I love Florida. From its sunny beaches to its fun theme parks to its plethora of golf courses and its amazing natural beauty, Florida has something for everyone. In fact, it seems that many people are in tune with Florida's appeal as hundreds move to the sunshine state every year. Admitted to the union as the 27th state back in 1845, Florida is the most populist state in the southeast with a population of over 21 million people calling Florida home.
Not everyone can live in Florida
, but anyone can visit. And there's many reasons to check out balmy, beautiful Florida. Speaking of balmy, Florida is the warmest state in the United States, so it's a mecca for sun seekers in the winter time. In fact, so many New Yorkers flock to Florida to escape the brutal northeast winters that Boca Raton is often referred to as the "6th borough". While Summers in Florida are hot and humid, if you can take a little heat,you'll enjoy more room to roam and fewer tourists.
No matter when you decide to go to Florida, I recommend going to South Florida and specifically the city of Boca Raton. You might wonder, like I did, what the name of Boca Raton means. The unique name, meaning "Rat's Mouth" in Spanish refers to the city's location along the rocky coast where the rocks would "gnaw" at ships cables.
With its super convenient location, I recommend using Boca Raton as your starting point as you explore the entire South Florida region. With the Palm Beaches and DelRay Beach to the North; and quaint Deerfield Beach, Pompano Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood to the South; there's much to see and do in the area. And all the cities I mentioned are within an hour's drive to Miami. If you happen to be in the area during the Spring, Boca makes for a great "home base" to check out all the Major League Baseball Spring Training
action that takes place in the area.
lies on the southeast coast of Florida, between West Palm Beach
to the north and Fort Lauderdale
to the south; and only about a mile and a half inland from the Atlantic coast. Located in Palm Beach County and incorporated as a city in 1925, Boca today is known as a playground for some of the very rich and famous. Full of mansions and manicured lawns, Boca is truly a beautiful city. While it's also true that Boca is opulent and upscale and lives up to its reputation for being pricey, there are always ways to save on vacation
and there are definitely plenty of things to do in Boca Raton that don't cost a fortune.
Best Things To Do In Boca Raton
Snorkel at Red Reef Park
A super cool way to spend a day in Boca is at Red Reef Park. The park, at 1500 North Ocean Blvd, is an ocean front expanse that offers everything from swimming, to fishing to snorkeling. If you elect to snorkel (on the man made reef), keep your eyes open for lots of colorful fish and even crabs. And, there's also a playground that will for sure appeal to the kids.
Check out this ritzy complex in Boca that's part shopping mall and part event center. We really enjoyed checking out the shops. A lot of high-end stores that are super fun to look in and check the outrageous prices. My favorite store there is Sugarboo & Co., a store full of super cute home decor and accessories. They offer an eclectic mix of all types of home furnishings and I always find plenty to fall in love with. We also took an afternoon to tour the Boca Raton Museum of Art
. The museum offers it's regular collection of various types of art including painting, sculpture and photography and they offer new exhibits all the time. Be sure you check out the unique outdoor sculpture garden at the museum. Admission is free to the museum.
I don't know about you, but shopping makes me hungry. Another reason that Mizer Park is the perfect place to go since they have quite a few restaurants and bars to choose from.
For a more casual dining experience, I recommend hitting one of the bars for happy hour. Almost all have sidewalk seating so you can enjoy some wine and appetizers al fresco. We like the Dubliner for drinks in a cozy pub atmosphere. They also have great happy hour specials on food and drinks. Try their mini pizzas for less than $8. Another option is the Yard House. They also have really decent happy hour specials as well, including 1/2 price select food - including my favorite chicken nachos. And, if you have a sweet tooth like me, stop into Le Macaron
for gorgeous and scrumptious macarons for dessert.
A Day At South Beach Park
In Florida there's no better way to spend a day than to hit the beach. South Beach Park is a beautiful beach that isn't super crowded so you can find a spot and spread out. With nice public bathrooms, lifeguards, chair rentals and outdoor showers, you'll have everything you need for a spectacular day at the beach in Boca.
Try Stand Up Paddleboarding
One of my favorite things to do on the water is SUP. If you've never tried it, it's similar to surfing except you remain upright on your board and you use a paddle to propel yourself through the water. It's a great way to see the shoreline and explore the reefs; and it's a great workout. For even more fun, try a SUP Yoga class. You'll be doing downward dogs on a paddleboard. It's challenging, but in a good way! Another plus is that paddleboarding is something the whole family can do, from little kids to senior citizens, you can bring your whole crew to try it.
