SOUTHEAST FLORIDA:
HOT HAPPENINGS ON THE COAST

BY KARA FRANKER

South East Florida Tourism Guide

With idyllic coastal beaches and sprawling nature preserves, plus loads of entertainment and shopping opportunities, Southeast Florida is packed with tons of fun things to do for every style of traveler.

ARTS AND CULTURE

Cultural and art institutions dot the coast of Southeast Florida and brim with one-of-a-kind features, combining eco beauty, rich history and unique works of art.

Worth a visit every time you explore Key West, the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum, Harry S. Truman Little White House and Audubon House & Tropical Gardens are cultural mainstays. Tour the Key West Art & Historical Society’s new permanent exhibit at Fort East Martello Museum to view more than 100 sculptures created by the late Key Largo folk artist, Stanley Papio, whose works are acclaimed for their inventiveness and humor. In Islamorada, the Third Thursday Artwalk features artists, vendors and entertainment.

As the home of Art Basel Miami Beach, the world’s most prominent annual art fair held in December, Miami-Dade County boasts a variety of opportunities to experience local and international art. For highly acclaimed performing arts and Broadway-style shows, head to the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. Stroll down the street-art-clad avenues in the Wynwood Arts District, home to an abundant collection of local galleries as well as Tony Goldman’s popular Wynwood Walls. In downtown Miami, waterfront Museum Park boasts the Pérez Art Museum Miami, a highly regarded institution offering a taste of modern architecture and intellectually stimulating exhibits. There’s also the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach scheduled to open in spring 2017. For a different, but memorable, experience, visit the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach or the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center in Dania Beach.

Fort Lauderdale has plenty of museums, galleries and performing arts institutions to visit. Located on bustling Las Olas Boulevard, where shopping and dining abound, the NSU Art Museum of Fort Lauderdale is the perfect place to view more than 7,000 works by artists like Pablo Picasso, George Bellows and Diego Rivera. Children and adults alike love the Young At Art Museum in Davie. The LEED-certified 55,000-square-foot facility inspires, educates and entertains all ages with interactive exhibits, as well as fun art classes and camps.

The Cultural Council of Palm Beach County promotes a wide range of theatre, dance, art, music and history in what’s known as Florida’s Cultural Capital. Located in the popular Mizner Park, the Boca Raton Museum of Art houses an array of contemporary and modern art collections. For a unique taste of Japanese arts with the picture-perfect Florida backdrop, visit the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. Another tropical garden you should add to your list is the breathtaking Ann Norton Sculpture Garden.

The Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach remains one of the most renowned art museums in Florida, featuring highly acclaimed exhibitions, lectures and tours. And, dating back to 1902, Whitehall, Henry Flagler’s Gilded Age estate in Palm Beach, is a National Historic Landmark and open to the public as the Flagler Museum, featuring guided tours, changing exhibits and special programs. For entertaining shows from elegant ballets to Broadway musicals, visit the Kravis Center for Performing Arts in West Palm Beach.

For something more intimate, but just as impressive, look up the playbill for the Maltz Jupiter Theater in Jupiter.

ATTRACTIONS

Southeast Florida offers an abundance of family-friendly attractions, many showcasing the Sunshine State’s unique ecosystem and wildlife.

In the Florida Keys, the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum in Key West displays gold, silver and treasures recovered from sunken wrecks, while the Dolphin Research Center and Turtle Hospital in Marathon invite the whole family to get up close and personal with sea life. Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters, a conservation center also located on Marathon, conducts guided park tours as well as tarpon and shark feedings. At the Florida Keys History & Discovery Center on Islamorada, enjoy an interactive historical experience through a new permanent model of Indian Key, once the Florida Keys’ second largest community outside of Key West only accessible by private boat or kayak.

The Florida Everglades is where naturalists and adventurers can spot alligators on airboat tours and learn about the Miccosukee Tribe’s unique way of life at the Miccosukee Indian Village.

