Deciding on the perfect family vacation can be daunting. How to choose between a pull-out-all-the-stops beach vacation or a “picture perfect” hotel catering to a family’s sense of wanderlust? A trip to Miami can fulfill all expectations. With a quick 3-hour plane ride (after snacks, there is barely enough time to finish Mary Poppins), your family can descend into a tropical destination with beautiful beaches, unbeatable restaurants, and innumerable family-friendly activities to choose from. We’ve rounded up two ideal options for the best of Miami.
Option #1 — Miami: Fun in the Sun
Twenty minutes after landing, you can be checked into The Palms Hotel, a recently renovated resort that feels like a tropical escape, blocks away from the infamous South Beach revelers. Connecting rooms including a King and two doubles will comfortably fit any crew, and cribs are available free of charge. The art-deco style rooms are stylish, and although not huge, have floor-to-ceiling ocean views that spread as far as the eye can see. Follow the canopied path into the gardens, past “Sunshine” and “Chance”, the colorful resident parrots, to a crossroads: Hit the sparkling pool first or stake a spot on the beach? Either answer is correct.
While the kids play in the sun, moms and dads might take turns with a complimentary sunset beach yoga class or appointments at the Palms AVEDA Spa to de-stress those tight muscles. With a Chill Mama Staycation day (the next one is June 9th), babysitters are on hand to take little ones, while moms relax with yoga, chair massage and the lull of a Sound Bowl meditation.
Dinner is laid back and delicious at Essensia, the farm-to-table restaurant. Sitting at a table on the Caribbean-style terrace feels like eating in a tropical jungle. (Bring the kids to visit the herb garden out back beforehand, where fresh aromatics are picked for use in the kitchen.) High chairs are available, and bottle warming is even possible at the hotel– plus, a changing table is conveniently located in the lobby bathroom. An expansive kid’s menu includes hot dogs and chicken fingers but also a Daily Catch of the Day for those little ones who want to expand their palates. You’ll want to linger and relax over the seasonal dishes while the sun sets. By this time, the kids might be sleepy, and the hotel can recommend a babysitting service (starting at $25/ hour) so that parents can sip another creative cocktail or take a romantic stroll on the beach.
As locals told me, the best way to see Miami is from the water, so although it’s hard to leave the resort, it’s worth it. South Beach Kayak, a family owned and operated business, rents kayaks and paddleboards and will tailor a tour to any group or experience level. A first-time kayaker with a toddler? Really, no problem. Just make sure to bring the sunscreen, and they’ll provide everything else, including life jackets. Kids of all ages will love paddling around in a one or two-person kayak with a guided tour of the islands around the city, exploring the canals and celebrity mansions. It’s a unique and unforgettable experience.
The Palms Hotel & Spa, 3025 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Rates start at $187/ night. A Family First package (from $253/ night) includes 2-night discounted accommodations, a welcome gift (for instance, a stuffed parrot!), usage of a Beach Cabanita and meals for the kids at the on-site restaurant.
Option #2 — Miami: Family Wanderlust
For a more economical but still amazing option, Circa 39 is right down the road. It’s a great home base for exploring the city’s family-friendly offerings. Situated across the road from the ocean, it still has full beach access with beach chairs and umbrellas for guest use. That’s if you can get the kids out of the pool or the “Wunder Garden,” a back patio that is perfect for kids to run off some steam while parents curl up with a good book. The rooms are cheerful and comfortable. Connecting rooms are available, and cribs are available at no extra cost. The vibe is whimsical and bohemian with a “world traveler” aesthetic that includes vertical gardens, a rum bar, wicker chairs, and great family photo backgrounds. Jules Kitchen, the onsite restaurant, is actually named after Jules Verne’s classic, “Around the World in 80 Days”, and offers young travelers highchairs and a solid kid’s menu with favorites like cheese pizza and chicken strips — and a sundae for dessert.
The hotel’s sense of wanderlust may inspire families to seek out adventure in Miami, and there is much to explore. The state of the art Frost Science Museum with dinosaurs, planetarium, and an aquarium would be a perfect option for that rare rainy day. To enjoy the nice weather, a tour of Wynwood Walls, the world’s largest outdoor museum, is a must. Even if your family doesn’t visit art galleries on the regular, they’ll love this experience. It’s a massive street art collection with lots of space to roam and push a stroller; no indoor voices necessary. To add to the experience, sign up for a Miami Culinary Tours ($69 adult/ $49 child) which helps break up the street art with samples of food at different restaurants, including things like empanadas, avocado toast, gelato and the cutest miniature pies you’ve ever seen. These “samples” are enormous and definitely works as a filling lunch for a hungry crew. The tour guides cater to the group and ours was knowledgeable and passionate about making sure the group was having a great time.
If you do need further sustenance, family friendly options abound. Some favorites include Lilikoi, an adorable spot for quinoa waffles and smoothies, and Vista, a seasonal Italian restaurant where you can sit al fresco. A complimentary Miami Beach Trolley loops around the beach roads, making exploring easy and economical and can take your whole family to Taquiza, a local taco joint. Here you can sit comfortably on the patio, munching on extraordinary house-made tortilla chips. Their tacos are served family-style on big sheet pans encouraging sharing. If you want to shock and delight your kids, add a chapulines taco (toasted grasshoppers!) to your order and dare everyone to try a bite. After dinner, you could stroll a few blocks to the North Beach Bandshell, where a variety of acts perform free concerts. Drop in for Flamenca dancers, reggae cover bands or opera singers and leave only when the kids are tired of dancing.
Circa 39, 3900 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach. Rates start at $119/ night.
Meredith Craig de Pietro is an ex-television producer who has worked for Style Network, E! Networks, and “America’s Next Top Model.” Currently, she works as a freelance writer in Brooklyn and has published in Vice, Well + Good, Delta Sky, Brooklyn Based and others. You can usually find her visiting museums, cleansing her chakra or at a playground with her husband and son. Follow her on Twitter @meredithcraigde or on IG @meredithcraigdepietro.
Our stay at The Palms and Circa 39 was complimentary but all thoughts and opinions are our own.