Family Fun in Florida: Part Two
DAD.info blogger, Simon Harris, writes the second of his holiday reports from the USA's Sunshine State, where his family decide to catch Mickey another time and head for the beaches of Miami...
Miami may not be the first place you think of when planning a family holiday in Florida, but it is such a brilliant, fun, child-friendly city, you'll be delighted you tried something different from the child-magnet that is Orlando, or at least added Miami to your itinerary if your kids have their hearts set on living the Disney dream.
Because of its consistent temperature in the 20s (January 20°C, July 28°C), Miami is known as a winter playground, so we planned our trip for October half term. The jet lag wasn't bad and the sunshine hitting our bleary faces, made the flight worthwhile. The airport is only a 25 minute cab ride to South Beach, so we were poolside by the time we wiped the sleep from our eyes, and got used to those sunny rays.
We were there for Halloween fever, and the kids were so excited by the total takeover of it all. It was the best Halloween we'd ever experienced, aided by parading in our costumes in the warm evening heat, rather than the usual shivering in cold, damp London.
Miami beaches are soft and golden, with turquoise waters and iconic palm trees. South Beach is über cool and Ocean Drive is the epicentre of Art Deco, glamour and party. Because we can't party like we used to, that didn't stop us from enjoying these beautiful pastel blue and pink Art Deco establishments. We lunched al fresco along Ocean drive most days and everywhere was super child-friendly.
There's plenty of accommodation options in Miami, from self-catering apartments and mid-range hotels, right up to über-swish five-star affairs, where you wouldn't be surprised to bump into Beyoncé at the breakfast buffet. We splashed out for a couple of nights at the modern and buzzy Loews Miami Beach Hotel, perfectly located overlooking the long white sweep of South Beach sand.
With six restaurants and lounges, a great palm-fringed pool and a luxury spa, it's stylish yet comfortable enough for a stay with the kids. The hotel's Loews Loves Kids programme offers a babysitting service, kid's meals, kiddie kits for under fours and a Kid's Closet with essentials like strollers, night lights, baby bath tubs and potties. The SoBe Kids Camp offers half and full-day activities like Arts & Crafts, Shell Finding and Beach Sports, while teens (and Dad) will appreciate the lending library of Xbox 360s, DVD players and board games.
After a couple of days lounging at the pool and beach, it was time to explore the city. Now, my guilty pleasure is a good old hop-on, hop-off bus tour. They are perfect to get your bearings, work out what and where you want to revisit, and hear some interesting, fun facts from an ever-smiley guide with a mic. What's not to love about the the thrill of getting the back seats upstairs, and letting someone else do the work for your first adventure in a city?
Another hassle-free, fun exploration is Island Queen Cruises. The coastline is spectacular. And you can roll up the sleeves of your jackets and pretend you're Crockett and Tubbs. Obviously this will all go over the kids' heads, but don't let it spoil your adult fun. Along Millionaires Row, the guide points out a smorgasbord of celebrity mansions. The kids were impressed with P Diddy's and the Beckham's houses, while I was blown away by the mansion belonging to the guy who invented Viagra. It's just so huge...
Actually, my three-year-old was more impressed with all the jellyfish, so I missed some of the star tales because I had to keep repeating my glee when she spotted yet another squishy floater. I'm really quite proud that she was more in awe of wildlife than what money can buy. Let's see how long that lasts, eh?
If it ever rains (yeah, right) then Miami Children's Museum is great fun for all ages. Enough exhibits and activities to keep them happy for at least a couple of visits. It's a small world (no, not that one) for children to play and explore. Rock climbing, music and TV studios, a pretend cruise and plenty of other interactive and enriching experiences, like being a vet or a dentist.
Biscayne Bay is home to the largest marine park in the US National Park system – and only minutes from downtown Miami. Its aquamarine waters flow from the Everglades and it's perfect for snorkelling, camping and learning all about the wildlife from the Park Ranger. Better still, sign up to be a Junior Park Ranger. The park also hosts a free monthly Family Fun Fest, with lots of hands-on activities.
Our family holiday in Miami was a great mix of relaxation, stimulation, cool city stuff and breathtaking wildlife exploration. And we didn't even make it to the Everglades, which are just on Miami's doorstep, of course. Their airboats and alligators will just have to wait, because we are definitely coming back...
Need to know...
Loews Miami Beach Hotel on South Beach is currently running a great promotion for families, Winter Warmerland, offering $25 a night to spend in the resort, free kids meals, discounts for the SoBe Kids Camp, a complimentary Yoga or Core Fusion Fitness Class for parents, $25 off a 60-minute therapy in the spa and 25% discount on their VIP SOAK poolside daybeds. Offering rooms and suites with views of the ocean or city skyline, family-room accommodation starts from $449 (£300) per night for up to four guest. Offer ends 30 April 2016.
To find out more about family events and attractions in Miami, head to miamiandbeaches.com
Read Part One of Simon's guide to Family Fun in Florida here on DAD.info
Simon Harris is a father and director of Swyhpe, a creative motion agency based in London.