While sitting on the beach with my dog, I became inspired to write this article, and as I watched the Goodyear blimp go by I realized how lucky I am to be residing in Boca Raton this time of year. As the rest of the freezing country seeks the warmth of the indoors, we’re just now experiencing some of the best weather Florida has to offer.
Why is it so nice here during the winter season? Boca Raton actually qualifies as a tropical rainforest climate and the driest month occurs in December, and that means little to no rain with temperatures averaging 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s no wonder that half of the northeast flocks down south to escape the cold. With that in mind let us explore some of the best places to enjoy this amazing weather.
(Before we dive into this list, there is one place you’re going to want to avoid in the winter: I-95. Monday – Friday between the hours of 8am – 10am and 4pm – 6pm. If you’re down visiting the lovely towns around Boca Raton, keep in mind that us locals are trying to get to work between the days & times mentioned above. It will help to better schedule your day by avoiding I-95 during work traffic, sparing yourself from wasting time and frustration on the busy highway).
1) Gumbo Limbo: Obviously we’re going to kick this list off with some beach locales because we’re in South Florida with some of the most beautiful beaches nationwide. Unfortunately for locals, Boca Raton lacks readily accessible public beach entry due to the condo-lined shores. It may require spending a small fee to enjoy the beach weather, but promises to be well worth your while. In addition to an exciting adventure, your hard-earned dollars will be donated toward a good cause.
Since 1984, Gumbo Limbo Nature Center has provided a welcomed break from the city for visitors to enjoy the winding boardwalks that weave through the mangroves of the intracoastal. Situated on 20 acres of protected barrier island, Gumbo Limbo is a sanctuary that allows you to experience a broad variety of South Florida’s native plants and animals.
Check out the facility’s four massive saltwater aquariums that each represent a different South Florida marine habitat, including coastal mangrove communities, nearshore reefs, tropical coral reefs, and an artificial reef shipwreck.
The North area of the park houses a majestic butterfly garden that leads you down a sandy pathway to the intracoastal. Spend a moment or two on the shore and you may be lucky enough to sight a sea turtle or manatee in the water.
One of the most fascinating things about Gumbo Limbo is its collaboration with Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Biological Sciences and The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission which protects the area’s sea turtles. Boca Raton’s beaches serve as a nesting habitat for a variety of sea turtles species. Currently, every species of sea turtle is classified as either threatened or endangered. Fortunately, Gumbo Limbo’s rehabilitation project focuses on rescuing sick and injured sea turtles within the 5 miles of Boca Raton’s beaches, eventually releasing them back into the wild. The best part is seeing the turtles up close in their rehabilitation tanks, meanwhile chatting with staff and researchers who are well versed on the history and condition of the turtles. The park is free to visit, but your donations will go directly to funding the rehabilitation of the turtles as well as projects that focus on preservation and restoration of the beautiful coastal areas.
2) Red Reef Park: After exploring the nature preserve and learning a few interesting facts about South Florida’s marine life, soak up the sun at one of Boca’s most popular beach parks.
Red Reef Park is a 67-acre oceanfront park ideal for swimming, snorkeling, fishing, barbecuing, and relaxing. If you’re from the northeast, you may be brave enough to jump into the chilly water, but you’ll find that most South Florida natives refrain from doing so in the winter, and instead decide to relax near the shore. Grab your cooler, stop by Publix on the way for a tasty deli sandwich, or take advantage of one of the many BBQ pavilions in the park. Don’t just settle for the spots near the front entrance; if you travel to the North side of the park you will find amazing areas to barbecue and enjoy oceanfront views that are covered by Sea Grape trees and Gumbo Limbo trees all around.
After filling up on some grilled treats, take your adventure toward the boardwalk and down to the beach. Here you can check out the rocky reef formations situated on the shoreline and witness the many sea creatures that South Florida gives a home to. Make sure to park across the street in the parking lot where you pay by the hour, otherwise it’s $18 per car to get into the park.
If you’re a golfer, you may also want to play a round on the executive golf course, situated right along the shoreline. The nearby Spanish River Park is a great alternative that offers many of the same amenities, but I prefer Red Reef because it is a clean, exciting, and vast park offering everything needed for a typical and wonderful day at the beach.
3) Mizner Park: No list of things to do in Boca Raton would be complete without the mention of Mizner Park. Since the early 90’s, this square has defined the downtown scene of the city. Mizner offers visitors the chance to peruse one of very few outdoor avenues in the area that are home to a variety of shops and restaurants. Mizner has become one of the trademark icons of Boca Raton over the years. Here you can enjoy and explore many different restaurants, unique shops, an amphitheater, an art museum, high end retailers, and a luxury movie theater.
If you’re in the mood for variety, check out Yard House at the South end of the plaza. Offering a delectable food menu and an even larger list of draft beers, Yard House is a high-end sports bar and restaurant that is always buzzing with energy. You may rejoice at the sight of their meticulously aligned tap lines that crawl the ceiling in an impressive, brewery style fashion. Plenty of seating and all around good cuisine makes Yard House a solid choice, especially for families.
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, head over to Max’s Grille or Racks Eatery, located in the middle of the park. Both restaurants feature the names of two restaurateurs who have dominated South Florida’s restaurant industry.
Make sure to bookmark https://www.myboca.us/826/Mizner-Park-Amphitheater to stay up to date with upcoming events. Mizner Amphitheatre is home to many popular performers, festivals, movie nights, and art showcases.
For a more happening nightlife scene within the park, visit Kapow! Noodle Bar for Pan-Asian food, creative cocktails, and great deals. Directly next door is the long-standing Dubliner Irish Pub for you to grab a beer, watch a live band, get down on some Karaoke, or get involved in the bar trivia.
4) Florida Atlantic University Owl’s Football: You don’t need to drive to Miami for football action when you’re in Boca. FAU Stadium opened in 2011 and is a 70-million-dollar open air stadium with 30,000 people seating capacity. December marks the end of the season for FAU football, so you’re going to have to be strategic in catching the final games. Make sure to catch the Boca Raton Bowl featured at FAU Stadium every year in mid-December. Home to the NCAA’s Division I College football, the Boca Bowl is the best place to watch the Mid-American Conference postseason bowl games.
FAU Stadium is situated in the center of FAU’s campus, located off of Glades road near I-95. Some positive advantages include ample parking at reasonable prices, a variety of entertainment during commercial breaks, and great views from nearly every seat in the stadium. Make sure to check out a game at one of the only places in the nation where you can watch live College football and also see the Atlantic Ocean.
5) Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens: While being one of the most unique places in all of Boca Raton, The Morikami Museum is a center for Japanese art and culture that offers an incredible escape into a carefully crafted Japanese environment. Morikami has a rich history that encapsulate the significant work of George Morikami and the Yamato Colony, the first community of Japanese farmers in Boca during the early 20th
With over 188 acres, Morikami offers visitors a chance to explore and indulge in Japanese museums, gardens, and culture. There you can experience incredible bonsai gardens and even an authentic Japanese restaurant. As you enter one of the greatest cultural staples in Palm Beach Country, the museum and gardens will have you feeling as if you’ve been transported to Japan itself.
Keep an eye on their event calendar throughout the year – https://morikami.org/event-calendar/. Morikami hosts signature events like the Sushi & Stroll Summer Walk and the extremely popular Lantern Festive. Enjoy the beauty of the parks while sipping Sake, watching Japanese folk-dancing, taiko drumming and the iconic lantern floating ceremony.