Miami is best known for 3 things: Vice, Heat, and Sound Machine. But be aware that if you’re taking the fam down there, the place Will Smith once described as being a “party in the city where the heat is on, all night on the beach, ‘til day to the break of dawn,” means that your baby won’t be the only one suckling at 3 AM.
But Miami is way more family friendly than you’d think for a town where folks are as shamelessly naked as your toddler at bath time. Want a monkey to climb on your back? It’s got that. Want to sit beside the ocean eating fried chicken? It’s got that. Want to wear socks with sandals? Don’t do that.
Tips From A Local Dad
South Florida native, and new dad, Scott Sherman has you covered. He’s managed to maintain some semblance of the rap video lifestyle with his toddler son (who also just happens to be a foodie Instagram star) in tow.
- Walk on the wild side in Jungle Island: When driving over I-395, otherwise known as the causeway from the mainland to South Beach, you can’t help but notice a building with a giant parrot. Don’t be alarmed (the parrot means no harm). In fact, you should highly consider pulling over.
- “Jungle Island is great,” assures Sherman. “It’s right off downtown, and very easy to get there. It’s like a little zoo you can do in an hour, which can be the perfect amount of time depending on how old your kid is. They’ve got a ton of bird shows. My son got a picture with a tiger cub. They even have a little private beach there. It’s really a cool experience for kids.”
- Spend the afternoon at Matheson Hammock Park: Miami is full of parks, but some are more populated than others. For the more private-island variety, that’s also conveniently located in the historic and very family-friendly Coral Gables, Sherman says this is the spot.
- “It’s next to Fairchild Tropical Gardens, and has a little secluded beach area on the bay,” he says. “It’s quiet. Most don’t know about it unless live in Miami. It’s much more low key, kids can wade into the water easily. You can spend hours there.”
- Pick berries and eat a million cinnamon rolls at Knaus Berry Farm: Not to be confused with the second-rate Disneyland on the other coast, this place has cinnamon rolls! These little beauties should be on everyone’s bucket list, because they are that good. A staple since the 1950s, it’s only open in the Fall/Winter months and is so loved by locals, there’s likely an ongoing calendar alert to remind them when opening day is approaching.
- “Knaus Berry is a must,” stresses Sherman. “It’s an Amish farm, and most Miamians grew up going there, too. Go early, because the line for cinnamon rolls can get long. Kids will love wandering the fields, and picking strawberries.”
- Stroll from South Pointe Park to the beach: No trip to Miami is complete without a visit to South Beach. The tricky part is picking the not-so-nude areas and/or where your kid won’t be flooded with club flyers from Mansion. Shockingly, this does exist.
- “When going to the beach, it’s much quieter in the South of Fifth area on South Beach,” explains Sherman. “South Pointe Park is right there. It has a splash zone and wet zone over there, kids love it. It’s beautiful. From there, you can walk directly onto the beach.”
- Eat at Glass & Vine in Coconut Grove: Coconut Grove’s lush oasis is worth a stop on your itinerary, and this new eatery where to park it with the littles ones for food al fresco. “They have this whole outside seating area, and it’s literally in the park,” says Sherman. “It’s really tropical, has a playground right there. The kids can just play and entertain themselves while you sit and hang out. There are lots of families in this area, too.”
- Take a day trip to Islamorada: Florida’s very first Key is only about an hour if beautiful driving over the water from Miami. Kids will love the wildlife and you’ll love seeing where Bloodline was filmed (you can stay at that same hotel, but be aware that Coach Taylor doesn’t actually live there.) “It’s such a great, easy little getaway,” says Sherman. “You can eat on the water, go fishing, paddle boarding. There are tons animals my son likes to see. It just feels like you’re getting a real tropical vacation, but you can do it in a day.”
Fisher Island Club
- This 200-acre island, formerly a Vanderbilt enclave, now houses upscale condominiums as well as rental apartments, cottages and suites that function with hotel amenities for out-of-town guests.
- Emerging from a $60 million renovation, the entire island looks refreshed, from the hotel rooms to the pools and athletic facilities.
- The extensive grounds have a country-club vibe and an equivalent amount of activities, including golf, tennis, a fitness center, a spa, a marina and shops and restaurants.
