Back in the day, one could not utter the words “South Beach” and “family vacation” in the same breath. Sure, it is still the scene of late night parties and night clubs, but these days you’ll find more strollers than party-goers walking down the streets of the trendy Miami district. Thanks to Kids Camp programs offered by a few hotels, getting away to South Beach has never been more attractive for families. Here are some places to consider for family fun.
This man-made treasure is the home of 500 tropical birds, hundreds of species and varieties of plants and flowers, reptiles, monkeys, penguins, kangaroos, tigers and more. What’s great about this place is the hands-on experience. One visit to Lorikeet aviary and you’ll have the birds feeding out of the palm of your hand…literally. The venue hosts four animal shows daily and starting at about $20 you can get your picture taken with exotic animals, macaws or a white Bengal tiger-cub (proceeds support our fine feathered and furry friends). Jungle Island also has quite a green streak. It’s a member of the Green Scapes Alliance and a member of the EPA’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Program. Its holistic approach to landscape-site development, without the use of pesticides, sets the standard for environmentally sound sustenance that is also cost-effective.
Just across the highway from Jungle Island is the Children’s Museum; a destination where a kid and even an adult, can just be a kid. You should plan to spend an afternoon to enjoy all that it has to offer: go fishing on an indoor boat, shop for life-like groceries, drive a fire truck, ride a ChiP motorcycle or even milk a cow. Pack a lunch, enjoy the outdoor play park and while relaxing, count the cruise ships that line the port.
There is plenty to see and do at the Miami Seaquarium. There are continuous marine animal shows and exhibits, packed full of information. See and learn about endangered manatees, sea lions and a killer whale named Lolita. At Dolphin Harbor, the dolphin interaction facility, visitors get the chance to feed, touch and learn about the porpoises. The dolphin experience we had was touching, our bottlenose dolphin, Echo, purred like a kitten, rather clicked.
Where to Stay
In SoBe, there seems to be a hotel on every block—from the swanky to the not so. For the family, we recommend the Loews Miami Beach Hotel located at 1601 Collins Avenue. It has the much-needed swimming pool, cabanas, restaurants (including Emeril’s South Beach) and an on-site spa. For the tots, Loews offers games, special children’s menus and portable DVDs to use at the restaurants. The Kids camp allows lots of play-time for kids, while giving parents the option to do whatever they choose for a few hours. The Ritz Carlton, located at One Lincoln Road, also offers Ritz-Kids. Full or half-day sessions will undoubtedly entertain kids from start to finish. Both family-friendly hotels are steps away from must-visit pedestrian esplanade, Lincoln Road.
When to Go
“Any time of year is the right time to visit South Beach,” comments the gregarious Michael Aller, aka Mr. Miami Beach, Tourism & Convention Director for Miami Beach. “Deals abound during summer months, but for the winter-weary Jersey family, South Beach’s sandy beaches are the perfect antidote.” Lucky for those of us at the Jersey Shore, Philadelphia airport has frequent flights, less expensive than those out of Newark, with even better rates for long-term parking. In just a couple of hours, you can relax at the beach or lay pool-side and soak up the much-needed vitamin D.
For more information about visiting South Beach, call the City’s hotline at 305-673-7400 or email Michael Aller directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.