Located just inland of the Atlantic coast in South Florida’s Miami-Dade County, Opa-locka is one of the Miami metro area’s smallest municipalities and lies between Miami Gardens to the north and Hialeah to the South.
Before it was developed, the area was mostly comprised of flooded swamps and hammocks inhabited by the Seminole tribe of Native Americans. Now, it has a population of just slightly more than 15,500 residents.
Opa-locka is perfectly positioned to give visitors easy access to all South Florida’s natural, cultural, and historical attractions.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Opa-locka, Florida.
1. Jackson’s Soul Food
The American Southeast is definitely Soul Food country. For those not familiar with the traditional fare, it’s hearty, tasty, and laden with hard-to-burn calories that tend to turn love handles into full-blown handrails.
Located on NW 27th Avenue in Opa-locka, Jackson’s Soul Food is a go-to destination for those anxious to indulge in southern classics like fried chicken, pork chops and onions, collard greens, and sweet potato pie.
Jackson’s is known for its down-home atmosphere, hearty portion sizes, and reasonable prices, and draws hungry diners from far and wide and from nearly every walk of life.
2. Amelia Earhart Park
Though it’s technically in neighboring Hialeah, Amelia Earhart Park may as well be in Opa-locka, because you could hit a 5-iron from the town’s center to the park.
The park is named after the century’s great heroine of the air, whose name is still synonymous with adventure, mystery, and determination so many years after her disappearance.
The park features a designated doggie area, a petting zoo, playgrounds, and a number of trails that are open to walkers, runners, and bikers.
The park’s entrance is located on East 65th Street in Hialeah, and it’s a convenient place to relax or exercise in a natural environment.
3. Everglades National Park
Though it’s not the closest attraction to Opa-locka, Everglades National Park is one of those iconic Florida destinations that shouldn’t be passed up.
The park is comprised of almost 1.5 million acres of preserved natural habitats that are home to an amazing diversity of plants and animals, and many of them are very rare.
Due to its vastness, many parts of the park are best explored as part of a professionally guided tour, but there are lots of things to see and do on your own as well.
Nature walks, historical tours, and airboat rides are a few of the park’s most popular activities, while hiking, fishing, and camping opportunities are available too.
4. St. Thomas University
St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens was founded in 1961 and is a small, private Catholic university that has an undergraduate population of just less than 3,000 students.
The campus is comprised of more than 140 acres and includes attractive buildings, paved walking paths, and plenty of treed and grassy areas with lots of shade.
Like nearly all colleges and universities, St. Thomas is usually buzzing with sporting, art, and cultural events; many of them are open to the public and free.
Whether you’re looking to take a stroll, catch a game, or watch a debate, it’s a great place to check out.
5. Leah Arts District
South Florida is brimming with trendy and artsy destinations that appeal to hipsters, creative types, and those who enjoy the chill lifestyle of the hopelessly Bohemian.
Located on East 15th Street in Hialeah, the Leah Arts District is one of the region’s most popular art hotspots and features several galleries and studios, food and drink options, and lots of live entertainment.
Guests appreciate the district’s outdoor murals, cultural events, and all-round cool vibe too.
With so much going on, it’s wise to check their Facebook page periodically to see what’s on their calendar of events for when you’ll be in the area.
6. Hialeah Park Racing & Casino
With a history stretching back nearly a full century, Hialeah Park Racing and Casino is one of the area’s oldest gaming attractions. Over the years, it’s hosted plenty of movie stars, heads of state, and business moguls from all over the world.
Frank Sinatra and Winston Churchill were among the park’s esteemed guests in years past. Though you don’t have to be a big shot to enjoy the facilities, they often make visitors feel like they’re bigger fish than they really are.
Hialeah Park is known for its Vegas-style gaming, exciting racing, and world-class food, and they host a variety of live entertainment too.
7. Flamingo Lakes Golf Course
By some estimates, Florida has more than 1,100 courses, making it the country’s most complete golf destination for pros, amateurs, hackers, and duffers from all over.
The par-71 Flamingo Lakes Golf Course in nearby Pembroke Pines is considered by many to be one of the area’s best golf values; its 18-holes are scenic, fun, and challenging.
It’s a semi-private course, which means that during peak times, tee times are reserved for members, and there may be other amenities that aren’t open to the general public.
The course’s greens fees are reasonable, and if you plan on playing during peak times and on the weekends, it’s wise to reserve yours in advance.
