Some of you have probably caught wind by now, I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. We moved right around the time I turned 10. Almost all of my extended family still resides there, so we try to make the trip back home at least once or twice a year.
There is a lot to see and do in Miami and you will find lots of suggestions for things to do with the kiddos in an ordinary travel guide. Miami is full of things to do with the fam. Here are my top 5 suggestions from an insider’s view; oh and they are a lot cheaper than the typical suggestions.
- Safari Edventure– 23700 SW 142nd Ave, Miami, FL
I just need to start out by saying this is NOT your typical zoo, in fact they don’t like it when you use the word “zoo”. Technically they are an animal sanctuary. Don’t be alarmed when you pull up, it literally looks like you are walking into someone’s back yard, press forward, you won’t be disappointed.
Listen, we’ve done a lot of animal programs in our travels, and this is by far the most interactive one we have come across. There are so many opportunities to touch and feed many uncommon animals. But listen up mama, this place will push you out of your comfort zone. Y’all I let my babies go in a cage with wolves! We held a tarantula and a snake. Ok, I use the term “we” loosely. I did however hold the baby sloth. There’s actually over 100 different species of animals to get up close and personal with. And don’t pass on the animal presentations – that’s where most of the interacting is.
2. Bill Baggs State Park
Obviously you can’t visit Miami without going to the beach. That’s like ordering a root beer float without the root beer. Miami Beach is iconic and if you have time you should definitely drive through and check out the architecture, plus the people watching is top-notch. But the beach itself is usually always crowded and I wouldn’t classify it as a “kid-friendly” crowd, if you catch my drift. We prefer to go a little further out to Key Biscayne. If you drive to the end of it, you’ll find Bill Baggs State Park, a gem of a beach. It’s typically un-crowded and very clean. Plus there is an adorable light house that makes for the perfect photo-op. There is an entry fee (8$ per vehicle) to get into the park which, in my opinion, is why it stays nice. Truth be told, there is typically a lot of seaweed right at the shore line, but don’t be deterred, it shouldn’t ruin your fun.
3. Venetian Pool, Coral Gables
Ok, so I haven’t been here in a while and here’s why: there is a 3-year-old age limit. Rumor on the street is that they are pretty firm on that, seeing as they require proof of age. Also its first come, first serve and they close admission when capacity is met. But you guys, this is the pool of all pools. If you can get in, it is a super fun and swanky place to spend the afternoon. This is a rock quarry that is drained and filled daily with natural spring water. There are waterfalls, caves and two look out towers to explore.
4. Bayside Mall, 401 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
Some of you are going to be tempted to scroll past this one simply because I used the word mall. But stay with me. I’ve been here dozens of times, but I don’t think I’ve actually ever shopped. You will find the typical mall type stores, and if someone is looking for a unique souvenir this might be the place. So there’s definitely the shopping option but that’s not why my crew rolls in. We love to have lunch along the water and watch the boats (specifically the cruise boats) come in and out of the marina. There are many restaurants that have water front dining like Chili’s, Hard Rock, etc. that are great options. But if you are looking for something a little cheaper and low-key, there is a food court on the second floor with some pretty unique choices and plenty of outdoor seating. Not to mention there is almost always live music and don’t forget the opportunity to take the classic parrot picture (above).
5. Gator Park, 24050 South West 8th Street & Shark Valley National Park
Ok, so you might see the Everglades in your travel guide, but not like this. Make a day out of it and make time for both.
Gator Park: I’m not going to lie, the facilities are a little run down. Ok, a lot run down. But if you can get pass that, this place won’t disappoint. Included in your price of admission ($24.99 adults, $12.99 child, under 5 free) is an air boat ride, an alligator wrestling presentation, and a photo with a baby gator. There are a lot of places to take airboat rides in the Everglades, but what makes this place special is the little show and opportunity to hold a gator after your ride.
Shark Valley National Park: ($25 per car entry fee). There is a paid tram tour option, but I’ve never done that. We usually opt to walk the trail. The trail is nothing fancy, it’s just a paved path through the middle of the Everglades. We usually walk about a mile out, and then back. But there is no separation from the glades, so gators often sun bathe right next to the path. Keep your eyes peeled. Yep, it’s as scary as it sounds. I’d keep your kids in strollers and be sure you aren’t the slowest member in your party. We have also biked the path, I believe it’s a 7 mile loop. Ask me sometime about the story of how my baby brother ended up IN THE WATER (at Shark Valley) with some baby alligators, and a protective mama gator. It involved my mom, a bike accident, and a whole lot of God’s protection.
Tip: You will see more gators on cooler, cloudy days.
On your way out of the Everglades, stop and have lunch at The Pit BBQ. It’s a hole in the wall, but its the best BBQ in Miami. My mouth is watering as I type this. Yum.
This city will always hold a special place in my heart, and I hope you enjoy your time there as much as I do.