of Lake Worth in Palm Beach, Whitehall was Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age winter retreat. Today, it is the Henry Morrison Flagler Museum, a National Historic Landmark, which offers guided tours, changing exhibits and special programs.

Just across the Intracoastal Waterway in West Palm Beach, the Kravis Center for Performing Arts showcases hundreds of annual performances featuring famous artists from a variety of disciplines and features organizations such as the highly acclaimed Palm Beach Opera. Nearby, the Norton Museum of Art, founded in 1941, remains one of Florida’s major cultural institutions. Renowned internationally for its distinguished permanent collection of American, Chinese, Contemporary and European art as well as photography, its masterpieces of 19th- and 20th-century painting and sculpture include works by Brancusi, Gauguin, Matisse, Miró, Monet, Picasso, Davis, Hassam, Hopper, Manship, O’Keeffe, Pollock and Sheeler. Special exhibitions, lectures, tours and programs for adults and children are scheduled throughout the year. Also near downtown West Palm Beach on the Intracoastal Waterway, the Ann Norton Sculpture Garden features the historic home, artist’s studio and gardens of Ann Weaver Norton as well as more than 100 works by the American sculptor.

BEACHES

Get ready for year-round perfect weather and lazy beach days.

One of the most impressive stretches of sand in the Florida Keys is Bahia Honda State Park, located between the historic Seven Mile Bridge and Big Pine Key. Spend the day snorkeling among schools of brightly colored fish in crystal-clear water.

Miami is home to a number of picturesque beaches, including the most famous stretch of South Beach that lines Ocean Drive. The southernmost part of South Beach is where you’ll find the 100-year-old, newly rebuilt South Pointe Park Pier, which offers panoramic views of PortMiami, where Biscayne Bay meets the Miami River. Cruise ships regularly traverse this route and it’s the perfect spot for a family photo with the sparkling seas in the background. Also located in Miami, Key Biscayne is just seven miles from the mainland. Spend the day at the beach at Crandon Park located on the northern part of the island, or cross through the village to find Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park and an historic lighthouse offering spectacular views from the top.

Famous for its beachfront Broadwalk, Hollywood Beach is an entertainment destination with shops, restaurants and plenty to do. It’s also the home to the brand new Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort. A small beach village offering a welcoming atmosphere and artistic vibe, the beach at Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is where you’ll find a popular fishing pier, a handful of local shops and a colorful collection of Adirondack chairs.

Among the most popular in Florida, Fort Lauderdale Beach runs the length of North Atlantic Boulevard and features a wide variety of towering hotels, great dining venues and palm-fringed sandy havens.

Stroll down Delray Beach’s popular Atlantic Avenue at the end of which you’ll discover a wide stretch of public beach. Delray Municipal Beach offers ample parking, volleyball courts and water sport rentals.

A great spot for families, Jupiter Beach Park features picnic areas, a sand volleyball court and impressive views of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum.

DINING AND NIGHTLIFE

Florida offers excellent dining and entertainment options, from upscale restaurants with celebrity chefs at the helm to laid-back beach bars where you can listen to live music and sip on a cocktail or two.

Eat to your heart’s content at a number of restaurants throughout the Florida Keys and know you’re dining on the freshest seafood available. The Dock to Dish Key West, which operates as a community-supported fishery and community seafood market, promotes sustainability and the livelihoods of local fisherman.

For the ultimate sunset celebration experience and a view that spans for miles, order a few tropical drinks at the Sunset Pier overlooking Mallory Square and then dine on a fine selection of broiled lobster, Key West pink shrimp and Latin-braised short rib at Hot Tin Roof, located inside the Ocean Key Resort & Spa. Or, enjoy dinner, live music at the piano bar and an entertaining cabaret show at LaTeDa on Duval Street.

Tucked away in Safe Harbor Marina on nearby Stock Island, a few miles from the tourist crowds of Key West, the Hogfish Bar & Grill is for real seafood lovers. Unless you live here, you only find this hidden gem on a tip from a local. Dining here is to experience the way the Florida Keys used to be—fresh seafood, strong drinks, waterfront views, outdoor dining and plenty of local characters.

