The Miami area is widely known as a spring break destination for young adults, but Miami Beach has a lot to offer for families year-round. Plenty of Miami Beach hotels offer child-friendly amenities, and the area has a rich assortment of activities for families. Here are some reasons why, along with some money-saving tips for frugal parents.
Cheap Flights To Miami Beach
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Getting a cheap flight to Miami Beach can be tricky. If you have flexibility in your schedule, try to avoid spring break season, and follow the usual practices for finding good fares, like booking at least three weeks in advance, and flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday. Another great strategy is to watch the fares for flights into Fort Lauderdale. You can take a bus from Ft. Lauderdale to Miami Beach for just $4 with Miami-Dade Transit, or pick up your rental car in Ft. Lauderdale and drive to Miami.
Hotels That Welcome Your Kids
Some of the best hotels in Miami Beach include some child-friendly options. The Fontainebleau Miami Beach, for instance, has shallow pools for kiddos and a kids’ club for ages four to twelve. You can opt into the kids’ club for either a half-day or full-day program. The Loews Miami Beach Hotel’s motto is “Loews Loves Kids,” and they prove it with a toy library, Nintendo Wii contests, and DVDs and PlayStation games you can take to your room when Mom and Dad want a bit of quiet time. Choose a hotel with plenty of beachfront and pool recreation and your kids may be happy never leaving the property.
Many families choose to rent a car, but it’s not strictly necessary in Miami Beach. Cabs are plentiful in tourist zones, and many of the most popular area attractions are within walking distance of one another. The MetroMover and Miami Trolley in nearby Miami are free, and kids love them. Neither serves the Miami Beach Island, but you can take the J or 150 bus into Miami and connect to them from there. Most visitors find public transportation in the Miami area easy to use, once they understand the systems.
Some Indoor Fun For Kids
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When your kids are bored with the beach, or if you run into some bad weather, take them to The Miami Children’s Museum. It’s an interactive, hands-on museum filled with activities and crafts. Your kids can explore a life-size cruise ship, pretend to take care of sick pets in the child-size veterinary clinic. Check out a two-story sandcastle, work behind the scenes in a pretend TV studio and more. Insider tip: Museum admission, regularly $18, is free on the third Friday of the month from 3:00 to 9:00 p.m. Infants under one year are always free.
Visiting The Animals
Miami’s Zoological Wildlife Foundation is a unique animal attraction and an absolute favorite with families who visit the area. Kids can feed, play, and interact with all sorts of animals while a tour guide slips in a bit of wildlife education. If your kids would enjoy feeding monkeys, playing with pigs, or cuddling a baby alligator, this is a must-see. You will have an opportunity to take your kids’ photos with a baby lion or tiger. You can only visit the Foundation as part of a guided tour, which must be booked in advance, so book yours by calling 305-969-3696 well ahead of your time in Miami.
Make Use of State and National Parks
Parks are always an affordable alternative to private hotspots, and Florida offers some gorgeous options. Oleta River State Park on Biscayne Bay is the largest Urban park in Florida, and a wonderful spot to enjoy nature with your kids. Miles of off-road bike paths through wooded wonderlands are the primary draw at Oleta. Bring a picnic to share, and if your kids are older you might also spend some time kayaking or canoeing on the Oleta River.
To the south, you’ll find Biscayne National Park, where you can romp on the beach, boat, snorkel, and possibly spot manatees and dolphins swimming nearby. On the second Sunday of each month, from January until May, the park hosts a Family Fun Fest, with free hands-on activities for kids.
Fun in the Jungle
Jungle Island is a popular place for families to spend the day in the Miami area. A bird sanctuary, botanical garden, and wildlife habitat offer lots of fun and education for the whole family. You can roam the jungle freely, encountering ligers, lemurs, reptiles, and orangutans, or join a VIP Safari Tour. You’ll be able to play with and pet some of the animals as well.
Monkey Lovers’ Paradise
Kids who just can’t get enough of viewing their monkey friends will love Monkey Jungle, “where humans are in cages and monkeys run wild.” More than 350 primates run free through the park, which is dedicated to preserving endangered monkey species. The park offers an Amazon rainforest environment where monkeys can dive for crabs, swing from trees, and interact with their families and monkey friends in natural ways.
Last But Not Least By A Long Shot
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For many families, no visit to Miami would be complete without a Miami Seaquarium visit. See the Flipper dolphin show, thrill at the Shark Reef Encounter, and generally get up close and personal with marine animals. Mom and Dad will appreciate the gorgeous views of the Miami skyline that are available at the seaquarium, and kids will love the sea lions, killer whales, and other flippered friends.
Miami Beach offers the perfect sun-soaked vacation for beach-loving families. You’re guaranteed a truly memorable stay, whether you stay on your hotel property to snorkel and build sandcastles, or head out to collect all the museum and wildlife experiences this part of Florida has to offer. Do you have a favorite Miami Beach family memory? Please share it in the comments below.
Lauren Haas is a freelance writer and world nomad. She travels the world and writes content for Hipmunk, CBS, Time Warner, and other websites. Follow her blog at www.TheSoulOfAJourney.com.