Miami with Kids: A Perfect Family Day

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Visiting Miami with kids is great fun, particularly as there are so many things to do: museums, zoos and parks all around town that are sure to amaze and inspire your little ones as well as entertain adults. Here are some family vacation ideas for a day in Miami:

Morning

Start off by having a hearty breakfast at the 11th Street Diner (11th Street and Washington Avenue, South Beach, 305-534-6373) in Miami Beach. Here you can enjoy as many omelets, pancakes and waffles as you like. This retro-style diner serves food around the clock (it's open 24 hours), so even if your children wake up early you can head here. It is a cool start to your morning and you can take your time - after all, it's a family vacation.

Miami is a sunny beach city, so if you brought your bathing suits, hit the beach after breakfast and enjoy the weather for a couple of hours. It's free and fun, and kids love to play in the water and build castles in the sand. You might catch a volleyball game or spot a celebrity walking down Ocean Drive. Make sure to bring lots of sunscreen as the sun is strong, particularly between 10AM and 2PM. After drying off, and perhaps getting into some clean clothes, take a walk around Espanola Way or Lincoln Road and visit the many stores and street vendors offering unique souvenirs.

Once you are done browsing, make your way down to 5th Street and head west towards the mainland of Miami. Here you can visit the Miami Children's Museum (980 MacArthur Causeway, Watson Island, Miami, 305-373-5437), which offers over 12 galleries, a huge auditorium, and hundreds of bilingual interactive exhibits from which both parents and children can learn a lot.

The Children's Museum is open daily from 10am-6PM and admission is $15 for adults and children alike, except for babies under the age of 1. Florida residents are $12 and Miami residents in certain ZIP codes get 50 per cent off the standard admission price.

Afternoon

Jungle Island (1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, off of I-395 between Downtown Miami and South Beach, 305-400-7000), formerly known as Parrot Jungle, is now considered one of the best things to do when visiting Miami with kids. Not only does this attraction have a host of exotic birds and reptiles, but it is home to lemurs, camels, prairie dogs, zebras and even marmosets, one of the smallest primates in the world. Children can spend a fun-filled day learning about animal species and ecosystems. They can also pose with parrots, watch wildlife shows and even pet and feed a penguin at the Jungle's new penguin exhibit.

Small children will enjoy jumping in the bounce house while older kids can challenge their skills on the rock climbing wall. Your kids can even enter a floating beach ball and glide around on the water in a giant transparent sphere.

Jungle Island is open Monday through Friday 10AM-5PM, and at 10AM-6PM on weekends. Admission is $32.95 for adults and $24.95 for children over the age of 2. The penguin encounter is available for an added fee of $30 and reservations are required, so call ahead first on 305-400-7275. The floating beach ball attraction costs $5.

Another afternoon option: Zoo Miami (1 Zoo Boulevard, 12400 SW 152 Street, Miami, 305-251-0400), previously known as Miami Metro Zoo, is a favorite family vacation spot in Miami with kids. The zoo features over 2,000 animals and more than 1,200 native and exotic plants, all of which you can learn about in-depth. Some of these animals and plants come from the rarest ecosystems in the world. The Amazon and Beyond exhibit is sure to amaze any visitor, as they wander through 27 acres that house over 100 species of rare breeds and over 600 exotic animals.

The best place for younger children is the Children's Zoo area, where they can get up close to the animals and pet and feed pot-bellied pigs or gentle sheep. Camel rides are also available, if your kids want a bit of adventure and some great photos. The butterfly garden is also a relaxing experience for the whole family. Catch the meerkat feeding session if you can (every day at 12:30PM), during which a family of six meerkats eagerly chows down the zookeeper's offerings.

See Zoo Miami's website for more details about the wildlife exhibits and any additional educational opportunities. The zoo is open daily from 9:30AM-5:30PM, but ticket sales end at 4PM so don't linger too long over lunch. Regular admission is $15.95 for adults and $11.95 for kids aged 3-12. You may wish to buy your tickets online to avoid the line.

Evening

After a full family vacation day in Miami, you and your children will have worked up an appetite. Head over to Dolphin Mall (11401 NW 12th Street, exit 27 off Florida Turnpike, Miami, 305-365-7446), which features dozens of restaurants and eateries, all ranging in price and atmosphere. Restaurants within Dolphin Mall include Kobe Japanese Steak and Seafood, Mojito's, TGI Friday's, Charcoal's Latin Grill, and Texas de Brazil Churrascar'a, among many other family-friendly eateries to choose from. You can take the kids to Johnny Rockets for a burger or have a meal at Dave and Buster's, and play some arcade games afterwards.

If you are in a bowling mood, head to Strike (305-594-0200), a bowling alley inside Dolphin Mall with great food and lane-side service as well. They also have a full bar for the parents.

Dolphin Mall is open Monday through Saturday 10AM-9:30PM and 11AM-7PM on Sundays. For a full listing of dining options and individual restaurant hours, menus and contact information, visit the website.

These are just a handful of things to do in Miami with kids, so take time to plan your best family vacation. It won't be long before you're planning to come back.


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