Miami has long been known for its impressive variety of fine-dining options. Located at the luxe Mandarin Oriental Miami, La Mar by Gaston Acurio offers authentic Peruvian cuisine and stunning views. Situated in the heart of the bustling Brickell area of Miami, head to the Edge Steakhouse and Bar at the Four Seasons for happy-hour specials followed by Chef Aaron Brooks’ delectable farm-to-table dinner menu items sourced from local farms. A mainstay for more than 100 years, Joe’s Stone Crab is a must on Miami Beach.

Dine at Bianca in the famous Delano hotel. The Rose Bar in the same hotel is a popular choice for cocktails before heading out to nearby clubs on South Beach. For the late night revelers, go for bottle service at Hyde Beach at SLS South Beach followed by a visit to LIV nightclub at the glamorous Fontainebleau hotel.

In Hallandale Beach, the Village at Gulfstream Park offers its own sizzling entertainment scene including a casino, shops, racing and scheduled events. Don’t miss the giant Pegasus statue on the way into the village.

Fort Lauderdale is developing into quite the foodie scene. Mainstays such as Casa D’Angelo (there’s another location in Boca Raton) offer expertly constructed Italian dishes prepared with the freshest ingredients. Himmarshee Public House in Fort Lauderdale serves up old American comfort food such as slow-cooked meatballs with whipped ricotta and local basil, as well as classic cocktails like the “Smoking” Sangria Mystique. The charming Beauty and the Feast Bar|Kitchen sits on a prime piece of real estate inside the Atlantic Hotel & Spa directly across from Fort Lauderdale Beach. Order a combination of flavorful small plates and family-style dishes to share. Nearby at the W Fort Lauderdale, Steak 954 offers a lip-smacking selection of perfectly aged steaks and fresh raw bar items. The restaurant’s glow-in-the-dark neon jellyfish tank is quite the showstopper. At night, the hotel’s Whiskey Blue turns into a nightlife venue with signature cocktails and a dance floor. For a laid-back bar scene with panoramic views, visit the newly renovated Shooters Waterfront.

Delray Beach is home to crowd favorites such as Boston’s on the Beach (casual), 50 Ocean (upscale) and The Sandbar (happy hour and nightlife hot spot), all of which offer breathtaking views of the ocean and are located within walking distance to the shops and galleries along Atlantic Avenue.

In Palm Beach, Café Boulud is the brainchild of celebrity chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud. Reserve well in advance to ensure you score a table at this trendy venue or at the neighboring Buccan with chef Clay Conley at the helm. Enjoy a fresh take on Italian cuisine along with innovative cocktails at Jové Kitchen & Bar at the Four Seasons Palm Beach. Dine al fresco to the sounds of crashing waves or inside the restaurant’s elegant interior.

Las Guanabanas, a waterfront restaurant and bar in Jupiter, has become an institution in northern Palm Beach County. You can’t beat the freshly caught seafood dishes, tropical atmosphere, water views and nightly live music.

FAMILY ENTERTAINMENT

For exciting animal encounters, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters is a conservation center located on the island of Marathon that offers guided park tours as well as tarpon and shark feedings.

Heading northward to Miami, take time to visit Zoo Miami just north of Homestead. Another proven family favorite is Jungle Island located east of downtown Miami. Formerly known as Parrot Jungle, this zoological park allows visitors to get up and close and personal with animals from around the globe, including Hercules, the 900-pound liger (a cross between a lion and a tiger). One highlight of Jungle Island is the park’s “Everglades Habitat & Walk,” a hands-on experience where guests explore a recreation of Florida’s Everglades, complete with plant life and wildlife.

Another must-see, the Miami Seaquarium on Key Biscayne is a spectacular 38-acre marine park, which presents four different aquatic shows daily, as well as a number of educational presentations. The aquarium is also home to Lolita, one of the world’s oldest captive orcas, as well as many other creatures of the deep.

For something completely different, the Coral Castle Museum has dazzled visitors for more than 70 years. This stone-built fantasy world, built by Edward Leedskalnin, a man weighing little more than 100 pounds and standing just five feet tall, comprises numerous megalithic shaped stones, some of which weigh several tons.

Cool off at the Venetian Pool designed by architect Phineas Paist in 1924 and steeped in history. Fashioned in a beautiful Venetian architectural style, the pool is formed in an old rock quarry and, with 820,000 gallons passing through it daily, it is the largest freshwater pool in the US.