For more exciting animal encounters, visit Zoo Miami just north of Homestead, Monkey Jungle south of the zoo, Jungle Island in downtown Miami and the Miami Seaquarium in Key Biscayne. At the Seaquarium, visitors enjoy the brand new Penguin Isle, a new habitat for African penguins, which can be viewed above and below water in a sprawling 9,000-gallon pool. Boasting an impressive collection of rare plants and flowers, as well as a sprawling tropical oasis, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden hosts special events like the International Mango Festival and International Orchid Festival.

Head to ArtsPark at Young Circle in downtown Hollywood to enjoy a 10-acre interactive park complete with a children’s play area. Flamingo Gardens & Wray Botanical Collection offers 60 acres of diverse native plants and trees, a Bird of Prey Center with a free-flight aviary, and the chance to view alligators, flamingos, bobcats and Florida panthers. For a mix of ecology, history and architecture, the Bonnet House Museum & Gardens in Fort Lauderdale is a 36-acre estate preserving a piece of Old Florida charm. While in Fort Lauderdale, hop on board the Jungle Queen for a sightseeing cruise. Then, check out more than 20,000 butterflies from around the globe at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, the world’s largest butterfly park.

Visit the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach for guided marsh tours, bird walks, canoe trips and more. In Loxahatchee become part of the herd at Lion Country Safari, a drive-through adventure where you can check out more than 900 animals including giraffes, lions, zebras and monkeys. Nearby, the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium features more than 50 hands-on educational exhibits, a state-of-the-art planetarium, a new science laboratory for educational programs and an upgraded theater.

Providing the opportunity to see endangered sea turtles and other marine life up close, the Loggerhead Marinelife Center in Juno Beach is a rehabilitation center for injured sea turtles where visitors learn about Florida’s marine life and the ecosystem. An on-site playground helps keep children entertained for hours, or families can hop across the street to picturesque Juno Beach.

BEACHES AND OUTDOOR GEMS

A trip to Florida isn’t complete without some much-needed beach time. Spend the day surfing and snorkeling in crystal-clear water at Bahia Honda State Park, located between the historic Seven Mile Bridge and Big Pine Key in the lower Florida Keys. This stretch of sand has been listed many times among the best beaches in the USA.

Home to two sprawling beach parks, Key Biscayne is perfect for oceanfront family picnics. Visit either Crandon Park Beach at the entrance to the island, or Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park at the island’s end. At Bill Baggs, climb the steps of a historic lighthouse (c. 1825) or kayak along the water’s edge. Or fish on the seawall of Biscayne Bay where you can spot the remnants of Stiltsville, a collection of historic structures on stilts hovering over the water that dates back to the Prohibition-era rumrunner days.

Of course, in Miami, you’ll not want to miss the sparkling sands of South Beach. Families love the kid-friendly facilities and mini splash and play area at South Pointe Park Beach, while those who want to be in the “scene” head to the beach along Ocean Drive. Farther north, the beach in Surfside is a favorite among locals because of its laid-back vibe and access to a waterfront walking path. Or check out Oleta River State Park Beach, ideal for kayaking and canoeing.

Famous for its bustling beachfront district and an entertainment destination in its own right, Hollywood Beach features a variety of sidewalk cafés, boutiques and ice cream parlors—so go for a dip and then cruise the Broadwalk. Spend the day boating or canoeing at John U. Lloyd Beach State Park in Dania Beach, a popular turtle nesting spot.

Drawing spring break crowds for years, Fort Lauderdale Beach runs the length of North Atlantic Boulevard and makes the perfect beach day easy because of its proximity to a variety of restaurants and amusing attractions. Seeking a quiet respite? Enjoy serenity in the shaded picnic areas at Hugh Taylor Birch State Park, which also features monthly mangrove habitat walks.

In Boca Raton, the Daggerwing Nature Center showcases more than 8,000 acres of parkland to explore.

Check out the panoramic views of the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse and Museum from Jupiter Beach Park.

