At Everglades Holiday Park, airboat rides and alligator presentations impress young travelers. // © 2014 Samantha Davis-Friedman
Feature image (above): Four Seasons Hotel Miami has plenty of kid-friendly activities, including a pop-up cinema, remote control boat races and behind-the-scenes visits. // © 2014 Four Seasons Hotel Miami
I have one sister, and we were raised by a single mom. Vacations with three females consisted mainly of tanning, museums and shopping — your basic “girl stuff.”
My sister and I are both moms now, but we have boys. And there are five of them between us. Needless to say, vacations are completely different than what we experienced. My boys like to be active, and they want to do and see things that are “cool” and different — that means no tanning and, most definitely, no shopping.
So, in preparation for a family trip to Miami, my sister and I had to come up with “boy-friendly” activities that would not only keep the interest of the five boys, but would also rate high on their so-called coolness meter. Of course, the following activities may also appeal to girls, too! Here’s what we did:
First Stop: Everglades Holiday Park
Located on 29 acres of wetlands in Fort Lauderdale and about an hour’s drive from central Miami, Everglades Holiday Park is called the “Gateway to the Everglades.” Here, visitors can board airboats for a 60-minute tour highlighting the plant and animal life of this unique ecosystem.
Upping the appeal right off the bat are the massive engines that power the airboats. After the airboat tour, we were taken into the “Gator Pit” where one of the stars of Animal Planet network’s hit television show “The Gator Boys” gave a 20-minute, up-close presentation with a massive alligator that included exciting tricks, daring stunts and important information on the mission of the Gator Boy Alligator Rescue. Nothing is cooler than that! And, as moms, my sister and I were thrilled that a little education was slipped in when the boys weren’t looking.
Don’t Miss This: The gift shop offers a variety of alligator-themed merchandise including fun Gator Boys shirts that proclaim, “There are no tap outs in alligator wrestling.”
Second Stop: Marlins Park
My older son plays high school baseball, so it was a given that we would be seeing a game at the new 37,000-seat Marlins Park. With a retractable roof to protect spectators from sun or rain, this state-of-the-art facility has earned a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification as the greenest MLB park in 2012. The top item on the coolness factor scale is that there is an aquarium inside the walls of the home plate backstop built by the Fish Tank Kings (from the hit show “Fish Tank Kings” on National Geographic Channel) containing live tropical fish. Pretty cool!
Don’t Miss This: Behind-the-scenes tours of Marlins Park are offered Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (except when the Marlins play at home). The tour includes stops at the clubhouse, batting cages, premium suites and the field.
Third Stop: Miami Seaquarium
In 1956, a dolphin born in Miami Seaquarium became one of the featured dolphins in the popular 1960s television series "Flipper.” The world-famous dolphin star is credited with increasing awareness and concern for inhabitants of the sea. Today, guests can see the Seaquarium’s Flipper Dolphin Show featuring a new generation of dolphins performing amazing leaps, spins, tail walks and flips, all choreographed to music.
And if that doesn’t garner enough interest, those looking for a personal experience with the dolphins can participate in the deep-water Dolphin Odyssey program or the shallow-water Dolphin Encounter. Swimming with dolphins takes the coolness factor of the Miami Seaquarium off the charts.
Don’t Miss This: The manatee exhibit gives visitors a chance to learn about these extraordinary and endangered creatures, as well as see them up close from both the poolside viewing area and through underwater viewing windows.
Even Hotels Can Be Cool
Despite its luxurious atmosphere, Four Seasons Hotel Miami is extremely cool as well. First of all, the hotel occupies the upper floors of the tallest building south of Atlanta.
In addition, when there are many families at the property, the hotel offers special events for kids such as a pop-up cinema in one of the hotel’s meeting spaces, remote control boat races in the one-foot-deep Palm Grove Pool or behind-the-scenes hotel tours in which children get to walk through the back of the house, visiting various hotel departments such as housekeeping, security and even the kitchen.
Don’t Miss This: At certain times of year, the hotel also offers cupcake and cookie decorating classes for children with the hotel’s pastry chef.
All in all, we had a very successful trip with all five boys agreeing that they enjoyed the activities because — you guessed it — “they were so cool.” Since traveling with boys means keeping the coolness meter running at all times, we were happy to have successfully managed that challenge. And the best part is that my sister and I also managed to slip in a little tanning and shopping for ourselves.