- The one-bedroom guest house suites sit in the original Vanderbilt guest home and have separate bedrooms and living rooms with sleeper sofas.
- The cute cottages offer free-standing homes with multiple bedrooms, kitchenettes and private outdoor jacuzzis.
- Decor varies widely, from the Old World look of the guest houses and cottages to the individual owner-chosen furnishings in the rental condos.
- Residents and guests cruise the island in golf carts, making it a safe place for children to play and bike without worry.
- Quiet nights: There’s no nightlife on the island.
- Plenty of activities mean families of all ages can avoid boredom even on longer trips.
- Accessible only via ferry, guests who want to explore Miami or eat at a South Beach restaurant will need to take a 10-minute boat ride to the mainland.
- Because homeowners on the island are “equity members” and guests are, well, guests, and certain areas and privileges are restricted to members only.
- Service can be unreliable.
- Set on quiet Key Biscayne, this Ritz-Carlton is the most beachy of the brand’s Miami-area hotels, with multiple pools and restaurants plus a kids’ club, a serious tennis program, a 20,000-square-foot spa and gym, plus nearby golf.
- The 490 rooms, suites and apartments overlook either the ocean or the nearby residential buildings and have updated but traditional decor.
- Although guests can drive to South Beach, the resort has such an expansive campus that many never leave, and pretty Crandon Park provides additional activities for those who want to explore without leaving Key Biscayne.
- Most rooms can connect, giving parents a king bed and the kids 2 doubles.
- All suites have separate bedrooms and living rooms with sofa beds plus balconies with ocean views.
- Residence studios and suites include kitchenettes with stoves, microwaves, and refrigerators.
A wide, uncrowded beach with beautiful views towards downtown Miami.
- The heated, zero-entry family pool is flanked by a lawn set up with games for children and a casual Mexican restaurant plus mobile ice cream cart.
- The Ritz Kids program, which accepts children ages 5 to 12, features activities created by Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Futures Society.
- Rooms haven’t been renovated recently, and bathrooms could use an update.
- Distance-wise, South Beach isn’t far from Key Biscayne, but rush-hour traffic can cause delays so plan your excursions carefully.
- The resort’s large size can make a stay feel less personal, so upgrade to a Club Level room for access to the cozy lounge with its own concierge service plus complimentary food all day (plus beer and wine for you) and a children’s play area.
- The Royal Palm’s 393 rooms are spread through three Art Deco buildings reborn as one of South Beach’s most chic hotels.
- The design feels quintessentially Miami, with classic mid-century furniture accentuated by modern references.
- Amenities include two pools, loaner bicycles, a small spa and fitness center, free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and the excellent Florida Cookery restaurant.
- Double-bedded rooms are a snug fit but can sleep a family of 4.
- For more space, book connecting rooms, either an ocean view double to king or a city view double to king.
- Two- and 3-bedroom apartments feel feel like stylish Miami pied-a-terre but have a kitchenette/wet bar instead of a full kitchen.
- The dids’ programming at the hotel is exceptional, from a play space designed by the Miami Children’s Museum to kids’ menus in the restaurant and room service, plus a beach stocked with colorful sand toys.
- Grab really good morning coffee at the retro cafe in the lobby, built into the building’s original Art Deco reception area and dig into the lounge’s cache of classic board games and books to borrow.
- The hotel doesn’t host the DJ parties popular at many of the other South Beach hotels, so it feels more relaxed and quieter.
- The hotel lacks sofa beds, so families need to book a room with multiple beds or a larger suite or connecting option.
- Like many of the hotels built into older buildings, the rooms aren’t large, although there are plenty of public spaces so you won’t be in your room much.
- The main pool isn’t huge, so plan to arrive early to score a front-row lounge chair.
The Local House
A haven on the touristy stretch of Ocean Drive, from breakfast to dinner.
Gourmet thin-crust pizzas in the Design District.
Yardbird Southern Table & Bar
Southern comfort food with upscale versions for parents and mac-and-cheese and fried chicken for, well, everyone.
BLT Steak Miami
The sunny version of New York’s BLT, with a great terrace on Ocean Drive.
Pull up a stool at this casual taqueria or get takeaway for the beach.