Author: Nancy Lippincott
Tags : Baby, Beach, City Break, Florida, Kids, Miami, Multigen, Museums & Culture, Teens, USA
Miami, Florida is no longer a haven only for grandparents, but a very kid-friendly place, rich in cultural diversity and just plain fun. Perhaps it's the pervasive influence of the Latin culture with its multi-generational families, maybe it's the warm climate that encourages relaxation, or the fact that most of Miami's family attractions are built around the great outdoors, incorporating palm trees, water and open sky. Whatever the reason, Miami is a fun and affordable place for a long weekend, or even a full week.
Most of the really good, large, beachfront hotels have smart and well-designed Kids Clubs of one sort or another, and almost all can arrange for evening childcare with a day's notice.
For our pick of the most fun things to do in and around Miami, with any age in every season, check out this comprehensive Miami attractions for kids and family guide. For general information on the Miami area, contact the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (800/933-8448; 305/539-3000).
Great Fun for the Kids
(Toddler to Age 8)
1111 Parrot Jungle Trail
Miami, Florida 33132
Home to over 2,000 exotic birds, alligators, a petting zoo, and a children's playground, this nature park is a great choice for little ones. The staff makes low feeding stations available for some "hands-on" action and special photo opportunities. There are also wildlife shows and interactive exhibits scheduled frequently. Beautiful botanical gardens stretching over 12 acres (the gardens are wheelchair accessible) serve as a gorgeous backdrop for a half-day visit.
4400 Rickenbacker Causeway
Key Biscayne, FL 33149
Whales and sharks and seals - oh my! Without a doubt, the main attraction here is Lolita, the resident killer whale who performs in a highly orchestrated, highly drenching (if you're sitting near the tank) show twice daily. (Make sure to call ahead for specific times). It may not be up to the calibre of other marine parks, but the aquarium has an impressive sea lion show and shark presentation making it a fun afternoon for little ones. Many sea movies have been film here and their Swim with Dolphins Program is one of the best, done in a nurturing and educational atmosphere.
3600 W. Sample Road, in Tradewinds Park
Coconut Creek, Florida 33073
Butterfly World opened its doors in 1988, making it the first butterfly house in the United States. A mammoth 8,000-square-foot, screened enclosure houses thousands of butterflies in a natural rain forest environment complete with flowers, trees, a waterfall, a cave, and cooling tropical mist. Extensive outdoor gardens surrounding the enclosure round out the grounds. Young kids will no doubt love being in the midst of these beautiful creatures.
Fun for Older Children
(Up to Age 18)
Miami Science Museum
3280 South Miami Avenue
Miami, Florida 33129
Currently a low-slung Spanish style building surrounded by palm trees and bright bougainvillea, this simple one-story affair is quite unlike any museum. With some exhibits indoors, but mostly outdoors, the museum has a full-scale learning center with free-access computers for after school programs, a state-of-the-art Planetarium, and a variety of rotating exhibits. One of two big attractions is the Wildlife Center, a rehabilitation haven for injured wildlife, specializing in Florida-native raptors. The brand new museum to be known as the Philip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science is a totally modern take on the original, set to open in 2016. The palm trees and bright bougainvillea will still be there, but the new museum will rise vertically in Museum Park near the water and the new Perez Art Museum.
The Museum Of History Miami
101 W. Flagler Street
Miami, Florida 33130
Covering 10,000 years of Florida's history, this museum holds a wide range of exhibits and features a collection of 37,000 artifacts primarily from the 20th century, sure to entertain and inform older children and adults for a few hours. In addition to their permanent collection and visiting exhibitions, the museum also runs frequent walking tours of Miami neighborhoods, a great way to get to know the city.
1001 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
This renovated Art Deco warehouse at the corner of 10th Street houses one of the world's most intriguing design collections (sculpture, posters, household items, really an enormous variety) from the modern era between 1885 and 1945. The permanent collection is a design buff's dream, and there are often temporary shows which may be of interest to your family. Since it's a stroller-friendly place that charges no admission on Fridays from 6pm-9pm, we think it's a worthwhile stop for every age group before dining at one of the hip South Beach cafes.
Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden
10901 Old Cutler Road
Coral Gables, Florida 33156
Named after the world famous plant explorer Dr. David Fairchild, Fairchild Topical Botanic Garden includes 83 acres dedicated to the conservation and research of an unrivaled collection of tropical plants. With a two-acre rainforest, open-air butterfly garden, bird sanctuary, and ever-rotating selection of art exhibits, Fairchild is sure to offer an educationally and culturally stimulating afternoon of botanical beauty. Don't miss their beautiful collection of glass works by artist Dale Chihuly, whose organic glowing shapes fit it with the lush, tropical landscaping. Open daily from 9:30-4:30, admission includes tram tours, walking tours, and shuttle service. Generous discounts are available for those who choose an eco-friendly mode of transportation to Fairchild. Watch this video tour for a first-hand look at what the garden has to offer:
Fun for the Whole Family
12400 S.W. 152 Street
1 Zoo Boulevard
Miami, Florida 33177
Rated by experts as one of the best zoos in the world, this is a place where you don't feel bad for the animals. It is totally cage-less and the preservation of natural habitats, the imaginative use of coral rock, grassy areas and shady plains creates a positive environment. Gaily colored and wrapped packages filled with fruits, food and clothing are even placed in the fields for the chimps to open on Christmas morning. Far beyond the 500 species of lions, tigers, bears, reptiles and birds, don't miss the exotic creatures in The Amazon and Beyond. To get the most out of your visit, we suggest you take the (air-conditioned!) monorail for a good overview, attend one of the classes or shows, then see some of the scheduled keeper talks and animal feedings. Also offered are tram tours that take guests behind the scenes to see such things as the zoo hospital. Florida: Mission Everglades highlights native Florida ecosystems and educate the public about conservation and preservation of the state's wildlife habitats. The best time to visit is morning or late afternoon when the sun gets lower.
