In Broward County, Coconut Creek was first developed in the late 1970s and is still growing, with almost 60,000 residents at the last census.
The city has adopted the nickname, Butterfly Capital of the World. This comes from the wildlife attraction, Butterfly World, which opened in 1988 and has been a real local success story.
Something special to me about Coconut Creek and the surrounding area is the isolated nature preserves. These beautiful little tracts are almost overrun with native South Florida vegetation, from towering slash pines and cypresses, to dozens of fern species.
Coconut Creek is in a large metropolitan area, with a lot to do in neighboring communities, while urban centers like Fort Lauderdale and Boca Raton are a short drive away.
1. Butterfly World
The largest butterfly and bird park on the planet is right here in Coconut Creek. In a rainforest environment, Butterfly World presents 20,000 butterflies, representing a wealth of species from across the globe.
One of the best things about this attraction for me was the Research Facility, where I got an insight into metamorphosis and butterflies’ life cycles.
There’s also amazing birdlife, across six free-flight aviaries, and you can hand-feed nectar to friendly lorikeets.
Butterfly World’s Bring Back the Butterflies’ program encourages families all over the country to get involved in boosting populations of butterflies into the wild.
2. Promenade at Coconut Creek
In 2008, this upscale open-air shopping center breathed new life into Coconut Creek’s retail scene.
With a dizzying array of shopping, dining, and entertainment, Promenade at Coconut Creek is still one of Broward County’s trendiest lifestyle destinations.
A few of the stores when I was here were Sephora, Soma, J. Jill, and Guitar Center, while food and drink options included chains like Beer World and Starbucks, and a host of independent restaurants.
It’s the perfect place to spend a few afternoon or evening hours relaxing after a day on the tourist trail.
There’s also a luxury Silverspot movie theater with 11 screens, where you can have food delivered right to your seat.
3. Fern Forest Nature Center
These primordial 250 acres in Coconut Creek are perfect if you want to immerse yourself in some of southeast Florida’s natural splendor.
The center’s elevated boardwalk leads you through a diversity of landscapes, including swamps, marshes, and prairies.
Before it was developed, this is what much of South Florida looked like, and Fern Forest now stands as one of the most important native plant communities in South Florida.
Something I found out during my walk is that there are more than 30 fern species growing here, and I spotted a handful of turtles and iguanas on my way thorough.
Speaking from experience, my pro tip is to put on bug repellent, which is offered free of charge at the visitor center.
4. Quiet Waters Park
Active recreation, on land and water, is the theme at this 430-acre park, close by in Deerfield Beach.
A private concessionaire at Quiet Waters Park is Ski Rixen USA, offering cable water-skiing and wakeboarding.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, with a marina for boat rentals, a campground, bike rentals, fishing lakes, a skate park, a disc golf course, a basketball court, a dog park, and a pollinator garden.
The park is transformed in February and March for the Renaissance Faire, with more than 100 performers and over 100 artisans selling their wares at the market.
The fair takes place only on weekends, and I love how there’s a different theme each week, from pirates to steampunk to general cosplay.
5. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek
Whether you’re a diehard gambler, buffet aficionado, or live entertainment junkie, you’ll likely find something to occupy your time at the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek.
From slots and roulette to poker and keno, the casino is full of traditional and digitized gambling options.
You’ve got more than 1,700 slot machines, and an entire room devoted to poker, from Texas Hold’em to 7 Card Stud.
There’s also a full lineup of live entertainment options at several venues, including the 3,000-capacity Stage at Coco.
Food-wise, there’s five different options, from the upscale excellence of NYY Steak to the more laid-back Sunset Grill, which has an island theme.
6. Tradewinds Park & Stables
Surrounding Butterfly World, Tradewinds Park is one of the largest public parks in the Fort Lauderdale area, at more than 600 acres.
While Butterfly World is the main attraction, there’s plenty more for families to do. I brought my kids to the stables here for a pony ride, and they also got to meet barnyard animals like goats and chickens at the educational farm.
Running on the third Saturday and Sunday of the month is a miniature steam train, and children can ride along for a small donation.
For other amenities you’ve got almost two miles of walking paths, a disc golf course, a picnic area, a playground, and soccer, cricket, and baseball/softball fields.
7. DRV PNK Stadium
The training complex and temporary home stadium for MLS team Inter Miami is just a few minutes south of Coconut Creek.
At the site of the former Lockhart Stadium, this sleek 21,000 venue is a placeholder until the completion of Miami Freedom Park, later in the 2020s.
Co-owned by former international soccer star, David Beckham, the franchise was formed in 2018.
When I wrote this article there was a massive buzz around the team, after it had signed Lionel Messi, probably the best soccer player to ever do it.
Since it opened in 2020, the DRV PNK Stadium has staged some big international games, including Gold Cup qualifiers and USMNT friendlies.
