The 18-acre Jungle Island is an interactive zoo and amusement park. // © 2015 Jungle Island
Feature image (above): Ocean Drive epitomizes the excitement of Miami. // © 2015 iStock
Miami, the beachside metropolis whose cool, hip reputation was earned through its vibrant entertainment and nightlife, has been developing a new side to its personality as of late. Capitalizing on its natural resources — the pristine beach and nearly year-round sunshine — and adding its own mix of pulsating tropical vibes, the city has rapidly become a major family destination.
Culture is key here, and Miami bustles with diversity, thanks to its close proximity to the Caribbean and Latin America. Nowhere is that more evident than in its cuisine. Pincho Factory is the quintessential Miami casual eatery. Named after the Spanish word for a skewer or kebab, Pincho Factory includes a make-your-own pincho entree, as well as top-quality, all-natural burgers, offered in a fun, low-key atmosphere.
For those wanting a more modern take on classic American fare, try Blue Collar, set in the historic MiMo district in Miami. The acclaimed diner, serving contemporary American comfort food in a casual setting, features diverse dishes with appetizers such as the duck “McMuffin,” super-tender hanger steak and crispy skin snapper served with rock shrimp and vegetable rice in a red curry.
If the kids (and adults) are looking for a way to cool off in the hot Miami heat, head to local favorite Freddo for gelato. Located within the Lincoln Road Mall, a pedestrian-friendly shopping center that extends about a mile, Freddo is an Argentinean transplant that features — get this — cold gelato stuffed inside a freshly baked panini.
Once the gelato panini is polished off at Freddo, check out the dozens of nearby high-end shops. On Sundays from October through May, Lincoln Road is especially charming, with vendors and shoppers buzzing around the Lincoln Road Antique & Collectible Market.
No trip to Miami would be complete without a visit to the new Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), next to picturesque Biscayne Bay. A visit to the contemporary museum can be made interactive with PAMM Family Packs, which includes activity sheets, pencil kits, scavenger hunts to explore the artwork, puzzles and more.
More adventurous families should head to Jungle Island, an 18-acre interactive zoo and amusement park. More than 450 exotic animals live in the park, such as a Spanish-speaking cockatoo, the only tame cassowary on the planet and even a liger (lion-tiger mix). Guests can participate in hands-on interactions with the animals or go on guided behind-the-scenes VIP tours.
While the traditional mode of transportation in Miami is a vehicle, the Citi Bike program is a great alternative. For an hourly rate, people can rent the solar-powered bikes at any of the hundreds of docking stations around the city. This ride-sharing system is an especially popular way to zip around the waterside areas of South Beach and Biscayne Bay.
With all of these outdoor activities, finding a relaxing spot to rest is a must for families. The Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne, Miami is the ideal oasis for both parents and kids of all ages. The casual-chic resort is situated in the secluded neighborhood of Key Biscayne, accessible via a long bridge (or boat, if you so choose), which is still only minutes away from exciting museums, restaurants and attractions in downtown Miami and Miami Beach. While there, guests can experience both adult-focused and kid-friendly amenities, such as a pool designated for adults and another for families that features a rock waterfall.
Not far from the Ritz is Crandon Park, an all-in-one activity space filled with diverse ecosystems, as well as watersports, superb tennis facilities and even an 18-hole championship golf course. Visitors can kayak or kiteboard along the 2-mile-long beach or swim to the nearby sandbar.
No matter where visitors go throughout Miami, they are never far from the Atlantic Ocean, making it nearly impossible to avoid the turquoise blue waters and providing an ideal backdrop for a great family getaway. Miami’s natural assets, as well as its vibrant cosmopolitan personality, helps to create a family vacation that will appeal to kids as well as their parents.
WHEN TO GO
The summer heat and humidity can be brutal to the uninitiated. December through April tends to offer ideal temperatures, with average daytime highs in the 70s.
More than 80 airlines fly to and from Miami. As one of North America’s busiest airports, the Miami International Airport is also one of the nation’s top in customer service, as identified by the Transportation Research Board’s Airport Cooperative Research Program.
Families should be on the look out for the airport’s own volunteer golden retriever, Casey, who has been known to put the smile back on kids’ faces after a day of hectic traveling.