Miami is known for its vices, but don’t be fooled. It is an enticing family playground packed with outdoor adventure, welcoming beaches, museums and local color. Here’s an itinerary that will help your crew enjoy every facet of the “Magic City,” from its unique tropical climate to its sandy beaches and arts scene.
Hold on to your hats with an airboat ride through the swamps of the Everglades at Sawgrass Recreation Park. This park is located north of Miami but is a great chance to learn about the ecosystem of these natural tropical wetlands and set your eyes on some alligators. Keep in mind that the airboats do get quite loud (earplugs are provided) and that this activity may not be best for children under 6 or those who are sensitive to noise.
Next up, or for younger families who would prefer to start closer to town, head to Jungle Island. This 18-acre complex for animal lovers is well known for its parrot habitat, but you can also see giant tortoises, lemurs and kangaroos, and there are many live animal shows throughout the day. A great adjacent destination to beat the heat is the Miami Children’s Museum. This interactive oasis gives young children the chance to play cruise ship, supermarket and TV studio.
Families with older kids and teens who have more stamina may prefer Zoo Miami. The park is the largest tropical zoo in the United States and was designed with a cage-free approach employing natural barriers and moats to make the atmosphere feel more natural.
If the troops are still going strong, wind down the day at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park on Key Biscayne (only 6 miles from downtown Miami). Its lighthouse is the oldest standing structure in the city. There are also quiet beaches, a park and two restaurants, or grab a bite at Artisan Kitchen and Bar. There may even be time for a swing through Crandon Park at sunset (and a ride for the little ones on the carousel) before you head back to the mainland.
TIP: We suggest picking no more than two to three of these spots in a day, depending on the ages and interests of your children.
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Start at the one and only Venetian Pool in Coral Gables, a rare spring-fed pool built in 1923 in an old coral rock quarry, to get a sense of Miami’s golden age. This National Historic Landmark offers a central fountain and grottos to explore as well. Note: Kids must be at least 3 years old to enter the pool complex.
From there, elementary schoolers and up will enjoy the Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. This Italian Renaissance-style villa, built by millionaire John Deering as his summer home in 1910, could be the backdrop for a fairy tale. Guided tours of the house are offered throughout the day, but many families focus their time on the gorgeous gardens, complete with a maze. The gardens are a great place to play hide and seek and also make for a great photo op in the process. Don’t forget to look for the monsters in the swimming pool.
This afternoon, hit Bayfront Park for a panorama of Biscayne Bay and the Port of Miami, plus a pretty beach and an ocean-themed playground. Thrill seekers will be buzzing over a wild jetboat ride that leaves from the park and offers great views of Miami, Fisher Island, Star Island and the Art Deco expanse along Miami Beach.
Younger travelers may prefer nearby Flamingo Park. There are no actual flamingoes here, but this huge South Beach park offers a shady playground as well as a zero-depth entry water play area. They also have facilities for lap swimming, tennis and basketball.
Tonight, enjoy dinner and check out famed Miami Beach. Kid haven Sugar Factory is a popular American-style brasserie that serves everything from pancakes to burgers, along with over-the-top dry ice drinks made for sharing and massive milkshakes.
Start the day with a visit to Little Havana, specifically Calle Ocho between 17th and 12th Avenues, and browse the art galleries, shops and restaurants. When hunger strikes, Versailles is a popular stop for its famous Cuban coffee and specialties, or pop into Sanguich de Miami for a Cuban sandwich. Don’t miss Azucar Ice Cream Company, where you can try a range of exotic flavors including café con leche, sweet plantain and mantecado (Cuban vanilla).
Next up is a visit to Wynnwood Walls, an Instagram-worthy collection of murals and graffiti in the old warehouse district that is a hit with older kids and teens. Book a golf cart tour to learn the inside story of this arts hotspot, understand more about the artists and their tags, and cover the most ground with ease.
The sleek Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is on the agenda for the afternoon. This renowned modern and contemporary art museum offers excellent age-specific programming from birth through teens, ranging from gallery tours to storytime and activity packs. Make sure to check the schedule in advance. Another option is to see what’s on at the nearby History Miami museum, which focuses on south Florida history and often runs offsite walking tours and cruises through specific areas, including a South Beach history and Art Deco walk.
Animal fans looking for an up-close encounter should consider Monkey Jungle to interact with and feed the monkeys. Marine life enthusiasts can visit the Biscayne Nature Center inside Crandon Park. Book ahead for hands-on experiences like catching sea urchins and learning about coastal ecology and tidal pools. For those who’d like to get out on the water at the juncture of the Oleta River and Biscayne Bay, visit Oleta River Outdoor Center to rent canoes, kayaks, paddleboards or bikes, or take one of their guided tours.
A great rainy-day option is the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science. This vast museum features hands-on exhibits that bring to life engineering and physics concepts as well as the Everglades ecosystem, and there’s even a planetarium and aquarium.
TIP: If you find yourself in Miami on a Sunday morning, a great way to start the day is to head to Lincoln Road Farmers Market, where you’ll find the freshest produce and local bites from empanadas to ceviche.
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