Tucked into the northwest corner of Broward County, Parkland is home to 34,000 people, and is bounded on two sides by the Everglades.
Incorporated as recently as 1963, this mostly residential city is one of the richest cities in Florida. Much of the city’s population resides in gated communities, with names like Parkland Isles and Parkland Reserve.
In Parkland I can’t resist the pull of the Everglades, which spread out for miles to the west. You can hike or ride along the levee here, or head out on an airboat tour.
A whole slew of attractions can be found within a ten-minute drive of Parkland, from tropical nature preserves to public art galleries.
1. Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
My favorite place to be in Parkland at sunset is the far western end of Loxahatchee Dr. At this spot the city is suddenly replaced by the endless expanse of the Everglades. Late in the day, the low sun turns the canal into a glowing strip of gold.
To the north and northwest is the 145,000-acre Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. West and southwest is the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area.
Naturally this vast wetland environment is impenetrable without a boat. Still, you can hike or ride a bicycle along a section of the 58-mile perimeter trail that encloses the national wildlife refuge.
Meanwhile if you head south you’ll be on the Conservation Levee Greenway skirting the Wildlife Management Area.
2. Parkland Airboat Rides
Tracing the levee is one thing, but if you want to enter the heart of the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, you’ll need an airboat.
Fortunately there are a few companies based in Parkland offering this service. My pick is Parkland Airboat Rides, which is an antidote to some of the area’s tourist traps.
For one thing, this company only uses small airboats. This means a more intimate experience, but also a lot more maneuverability, so more fun.
The captains are steeped in the natural world of the Everglades, and know how to give you the best wildlife-viewing experiences in this one-of-a-kind environment. Other local operators include Loxahatchee Adventures and Swamp Monster Airboat Tours.
3. City of Parkland Farmers’ Market
On Sunday mornings, November through April there’s a large farmers’ market Parkland. This takes place next to the Equestrian Center at Temple Park, and has 50+ regular vendors.
When I took a look recently there was ample fresh produce, as well as coffee, teas, hot sauces, seafood, pickles, jellies, baked goods, olive oils, and a lot more.
What really makes the market essential for me is the food court. The diversity of food trucks is off the charts here, with everything from burritos to gyros, arepas and BBQ.
The equestrian center is one of just two public facilities in Parkland where dogs are welcome, so you can bring your pup to the market.
4. Terramar Park
Along with Pine Trails Park, Terramar Park is one of two hubs for Parkland’s youth and adult sports programs.
This is a stunning park, as you’ll see as soon as you arrive. The access road/parking lot is by a lake with a fountain and waterbirds on its grassy edge.
A twisting network of trails leads to all corners of Terramar Park, including picnic shelters and a state-of-the-art playground.
For a full run-down of the sports amenities, you’ve got tennis courts, basketball courts, pickleball courts, four multi-purpose fields, and six baseball/softball fields.
5. Doris Davis Forman Wildlife Preserve
Close to Terramar Park there’s an unfrequented piece of South Florida nature hiding along Parkside Dr.
On 20 acres the Doris Davis Forman Wildlife Preserve comprises cypress wetlands, an oak hammock, and pine woods, with a thick layer of ferns in the understory.
Once I stepped in, I was surprised at how dense this little patch of wilderness is. Most impressive is a 1,550-foot boardwalk leading you through the damper cypress swamp.
Biting insects come with the territory in this kind of place. So I was pleased to find complimentary bug spray at the trailhead.
6. Quiet Waters Park
At more than 400 acres, Quiet Waters Park in nearby Deerfield is often anything but quiet. This public attraction is frequently full of boaters, water skiers, and other fans of sun, fun, and watersports.
The park is home to a private cable water skiing business called Ski Rixen USA. Instead of boats with noisy and polluting outboard motors, Ski Rixen USA uses quiet and environmentally friendly cables to tow skiers.
High-quality mountain biking is available too, while the park hosts a variety of seasonal festivals. The biggest is the ever-popular Renaissance Festival, happening every weekend, February through March.
For those too young to water-ski, there’s the exceptional Splash Adventure Water Park, a massive water playground worthy of a theme park.
7. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
A slice of Sin City in South Florida, there’s a Vegas-sized casino five minutes away in Coconut Creek.
This is a gigantic complex, with 2,100+ slot machines as well as more than 70 table games like baccarat and black jack.
Added to that is world-class live entertainment. The 3,000-capacity Stage at Coco hosts major recording artists and comedians. On a typical night there will also be live music at several smaller venues around the casino.
