Off the Beaten Path: 5 Places in South Florida to Visit with Your kids.
If you live in or around the Miami area I am sure you have heard of Wynwood and South Beach, The Frost Museum and Bayside. Not all these places are truly family friendly. So before you waste your time and find out the hard way, I am going to let you in on five truly special family-friendly places. They are smaller, budget-friendly destinations you won’t find on most travel sites. Any or all of these would make for a great weekend getaway in Miami. So let me tell you where the locals with young children go when they need a family getaway!
Safari Edventure is hands down the best animal encounter in South Florida. It’s part small animal rescue, part sanctuary and part educational facility. Located in the Redlands, about 45 minutes from South Beach, its grassy paths and shaded overhangs provide much needed cover on a hot Florida day. Safari Edventure has the best one on one animal encounters, such as playing with wolf pups, petting a sloth, holding a baby gator and feeding milk bottles to baby piggies. And the best part - most of these attractions are included with your admission fee or just a buck or two extra. What a refreshing change from most overpriced and over activity planned zoos! The spectacular one hour hands-on animal presentation, which totally rocks, features staff showing off about a dozen different animals. The staff provides basic facts about each critter and then walks through the crowd, allowing you and your little ones to pet or hold the animals, except for the dangerous ones! Beware the dirt paths, so leave the stroller in the car.
Be sure to stop by Burr’s Berry Farm if you visit between December and early May for one of its outstanding shakes or ice cream sundaes. https://www.burrsberryfarm.com
Adults - $18.00 kids and seniors $15.00. Take off $3.00 if you’re a Florida resident. Kids 3 and under are free.
A real hidden gem in the heart of the beautiful tree-lined suburban town of Pinecrest, FL, about 30 minutes south of Brickell, is Pinecrest Gardens. Enjoy the paved paths meandering through the park scattered with turtle and koi ponds, providing a great locale for walking with little people. It’s stroller friendly, so go ahead and bring it in. A nice sized splash park in the back makes it a perfect spot to cool off on hot days with lots of sitting areas for parents to sit back and enjoy the squeals of joy as the kiddos cool off.
Picnic tables, a small snack bar, petting zoo and playground complete the park. Sundays spotlight an impressive Farmers Market and almost every holiday features a special program.
$5.00 General Admission includes the splash pad.
Jacobs Aquatic Center
For an island-style one day getaway, rent a car, crank up some Jimmy Buffet and take a road trip to the Florida Keys. The Keys are a state of mind, not just a destination. At the center of Key Largo you’ll find the Jacobs Aquatic Center, a goldmine of comfort and convenience for families on a hot Florida day. The complex consists of a 25-meter competition pool, one meter and three-meter diving boards and a pirate-themed splash park. A bathroom and snack bar are also on property. Fully trained lifeguards are present making this a great place to catch up on summer reads while the lifeguards do their job.
When hunger hits, walk a few blocks over to Sharky’s Sharkbite Grille, a Key Largo favorite for many tourists and locals. http://sharkeysgalley.comIt’s located on a busy canal which is always buzzing with dive boats and the like. The kids will have fun waving at the passengers while you enjoy a Rum Runner. You’re only an hour south of Miami, but you’re on island time so expect slower service. On your way back to Miami take Cardsound Road and stop off at Alabama Jacks for a quick drink and some conch fritters. It’s a roadside bar cooking up greasy favorites, seemingly in the middle of nowhere. There’s no website which honestly makes the place even cooler to me, but this site will offer you the basics. https://www.floridabeachbar.com/alabama-jacks
Daily weekday rates are $10 for adults, $8.00 for kids 11-17, and $6.00 for kids 3 to 10. Rates are slightly higher on the weekends.
Everyone knows the Miami Heat and D-Wade, but did you know we have a professional hockey team? Yep, hockey in Florida. The Florida Panthers play in Sunrise, FL, an easy 45-minute drive from Miami Beach. It’s the only place in the country you can wear a jersey, shorts and flip flops and not look out of place. The games are lively, fun and filled with northerners and Canadians. The food options are great, for stadium grub. We often frequent the Pasta Station located on the main level. Tickets can be had for $30 a seat up to $300. Check the team’s website for deals and specials. Be sure to bring the kids and go early as the team sets up a top notch Kids Zone. Don’t forget a plastic rat, and be ready to throw it if the team wins - it’s a tradition!
Gold Coast Train Museum
Next to the Miami Metro Zoo is a quaint, yet ramshackle museum called the Gold Coast Railroad Museum (locals just call it the train museum). It’s super popular during Christmas when it hosts the Polar Express and Thomas the Train days. Otherwise, it’s empty. And it’s fabulous, especially for the tykes. They can run, play, touch, cry, scream and just be kids. You can board and explore historic trains and there’s a charming Thomas the Train room with tons of toy trains. For $6.00 per person you can ride a Standard Gauge caboose or coach car, or for an extra $12 per person, you can ride in an Engineer Cab Standard Gauge Diesel-Electric Locomotive. Schedules and equipment vary, so be sure to call ahead if you crave a particular ride experience.
With little in the way of snacks or drinks available, you should eat before you go. Don’t be surprised if you see a photo shoot going on. It’s an excellent place for those black and white, industrial style selfies you see all over Instagram. Be sure to have a charged phone or camera.
General admission $8.00 and children (2-12) $6.00.
So you see, there is much more to do in South Florida than Wynwood Walls and South Beach. Miami, Fort Lauderdale and the Keys have a host of interesting and exciting choices to offer your family.
Contributing Writer, Stehli Krause. Stehil is a new travel blogger who loves to find and explore family-friendly destinations. Read more of her travel tips and follow her adventures on her website here: Mommy and Kid Travel