The drive from Fort Lauderdale to Miami is a little under 40 minutes—after all, the two cities are only around 30 miles apart. But what’s the rush to get there? South Florida is filled with beautiful landscapes to see and exciting places to go, and there are plenty of destinations that are on the way from Fort Lauderdale to Miami.
If you’re interested in discovering some new favorites spots in the Sunshine State, check out these fun destinations are the perfect detours to take as you’re making your way to the Magic City.
From art history and cultural crossroads to music and the environment, Young at Art is a place where education and creativity know no bounds. With permanent exhibit galleries and temporary exhibitions, there’s always something going on at Young at Art, and visitors are encouraged to let their imaginations take control as they immerse themselves in the museum’s hands-on exhibits.
While many visitors feel as though younger children will get the most enjoyment out of the museum, there’s no age limit on curiosity—and though Young at Art might be most directed to stimulate and inspire younger minds, it’s still a novelty experience that’s fun at any age. And with a versatile environment, interactive displays, and an admirable mission, Young at Art is a feel-good destination that you’ll never forget.
With 60 acres of foliage, flora, and fauna, Flamingo Gardens in Davie, Florida, is a natural wonderland where you’ll find over 3,000 species of plants and trees (ranging from exotic to native), the largest collection of Florida wildlife, butterfly and hummingbird gardens, and the Wary Home Museum, the house of the original owners who founded the gardens over 90 years ago.
Hailed as a hidden gem and a must-visit for flamingo lovers, Flamingo Gardens will enchant you with its peaceful atmosphere and amaze you with nearly one hundred species of native birds and animals, including alligators, bobcats, eagles, otters, panthers, peacock, turtles—and yes, even flamingos! The Everglades Wildlife Sanctuary consists of Alligator Lagoon, an aviary, the Bird of Prey Center, a black bear habitat (complete with the 600-pound black bear, Josh!), Flamingo Pond, an otter habitat (one of the most successful otter-breeding programs in the country), a panther and bobcat habitat, a parrot aviary, a rookery, and the Turtle Walk.
Home to an extensive variety of plant and animal life, the Anne Kolb Nature Center is a scenic place to breathe in some fresh air and bask in the Florida sun. Boardwalk trails make traversing the coastal mangrove wetlands of the park easy, and visitors can walk, run, or bike. Fishing and picnicking are also popular activities in the park, and for $5, you can take an environmental boating tour to learn more about the area and its inhabitants.
The park’s six-story observation tower offers visitors stunning views of the wetlands, and there’s even an elevator for visitors who can’t climb to the top. If you’re interested in seeing the area from the water, you can rent kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards from the nearby West Lake Park Marina.
This 110-foot-tall, 700-ton work of art is the second-tallest statue in the United States—what’s more, the massive installation cost about $30 million to create! Located at the entrance of Hallandale Beach’s Gulfstream Park, an entertainment compound featuring a racetrack and casino, Pegasus and Dragon is a point of interest that, due to its size, you simply can’t ignore. Even if you’re not headed into Gulfstream Park itself, the statue is still worth a stop on your way to Miami, and it certainly is a sight to see.
If gambling isn’t your thing, there are plenty of options for shopping and dining on the complex, including fine dining as well as casual eats and quick bites. About 20 minutes from Miami and only a short drive from I-95, Pegasus and Dragon is among the most memorable pieces of art that you’ll ever see (well, probably). The statue, which depicts Pegasus stomping on a dragon, is said to symbolize the triumph of good over evil.
At the time of their building, the monastery was dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was called “The Monastery of Our Lady, Queen of the Angels.” It was renamed around 30 years later with the canonization of Bernard of Clairvaux in 1174 AD. Image courtesy of Miami New Times.
