Miami, with its glamorous image, might seem more appropriate for grown-ups than kids, but it really is young at heart. It offers tons of kid-friendly options for your vacation to the Sunshine State. Read through these options, then list your favorites to create a vacation itinerary that makes everyone smile.
The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science is a really cool place to beat the heat. Kids can take classes like CoderDojo Miami, where they can learn how to build things on the Web, or the Nano & Me MiniCamp, where your young ones can learn about the fascinating world of nanotechnology. They can learn computer programming skills, play with electronics, experiment with 3D printing, build games and apps, all free with admission, and with no experience needed. Additional exhibits and shows are held at the planetarium, the wildlife center and the theater.
The Miami Children’s Museum is a great stop for toddlers and younger children. Fourteen galleries hold individual exhibits that focus on things like how to care for pets, or what it’s like to be on a cruise ship, in a music studio or on a grocery-shopping excursion, as well as a whole host of other experiences. There is also a rock-climbing wall, a 900-gallon aquarium, a two-story sandcastle and a 6-foot piggy bank. If you go early, you’ll avoid most of the crowds. The Jungle Island adventure park is adjacent to the museum, so if you go there first, you can come to the museum to cool off afterward.
Zoo Miami is a great outdoor experience, putting you in close proximity to 2,000 animals from 500 species in a free-range zoo. It’s a big place, so using either the monorail or the safari bikes to get around will help speed things up. Considering its sheer size, it takes about three hours to experience all the exhibits. Don’t miss the flamingos, koalas and komodo dragons. About 20 minutes south of downtown Miami, the zoo is open 365 days a year, most days from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
For more local wildlife, head about 20 miles south of Miami to the Everglades Alligator Farm, just outside the entrance to Everglades National Park. You can see these leathery beasts close up, watch a show from the bleachers, hold a snake or a baby alligator, and take a boat ride on the “river of grass,” as the shallow water of the Everglades is often referred to. Hours can fluctuate with weather and season, so give them a call if you’re planning on heading their way.
If you’ll be in Miami any time from late July through September, head out to Key Biscayne for a guided beach walk with EcoAdventures, to learn how turtles lay eggs, hatch and make their way to the sea. You’ll also learn what these cool creatures eat and how they actually build their nests. Registration begins in early June and fills up fast.
After you’re done with all this fun, how about some ice cream? The Frieze in South Beach has been serving up frosty treats for a couple of decades. Quarterman’s in Brickell is almost an institution in downtown Miami. Tons of flavors in a real ice cream parlor make this a special treat. Azucar Ice Cream Company in Little Havana delivers flavors like Balsamic Strawberry, Elvis (peanut butter and banana), Key Lime Pie and Coca-Cola. Give any of them a try, and the little ones will be especially pleased!
Looking for some beach toys? You can pick up kites of all shapes and sizes, with all the bells and whistles of special winders and strings, at Skyward Kites up in Bal Harbour’s Haulover Park. For buckets, shovels and all things sand, head to A to Z Toys on Arthur Godfrey Road in Miami Beach. They’ve also got a full selection of science, educational and traditional toys to keep your kids entertained in those few moments when the grown-ups need a rest.
Miami may be known for the glittery nightlife of South Beach, but for the truly young at heart, it can be an unparalleled playground. You and your family will have so much to do and see, you may just need to make two trips!
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