Miami's Coconut Grove for Families
By: Laura Albritton
Coconut Grove is an ideal Miami destination for parents and kids. As the oldest neighborhood in Miami, it has loads of character and history to discover. Bike or stroll through the Grove’s backstreets and you’ll encounter gorgeous old oaks, masses of palm trees and hot pink bougainvillea climbing over white picket fences. Keep your eyes open for sights that will delight the little ones, like wild peacocks roaming freely with their shimmering blue tails or little green parrots flapping through the bright blue sky.
Coconut Grove History
In the 1880s, a handful of intrepid souls arrived on the shores of “Cocoanut Grove”. Idealists and pioneers like ship designer Ralph Middleton Munroe and English hoteliers Charles and Isabella Peacock decided to settle in this slice of paradise. The Peacocks opened Miami’s very first inn, which attracted a steady stream of independent spirits and adventurers. Coconut Grove is also home to the first Bahamian settlers in Miami and their culture still flourishes today along Grand Avenue.
As the Flagler railroad came and transformed Miami, Coconut Grove retained its offbeat, individualistic attitude. In the Flower Power 1960s, hippies, rockers and artists flocked here, making “the Grove” synonymous with nonconformity. Today, you can still experience Coconut Grove’s unconventional past and present, especially during its colorful festivals, like the Coconut Grove Arts Festival (February), Fête de la Musique (June), the Great Grove Bed Race (November), and the wacky King Mango Strut parade (late December).
Historic House Tours
A tour of a historic Coconut Grove home will transport you and your family back to another era. In the late 19th century, Munroe built the Barnacle, a simple, wood-frame home designed to catch sea breezes. Here, Ralph and his family lived an idyllic life on the banks of the bay. The Barnacle State Park’s 30-minute tour introduces kids to family treasures such as hand-hewn toys, a full-size replica of Munroe’s sailboat Egret and a refrigerator that cost as much as a car.
In contrast to the Barnacle’s simplicity, Vizcaya Museum & Gardens drips in opulent decor and gilt antiques. In 1916, mega-wealthy industrialist James Deering had a vision to bring European splendor to the shores of Miami. The resulting Mediterranean Revival mansion—with 34 glittering rooms—makes for a captivating experience. The museum’s guide “Exploring Vizcaya with Young Visitors” comes free with the price of admission. The grandiose gardens with its cool labyrinth, stone statues, grottos, and bridges are a big hit with kids.
When it’s time for lunch, Coconut Grove offers a fabulous range of international and American cuisine. Popular with locals, Jaguar Ceviche Spoon Bar & LatAm Grill serves up tasty Peruvian ceviche, grilled steaks, savory seafood dishes and refreshing salads. Be sure to ask your server about the children’s menu not listed on the regular menu.
Nearby on Commodore Plaza, Bombay Darbar offers a range of scrumptious Indian favorites, from chicken tikka masala to lamb curries. Kids sampling South Asian fare for the first time might enjoy the slow-roasted tandoori chicken with basmati rice. And who can pass up the yummy, warm roti bread?
For families who love French flair, be sure to check out Le Bouchon du Grove. From omelets and pancakes to steaks and salads, the menu at this little bistro provides a wide range of choices at lunchtime. Grownups might want to try the moules frites, mussels cooked in a white wine broth and served with a heaping plate of thin-cut fries.
Finally, for Southern comfort food with a twist, visit Peacock Garden Café across from Peacock Park (the site of Charles and Isabella Peacock’s original hotel). This charming spot features a leafy patio, vintage photos of early Coconut Grove and delicious dishes – particularly the decadent weekend brunch with eggs Benedict and irresistible pecan waffles.
Exploring Beautiful Biscayne Bay
With its bayfront location and lack of roads, early settlers got around Coconut Grove by sailboat. You can still discover Biscayne Bay and the protected waters of mangrove islands just offshore by boat, kayak or paddleboard. You’ll find Coconut Grove Kayak & SUP operating from its floating “office” in the Dinner Key Marina at the corner of 27th Avenue and South Bayshore Drive. Just look for their sign. Older kids and teens can paddleboard and you can take a young child out in a double kayak with life preservers.
To cruise further offshore, rent a boat from American Watersports located on South Bayshore Drive by Monty’s restaurant. Their 22 to 26’ boats are ideal for getting out on the ocean. Alternatively, you can charter a captain to take your family on a memorable boat tour of Miami. With its laidback, village-y vibe and gorgeous bay views, Coconut Grove makes for a perfectly quirky and idyllic Miami escape.
Laura Albritton is the author of the guidebook Miami for Families: A Vacation Guide for Parents and Kids (www.MiamiForFamilies.com). Laura has guest blogged for popular travel websites Uncommon Caribbean, Your Life is a Trip, and Authentic Florida; she also reviews books and art for the Miami Herald, Sculpture magazine, The Florida Keys Weekly, and Harvard Review.
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