Check out the world’s largest butterfly park at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek where you’ll get up close and personal with more than 20,000 butterflies from around the world. There are also exotic birds and creepy crawlers at the bug zoo. Work up an appetite and then head over to the Mai-Kai Polynesian restaurant for dinner and a show for non-stop entertainment, and a little history as well. The restaurant is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In Juno Beach, venture out on a wildlife turtle walk courtesy of the Loggerhead Marinelife Center and learn about the nesting process of sea turtles. Then navigate through the rare coastal hammock and natural dune systems, part of Florida’s most precious habitat. You can also view sea turtles that are recuperating before being released into the ocean at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Boca Raton. Both Gumbo Limbo and the Marinelife Center serve as animal hospitals where injured and sick turtles are nursed back to health by marine biologists.

For family-friendly fun, there’s nothing better than a spring training game in Florida. Both the St. Louis Cardinals and the Miami Marlins play home games during spring training season at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter. And make sure you catch regular season games at Marlins Park in Miami. During football season, don’t miss the Miami Dolphins at Sun Life Stadium, which is undergoing a major renovation.

ROAD TRIPS

Roll the windows down and blast your favorite tunes. It’s time for a road trip. One of the most popular road trips is a 120-mile stretch known as the Overseas Highway connecting the Florida Keys to the mainland. Leapfrog over 42 bridges from key to key and enjoy panoramic views of the Florida Bay on one side of the road and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. Along the way stop to snorkel near Key Largo at the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park before heading down to Islamorada for Key lime pie and cold drinks at Lorelie Restaurant and Cabana Bar. Make it all the way down to Key West and finish off the day with a ride on the Old Town Trolley Tour. Let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the sights and sounds of the southernmost city in the US.

Plan a drive into the wild side of the Sunshine State along the Tamiami Trail from Miami into the Everglades. Begin your journey on Brickell Avenue in the heart of downtown Miami and turn onto Calle Ocho—the beginning of the Tamiami Trail. In Little Havana, stop at the Versailles Restaurant for authentic pastelitos and coladas, coffee of the Cuban variety that packs a serious punch in a tiny cup. Once you’ve fueled up on caffeine and pastries, make your way to Coopertown Airboat Tours to skip at lightning speed across the waters of the Everglades and maybe even spot an alligator or two.

SHOP

Excellent shopping opportunities abound throughout South Florida.

Miami’s premier fashion destination and one of America’s most visited shopping centers, Aventura Mall features a collection of upscale boutiques and more than 300 of the world’s most recognized retailers. Anchored by six department stores including Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Macy’s, the shopping center includes Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Tiffany and Co., Fendi, Burberry, Bally, Emilio Pucci, Omega and Brooks Brothers, as well as retail favorites such as Apple, Michael Kors, H&M, Tory Burch, Microsoft Store, Urban Outfitters and others. Visitors also enjoy nearly a dozen restaurants, an artist-designed interactive playground, a 24-screen AMC Movie Theatre with IMAX, and a taste of South Florida’s thriving arts scene with Turnberry for the Arts, featuring contemporary installations by renowned international and local artists. Located at 19501 Biscayne Boulevard, the mall is open Monday through Sunday.

Las Olas Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale is a great spot to shop local boutiques. Watch out for a new project that’s in the works here—a two-story retail building proposed to rise east of the Riverside Hotel.

If you’re looking for the latest high-end fashions and designer brands, the luxurious Worth Avenue district in Palm Beach, as well as Aventura Mall and the Bal Harbour Shops in northern Miami-Dade County, are must-visit destinations to add to your list. Stroll along the picturesque tree-lined Worth Avenue to visit stores such as Chanel, Tiffany & Co. and Island Company.

To score a deal, opt for Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise and Palm Beach Outlets in West Palm Beach. The largest outlet mall in the United States, Sawgrass Mills recently underwent an expansion and boasts a wide selection of both value retailers and luxury-brand outlets like Jimmy Choo and Versace.

Palm Beach Outlets features more than 100 stores including Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, Banana Republic Factory Store, the newly opened LXR&CO specializing in such high-end brands as Hermès, Chanel and Louis Vuitton. There’s also the Florida Currency Exchange, a full-service foreign exchange desk offering more than 80 currencies. You might want to stop by the Travelpro Luggage Outlet to pick up an extra suitcase or two to carry all your hot new finds back home. The Palm Beach Outlets are conveniently located off I-95 at Exit 71 in West Palm Beach. Additionally, Marketplace at the Outlets is an adjacent shopping center that features a dynamic mix of national tenants including Bed, Bath & Beyond, DSW, Designer Store Warehouse, Nordstrom Rack and Old Navy.

