A lot of people think Miami is just South Beach. And probably a lot of those same people think that Miami is just about hot bods and obnoxious club scenes. There is SO much more to the 305. Gorgeous art. Delicious food. Culture. Kid activities. I love Miami because it offers all of those things PLUS the gorgeous Miami Beach. Read on for some tips on how to do Miami well with kids (or if you’re a bunch of adults that don’t want to do any of this).
Go to the Beach
You’re in Miami. It would be weird not to hit the beach right away. South Beach is absolutely beautiful and about as “Caribbean” as you’re going to get in the continental US. Soft sand and blue water - not like what we have back here in the Northeast.
Uber it to Ocean Drive, gawk at all the really pretty but totally tourist trap Ocean Drive restaurants and hotels and then walk across the street to the beach. It’s public and gorgeous. When it’s time for lunch, consider the Miami Beach location of Taquiza on Collins or My Ceviche on Washington (each about a 10 minute walk from the beach).
For families, I highly recommend hitting South Pointe Park. This breathtaking park on Miami Beach’s southern tip has access to a low key slightly secluded part of the beach but also so much more. There’s a modern playground and splash pad on site for the kids and tons of beautiful beach side pathway for biking, running and walking. You’re also REALLY close to Joe’s Stone Crab over here and I just can’t leave Miami without some stone crab (Pro tip: skip the restaurant and hit the take out section instead and then bring your food to the beach).
For everyone, consider a meal or two in Sunset Harbor, a developed area on the bay side of Miami Beach. Get insane baked goods at True Loaf to pair with your perfect coffee from Miami favorite, Panther Coffee. For dinner, visit a Pubbelly restaurant or the Miami outpost of Brooklyn’s popular Lucali Pizza.
Another “Don’t Miss” in Miami Beach is a stroll down Lincoln Road. It’s a lot of cheesy mall stores but there’s just something so pleasant about cruising this pedestrian walkway in beautiful weather, especially when it’s cold back home.
Go to the Design District
Miami’s Design District is where design meets fashion. Here you will find art galleries, retail and furniture shopping and restaurants - all of it luxurious. This area is chic and fashionable - heck LVMH is a partner. It feels a bit Euro and a bit LA. But even if you are not planning to shop at Cartier this trip, do not skip a visit to this area.
For one, there is beautiful art to see in the MDD. We took a spin through the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami, a free and fairly new contemporary art museum in the MDD. And we parked in Museum Garage, what is most definitely the most amazing parking garage in the country.
In the bit that our kids let us walk around, we enjoyed the public art on display in the MDD. Our kids gasped at the “Fly’s Eye Dome’, a “geodesic dome” that, much to my children’s glee, forms the entrance to a parking garage. And we managed to find both sets of Konstantin Grcic’s Netscape, hanging chairs (the other set being at the Perez Art Museum) in one day.
Another reason to visit the Design District is the food. Some of Miami’s better restaurants are opening up in the area. We absolutely loved our “romantic” Valentines meal for four at Ghee Indian Kitchen. The restaurant seamlessly melds the chef’s Indian background with his love of farming and fresh vegetables.
And do not skip, especially if traveling with children, Mandolin Aegean Bistro, in the Design District. This mostly outdoor patio Greek and Turkish spot serves delicious food in a setting that will seem wonderfully intimate to you while still appropriate for your kids (at least in the early hours, we saw many tables with children). Win Win.
The Design District is also where famed Miami chef, Michael Schwartz, opened his flagship, Michael’s Genuine, in 2007 (note: some say it’s not as good as it used to be). And speaking of famed Miami chefs, there is no one more notable in Miami right now than Chef Brad Kilgore. While we wouldn’t risk ruining other diners’ night by dragging our kids to his spots, if you are traveling without kids, highly consider Kaido, Chef Kilgore’s new restaurant and Tokyo-inspired cocktail lounge in the MDD (with more to come, including Ember, downstairs from Kaido). At least we got to try Chef Kilgore’s wife’s ice cream spot, Madlab Creamery.
