By Jodi Mailander Farrell

Surprise! Florida’s hub for culture and cool is also kid-friendly.

Miami boasts a global reputation for its nightlife and arts scene, but the city is also packed with entertaining and enriching things to do as a family. Year-round subtropical warmth makes it a great getaway for making lifetime memories.

And there’s an added benefit: Miami’s diverse Latin American and Caribbean heritage translates into great opportunities to introduce children to different cultures.

Street Art

The former warehouse district of Wynwood is now a trendy, walkable ’hood perfect for exposing kids to the gritty art of graffiti (which also makes eye-catching backdrops for family vacation photos). Wynwood Walls, 2520 NW 2nd Ave., is a good starting point. This ever-changing outdoor collection features huge, colorful murals by street artists from around the world. 

For dessert, cruise by the Asian-inspired food hall called 1-800-LUCKY at 143 NW 23rd St. to try its famous Taiyiki ice cream, served in fun, Instagram-ready, koi fish-shaped cones

Film & Music

Miami Beach’s SoundScape Park, 500 17th St., is a modern, landscaped space that’s the perfect perch for viewing films and concerts projected onto the New World Center’s soaring 7,000-square-foot outdoor wall. From October through May, free WALLCAST classical music concerts by New World Symphony mean you can grab a blanket and watch your kids do cartwheels while Beethoven and Brahms fill the air. During the same period, free movies – from favorites like “Big” and “Edward Scissorhands” to new releases – are offered at 8 p.m. on Wednesdays. Check the latest schedule here.

Family Beaches

Matheson Hammock Park, 9610 Old Cutler Rd., in Coral Gables is a favorite retreat for locals with young children because it has a shallow, wave-free lagoon with lifeguards.

On nearby Key Biscayne, Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, 1200 Crandon Blvd., has a stretch of sand regularly named one of the Top 10 beaches in the United States. The state park also has a historic lighthouse with tours, two outdoor restaurants, and bike rentals, including surreys that seat four to six people. You can catch a view of Miami’s Stiltsville, a collection of wood stilt houses in Biscayne Bay, from the wooded bike path.

In Miami Beach, Sabrina’s Beach, 6500 Collins Ave., is an accessible beach with an inclusive playground. The park has a tailored, ADA-accessible dune crossing so people of all ages and abilities can enjoy the ocean.

Extraordinary Pools

One of the most beautiful public pools, the historic, 1923 Venetian Pool at 2701 DeSoto Blvd. in Coral Gables is an amazing sight. It’s a spring-fed coral rock quarry with waterfalls and cave-like grottos patrolled on busy days by lifeguards riding surfboards. It’s a diaper-free facility so children under the age of three are not allowed in the park.

If you have a little one, Flamingo Park, 999 11th St., in Miami Beach has the pool for you. Its aquatic center has a zero-depth entry play pool perfect for wading with babies and toddlers.

Young thrill seekers will enjoy the water slides, lazy river and splash pools of Grapeland Water Park, 1550 NW 37th Ave., near Miami International Airport.

Food Culture

Head to Calle Ocho (8th Street) in Little Havana for a taste of Latin cuisine. Versailles, 3555 SW 8th Street, is a mirror-lined Cuban restaurant offering tropical fruit shakes, media noche ham-and-pork sandwiches, croquettes and plantains.

For dessert, sample the Latin-infused scoops at Azucar Ice Cream Company 1503 SW 8th St., known for flavors derived from Cuban coffee, key limes, caramel flan, sweet corn and calabaza. Be sure to snap a family photo in front of the tiny shop’s colorful painting of Celia Cruz, the most popular Latin artist of the 20th century, known for her catch phrase, ¡Azúcar! (sugar).

In Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood, the Little Haiti Cultural Complex’s Caribbean Marketplace, 5925 NE 2nd Ave., features a range of Caribbean goods.

Indoor Kid Zones

Seek out air-conditioned fun at Miami’s many indoor escapes. Hands-on experiments, a touch tank, planetarium, local birds of prey exhibit and a stunning, three-story aquarium make for an all-ages retreat in downtown Miami at the Frost Museum of Science, 1101 Biscayne Blvd.

Next door at the Pérez Art Museum Miami, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., ask at the front desk for a Family Pack, which includes activity sheets, pencil kits, puzzles and scavenger hunts to explore the galleries.

For kids 10 and under, a play cruise ship, supermarket and kid-sized TV studio are part of the fun at Miami Children’s Museum, 980 MacArthur Cswy.

Thrill seekers will want to head back to Wynwood for FunDimension, 2129 NW 1st Ct., an indoor playground packed with arcade and virtual reality games, laser tag, bumper cars and a bungee dome.

