Miami's Downtown for Families
By: Laura Albritton
The view of Downtown’s skyline from Biscayne Bay as you traverse the causeways is absolutely striking. Hotels, high rises and condos glisten under the sun at midday and twinkle in the evening bathed with thousands of lights. From museums to dining and shopping, Downtown serves up a rich cultural banquet filled with fantastic activities for parents and children to explore.
Overlooking Biscayne Bay, the sleek Herzog and de Meuron-designed Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) is an impressive new Miami landmark. With hanging gardens and dramatic wraparound terraces, the 200,000 square foot museum contains stunning exhibitions of modern and contemporary art. An auditorium, a library and classrooms are also onsite. When the little ones get hungry, the buzzing Verde restaurant and a gourmet sandwich bar make for a perfect break. Every second Saturday PAMM hosts a popular afternoon arts and crafts program for kids and admission is free. Visitors also receive free admission on the first Thursday of the month.
HistoryMiami, is another great family-friendly museum with entertaining exhibitions on Miami’s history and culture. The permanent exhibit “Tropical Dreams” traces Miami history starting with prehistoric times. Interactive features include a street trolley and a model settler’s house, bringing history vividly to life for the little ones. The second Saturday of each month, HistoryMiami welcomes parents, grandparents, and kids from 1 to 4 p.m. for its Family Fun Day with crafts, tours and awesome live performances.
Shopping with a View
For families craving mall time, Bayside Marketplace provides a unique picturesque experience. Here, you can shop at Disney and Gap with a view of glittering Biscayne Bay. A bonus for small children is the cheerful carousel. When it’s time for lunch or dinner, stop by Los Ranchos for a juicy, Latin American-style steak or try Tradewinds for specialties like oysters Rockefeller and paella. Both spots cater to kids with child-sized meals.
At Bayside Marketplace you’ll also find Island Queen Cruises. This 90-minute cruise takes you across Biscayne Bay from Millionaire’s Row on Miami Beach to exclusive Fisher Island. The tour provides a unique perspective on Miami that your little ones will find exciting while on the deck of a boat.
Fly Through the Air
Adventurous kids looking for excitement will get a thrill at the Flying Trapeze School. Located in Bayfront Park, this unusual academy teaches you how to “fly through the air with the greatest of ease.” All students wear safety harnesses, and as you’d expect, there is a nice, big net. Kids need to be at least six years old to participate.
Historic Houses of Worship
If your family vacation plans include attending church or temple, you might want to visit one of Downtown’s historic houses of worship. Established in 1925, Trinity Episcopal Cathedral is one of Miami’s oldest churches, with a soaring exterior and serene, tropical interior. Gesu Catholic Church, made of Italian marble and German stained glass, was also erected in the 1920s. Mass is held in this lovely pale pink church seven days a week, in English and Spanish.
Built in 1927, the historic sanctuary at Temple Israel of Greater Miami is on the National Register of Historic Places and the Gumenick Chapel adjacent to the synagogue was built in 1969. It features the dramatically modern architecture of Kenneth Treister.
One of Miami’s greatest cultural cornerstones is the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts with its distinctive glass-and-steel design. Encompassing two complexes on either side of Biscayne Boulevard, this world-class institution showcases theater, music, and dance performances from touring troupes. It’s also home to South Florida’s own Miami Symphony Orchestra and the Miami City Ballet. Child-oriented performances in the past include the delightful Mary Poppins and The Nutcracker.
Constructed in 1926, the Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center for the Performing Arts not only wows music, film, and theater lovers, it also enchants audiences with its Mediterranean Revival architecture and romantic design. Inside, kids will spy Moorish decor, electric stars and man-made clouds painted on the ceiling overhead.
No guide to Downtown Miami is complete without the American Airlines Arena, home to NBA champions the Miami Heat. American Airlines Arena also hosts major rock and pop concerts, which can be a super fun time if you have teenagers.
Whether your family wants to hear music, explore intriguing art, take a cruise, or discover local history, Downtown Miami delivers rewarding experiences for both adults and children. Be sure to pay this bustling neighborhood a visit.
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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