If your impression of Miami Beach involves high heels, fast cars and thumping bass, let me just level with you for a minute: You aren’t wrong. And when I realized my family vacation to South Beach this March was scheduled smack-dab in the middle of spring break, I panicked a tiny bit. But listen — it turns out tipsy college students love babies, and Miami is such a fun place to travel with your kids that even if your scheduling skills are as questionable as mine, you’re going to have a great time.
Here’s why: Miami, particularly Miami Beach, is that ideal blend of beach town and big city that means there’s always something to do, but you don’t have to do anything. Want to spend all day lounging by the pool? Of course you do! And you’re not going to miss out on anything life-changing. But if you feel like exploring, getting active, checking out some cool art and architecture and enjoying world-class meals, you’re just steps away.
Miami’s beaches are truly special: The sand is impossibly soft, the water is blindingly blue, and the vibe is almost Caribbean, even if things get a little crazy at times. South Beach’s stunning stretch is peppered with cabanas renting out beach gear, and many local hotels offer the use of a pair of beach chairs and an umbrella for free with your stay. Hungover partygoers start rolling in circa early afternoon, but before then, the beach is mostly yours.
The Official Art Deco Walking Tour
This 90-minute tour (run by the Miami Design Preservation League) gives participants a fascinating overview of Miami history and architecture, and during the walk you’ll get to take in some of the most noteworthy sites in the area. That includes art deco classics like The Carlyle Hotel and The Breakwater, but also the famous Versace mansion (which is Mediterranean revival in case you were wondering) and the Hotel Victor (which is actually Bauhaus — who knew?). The tour is great for parents with stroller-napping babies or history-buff (or Scarface-loving) tweens and teens; it’s not ideal for squirmier kids and those with shorter attention spans — but there’s a playground in nearby Lummus Park if anyone needs a break.
The Miami Beach Boardwalk
While the street traffic may be a little wild, Miami Beach is surprisingly pedestrian-friendly thanks to the 4-mile-long boardwalk stretching from 5th Street all the way up to 46th Street, which runs between the beach and the beachfront hotels. The path is totally easy with a stroller, and while you may have to dodge a bike here and there, it’s a nice respite from the hubbub of Collins Avenue and the like.
The Betsy Hotel
If you’re eager to stay in the thick of things, the Betsy is a kid-friendly yet elegant spot right on Ocean Avenue. It boasts two pools (including one on the roof with an absolutely stunning view of the city), intriguing art, a coffee shop, a gelato stand and a pizza place. Its recent renovation must have included impressive soundproofing efforts — good news for light sleepers. (If you’d rather stay away from the fray, the larger hotels closer to Mid-Beach, such as The Confidante, may be more up your alley.)
The famed Southern fare here lives up to the hype; kids will love the fried chicken, and you’ll love the hours (they’re open for lunch, and supper starts at 4 p.m.). Just be sure to get a reservation, and be aware that the restaurant doesn’t have high chairs.
Wynwood Arts District
Hop in a Lyft and make your way to this haven for hip eateries, public art and dedicated #content makers. The Wynwood Yard is a something-for-everyone outdoor food court with plenty of space for littles to run around and blow off steam, and Wynwood Walls is the famed collection of public murals you’ve seen on pretty much every Instagram account ever.
The Front Porch Café
High chairs abound during breakfast at this low-key South Beach restaurant — a nice break from the see-and-be-seen vibe at other local brunch spots. Oh, and the food is stellar: The green eggs, French toast and breakfast tacos will make you want seconds.
If you feel no trip is complete without a visit to local museums (or you’re just looking to fill a rainy day — yes, they do happen here), Miami’s Museum Park makes it easy. The 30-acre public park serves as a front yard for both the Pérez Art Museum Miami and the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, and it’s just across the waterway from Miami Beach.
Eat & drink at The Freehand
Let’s just get one thing on the table here: If you’re visiting Miami with kids, you’re going to want to get a babysitter for at least one night and hit up the nightlife. (Call your hotel’s concierge when you make reservations, or visit Care.com to find a local caregiver. Just know that Friday and Saturday nights are in high demand, so make your arrangements in advance to ensure you can book someone with plenty of great ratings.) Not into the untz-untz club scene? Make a reservation for dinner at 27 Restaurant at The Freehand Hotel, then wander over to the Broken Shaker tiki bar right across the pool area for post-meal drinks.
It’s a bit of a hike from Miami Beach, but if you have the time, plan to spend a day on Key Biscayne and its idyllic Crandon Park Beach, which boasts huge stretches of sand and shallow water going quite far out. And if you’d like to spend part of your trip enjoying a more resortlike experience (and are willing to splurge), the Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne is reportedly the most kid-friendly resort maybe ever — they’ll even whisk your children away to their day camp program, Ritz Kids, while you soak in the sun.
So lessons learned: First, make sure you google “spring break timing” next time you plan a pre-summer beach vacation with the little ones, and second, in a city like Miami, you and your family will have such a blast that a few hundred college kids almost won’t matter.