In Juno Beach, venture out on a wildlife turtle walk then navigate through the rare coastal hammock and natural dune systems, part of Florida’s most precious habitat.

ENTERTAINMENT

For hot days and sultry nights, these neighborhoods and hot spots will keep you entertained around the clock, seven days a week.

Fans of fine beers, ales, rums and more can enjoy local libations throughout the Keys. For the ultimate barhopping adventure complete with plenty of local music, Duval Street is party central in Key West. At the end of the stretch, Mallory Square is the perfect place to sip on a tropical cocktail and watch street performers during the nightly sunset celebration. Tour the Key West First Legal Rum Distillery, located in a former Coca-Cola bottling plant and on the site of a former pre-Prohibition-era bar named Jack’s Saloon, and sample free rum. Discover Key West recently launched a new adventure blending food, libations, strolling and sailing. The “Tall & Crawl,” a pirate-themed land and sea tour, introduces visitors to the history as well as the present-day beauty and charm of Key West. The tour features a variety of food and rum tastings on land as well as refreshments served on board an 80-foot pirate ship replica, the square-rigged Jolly II Rover. Passengers can help raise the vessel’s red sails, participate in a “firing” of the cannons, and view Key West’s Historic Seaport, Sunset Key, Christmas Tree Island and Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park.

Miami has so many popular entertainment districts you could spend weeks here and still not hit every hot spot. Two of the most famous areas are Ocean Drive and Lincoln Road on South Beach. Home of the Art Deco Historic District, renowned nightlife, luxurious hotels and tons of local eateries, both locations offer the ultimate South Beach experience. Clubs like LIV at the Fontainebleau and Hyde Beach at SLS South Beach draw the hottest DJs and late-night revelers. Back on Miami’s mainland, the Mary Brickell Village near downtown is a popular spot for locals to live, work and play, thanks to a bevy of skyscraper residences, rooftop bars and posh eateries. Both the Wynwood Arts District and Miami Design District have been drawing the cultural elite to hobnob over sophisticated cocktails, luxurious shopping and celebrity-helmed restaurants. Joining other trendy neighborhoods, there’s a resurgence of the MiMo Biscayne Boulevard Historic District, where you’ll find hip restored hotels and bars from the 1950s. MiMo, short for a Miami Modern, describes a design aesthetic unique to Miami that was influenced by American fascination with futurism, jets and space exploration. Lush and tropical Coconut Grove is experiencing a resurgence with new restaurants and boutiques opening up on a regular basis. And in Little Havana, stroll down Calle Ocho to savor a taste of nostalgic Cuban culture where eateries serve authentic pastelitos and Cuban coffee that packs an impressive punch. Not to be overlooked, CityPlace Doral near the Miami International Airport is a recent development with new dining options, shopping venues and residences.

If casino-style fun is what you’re after, head west toward the Everglades and the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming, which features non-stop thrills like high-stakes poker, jackpot games and a 1,000-plus-seat bingo hall. Catch year-round horse racing at the Village at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale Beach, home of the Florida Derby. Check out the 800 Vegas-style slot machines, poker tables, open-air mall, international restaurants, bowling alley and art galleries. There’s even a children’s entertainment center called Cool Corner, which keeps kids hopping. Also, in Hallandale Beach, the Mardi Gras Casino features slots, virtual table games, poker, live entertainment and dining venues. For more round-the-clock casino action and nightlife, head to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, where a 5,500-seat theater draws popular musicians and comedy acts. Check out the Dania Beach Casino and Jai Alai. This more than 60-year-old site of Dania Jai Alai has received a complete US$60-million renovation, including a full casino, slots, 21-table poker room, restaurants and a concert area. Or challenge Lady Luck at the nearby Isle Casino Pompano Park, featuring 1,500 slots, poker tables, six restaurants, harness racing and entertainment.