Catch A Game At Florida Atlantic University
Boca Raton is home to Division 1 Florida Atlantic University. The main campus is located in the heart of Boca and it's beautiful. You can spend time walking through the various gardens on campus before making your way to the FAU football stadium or the FAU baseball stadium. FAU has made a name for itself in both football and baseball, so you're sure to see a very high level of talent out there on the field. What's nice is that both of the stadiums have an intimate feel. An FAU baseball game is an especially nice way to spend an evening, you can grab a glass of wine and a burger from the food truck, then sit back in your stadium seat and enjoy the game. It's a great way to relax!
Deep Sea Fishing
For a fun day on the water that's perfect for just about any age group, why not try deep sea fishing? One of our most memorable experiences in South Florida was our deep-sea fishing trip. We booked a private daylong fishing charter for 6 of us that was a lot of fun. Our charter boat was owned by real fishermen with years of experience who gave us hands on help with EVERYTHING needed to have a great day of fishing off the coast.
If you aren't sure that you'll want to be out on the water all day; a great alternative is to book a 1/2 day charter. If you want a less expensive alternative, share a charter with others. Private charters are the most expensive and the privacy may not be worth it to you. And, just remember, there's lots of options when it comes to fishing charters so you're sure to find one that works for you and your party.
Visit Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
Made up of nearly 20 acres of preserved coastal ecosystem, the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center is a huge expanse located off the Atlantic Ocean and it's a fun and educational destination that shouldn't be missed. The center's main attractions include an elevated boardwalk through the forested areas, a butterfly garden, and a sea turtle rehab center. Plus, they have lots of other educational programs available as well as group tours.
Where To Eat In Boca
My favorite breakfast place in Boca Raton is Flakowitz Bagel Inn
. You must get yourself to this quintessential NYC diner/deli! It's totally like you're sitting in a Manhattan deli, complete with the white fish and lox. The clientele looks straight out of New York, as do the waitresses, complete with a NYC accent. The food is excellent and the portions are huge. Try the breakfast sandwich and their bagels with a schmeer. Outstanding!
The best place to grab some lunch in Boca is Los Tacos. If you love Mexican food like I do, check out this place. It's a very small restaurant, so you may have to wait, but it's worth it. They serve up super fresh, authentic Mexican food at an unbeatable price point. Three of us had lunch for less than $30! And, the complimentary homemade chips and salsa are drool worthy.
For happy hour with an atmosphere, head over to Deck 84
. Voted one of the top 100 al fresco dining places in the United States, at Deck 84 you can grab a table outside on the huge deck and enjoy happy hour with a view of the Intercoastal Waterway. You can even arrive by boat and if you bring your own catch, they'll cook it up for you. For happy hour, try their chicken fajita tacos or their truffle fries.
Boca Raton can be an expensive city. One step into the upscale Italian restaurant, Louie Bossi's
, and you'll see what I mean-it's not cheap! That said, for a special occasion meal, it's a great choice. Here they specialize in serving Italian fare in an upscale environment. You can enjoy everything from margherita pizza to linguine with clams. You will need to make reservations or be prepared to wait because it's a very popular place. We tried to get a table on a Friday night and there was nothing available until almost 10:00 p.m. We tried again to get a table on a weekday and didn't fare much better - no tables available until after 8:00 on a Thursday night. Now we make reservations!
JB's On The Beach
is another upscale choice that may not be the cheapest place around, but if you're scrimping on your accommodations, then you may have some room in your budget to experience their relaxing beachside atmosphere. Try the fresh ceviche or the coconut fried shrimp. Either one is a great choice for under $25.
Where To Stay in Boca
Plenty of great places to stay can be found on AirBnB. Find a place on the beach or further inland to save a little money. Or, find a place near all of the nightlife spots.
There are a lot of places to choose from when it comes to selecting accommodations for a stay in Boca Raton. From the super deluxe Boca Beach Club to even Super 8, there's an option for every budget. I think the best moderate place to stay in Boca is the Renaissance Boca
. The Renaissance Boca Raton Hotel is a Marriott property and offers a lot of amenities at a budget worthy price point. I like the whole feel of the Renaissance. It's definitely updated with lots of nice finishes and extra touches like a very lush and comfortable lobby area and a complimentary shuttle service. And, I love the fact that their pool is not your average square box with water. It's a nicely shaped pool with scalloped edges that includes a waterfall on one end. Also to note is the awesome hot tub and the pool bar. The pool bar adds a whole other element as far as I'm concerned. It gives the hotel a very "resort" feel and adds so much ambiance to the place. Even if you don't want a boozy drink, it's nice to be able to order an iced tea and some appetizers right there poolside. It feels luxurious and elevates the entire experience.
There you have my recommendations for how to experience Boca Raton without spending a small fortune. No matter how you choose to experience Boca Raton and all of South Florida, you can't help but have a great time!