Growing up in South Florida, I spent a great deal of time at either a beach or a pool and was completely content to do just that. However, now that I’m an adult, I have become interested in exploring the local community when I travel, including when I’m back in South Florida for a holiday.
This past Christmas, Andrew and I spent a full week in South Florida with my family. Prior to our visit, I researched a list of fun things to do both with my family and for just Andrew and I. We chose to rent a car for this trip – which I would highly recommend – and had a great time exploring several new things and visiting some of my childhood favorites as well. This list is no where near exhaustive but includes six fun things to do when in South Florida.
1. Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden
An unexpected find in Delray, Morikami Museum and Japanese Garden is the result of a century-old connection between South Florida and Japan. In the early 1900s, a group of Japanese farmers settled in what is now Delray to form a farming community. While the crops weren’t super successful, the desire to provide a cultural experience for visitors was, thus resulting in a museum with rotating exhibits and a 16-acre garden filled with native and Japanese plants, zen rock gardens, statues, and a bonsai collection inspired by Japan. It’s a super unique and tranquil oasis tucked in among the trees; a true gem that’s also an escape from the city life.
2. Take the Tri-Rail to Miami
When you think of Miami, several things probably come to mind – beaches, music, fabulous dining restaurants, all night partying, colorful homes, cars and people – but one thing it is not is affordable. Unfortunately, I can’t change the cost of business in Miami but I can definitely recommend something to help cut down on the cost and stress of traveling into the city…take the tri-rail! Tri-rail is a local train offering stops between West Palm Beach and Miami. On a weekend, a round trip ticket will cost $5 or less (!!) and take you about the same amount of time as it would to drive yourself. You’ll likely need to find an Uber or Lyft to take you from the train station to your final destination but the simplicity and lack of worrying about parking makes it worth it in my mind.
During my most recent trip to Miami, Andrew and I spent the afternoon eating, walking along Miami Beach, and bar hopping in the Wynwood neighborhood. We could have easily spent several more hours exploring, as Miami has much to offer, but the train schedule limited our time. During this day trip, we made it to Sweet Liberty for a few fun cocktails and J. Wakefield Brewing, a local brewery that’s an incredible tribute to Star Wars. We also tasted several dishes among the stalls at the Time Out Market Miami, including grilled oysters, octopus, alligator bites, plantains, and key lime pie. It was a perfect day!
3. Pinball Museum & Mini-Golf in Delray Beach
A true family past-time is the excellent mini-golf course known as Putt’n Around. What makes it so great, you ask? Several things! For one, players can choose between two 18-hole courses or choose to play the full 36. Upon checking in, players can also grab a drink (alcoholic or non) to take with them and – get this – can place orders for additional drinks as often as you’d like. The staff will deliver your order directly to you while you play. You can’t beat this service and my family made sure the staff made their money that day. The courses are fun, affordable, and can involve drinking, if you so choose. Great for dates, friends and family outings.
We recently discovered another fun spot nearby called Silverball Pinball Museum. For the price of $15, guests can play unlimited pinball machines throughout the space or, for just $5 more, can play all day. The museum boasts over 80 pinball machines, some as old as 1920, as well as other arcade games to play. Its a great place for all ages and close to several other fun things to do (see mini golf above) so you can buy the day pass and return as often as you’d like throughout that day.
4. Gumbo Limbo Nature Center & Boca Beaches
Florida is famous for its plethora of beaches and Boca Raton is no exception. Situated between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale on the east coast of the state, Boca offers multiple great beach spots, both private and public. One stop my family often pairs with a trip to the beach is visiting Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Gumbo Limbo is an education, research and conservation center that’s free to visitors with a boardwalk, butterfly garden, marine aquariums, and a sea turtle rehab facility. The center offers educational programs throughout the year as well as events including turtle walks and hatchling releases. I have many fond childhood memories of joining a group of volunteers to release the new turtle hatchlings into the ocean. There’s lots to explore here and the center is conveniently located across the street from a public beach.
5. Everglades National Park
We didn’t make it out to the Everglades this trip but have been in the past and it is incredible. Journey down to Everglades City or Shark Valley for an unforgettable adventure. You can book a seat on an airboat and glide across the water, scouting for gators, otters, egrets, and several other local critters. As a Florida native, I’ve seen more than my fair share of alligators and often forget how unusual it is for the average person to see one in person. Making a trip to the Everglades almost guarantees that you’ll see at least one in its natural habitat and will be worth the trip. While in the local towns, you’ll also find tram tours, bike rentals, and board walks to make for a full day of activities.
6. Attend a Local Sports Game
My family has become avid fans of the Florida Panthers hockey team and, considering the team isn’t that great, tickets are often super affordable to attend. As a Nashville resident, I can expect to pay $65 for the “nose bleed” seats but at the Panthers’ arena, I pay half that price for the same, if not better, seats.
We grabbed tickets to a Saturday night game against the Detroit Redwings and were pleased to watch the Panthers take the W by the end of the game. Given that we had a large group, we ended up purchasing different sets of tickets which led to us all sitting in different sections. This is important because there really isn’t a bad seat in the place so you’re guaranteed to have a good time. Go Cats!
Regardless of what you get into, South Florida has lots to offer for people of all ages. From the beaches to the restaurants, large cities to smaller towns, and several things in between, you’re guaranteed to find more than just a string of beaches and pools to enjoy.