For a unique gaming experience, let the San Gwann, a 400-passenger cruise ship, transport you from the Port of Miami to Resorts World Bimini to enjoy non-stop action in a 10,000-square-foot casino fea-turing popular table games, slot machines, a high-limit gaming salon, a Sports Book and a full indoor-outdoor restaurant.

In Southeast Florida, dining and entertainment collide on a variety of popular main drags. Stretching more than two miles along the ocean, Hollywood’s Broadwalk features panoramic beach views, a variety of outdoor restaurants and the new and very popular Margaritaville Beach Resort. Las Olas Boulevard offers plenty of dining options, plus many live entertainment and local music performances every weekend. Mizner Park in Boca Raton is the place to go for shopping, dining and fun.

The City of West Palm Beach’s recently launched Arts & Entertainment District (A&E District) unites a fast-growing number of its top cultural institutions, as well as the area’s burgeoning art scene. This cultural corridor covers a two-mile city radius and includes institutions of fine art, theatres and live music venues such as Palm Beach Dramaworks on Clematis Street, as well as the Society of the Four Arts. This area also contains CityPlace, a popular West Palm Beach destination for shopping, dining and entertainment, plus the trendy nightlife strip along Clematis Street. You won’t want to miss Clematis By Night, a free weekly concert series on the West Palm Beach waterfront.

LGBT SCENE

Much of South Florida and the Florida Keys offer a lively LGBT community and culture, especially Key West, South Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Venues range from sprawling bars packed to the brim with crowds to intimate lounges featuring sophisticated cocktails.

Key West is the place to party and there is no shortage of entertaining LGBT bars and clubs on Duval Street. Head to La Te Da to mix and mingle around the piano bar, or catch one of the Sunday Tea Dance parties and cabaret shows. Aqua Nightclub, 801 Bourbon Street and Bourbon St. Pub offer fabulous drag shows and people-watching will keep you entertained until the early morning hours. Modeled after the ball drop in Times Square, every New Year’s Eve, Bourbon St. Pub hosts a lively drag queen “drop” in a super-sized red high heel. Soak up the sun and book a sailing adventure on Blu Q, the largest gay-owned and operated charter in Key West. Every summer, mark your calendar for Key West Pride week, complete with a colorful street parade, pool parties, pageants, special events and live music performances.

Miami has been a favorite destination for LGBT travelers for decades thanks to the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, LGBT Visitor Center and local dignitaries. Ready for some beach time? Two large gay pride flags mark South Beach’s 12th Street Beach. This gay-friendly section of the beach flanks famed Ocean Drive and is located within walking distance to hot spots like the Palace Bar & Restaurant, where the weekend drag shows draw vibrant, fun-loving crowds. Also located on Miami Beach, clubs Twist and Score feature numerous bars and gathering spots, perfect for DJ-fueled dance parties. Miami’s only gay hotel, Hotel Gaythering is a great place to sip colorful cocktails or hang out in the sophisticated library bar. Events such as Winter Party Festival, White Party, Miami Beach Gay Pride Parade, Aqua Girl and Sizzle Miami draw crowds year-round. Mark your calendars for the World OutGames in 2017, an international sporting event organized to help champion LGBT human rights around the world.

Fort Lauderdale has attracted LGBT travelers for quite some time and became one of the first destinations to host the Southern Comfort Conference, one of the largest transgender conferences in the country. The Stonewall National Museum & Archives showcases exhibitions and programs shedding light on sexuality, gender and civil rights. The City of Wilton Manors boasts a large percentage of individuals identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, and is home to a Pride Center, World AIDS Museum and Educational Center and a branch of the Stonewall Library & Archives, whose main facility is in neighboring Fort Lauderdale. The Wilton Drive shopping district boasts many restaurants, lounges, nightclubs and boutiques geared to the LGBT community. Popular bars include Georgie’s Alibi, Boom!, Bill’s Filling Station, Dudes On The Beach, Scandals Saloon and The Manor.

