Taking your family to Miami Beach on vacation can be just the answer when you’re looking for a child-friendly destination that still has plenty to keep the parents entertained too. Miami Beach is not just about arts, culture, shopping and clubs – areas which kids might not be too interested in – but also includes fun sightseeing including cruises, animal parks, beach life and more. Family-friendly accommodation can also easily be found and many local restaurants cater to kids’ preferences, too. All of which means that you if you’re heading to Florida on a family trip, you don’t just have to go to Disney World: go further south and have a vacation that everyone in the family can enjoy at Miami Beach.
If your stay at Miami Beach is a short one, you’ll want to check out the attractions close by, and there are plenty of these to choose from depending on the ages and preferences of your children, and your own inclinations of course. Most of the exciting spots for kids are nearby in Miami or the surrounds, so having a hire car will make it easier to get around, although it’s not impossible to use public transportation to access a number of places.
In Miami you’ll find attractions like the Miami Children’s Museum with all kinds of interactive exhibits, and the Miami Seaquarium, home to an orca named Lolita and numerous other sea animals. Just between South Beach and Miami you’ll find Jungle Island, one of the oldest tourist attractions in the area – back in 1936 it was started up as Parrot Jungle but now the park includes numerous kinds of animals and allows visitors to interact with many of the animals. It is even home to a liger – a cross between a lion and a tiger – named Hercules.
You can also spend a half day in Miami Beach itself in the great outdoors getting your kids worn out by hiring skates or a bike from one of the numerous shops or bike rentals. Roll or ride along Ocean Drive, for example, meaning the kids have fun and the parents can marvel at the Art Deco architecture along the way; end up at the beach for a picnic lunch or even a swim and you can be sure that your children will sleep well that night.
Local events can add a special highlight to your trip. For example, if you’re in Miami Beach on a Sunday, check what local markets are running – the Lincoln Road Farmers Market runs all day Sunday and has a lot more than just boring fruit and vegetables; every second Sunday from October through to May, the Lincoln Road Antique and Flea Market operates and your kids will be fascinated by all the “old stuff” available. Four times a year an event claiming to be the world’s largest flea market takes place in Miami Beach, too, at the Convention Center, and it’s so large you can buy nearly everything you can dream of here.
If you’ve got the time and flexibility to head a little further out of Miami Beach then the list of kid-friendly attractions gets even bigger. Half an hour away, everyone will love the Monkey Jungle where an eccentric monkey-loving guy keeps monkeys and lets the humans walk through a cage to see them while the monkeys swing freely above you. At a similar distance, the recently renamed Zoo Miami has long rated as one of the best zoos in the country, despite the damage done to it by Hurricane Andrew. With Asian, African, Amazonian and Australian sections, Zoo Miami features a wide array of animals not commonly seen by zoo visitors and that’s sure to interest the kids. From there it’s less than an hour further to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park where you can take reef-watching cruises in glass-bottomed boats, or if your children are old enough, take them snorkelling or even scuba diving. You can also rent boats, kayaks, canoes and paddleboats for the day at very reasonable rates, so there are plenty of options for water-loving kids.
From breakfast through to the final meal of the day, there are plenty of kid-friendly options for meal times throughout Miami Beach. Most likely your hotel will offer some form of a children’s menu but if you’re wanting to eat elsewhere there are quite a few good options, even for fussy eaters. The Front Porch Cafe is popular with everyone, including families, and is especially famous for its fish tacos if that’s something that appeals to your kids. Big Pink on Collins Avenue looks so fun that it’s naturally attractive to kids and serves plenty of choice on its kids’ menu. Johnny Rockets on Lincoln Road is a reliable burger meal to keep children happy, or just up the road try Pizza Rustica with its pizza sold by the slice, ideal for kids who can’t make up their mind; other franchise restaurants with family-friendly atmospheres are easy to find in Miami Beach, too.
If you’ve headed off further afield, then a great place for a seafood dinner is the Islamorada Fish Company in the Upper Keys, because the kids are bound to enjoy the huge aquarium as well as the replica of Ernest Hemingway’s fishing boat. On your way back to Miami Beach you could stop in at the Dadeland Mall in Miami to try a meal at the Cheesecake Factory which has an extensive children’s menu – and who of any age can go past the choice of fifty different cheesecakes?
At the end of the day – or shortly before the day finishes, when your kids start to tire out – you’ll need a comfortable place to crash. In Miami Beach, the most popular accommodation tends to be housed in quaint Art Deco buildings, but these kind of hotels are rarely suitable for families – the rooms are too small to accommodate extra beds for kids and there are few suites or adjoining rooms. This means the best accommodation options for family travel to Miami Beach are the resort-style places or the large chain brands.
Along Collins Avenue, the numerous beach resorts are a good place to start your accommodation search: the Miami Beach Resort, Marriott’s Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach and the Fontainebleau Resort, just to name a few, all offer suites which can easily accommodate a family. A number of resorts in or near Miami Beach also offer kids’ clubs or other kinds of organised activities for children. Loews Miami Beach Hotel in particular welcomes children, and even have a “Loews Loves Kids” program with clubs, camps and other amenities for the younger traveler, even Fisher Price toys! If some of your kids are older they even have a special entertainment program for teenagers. The Sagamore at South Beach offers family bungalow accommodation and even does a good job of making kids feel important; the Ritz Carlton South Beach provides luxury for the adults and a daily Ritz Kids program where you can leave your children for full-day supervision and fun, and they even offer a special meal deal for kids regardless of which part of the hotel you eat at.
If hotels like these are not really acceptable to your budget, then take a look at the apartments and apartment-hotel arrangements you can make in Miami Beach. They can offer more self-contained accommodation if you want to prepare some of your own meals – something which can sometimes make a trip with kids a lot easier than getting them to eat in a restaurant. Wherever you decide to make a reservation, be sure to ask about the availability of pull-out beds, adjoining rooms or family-sized suites, along with children’s meals and other amenities, before you place a firm booking.
Whether your stay in Miami Beach is very short or lasts a couple of weeks, it is still a great choice for a family vacation. Parents will find plenty of culture and novelty to keep them interested and for the kids, there’s always the beach, great sightseeing attractions like zoos or aquariums, and the chance to get active on rollerskates, bikes, canoes or boats. If you choose your hotel carefully then there are numerous options for family-friendly accommodation with large suites or adjoining rooms offered in many hotels or apartments. And because Miami Beach is such a popular holiday destination for families as well as others, many of their restaurants feature menus designed to impress the taste buds of the younger travelers of the group. If you drive down or rent a car, then the rest of southern Florida is at your fingertips too, and you could easily spend a couple of weeks exploring the region with the kids and nobody will complain of being bored. And surely that’s what a vacation with kids is all about!