Take a walk through history when you plan a visit to the Monastery of St. Bernard de Clairvaux, more commonly known as the Ancient Spanish Monastery. An artifact from Sacramenia, Spain, these cloisters and monastery buildings were originally constructed in 1141 AD. The buildings were disassembled and shipped to the United States in 1925 when the media mogul William Randolph Hearst (of Hearst Communications) bought the structures. However, Hearst soon experienced financial turmoil, and he died before the cloisters could ever be reassembled. Eventually, Colonel Robert Pentland Jr. repurchased the historic remains in 1964 and had them relocated to their current place in North Miami Beach, about 20 minutes from Downtown Miami.
Today, gifted to the Episcopal Diocese of South Florida by Pentland, the monastery is utilized by the growing congregation at the Church of St. Bernard de Clairvaux Parish. Despite still being in use, the Ancient Spanish Monastery is open for tours most days from 10 am to 4:30 pm. Offering visitors a peaceful respite from the city, the grounds are both a historical landmark and an architectural treasure.
Beaches aren’t exactly rare in Florida, but the Haulover Sandbar at Haulover Park isn’t just an ordinary beach. For starters, it’s a sandbar, which means that it’s located in the middle of the bay and is only accessible by boat. (Don’t worry, you don’t need to charter a yacht to get there—you can rent a kayak or paddleboard and paddle out yourself!) Aside from not being a traditional beach, the Haulover Sandbar is a social center that’s unlike most others. From floating food trucks to a mix of music coming from anchored speed boats, this is about as “Miami” as it gets (only it’s about a half-hour from Downtown Miami).
Marvel at the clear, shallow waters that sparkle under the sun as you meet new people and enjoy the warm weather. But fair warning: It does get pretty crowded here on weekends during the spring and summer, and it’s a hotspot for partying.
If you have a dog, be sure to check out Bark Park, a fenced-off section of the park that your furry, four-legged friend will love! There’s even a separate section for smaller dogs. Image courtesy of Daily Kos.
With 515 acres and five lakes, Amelia Earhart Park is host to an array of activities, on land and in the water. From biking and soccer to fishing and disc golf, there’s something for everyone to take part in at this park in Hialeah, just 20 minutes from Downtown Miami. Whether you rent water sport equipment and hit the lakes, or take a leisurely stroll through the park, you’re sure to fall in love with this gorgeous community space.
In addition to more traditional park activities, Amelia Earhart Park includes Bill Graham Farm Village, a replica farm designed to teach kids about South Florida’s agricultural past, complete with a petting zoo. Little ones will also enjoy Tom Sawyer’s Play Island, a playground for kids ages two to twelve featuring a fort-style treehouse with slings, balance beams, swings, and other fun playthings. (Tom Sawyer’s Play Island is fully accessible for all-inclusive play.)
With more than 10 thousand visitors per year, the Little Haiti Cultural Complex isn’t a quaint community center—it’s a dynamic meeting place where visitors can create, learn, and talk. Intent on preserving and showcasing Afro-Caribbean cultures, the Little Haiti Cultural Complex works to represent and develop Little Haiti and its surrounding neighborhoods in order to facilitate economic and social growth within the community.
While the art and the culture found at the cultural complex is truly astounding, what usually impresses visitors most is the welcoming atmosphere that they encounter at the Little Haiti Cultural Complex. Exhibitions, educational programs, dance studios, a courtyard, and a theater are all features that contribute to the Little Haiti Cultural Complex’s burgeoning success. And, the complex’s largest venue, the Caribbean Marketplace (also called Mache Ayisyen, Creole for Haitian marketplace), sells food, produce, clothing and fashion items, natural beauty products, and homemade arts and crafts every Saturday during its community market from 10 am to 6 pm. Admire one of the art galleries, see a performance, support local vendors, or attend a special advent. Whatever you do, a visit to the Little Haiti Cultural Complex is one of the best ways to start your visit to Miami.
Fort Lauderdale and Miami aren’t cities that are short on attractions—but that doesn’t mean that you have to rush from one to the other. Turning your drive into a mini road trip gives you the opportunity to do a little exploring and really get to know South Florida. You just might find that it has a lot to offer!