In terms of dining, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek’s five eateries offer everything from Asian and Italian to seafood and traditional American fare.
8. Tall Cypress Natural Area
Next to Seminole Casino Coconut Creek is a 68-acre plot of land that escaped the development rush of the 1980s. Such is the abundance of vegetation in Tall Cypress Natural Area that I forgot I was still in the city.
Traversed by a boardwalk, this preserve boasts a towering canopy of bald cypresses, and slash pines. These are broken up by lower strangler figs and red maples.
Without the boardwalk you would never get anywhere here. The understory is carpeted with saw palmetto, numerous fern species, wild coffee, beautyberry, and a wide range of other swamp plants.
9. Sawgrass Wildlife Hospital and Nature Center
This nonprofit organization treats, rehabilitates and releases native South Florida wildlife.
Each year, hundreds of animals are brought to the facility. And although the primary role of the Sawgrass Wildlife Hospital And Nature Center is rehabilitation, the center offers guided tours.
I can’t think of many better ways to get up close to South Florida’s reptiles, birds, and mammals. On beautiful grounds, you’ll see alligators, ibises, herons, turtles, gopher tortoises, iguanas, raccoons, owls, and many more.
Something to mark on your calendar is the annual Orchid & Plant Festival. This event happens in early December and features close to 30 vendors.
10. Butterfly World
In Coconut Creek, Butterfly World is one of the area’s most beloved family attractions. Although it’s a blast for all ages, this spot is a must for those traveling with little ones.
Opened in 1988, Butterfly World is made up of six spectacular aviaries. These habitats brim with tropical plants, and feature more than 20,000 butterflies, and a spellbinding variety of native and exotic birds.
One part I adore is the lorikeet aviary, where these tame birds will perch on your hand if you buy some nectar for them.
The Research Facility does a deep-dive on the lifecycle of butterflies, and presents Butterfly World’s important conservation work.
If you come on a warm and sunny day, the butterflies are most animated. When things are cooler in winter, the butterflies are less active and easier to photograph.
11. The Coral Springs Museum of Art
Neighboring Coral Springs has a sensational arts complex, which first opened in 1990 and was expanded not long after.
One component is the Coral Springs Museum of Art. Completed in 1997, this is a marvelous showcase for local and nationally-recognized contemporary artists.
Exhibits normally last for around eight weeks, so each experience will be different. When I was here last I caught a pair of awesome solo exhibitions by ceramic artist Heather Couch, and sculptor Thomas Stollar.
The complex also features the 1,471-seat theater, staging everything from Broadway to ballet.
12. Florida Panthers IceDen
The training rinks for the NHL’s Florida Panthers are just a couple of minutes from Parkland in Coral Springs.
This state-of-the-art facility has three ice sheets, and offers masses of programs for hockey, learn-to-skate, and figure skating.
Public skate sessions mostly take place on weekends. If you’re up for something a bit more intense, I’d recommend the Cosmic Skate on Friday nights, with a light show and DJ.
Also in the building is the Southeast’s largest full-service hockey and figure-skating store. This offers services from skate molding to stick sizing.
Finally, home ice for The Panthers is the 19,250-seat FLA Live Arena, about 15 minutes down SR 869 in Sunrise.
13. Festival Marketplace
For my money, Pompano Beach’s Festival Marketplace is one of Southouth Florida’s quirkiest and most memorable shopping experiences.
For a whole quarter-mile there are rows and rows of vendors selling almost anything under the sun. I’m talking, jewelry, electronics to cheap sunglasses, perfumes, clothing, cosmetics, luggage, footwear, toys and way more.
Looking is half the fun, and it’s always possible to find a real gem or two if you have the time and patience. There’s a massive food court that offers a variety of dining options, from Cuban specialties to pizza.
One of the anchors is the Hillsboro Antique Mall, a classic multi-dealer emporium with more than 200 dealer booths.
14. Osprey Point Golf Course
Since it opened in 2010, this public golf course in Boca Raton has won several awards. Unlike traditional 18-hole facilities, Osprey Point Golf Course is made up of three distinct nine-hole courses. You can play these in a variety of ways to mix things up.
Meanwhile, the greens and fairways are composed of a new hybrid turf that is both player and environmentally-friendly. What you get are country club-level conditions that are never too dry or waterlogged.
For those who need a little warm-up before setting off, there are multiple putting and chipping greens, and a full-length driving range.