8. C.B. Smith Park
Pembroke Pines is just a hop, skip and jump away from Opa-locka and offers outdoor activity-minded travelers a host of options that have been known to keep families engaged and occupied for hours on end.
For those with little ones, the park’s Paradise Waters Cove waterpark is its main attraction. When the sun and heat make the temperature nearly unbearable, there’s no better place to frolic and cool off.
The park’s amenities also include batting cages, tennis and basketball courts, and a lake that’s a good fishing spot.
Expect a crowd, especially during the summer vacation months when schools are closed.
9. Big Cypress National Preserve
Like Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve is a south Florida natural attraction that usually rates a top spot on the itineraries of nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.
The park includes hundreds of thousands of acres of swamps, mangrove and hardwood forests, and unique prairie lands that are home to a staggering variety of plants and animals.
Gators and Florida panthers live in the preserve, and though the latter are rarely seen, the former are common.
Fishing and hunting are allowed seasonally and may be restricted to certain areas. If you plan to do either, you’ll need to make sure you have the necessary licenses or permits to avoid hefty fines.
10. Flamingo Gardens
Flamingo Gardens are located in nearby Davie and are a popular and inexpensive attraction that’s a favorite of those traveling on a budget.
Unlike many of the state’s large parks, climbing on board an airboat and flying through a mosquito-ridden swamp isn’t a prerequisite to seeing the garden’s animals. It’s close enough to other area attractions to make it convenient to visit on an already busy day.
Narrated tram tours through the garden’s wetlands are a great way to get a unique insight into the area and its resident pink birds. There’s also a regularly scheduled interactive wildlife show that’s a big hit with little ones.
11. Young At Art Museum
Though you might not guess it by its name, Young At Art Museum in Davie is a unique area attractions that packs an interesting mix of art, science, and pop-culture into its exhibits.
From exploring a cave to riding a subway and creating a modern art masterpiece, there’s not much visitors can’t do in the museum, and most previous guests have noted that it’s wise to allot at least a few hours to the visit.
Many of the museum’s exhibits are interactive, and the staff offer a number of programs aimed at getting little ones to think, play, and learn all at the same time.
The museum is the perfect place to spend a morning or afternoon when the weather outside is less than pleasant.
12. Hard Rock Stadium
For decades, the iconic Florida football Stadium now known as Hard Rock Stadium was called Joe Robbie Stadium.
It’s been home to the NFL’s Miami Dolphins and the NCAA’s Miami Hurricane’s for ages. Even for those who aren’t visiting during football season, it’s still a great place to check out. Throughout the off-season, it hosts a variety of events that draw diverse crowds.
The stadium seats more than 60,000. For those who’d like a behind-the-scenes look at usually off-limits areas, guided tours are available when events aren’t scheduled.
Football tickets can be tough to find, and they’re often prohibitively expensive.
13. Extreme Rage Paintball
With a name like Extreme Rage Paintball, perhaps the facility’s staff and visitors could use a few sessions with a local psychiatrist or anger management specialist. But for those who’d rather forgo mental health and delve into a world of ambushes, firing squads, and general chaos, there’s no better place to get your fill of all three than Extreme Rage Paintball.
Extreme Rage is located in Hollywood and often ranked among the top facilities of its kind in the state.
The park has equipment and areas for players of most ages and skill levels, so check out their website for pricing, hours of operation, and directions.
14. Aventura Mall
By some estimates, Aventura Mall is one of the most-visited retail facilities in the country.
Located on Biscayne Boulevard in Aventura, it features hundreds of stores; many of them are swanky, international brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Givenchy.
For those who prefer penny loafers and khakis to Rolexes and tiaras, there are many less exclusive brands too, like Sears and Macy’s.
The mall is an excellent inclement weather destination and includes a variety of dining options, an IMAX Theater, and lots of great artwork created by local, national, and internationally acclaimed artists.
15. Aventura Arts and Cultural Center
Located along Aventura’s scenic waterfront, the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center was built in 2010 and has been providing the public with a variety of live performances, art, and cultural events that they may not have had access to otherwise.
Guests who’ve attended shows and events in other larger venues have stated that their experience at Aventura Arts was just as magnificent, and that their expectations were wildly exceeded.
The center features state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, and the building’s artistic appointments and architecture add to the experience as well.
Popular events may sell-out, so plan ahead and purchase tickets online if possible.