7.21.2012

Miami Beyond the Beach

By Elizabeth

If you’re like most people, you think of Miami as a great place to go for a beach vacation. And you’re right! But there’s a lot more to Miami than sand and waves. My kids and I recently visited this dynamic Florida city. Here are our recommendations for things to do when you’re tired of bodysurfing.

Venetian Pool, Coral Gables

This crazy pool is in Coral Gables, a suburb just south of the city. Built out of a coral rock quarry in 1923, It’s on the National Register of  Historic Places. The water is from an underground aquifer and is seriously cold, but the caves and the generally funky vibe make it a great way to spend a hot afternoon.

Biscayne National Park

Yes, it’s next to a nuclear reactor. And it’s sort of a hike (about an hour’s drive) from Miami. But Biscayne National Park is the only national park that includes a coral reef. We signed up for a snorkeling trip (make sure you call ahead) and loved the entire experience, including the 40 minute boat ride to the reef. (Tell your grownups they’ll get to see a remote compound once used by Richard Nixon.)

No, I didn’t wear the mask and snorkel for the entire boat ride.

The Everglades

Another national park! About a 45-minute drive from downtown Miami, the land gets so swampy you can almost feel the mosquitoes biting from inside the car. Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country. And if, like us, you are from a northern climate, the endless stretch of waterlilies and mangroves is mind boggling.

Because they most likely grew up watching a TV show called “Gentle Ben,” your grownups will probably want to go on an airboat ride–which is like an enormous lawn mower tacked on to a raft. Airboats are not allowed in the actual Everglades because they can damage the plants and wildlife. But if you go across the road to the areas just outside the park, there are no shortage of tours. We loved Buffalo Tiger’s Airboat Tours, especially when we got to visit a hammock, which is an island made of hardwood trees.

Even though it’s harder to spot wildlife in the summer, there were a fair number of alligators, but that might have because they looked mighty used to the baguettes the tour guides fed them. Still, it was a blast and we did see alligators in a more “wild” state.

A & M Comics

Also in Coral Gables, this tiny store is crammed with comics, graphic novels and about every collectible figure you can imagine. Very helpful staff, too.

Garcia’s Seafood Grill

There is no reason to be to Florida if you aren’t going to eat seafood. Garcia’s is smack on the Miami River in downtown. There are so many types of seafood and preparations to choose from that the menu can feel overwhelming; my kids love the Mahi-Mahi. The plantains are also delicious and grownups will appreciate the very authentic mojitos.

Azucar

The best ice cream cafe in the city, right in the heart of Little Havana. Go across the street and watch old men from Cuba play seriously competitive games of dominoes. And then walk back to Azucar and enjoy a classic Miami ice cream flavor, including mango, coconut cream, key lime pie, and dulce de leche.