Miami with your ChildrenTaking The Toddlers To South Beach: It’s Not Just Lebron’s Town Anymore
With a new wave of NBA All-Stars flocking to its sizzling shores, Miami Beach is hotter than ever. But don’t fret – Miami is known for more than the Burberry “mankini” and the world’s first poolside tanning butler. Despite its flashy party scene, this city by the sea sports a “less is more” mentality by day – and not just when it comes to clothing. Miami is also a favorite playground for little East Coasters in search of year-round sun. While Miami’s most committed partygoers are in their cabanas catching up on their zzz’s, its tiniest visitors can stake their claim to the city’s sandy shores.
Though families often have to endure connecting flights for a quick jaunt to the Caribbean, Miami offers the same stunning beaches and it’s a direct flight from New York, making it perfect for a quick fling. If you’re a parent who likes to swim with the kids when the sun’s up and toss back Mojitos when the sun’s down, Miami is the place for you.
Forget your days of rocking a private cabana at the Delano. For families, apartment stays in Miami are best. A great source for oceanfront apartment rentals in Miami Beach is Luxury Rentals Miami Beach (www.luxuryrentalsmiamibeach.com). Or, rent a two-bedroom condo at the Setai for much better prices than published hotel rates, and reap all the benefits of staying at this fabulous, Asian-inspired hotel. For all of your baby gear essentials like cribs, highchairs, and strollers, call The Baby Travel Company. This local service will deliver your requested gear to your apartment, saving you the hassle of checking in your Pack ‘n Play at the airport.
When you’re not building sandcastles on the shores, biking along palm tree-shaded boardwalks, or logging in active hours at the pool, Miami offers plenty of worthy family attractions. A must-see for the little ones is Jungle Island, a cute, exotic animal paradise with a Winged Wonders bird show. Your little ones will be oohing, aahing, and ducking as vultures and other birds fly directly overhead and graze their little noggins. Explore the wonderful playground amid rambunctious primates before heading back to seagulls and peaceful ocean sounds. For longer stays, get in touch with your adventurous side on an airboat tour of the Everglades. (Without Dexter, of course.) Children will enjoy spotting alligators, 350 different species of birds, and even a Florida panther at the exotic wildlife center.
In Miami, nightlife for the under-10 set gets going at 5pm. The SoFi neighborhood (South of Fifth Street) is an ideal destination for the early evening. Head to breezy South Pointe Park, a wonderful new green space on the southern tip of Miami Beach, where you can go on leisurely walks along the pier and tumble down its vertical lawns. The park has sprinklers and a small playground, but kids will get the biggest kick out of cruise ship sightings. Grab some gelato from Dolce Vita before waving to enormous ocean liners as they head out to sea. Parents will get their kicks at the outdoor bar at Smith & Wollensky, where you can sip a cocktail or three and take in amazing views of Fisher Island and the setting sun.
For dinner, make your way to the legendary Joe’s Stone Crab, where the veteran waiters will make highchairs and crayons appear at the snap of a finger. If you’re unwilling to commit to a sit-down family dinner with your over-tired bunch, swing by Joe’s Take Away, where you can pick up stone crabs and king crabs, grilled cheese, wine, and the most amazing key lime pie on the planet. Dining al fresco on your oceanfront terrace with the waves crashing in the distance is definitely something you could get used to.
Rise and Shine
In the wee hours of the morning, don’t let the kids’ bright-eyed energy intimidate you. Head to 1st Street in SoFi, where you can match their boundless energy with a cappuccino – make that extra large, thank you – from Starbucks while catching the early morning rays and surfers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas Park, directly on the ocean. When you’re done, walk a few blocks to Big Pink and enjoy family-style portions of breakfast favorites outdoors.
Indoor activities are a necessary break from extreme weather days, and for this there’s nowhere better than the Miami Children’s Museum. This 56,000-square-foot facility will save your family from heat stroke and torrential downpours while triggering your child’s senses and creative mind. With 14 different galleries, including the popular World Music Studio, don’t be surprised if you rub elbows with a few of those preschool classmates from home. It’s been known to happen.
On your second night, put the Oh! in Opa at Taverna Opa in SoFi. This local Greek favorite is festive and fun, dishing out amazing meze and fresh, kid-friendly Mediterranean fare like chicken, fish, and lemon potatoes.
Cocktail Hour (Finally)
Later, after you’ve read Goodnight Moon and left instructions with grandma, throw on your chicest beach evening attire and dive into Miami’s al fresco nightlife. This is your time to enjoy very adult pleasures. Whether it’s dinner and mojitos at Casa Tua, drinks at The Rooftop at the Gansevoort Miami Beach or the oldie but goodie Rose Bar, or dancing at mega-exclusive clubs LIVand Wall Lounge, make Miami your playground while the kiddos drift off to sleep.