Family Vacations to Miami, Florida

Ocean Drive, Miami, Florida
Ocean Drive (courtesy, Greater Miami CVB)

Miami Highlights

  • Swim, play, and sunbathe on more than 15 miles of sandy beaches.
  • Visit the Everglades, America's most endangered wetlands.
  • Snorkel the reefs of Biscayne National Park.
  • See tigers, flamingos, elephants, and exotic birds at Miami Metrozoo.
  • Play your way through the laws of physics at the Miami Museum of Science.

With more than 15 miles of sandy shoreline, Miami is sun and fun writ large. Don't forget, however, that the Miami area also features prime off-the-beach attractions such as a world-class zoo, playful children's museum, great golf courses, and easy access to the natural wonders of Biscayne and Everglades national parks.

Miami's beaches stretch from South Pointe Park and continue northward to Sunny Isles Beach. While many oceanfront hotels in the heart of Miami Beach offer just a sliver of sand, Sunny Isles and Key Biscayne properties boast wider beaches. Two Key Biscayne parks have plenty of sand as well: Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, home to a 19th-century lighthouse, and Crandon Park Beach, which offers tram tours and bird and butterfly walks.

But even the most committed beach aficionados need some sand-less fun. The Miami Children's Museum has two floors of hands-on exhibits aimed at toddlers and gradeschoolers. Young kids like the walk-in sandcastle, the six-foot piggy bank, and the new "You and Me and Teddy Bears, Too" exhibit, which uses the cuddly critters to emphasize respect for others. At the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium, scores of interactive exhibits teach kids about how the world around us works.

Critters abound at three area attractions. Highlights at the nearly 300-acre Miami Metrozoo include the white Bengal tiger, the Caribbean Flamingo lake, the 300 exotic birds in the Aviary Wings of Asia exhibit, and the Children's Zoo with its petting farm. At Parrot Jungle Island, meander along just over a mile of lushly planted trails to see vibrantly colored parrots, macaws, cockatoos, and parakeets in their natural element. The Serpentarium's reptilian residents include an albino alligator, while white tigers, wolves, and chimpanzees perform at the zoo's Jungle Theater. For marine thrills, the Miami Seaquarium houses manatees, crocodiles, and exotic birds, plus features daily whale and dolphin shows.

Take a quiet break from Miami's buzz by heading to the area's restful gardens and parks, including the 83-acre Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden. There are two self-guided children's tours here, designed for kids ages four to ten, both of which end with children planting seeds in a small pot that they can then take home.

Biscayne National Park, within an hour's drive from downtown Miami, beckons with coral reefs and marine life. Take one of the park's glass-bottom boats tours to spot sea turtles, dolphins, and countless colorful fish. Kids as young as five are welcome on the one-hour snorkel trips (reservations recommended). Meanwhile, about 20 miles from Miami you can experience the unspoiled natural beauty of Everglades National Park, a 1.5-million-acre subtropical wilderness of mangrove swamps and sawgrass prairies intersected by watery channels. These rivers of grass harbor alligators, herons, pelicans, and the endangered American crocodile and manatee. Bring water, sunblock, insect repellant, and a hat.

Tip: Go on a naturalist-led outing with Miami-Dade Parks Eco-Adventure Program. Tours include bike rides along wilderness trails, canoe and kayaking expeditions, and participation in sea turtle programs.

Recommended Side Trips: Fort Lauderdale, Key West, the Everglades, Fort Myers's resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 3 Oct 2007 | Last Updated: 17 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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