ROAD TRIPS

Probably the most iconic, convertible, wind-in-your-hair drive in Southeast Florida is that along Route 1, a.k.a. the Overseas Highway, from Miami to Key West. But who says a road trip means you have to drive a car? Why not let someone else do the driving and hop aboard Brightline, Florida’s new city-to-city passenger train that uses nearly 200 miles of Henry Flagler’s existing Florida East Coast Railroad?

Brightline will debut with four stations in 2017: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. And since trains hit speeds of 125 miles per hour, you can expect to reach your destination faster than if you drove. Stations are designed to connect with current public transportation options in each city, making it simple to explore those locations. Expect railcars with plush seating, on-board amenities such as Wi-Fi, and competitive pricing compared to other travel options.

Dubbed “MiamiCentral,” the Miami station is located at NW 1st Avenue, between NW 3rd Street and NW 8th Street. From here, you can walk to AmericanAirlines Arena, Adrienne Arsht Center, PortMiami and Bayfront Park. Take the train up to the Fort Lauderdale station located at NW 2nd Avenue, between Broward Blvd. and NW 4th Street and walk to the Historic District, Museum of Science, Riverwalk A&E District and the Broward Center for the Performing Arts. From the West Palm Beach station situated at Evernia Street, between S. Rosemary Avenue and S. Quadrille Blvd., take a stroll to the Clematis District, CityPlace and Centennial Park.

With promises of saving 25 percent on travel time compared to existing transportation options, it’s no wonder travelers are looking forward to riding the passenger train in 2017.

SHOPPING

Miami is a shopping mecca and features tons of opportunities to shop ’till you drop. Opening in 2017, the new highly anticipated Brickell City Centre will be anchored by Saks Fifth Avenue and will feature a variety of luxury, premium and contemporary retailers, including Sephora, Hugo Boss, Tommy Bahama, lululemon, Armani and others, and numerous dining establishments. Nearby, the super-luxe Miami Design District showcases the crème de la crème of high-end fashion, including Burberry, Cartier, Christian Louboutin, Dior, Gucci, Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada and Versace.

To the south in Wynwood Arts District you'll find more art galleries, retail stores, antique shops and hip bars as well as one of the largest open-air street-art installations in the world.

For a more traditional mall experience in Miami that’s equally packed with impressive brands and boutiques, Aventura Mall has it all. Anchor department stores include Nordstrom and Bloomingdale’s, while more than 300 luxury retailers such as Tiffany & Co., Tory Burch, Stuart Weitzman, Fendi, Givenchy and Porsche Design inspire you to upgrade your entire closet. Take advantage of the MasterCard Visitor Center and valet service for VIP recognition and access to special promotions. Other Miami malls you might want to add to your list include Dadeland, The Falls, Shops at Merrick Park and Bal Harbour Shops.

Considered among the most fashionable venues in the Sunshine State, Fort Lauderdale’s Galleria Mall features brand-name retailers from Apple to Neiman Marcus, dining and a currency exchange kiosk.

And don't overlook Las Olas Boulevard with all its trendy boutiques, galleries and restaurants.

To score some impressive deals, head to Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise, where you’ll find 350-plus stores and the largest outlet shopping destination in the USA. Another great spot for outlet shopping, Palm Beach Outlets features more than 100 stores including brand favorites Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Ann Taylor Factory Store, Banana Republic Factory Store, Brooks Brothers Factory Store, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Hilfiger and Vera Bradley.

Be sure to add Mizner Park Boca Raton, anchored by Lord and Taylor, to your bucket list of shopping malls. The Town Center at Boca Raton is another high-end shopping destination anchored by Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Bloomingdale’s, while the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach Gardens is a spacious, 1.4-million-square-foot shopping center with more than 150 world-class brand names. Delray Beach’s Atlantic Avenue is lined with trendy boutiques and popular restaurants—it’s not uncommon to see all ages walking along this main-street style neighborhood hot spot. While you’re there, check out the Delray Marketplace.