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
A 15-block area at the southern tip of Miami Beach, this 'tropicool' stretch along the Atlantic Oceanfront has a style all its own. As one of the hippest, trendiest spots on the East Coast, South Beach is a great area for people-watching. You may spot a model being photographed on the sand, a rock star out for a stroll, or an enormous cruise ship leaving the Port of Miami. This busy stretch of gold sand (and the wild roller rink in MacArthur Park) may not be the best spot for a relaxing afternoon, but it's sure worth a visit to check out "the scene."
Art Deco District - Welcome Center
1001 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach, FL 33139
The Art Deco District of Miami is a world-renowned area that covers about one square-mile of the heart of South Beach. A whole neighborhood comprised of wild and colorful 1920s and '30s architecture, the area is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. No visit to Miami would be complete without a guided walking tour of the Art Deco District and its celebrity residents. A good place to start is the Miami Design Preservation League headquarters, where maps, guided tours, self-guided audio tours and Art Deco souvenirs are available. If you don't have time to take a whole tour, you can learn about this design movement at the new Art Deco Museum on the premises. Since 2015 marks the centennial of Miami Beach, there are many events scheduled throughout the year. Closed Monday.
Lincoln Road Mall
Between Alton Road and Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, Florida 33139
This fun outdoor mall is a long pedestrian zone packed with high end boutiques like skin care guru Kiehl's, clothing shops like Anthropologie, Quiksilver, and Banana Republic, a movie theatre, and lots of street musicians and mimes. The scene is always kid-friendly, as many shops are tucked into restored, two-story Deco landmarks and the walkway itself has fountains and public art on display. On Sunday, every two weeks from October to May, the Lincoln Road Antiques & Collectibles Market has booths which take up the walkway and provide lots of vintage and Deco memorabilia and collectibles. Don't miss the sunset and late-night people and pet watching, when Lincoln Road's many outdoor cafes and cafe creatures really come to life. Metered parking is available in municipal lots both north and south of the mall.
Wynwood Art District
561 NW 32nd Street (location of Bakehouse Arts Complex)
Miami FL 33127
Since graffiti artists began using the long walls of warehouses and abandoned factories as their canvas more than a decade ago, Miami's Wynwood Art District has become a fast-gentrifying area of restaurants, public art works, and high design shops. With more than 70 galleries, a few small museums and workshop collections in a rambling neighborhood that is bounded by North 36th Street, I-95 on the west and N.E. First Avenue on the east, it's a must-see for visitors interested in the new. Start at the Wynwood Kitchen & Bar (2550 N.W. 2nd Avenue) with its famous interior murals and art garden, then stroll from there, or do a driving tour before you decide which area you want to walk in. Frequent weekend events, green markets and street fairs.
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
3251 S. Miami Avenue
Miami, Florida 33129
Built in 1916 by the Chicago industrialist James Deering, this 34-room Italian Renaissance-style villa is loaded with period furniture, textiles, sculptures, and paintings from the 15th century on. Highlights inside the house include a rug that Christopher Columbus walked on and a restored historic village. Outside the house, 10 acres of manicured gardens and ornate fountains overlooking Biscayne Bay are really quite impressive and fun to stroll. Check their website for many seasonal festivals and performances on the grounds.
2701 de Soto Boulevard
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
The only pool on the National Register of Historic Places, this 820,000-gallon pool was formed from a rock quarry in 1923. With two waterfalls, coral caves, grottos and stone bridges, the Venetian Pool, which is fed with cool spring water, sees nearly 100,000 visitors every year. Open seven days a week during the summer season (limited days during off season), the pool also offers courses in children's swimming, adult swimming, and water safety. Coolers are not permitted on the premises, but the Venetian Poolside Cafe has a variety of family-friendly menu options. It is fun for the whole family; the only catch is that for safety reasons, children under the age of 3 are not granted entrance.
401 Biscayne Blvd., R106
Miami, Florida 33132
This marketplace consists of 16 beautiful waterfront acres along Biscayne Bay, with many shops, restaurants and a large marina. Street performers and musicians frequent the area, and the harbor view makes for a great shopping/eating atmosphere characteristic to many popular waterfront markets. Allow a few extra hours to join a coastal cruise such as the Biscayne Lady past the lovely villas of many film and music celebrities whose estates line the Intracoastal Waterway -- a touristy treat.
Everglades National Park
40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, Florida 33034
An ideal daytrip from the Miami area, Everglades National Park is home to the largest remaining sub-tropical wilderness in the continental United States. Found within the winding fresh and saltwater streams and everglade prairies are crocodiles, alligators, armadillos, and a number of endangered bird species. Get the most out of your visit by joining up with a ranger-led hike or discussion.
Savings During Miami Attractions Month
If you're visiting Miami during the month of October you're in luck! The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau hosts Miami Attractions Month, offering printable coupons for discounted admission to many of these attractions. Check their site for other seasonal savings.