Animal Life

Ever felt a giraffe’s 18-inch prehensile tongue curl around your hand? At Zoo Miami’s Samburu Giraffe Feeding Station, families stand on a tall wooden platform to get eye-to-eye and feed greens by hand to a herd of African giraffes. There are also camel rides and more than 3,000 animals at the cage-free attraction, 12400 SW 152nd St., the largest subtropical zoo in the continental United States.

In Everglades National Park, discover alligators, great blue herons and other native species in the wild by renting bikes for the 15-mile, paved trail or taking the two-hour tram tour inside the park’s Shark Valley, 36000 SW 8th St., a 50-minute drive from downtown Miami.

Near Key Biscayne, Miami Seaquarium, 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, offers swim-with-dolphin (or seal) encounters, touch pools and sea life exhibits.

Little Havana

If you want to experience Miami’s syncopated heart, then follow the aroma of fresh-brewed café Cubano and the rhythms of pachanga to Little Havana. Long recognized as Miami’s welcome mat for immigrants, starting with Cuban exiles in the 1960s and ’70s, Little Havana is a storied working-class neighborhood just west of downtown Miami. Its low-rise homes and apartments, coffee windows, music clubs and open-air fruit markets stretch 27 blocks long and 24 blocks wide, with Southwest 8th Street – better known as Calle Ocho – as its hustling artery. In the cigar-making, domino-playing, salsa-dancing hub of Little Havana, Spanish is the language of choice, roosters are pets, and the local McDonald’s serves croquetas and McCafecito. Declared a “national treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Little Havana is known for its historical, political, culinary and artistic contributions, as well as its architecturally valuable collection of early 20th century homes and commercial buildings. Read more.

The Domino Effect

A historic mural, domino-decorated tilework and a perimeter fringed with spectator benches set the stage for epic domino and chess games between the locals at Máximo Gómez Park in Little Havana, nicknamed Domino Park for obvious reasons. While the park is tiny, its personality is oversized, with laughter, jokes and trash talk highlighting the games.

La Terrazza Rooftop Bar & Grill

Here’s where to enjoy fine dining with panoramic views of the lush Coral Gables landscape and South Florida’s glorious sunsets, all while sipping cocktails. Featuring chic outdoor décor, multiple seating areas, a retractable roof and a full-service bar, its indulgent menu features hand-rolled sushi, salads, and grilled meats and fish. If you want to go full Italian, try the classic meatballs with red sauce. La Terrazza’s entryway is accessible through a private entrance with its own valet.

Café La Trova

Julio Cabrera and his team bring to life the retro Cuba atmosphere with their artisanal, handcrafted cocktails. James Beard Award-winning Chef Michelle Bernstein lends her culinary prowess with a contemporary take on Cuban-styled dishes. The Michelin Guide said “it's a vivacious place that hums with live music and a décor that transports guests through decades of history—from Cuba to the Cuban experience in Southern Florida.” The menu features such classics as lechon with steamed yuca and tangerine mojo. Specials may change but are exquisite in their sweet and savory blend—think seared foie gras paired with Spanish French toast, maduros and maple syrup. Digestifs, like the Hotel Nacional with pineapple rum and apricot liqueur, are a fine way to quench the affair. Read more.

Ball & Chain

The Ball & Chain, says The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the place to get a solid taste of Little Havana’s nightlife, in a restored jazz era nightclub where luminaries like Billie Holiday, Chet Baker and Count Basie performed during the 1950s. In its latest revival, the storied bar combines the old-world charm of a classic Cuban nightclub with a tropical-themed ambiance represented by its lush open courtyard and Pineapple Stage. Ball & Chain’s lunch and dinner menu offers tapas and a selection of craft cocktails. The mojito is exceptional. If you’re a fan of live music or drawn to the dance floor, a relentless lineup of live salsa, jazz, mambo, and live DJ-themed parties ensure that you’ll get your fill of Latin rhythms every night of the week. The history of this place is fascinating.

So Sweet

One of the best ways to discover Calle Ocho, the main artery that runs through Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood, is on foot. And if you’re hoofing it up and down Southwest 8th Street the best way to chill is at Azucar Ice Cream Co. Named after the battle cry of famed Cuban salsa singer Celia Cruz, Azucar (sugar), isn’t your typical tiny ice cream shop. Its artisanal, made-daily flavors embrace sabor latino (Latin flavor) like no other: ruby red mamey, creamy avocado with condensed milk, sweet pink guava and sorbets made from juicy mangos. Some flavors change with the seasons, but you can almost always find caramel flan, café con leche (Cuban coffee and Oreo), platano maduro (sweet plantain) and guarapiña (sugarcane and pineapple).



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