By Erin GiffordUpdated Oct 08, 2019
Photo: Courtesy of Claire Sibonney
It’s hard to go wrong with Miami. It’s sunshine, it’s palm trees, it’s Florida. When the deep winter freeze sets in, the largest city in South Florida has you covered with colourful murals, thrilling airboat rides, kiteboarding and kitschy attractions you’ve just got to take the kids to see.
No trip to Miami is complete without a quick trip across the Rickenbacker Causeway to Key Biscayne, home to the Miami Seaquarium. Start at the touch pools where kids will giggle away as they dip their hands in to touch slippery bamboo sharks and blue spotted rays. Snap a few photos with free-roaming flamingos before making your way inside for the stunt-filled dolphin show. From manatees to penguins to sea lions, your children will be awed by all the adorable marine life that call the Miami Seaquarium home. The popular aquarium also helps grow future philanthropists by educating on their work to help endangered sea turtles and restore coral reefs.
Miami’s Wynwood Walls are among the most popular, and colourful, outdoor attractions in the city. Vibrant street art and graffiti-style murals cover more than 80,000 square feet of wall space. Inspire your budding young artists with an exploration of this former warehouse district now known for its funky, eclectic, and very ‘gram-worthy, works of art. If you’re lucky, you may even spy an artist creating a new mural, especially on weekends. It’s mesmerizing to watch muralists hone their craft. The splashy murals rotate often, ensuring that no two visits are the same.
At the state-of-the-art Frost Science in downtown Miami, kids use all their senses in the MeLaβ, engaging in hands-on experiments and puzzles that show kids how to get fit, make good food choices, test their reflexes, and learn to relax through music. In the 250-seat Frost planetarium, little ones can go to the far reaches of our universe or take in a captivating twice-monthly laser show set to ear-popping music, then explore South Florida ecosystems in the massive 500,000-gallon Gulf Stream Aquarium. Don’t miss the River of Grass exhibit where your kids can get hands-on with a virtual Everglades before setting out to explore this gigantic wetland area on their own.
You can’t go to Miami and not spend time on the beach. It’s just a fact. Every beach has its own personality, and some are more family-friendly than others, like Crandon Park. Here you’ll find a two-mile section of white sandy beach with plenty of towering palm trees offering shade on sunny days. Catch a few waves, then walk the nature trails or get your kids up on a kiteboard. Matheson Hammock Park is another uber-popular beach with kids and families. The beach sits along a man-made atoll, so there are no waves, making the beach ideal for toddlers to splash and play. If you're going all the way to Miami, you might as well also stay oceanside at a hotel like Eden Roc, located right on Miami Beach. It has spectacular views, multiple pools right by the water, its own sand toys on the beach and a kids club called Beco Kids where little ones aged four to 12 can explore in full or half-day programs and after-hours babysitting.
Let your little foodies-in-training explore Miami from a tasty perspective with Miami Culinary Tours, which offers five different guided walking tours. The Little Havana Food Tour is a great pick for small children, thanks to sugary-sweet stops across Miami’s celebrated Cuban neighbourhood, like Yisell Bakery, for guava pastelitos (puff pastries).
After shutting down in September 2017 due to damage from Hurricane Irma and then starting their renovations in February, Jungle Island finally re-opened its doors in late-May with more for kids to see and do at this lush eco-adventure park that already wowed with wild animals aplenty, like parrots, flamingos, lemurs, red kangaroos, and orangutangs. Book a two to 12-minute flight with SuperFlight, an outdoor skydiving simulator, then solve puzzles to escape The Cabin in the Jungle at The Asylum. Small children will be all smiles at the playground, petting zoo, and small water park with inflatable slides, all great places to burn off energy at Jungle Island.
There’s just something special about the Florida Everglades, and there are a variety of ways for you and your kids to explore this iconic subtropical ecosystem, including its wildlife, like alligators, white-tail deer, and egrets. Bump along on an exhilarating airboat ride through the mangroves with an outfitter like Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours. The ride concludes with a live alligator show. Your kids can even hold and pose with a baby alligator. For those less eager to get up-close with an alligator, a swamp buggy ride offers an elevated view of the Everglades, high above the gators.
There’s a lot to see in South Beach and Lincoln Road is the first place to go. This pedestrian-friendly shopping promenade is free of vehicle traffic, making it easy to explore the area safely. Pop in and out of boutiques, listen to live music, and make a stop-off for a scoop at one of the many ice cream shops along the way. Books & Books, a lively independent bookstore, has a fantastic selection of kids’ books, while Dylan’s Candy Bar, a whimsical candy store, is every child’s sweet dream. On Sunday’s, look for a buzzy farmers’ market bursting with fresh-cut flowers, honey, breads, fruits, and vegetables.
When you’re ready to chill, nearby Coral Gables is the place to go for a splash at Venetian Pool, the largest freshwater pool in the United States. Set in a most picturesque setting, the pool wows with lush foliage, crystal-clear waterfalls, and ivy-covered loggias. Thanks to two Mediterranean-inspired lookout towers, grottos, porticos, and a scenic bridge, you and your crew may feel as though you’ve crossed the pond for a holiday in Venice, Italy. The shallow water and refreshingly cool grotto area make this pool perfect for young children. As a bonus, an on-site café keeps kiddos fuelled up throughout the day.
Coral Castle is easily one of the funkiest attractions in South Florida, just right for fun-loving kids eager to traipse across a wacky sculpture garden made entirely of coral rock. To this day, no one knows for sure how the owner single-handedly carved more than 1,100 tons (over 2 million pounds) of coral rock into towers, fountains, sundials, and tables (including a table shaped like the State of Florida). It’s an intriguing museum-like oddity worth making time for, particularly when you need a day away from the beach and want to encourage your kids to form their own theories about its creation.
Interactive and STEM-savvy exhibits accompany the classic kid-sized supermarket, animal clinic, and firefighter and police zones at the Miami Children's Museum. The virtual aquarium animates kids’ drawings to become part of an undersea environment, while a musical staircase—where every step plays a different tune—leads to the gigantic cruise ship on the second floor, which kids can explore.
This is one of Miami’s most vibrant neighbourhoods and the heart of the city’s vast Cuban population. Taqueria El Carnal is a famous hole-in-the-wall known for its tongue tacos, but it also serves more kid-friendly choices like chicken and steak. At family-owned La Colada Gourmet, parents can indulge in a perfect cortadito (shot of espresso topped with a bit of steamed milk). Head to the main strip, Calle Ocho, for live salsa on the street, intense domino matches and Azucar Ice Cream Company, which has some of the best artisanal ice cream (order the Abuela Maria—made with guava, cream cheese and Maria crackers).