Go to Wynwood
Wynwood is the exact antithesis of South Beach and even though I love SoBe in its own right, Wynwood is definitely my jam. Known as Miami’s arts district, Wynwood is scrappy and soulful and FILLED with street art. Shops here are “hipster” mom and pop boutiques selling skater-wear and downtown looks. I would have spent a full day in Wynwood shopping if my kids didn’t whine after walking more than 2 blocks.
The most popular of Wynwood’s attractions is the Wynwood Walls, a public space where street artists from around the world come to do their thing. The walls are beautiful and can be seen through a walking tour or by just walking through on your own (no fee). The Walls do change, so be sure to visit again if you haven’t been in a year or two.
In Wynwood, even the regular buildings are beautifully turned into art and walking the streets is really a feast for your eyes. Just walk around as much as your kids will allow enjoying the art and shops. And when they need bribing, read the last paragraph of this section.
Food options are also stellar in Wynwood. There’s the flagship location of Panther Coffee, Chef Kilgore’s extremely well regarded Alter and the very popular Japanese BBQ spot, Kyu. Another Miami staple in Wynwood is Zak the Baker, an outstanding kosher bakery and cafe in a building that is just as beautiful as the food inside.
In the evenings, Wynwood’s bar scene gets going (like all things hip, Wynwood does skew younger). I sadly know nothing of the bar scene, but we did manage to take our girls to NYC’s Taiyaki in the Asian themed food hall, 1-800-Lucky, on a weekend night, and club music was playing throughout.
The one truly kid oriented spot we did hit on our short trip was also in Wynwood. Fun Dimension is an arcade and play space that also offers spinning bumper cars, laser tag and an outdoor bungee jump contraption. It was overpriced and congested and not my favorite spot, but my girls loved it and they deserved the treat.
Other REAL Kid Friendly Stuff
We tend to avoid all of the kid focused attractions of Miami, believing that our sun starved kids are happy just splashing around in the pool or ocean for hours. And with so much street art everywhere and contemporary art museums with interactive elements, I’d personally rather spend our family’s time out of the pool or beach focusing on that.
But if your kids need some real kid stuff, note that Miami is home to many of the typical family attractions you would expect in a warm weather city: Zoo Miami, Jungle Island, Miami Seaquarium, and Monkey Jungle. And if it rains, try the Miami Children’s Museum or the Frost Science Museum.
Where to Stay (Plus Some Downtown Attractions)
In my mind there are really two options when picking a Miami hotel: Miami Beach or Downtown Miami. You will get more palm trees and flip flops staying at the beach, but staying Downtown avoids most of that SoBe cheesiness and gives you a more mature experience. Either way, the rest of Miami is a mere 15-20 minute Uber ride away so you can’t go too wrong no matter what you pick.
If choosing Miami Beach, staying at the Loews or Ritz Carlton on Collins are good options with kids. Each gives you prime access to the excitement of South Beach, including all the restaurants, shops and other hotels on Collins, and you are mere minutes from Lincoln Road. Make sure to dine in Sunset Harbor at least once on your trip, too. And consider a visit to the Bass, a contemporary art museum on Collins. I was dying to get here this trip but it just did not happen.
If staying Downtown or the Brickell area, expect it to feel a bit more like a true city with commuting workers and office buildings. We enjoyed staying at the Kimpton Epic and all the luxury brands from the Four Seasons to JW Marriott have resorts over here. These hotels will feel more subdued and serene than the beach hotels.
If in the Downtown area, make a trip to the Perez Art Museum of Miami, a gorgeous contemporary art museum situated on the waterfront next to the Frost Science Museum.
And if you’re anything like me (a lover of things that are hip but in a mature way), do breakfast at All Day Miami. It’s impossibly cool and delicious. Stanzione 87 is a really good casual Italian joint in Brickell that’s perfect for families.
And my goodness, if you like fried fish, add La Camaronera to your list. This casual Cuban seafood joint in Little Havana is super tasty, friendly and affordable. To me it’s the perfect warm weather meal. Little Havana is also very close to Marlins Park for pre-game eats.
There is so much to do in Miami. This just scratches the surface and focuses on my personal favorite highlights. It’s such a special city to my family. My hubs lived in Miami for about 5 years before we met and we love going back together with our kids. We dream of a small apartment on Brickell Key one day. Thanks, Miami, for another great trip!