When you're in South Florida, here are some of the highlights of heritage, nature and culture to be found in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
The oldest surviving structure in Broward County, Fort Lauderdale's 1901 Historic Stranahan House Museum, 335 S.E. 6th Ave., tells tales of the days back when the town was an Indian trading post. Tours are offered daily. Call (954) 524-4736.
Learn about the heritage of the city's African-American population at the Old Dillard Museum, 1009 N.W. 4th St. Call (754) 322-8828, evenings and weekends by appointment.
Head west along Interstate 75 to County Road 833 and the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. The tribe offers different ways to become familiar with its cultural heritage through the museum, trading posts, rodeo events and festivals. The Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum impressively portrays scenes and artifacts important to the Seminole culture. Call (863) 902-1113.
For even deeper involvement, visit Billie Swamp Safari to witness a wildlife show and enjoy a 60-minute swamp buggy tour, or a thrilling airboat ride through the 2,200-acre preserve on the Big Cypress Seminole Indian reservation. Call (863) 983-6101, 1-800-949-6101.
Stroll the boardwalk – Peter W. Cross for VISIT FLORIDA
For those who prefer exploring nature, Boca Raton holds inimitable pleasures. Stop first at the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, 1801 N. Ocean Blvd., for a lesson in sea turtles, nurse sharks, and local fish. Call (561) 338-1473.
Then head with beach towel and binoculars to one of the beaches along Route A1A, such as South Beach Park, 400 N. A1A, a favorite. Call (561) 393-7810.
In Palm Beach, the 10-mile Lake Trail has been designated to be shared by bicyclers, strollers, joggers and rollerbladers. The Lake Trail begins at the Society of the Four Arts complex, by the Lake Worth Lagoon. It makes its way to the north end of the island at Annie's Dock and returns along the Intracoastal.
Explore the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center – Peter W. Cross for VISIT FLORIDA
Off Southern Boulevard, 10 miles west of the Florida Turnpike takes you to Lion Country Safari, 2003 Lion Country Safari Rd. in Loxahatchee, where you drive past lions, giraffes, zebras and more in your own vehicle. Call (561) 793-1084.
For another look at wildlife, head back to U.S. 441 south to Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, 10216 Lee Rd., for a guided tour, hike, or canoe into this wetlands world of rich bird and aquatic life. Call (561) 734-8303.
Go for a ride -- Lion Country Safari
Route A1A makes the most scenic drive from Miami to its neighboring cities, lively centers of festivity and art. Greater Fort Lauderdale boasts 23 miles of sun-kissed beaches -- all just an easy walk from many hotels, restaurants, activities and parks.
In downtown Fort Lauderdale, along Las Olas Boulevard, you'll find galleries and glitzy nightlife. You may want to do this part of the trail by foot, continuing along Riverwalk, a mile-long walk paved with signature bricks that winds along the water and hosts Sunday jazz brunches. It starts at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. 5th Ave., which offers live theater, dance and popular music. Call (954) 462-0222 for the current schedule.
Don't miss the Museum of Discovery and Science, 401 S.W. 2nd St., where you can explore more than 200 fascinating interactive exhibits and enjoy a five-story high film in its AutoNation IMAX Theatre. Call (954) 467-6637.
Explore Las Olas Boulevard – Peter W. Cross for VISIT FLORIDA
Up in Boynton Beach, the Schoolhouse Children's Museum and Learning Center, 129 E. Ocean Ave., exposes the little ones to South Florida culture and history in a milieu they can grasp -- a 1913 six-room schoolhouse. Call (561) 742-6780.
Further north still, the Palm Beach area is a cultural hub in itself. Henry Flagler's grand 1902 winter residence, Whitehall, at One Whitehall Way, is frequently referred to as the "Taj-Mahal of North America." Fully restored with most of its original furniture, it is open year round as the Flagler Museum. Call (561) 655-2833.
West Palm Beach's downtown Clematis Street offers lively shops, restaurants, nightclubs and some of the city's finest commercial architecture. Just south of downtown is the Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., internationally distinguished for its permanent collection featuring European, American, Chinese and contemporary art and photography. Call (561) 832-5196.