8. Tall Cypress Natural Area
Moments from the Seminole Casino, you can get away from the action at this peaceful nature preserve.
On 66 acres, Tall Cypress Natural Area escaped the sudden development that swept through in the 1980s.
I’ll never tire of exploring South Florida’s natural spaces, and the vegetation here is so dense that the only way to explore it is on the half-mile boardwalk.
This weaves through a canopy of cypress trees, accompanied by slash pines, strangler figs, sabal palms, pond apples and red maples.
Peer down into the understory and you’ll see wild coffee, saw palmettos, various ferns, and a wealth of other basin swamp plants.
9. Hillsboro Antique Mall
Antiquing is a minor passion of mine, so I was excited to check out one of the top multi-dealer malls in South Florida.
This can be found at the eastern end of the Festival Marketplace, which I’ll cover a little later in my list.
The Hillsboro Antique Mall has its own entrance, and houses more than 200 dealer booths and showcases.
There’s a lot to get through, with large and ever-changing displays of furniture, watches, porcelain, glassware, records, jewelry, toys, silver, postcards, vintage signs, musical instruments, and plenty more.
10. Splash Aventure Water Park
Ideal for parents with younger children, Splash Adventure is an interactive water playground with amazing dimensions.
My little ones spent several hours engaging with this whimsical jumble of levers, valves, and wheels.
There’s a range of slides, a giant tipping bucket, several tunnels, and water curtains, while the water level is never deeper than 12 inches.
Much more than a splash pad, the water park is patrolled by lifeguards, and has clear lines of sight for parents relaxing on the lounge chairs.
11. Festival Marketplace
Part of the scenery for almost 40 years, Festival Marketplace is an indoor market, a quarter of a mile long.
This is my kind of place, and with some 300 booths to browse, I need to set aside a big chunk of time to get from one end to the other.
You’ve got shoe stores, fragrance outlets, clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, furniture, kitchenware, luggage, eyewear, and a lot more.
Something I’ve noticed is that prices can fluctuate from day to day, so it’s worth making repeat visits for the best deals.
The food court is also excellent, and would be worth the trip alone. On my recent visit the options included pizza, Asian fusion, Mediterranean, Brazilian, and Cuban specialties.
12. Helene Klein Pineland Preserve
Compared to the other parcels of nature around Coconut Creek, not many people make it to this 13-acre property.
I have to say, I was captivated from the moment I set foot on the trail. As the name tells you, the main habitat is pine flatwoods, with lofty slash pine forest and a layer of saw palmettos.
In among these pines I came across expanses of cypress swamp, and two small parcels of rare marl prairie.
The latter is now rarely seen in the area, and is known for the rich array of plant species that are supported by its marl-rich soils.
Despite the preserve’s small size there’s a lot of wildlife. Among the residents are spotted skunks, Florida brown snakes and giant swallowtail butterflies.
13. Off The Wall Coconut Creek
If you need ideas for restless children and teenagers there’s a gigantic indoor entertainment center at Coconut Creek Plaza.
The headline at Off The Wall is the Ultimate Air Park, covering 12,000 feet, and the first of its kind in South Florida.
Among the many soft and bouncy attractions and obstacles here are a Ninja Wall, Xtreme Slides, Moon Bounce, a Battle Beam, and Meltdown. There’s also a separate zone for toddlers, with a height limit of 42”.
To go with the Ultimate Air Park there’s laser tag, VR games, an arcade, a ropes course, Crazy Cars, and an eatery for comfort food like chicken tenders and pizza.
14. Daggerwing Nature Center
Part museum, part preserve, part classroom, and part scientific laboratory, the Daggerwing Nature Center is a unique, family-oriented attraction.
Out on the elevated boardwalk in this remnant of ancient tropical rainforest, you might see woodpeckers, wading and predatory birds, gators, snakes, and turtles, So don’t forget your camera if you’d like to capture some special moments.
Inside, I had a great time poring over the engaging exhibits, with lots of interactive elements, and a variety of fish and reptiles in the aquariums and terrariums.
My favorite though was the butterfly garden, creating a habitat for the Ruddy Daggerwing butterfly that gives the center its name.
15. Oriole Golf Club
Since 1971, Oriole Golf Club in Margate has attracted local and out of state golfers. This 18-hole public course is well-known for its scenic and moderately challenging layout.
In a world of high-priced and semi-exclusive courses, it’s also pretty inexpensive, making it an excellent option for value-minded travelers.
Playing here, I found that most of the fairways were nice and open. The tricky part was setting up my approach shots, as the greens can be small and have a lot of movement.
Despite its challenges, the course is appropriate for beginner and intermediate level players.There’s a fully-stocked pro shop, and an all-grass driving range, open from dawn to dusk.