When one thinks of South Florida, what usually comes to mind is sunshine, beaches, orange groves, spring training, and the overpriced theme parks just a hop, slip and a jump up in Orlando.

But take it from one of many jaded New Yorkers who have moved here over the last few decades – there’s more to having fun in the Sunshine State than sun, surf or an airboat ride in the Everglades.

Photo by Andras Vas on Unsplash

If you’re planning a trip to South Florida, skip the TripAdvisor recommendations and check out my subjective list of the Top 10 attractions in Monroe, Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties:

 

 

Morikama Museum and Japanese Gardens (Delray Beach) – Founded in 1977, this fascinating center for Japanese art, botanicals and culture is one of the most stress-free, serene locales in all of South Florida.

Vizcaya Museum and Gardens (Miami) – Formerly the Villa Vizcaya, this was the 43-acre estate of millionaire businessman James Deering. Situated on Biscayne Bay in Coconut Grove, its Old World Italian Renaissance décor is a sight to behold.

Hemingway House – A must-visit while bar-hopping and sunset-watching in Key West, this historic Florida is where Ernest Hemingway wrote many of his novels and short stories. It was also the site of a pivotal scene in the James Bond film, Licence to Kill.

Mai-Kai Restaurant (Fort Lauderdale) – The South Seas ambiance of this landmark eatery is an experience in itself. The cuisine is Chinese, the tropical drinks have little umbrellas, and the Polynesian floor show is unique to South Florida.

Image by Pixabay

Butterfly World (Coconut Creek) – This atrium is the largest butterfly park in the world with about 20,000 of the little critters fluttering about.

Millionaire’s Row Cruise (Miami) – This leisurely cruise of Biscayne Bay provided by Island Queen Cruises is the ultimate sightseeing tour because it shows you how the other half live.

Photo by Alex Block on Unsplash

Las Olas Boulevard (Fort Lauderdale) – This expansive thoroughfare has it all – restaurants, shops, fashion boutiques, galleries, sidewalk cafes, music and the best nightlife north of Miami Beach.

JFK Bunker (Peanut Island/Riviera Beach) – Visit the Cold War bomb shelter built for the 35th President just in case World War III started while he was vacationing in Palm Beach.

Image by Gelen Punto on Unsplash

Palm Beach Zoo and/or Lion Country Safari (West Palm Beach and Loxahatchee) – The former has a Planetarium next door and the latter has a drive-through wildlife preserve with over 1000 animals.

Flagler Museum (Palm Beach) – A short walk from Worth Avenue, this mansion is an exquisite shrine to the man who made Florida what it is today … for better or worse.

Robert Stricklin’s latest books include Rialto: An Anthology and The Myth of Gravity.