SPAS

Finding relaxation and serenity at a spa is a stellar way to spend a vacation. A number of luxurious sanctuaries dot the southeastern coast of Florida.

In Miami, Exhale Spa is often the preferred choice among the most discerning spa-goers because of its impressive therapy treatment menu and selection of fitness and yoga classes. You’ll find Exhale Spa locations at the EPIC Hotel in downtown Miami, Loews Miami Beach Hotel, The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, and the American Express Centurion Lounge at Miami International Airport.

Featuring grand chandeliers that hover over a collection of therapy pools and floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the serene waters of Biscayne Bay, the Spa at the Viceroy hotel in Miami will make you feel like you’ve been whisked away to an urban paradise. Try the Valmont facial, which soothes the skin and repairs DNA.

Escape to a chic sanctuary of relaxation at the Four Seasons Palm Beach. Try the 80-minute Palm Beach Signature Massage and feel all the stress and tension melt away. The head-to-toe treatment includes an invigorating scalp and body massage using warmed Key lime and vanilla essential oils.

UNIQUE PLACES TO STAY

Certain hotel properties stand out from the skyline, especially on the glitzy shores along the southeast portion of the Sunshine State. From Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys to the Brazilian Court in Palm Beach, some properties truly offer something special.

The Florida Keys have an array of new hotel openings that include Playa Largo Resort in Key Largo scheduled to open in early 2016, Amara Cay Resort in Islamorada and The Marker Waterfront Resort in Key West. Occupying two of the most envious addresses in Key West, the Ocean Key Resort & Spa (0 Duval Street) and Pier House Resort & Spa (1 Duval Street) offer lavish oceanfront suites with prime access to the nightly sunset celebrations in Mallory Square.

Perhaps the most unique and luxurious place to stay in Florida, Little Palm Island Resort & Spa in the Florida Keys truly is extraordinary. Nestled on its own five-plus-acre tropical island, this remote oasis is only accessible by boat or seaplane service by Tropic Ocean Airways. Upon arrival sip on a Gumby Slumber, the resort’s signature cocktail, before traversing a shell-laden path to what resembles a Robinson Crusoe-inspired thatched-roof bungalow. There, hidden among lush foliage, featuring a private veranda and a hot tub with ocean views, is an elegant suite with your name displayed out front. Inside, vaulted ceilings with palm-shaped teak fans, king-size canopy beds with butterfly netting, stand-alone antique-style soaking tubs and chilled champagne with fresh fruit welcome guests to this truly unforgettable paradise.

With five impressive hotels situated along the shore in Fort Lauderdale, Bal Harbour, South Beach, Coconut Grove and Key Biscayne, the Ritz-Carlton properties are excellent choices for those longing for both serenity and impeccable service.

Families and Parrot Heads alike flock to the newly opened Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Hotel, where guests have access to loads of entertainment along the legendary Hollywood Beach Broadwalk. Another big hit for families is the Lago Mar Resort and Club with its 500-foot private beach in Fort Lauderdale.

Historic showstoppers such as The Breakers built by Henry Morrison Flagler and Addison Mizner’s Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria Resort, are luxurious oceanfront options perfect for fun-loving families and glamorous wedding parties.

Another boutique stunner worth adding to your list is the Seagate Hotel in the friendly coastal paradise town of Delray Beach. As an additional VIP service for all guests, the hotel will chauffeur you around the neighborhood in one of two Cadillac Escalades or its signature trolley. Known for its charm and ambiance, Sundy House features historic cottages tucked inside a tropical garden.

Located on Palm Beach, the intimate luxe Brazilian Court flawlessly combines historic charm with a romantic garden atmosphere. It’s a great fit for couples seeking a lovers’ escape or for small dog owners who want to bring along their four-legged friend on vacation. The hotel is situated within walking distance to some of the finest restaurants in the area; Café Boulud is on-site and Buccan is just a few blocks away. And with the Worth Avenue shopping district located just down the street, the hotel is every fashionista’s dream.

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