Don’t overlook Southeast Florida’s popular flea markets. The gigantic flea market at the Swap Shop in Fort Lauderdale features 2,000 vendors selling brand-name items at bargain prices. Florida shoppers in-the-know also head to the Festival Flea Market Mall, a veritable shopper’s paradise in Pompano Beach.

SPAS

Be sure to schedule some time on your vacation to pamper yourself as there is no shortage of serene spa locales in South Florida. Many full-service hotels feature an array of facials, massages and nail treatments, however there are plenty of independent day spas to soothe the senses.

As soon as you arrive at the Miami International Airport, visit Exhale Spa’s location inside the American Express Centurion Lounge and enjoy express chair massages and manicures. Or visit Exhale’s full spa locations at EPIC Miami, Loews Miami Beach Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton, Bal Harbour. While the latter three locations are situated inside hotels, they are owned and managed by the corporate brand based in New York and feature barre and yoga classes, a mani-pedi bar, steam rooms, hot tubs and blow-dry bars.

In Miami, Equinox has five locations offering a combination of fitness and spa experiences, including at the Shops at Merrick Park in Coral Gables, a stand-alone location on South Beach, one at the Four Seasons Hotel Miami, inside Aventura Mall and a new location opening at Brickell Heights.

In Fort Lauderdale, visit the Red Door Salon & Spa at the Galleria Mall to enjoy a wide range of massages, body treatments facials, make-up application and hair services. For a more wallet-friendly option, Massage Envy offers signature facials and massages in dozens of locations up and down the Southeast Florida coast.

The Seagate Hotel & Spa in Delray Beach pulls out all the stops. Year-round packages include Girls Just Want to Have Wine, featuring a one-night stay in deluxe accommodation and a Chardonnay pedicure, a Merlot anti-aging facial, a Cabernet body polish and a grape-seed renewal body massage, as well as complimentary wines and cheeses.

ALL IN A DAY

KEY WEST

Begin your day with breakfast in the outdoor courtyard of Blue Heaven. Then wander the Old Town district enjoying colorful Victorian architecture. Snap a “mandatory selfie” at the Southernmost Point in the continental USA. Visit the Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum and the Butterfly and Nature Conservatory. Grab lunch in the Historic Seaport before embarking on a reef snorkeling excursion. Catch a beautiful sunset and the action at Mallory Square. Dine at an Old Town restaurant and sample the nightlife on Duval Street.

FORT LAUDERDALE

Start your morning with a tour of the beautiful historic Bonnet House Museum & Gardens or snorkel or dive to explore 69 miles of natural coral reef just offshore. Board a water taxi and cruise through the 300+ miles of Intracoastal waterways while viewing some of the most incredible mansions and homes. Revel in a unique dock-and-dine experience at one of many waterfront restaurants before taking in a show at the Broward Center for Performing Arts. End with a stroll along picturesque Las Olas Boulevard.

MIAMI

Relax poolside at one of many chic hotels and hit the waters of South Beach. Stroll down Lincoln Road for shopping al fresco and enjoy a world-class meal while people-watching at an outdoor restaurant. Visit the art collection at the Pérez Art Museum Miami next to beautiful Biscayne Bay, and take an afternoon walk through Museum Park. Head over to Wynwood to take in the vibrant street art. Dine at one of the Miami Design District’s unique restaurants.

THE PALM BEACHES

Start your day at the iconic Jupiter Lighthouse and cruise south down to Loggerhead Marinelife Center to check on the sea turtles. Next up: Lunch in West Palm Beach. Ride the trolley through CityPlace and down Clematis Street; with so many local hot spots to choose from, the decision is guaranteed to be difficult, but delicious! Head to Boca Raton for the afternoon, renting bikes to experience the Ocean Boulevard Path, or stroll around Mizner Park. End the day dancing and dining along Atlantic Avenue in Delray Beach.

Mexico Beach
Crystal River
Orlando Sanford International Airport
Gainesville
SeaWorld
Columbia County
Orange Lake
Franklin County
Royal Shell
Greater Fort Lauderdale