By: Shayne Benowitz
Extend your cruise vacation with a family-friendly itinerary in Miami.
The great thing about a cruise vacation from PortMiami is that you can easily extend your stay in Miami and double up on the vacation fun.
One of the newest and largest ships to call PortMiami home is the Norwegian Escape. At 20 decks tall, over 1,000 feet long and with the capacity for over 4,000 passengers, the Escape is the largest ship in Norwegian’s fleet. It also features dazzling Broadway shows, an adrenaline-pumping ropes course, waterslides, fine dining and so much more. There’s a reason cruises are a great option for family travel—there’s so much to do on board!
The same goes for Miami and we’ve put together a three-day, family-friendly itinerary that takes you from bayside discoveries Downtown Miami near PortMiami to the laidback, historic neighborhood of Coconut Grove and, of course, plenty of time to soak up the sun on famous South Beach. It’s packed with insider tips tailored specifically to families with children of all ages. Go ahead and book a few extra days to discover Miami on your next cruise vacation.
Day One: Downtown Miami
Get a taste of Miami’s Latin flavor with breakfast at a ventanita on Calle Ocho. The heart of Little Havana, Calle Ocho is home to many Cuban restaurants including the legendary Versailles. Order café con leches, croquetas and pastelitos to share.
Next, take a short cab ride to Bayfront Park where you can spend the morning outside in the heart of downtown Miami overlooking Biscayne Bay. You’ll enjoy sweeping views of the city skyline, as well as mesmerizing views across the bay to South Beach. Walk the various waterfront paths and give the kids an opportunity to run around in the park and playground.
As you make your way north, you’ll eventually get to Bayside Marketplace, an outdoor shopping mall with various restaurants and live music. Do a little souvenir shopping and purchase your tickets on the Island Queen sightseeing boat. There are various tours to choose from, but your family might enjoy the Millionaire’s Row Cruise around Biscayne Bay to see the lavish homes on Star Island, Fisher Island and South Beach. It’s a great way to get the lay of the land and see Miami from a different perspective. You can also test your sea legs for your big cruise to come.
Once you return from your Island Queen cruise, keep heading north along the waterfront to the Pérez Art Museum Miami. This beautiful structure designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron is home to Miami’s premiere contemporary art collection and traveling exhibits. The museum’s grounds, with fun swinging chairs and benches to sit down and take in the views, are almost as alluring as the art itself. The museum is the perfect size to spend an afternoon without fatiguing the younger members of your family. It’s also home to Verde restaurant for a casual lunch with beautiful views.
If your children are on the younger side, you may wish to visit the Miami Children’s Museum on nearby Watson Island for hands-on exhibits geared specifically to them.
For a taste of culture during your visit, check the calendar at the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts and the evening programming at their onsite branch of local, independent bookstore Books & Books (http://www.miamiandbeaches.com/shopping/books-and-books/117318). From Broadway musicals to ballet, opera and author readings, both venues offer a dynamic lineup of cultural entertainment. Plan to enjoy dinner at The Café at Books & Books and allow some time to browse the bookshelves for reading material on the sun deck while you’re cruising the high seas later in the week. They have a great collection of children’s books and young adult novels, as well.
Day Two: Coconut Grove
Coconut Grove is a great neighborhood for families. With outdoor, historic and shopping attractions in a neighborhood that’s low key and easy to navigate, touring Coconut Grove is a cinch. Stroll the waterfront at Dinner Key Marina where sailboats, fishing skiffs and yachts line the bay for picturesque views. For families with kids who are competent swimmers, you may want to embark on a kayaking or paddleboarding adventure from here or head to nearby Kennedy Park to walk the trails overlooking the bay.
The Barnacle House and Historic State Park is also nearby overlooking the bay where you can learn about Old Miami, hike atop a hardwood hammock and enjoy those endless bay views.
Next, head to Vizcaya Museum & Gardens and step into the Italian Renaissance in South Florida at this historic estate built by developer James Deering. It’s a true architectural marvel featuring a main house with 34 rooms decorated with European antiquities, 10 acres of formal gardens and a grotto overlooking Biscayne Bay. You’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time and to another continent.
As the sun sets, visit CocoWalk, an outdoor shopping center, and the cafes along Main Highway, Grand Avenue, McFarlane Road and Commodore Plaza. Greenstreet Café is a classic spot for dinner with lots of Coconut Grove character. The American menu has plenty to choose from with hearty portions and affordable prices, perfect for families with eclectic tastes. Afterwards, you might enjoy catching a movie at the upscale Cinépolis where you can reserve your leather reclining seats in advance and order from a full menu, including wine and beer for the grown ups.
Day Three: Miami Beach
A trip to Miami is incomplete without experiencing South Beach. Start your morning on Ocean Drive. Wander around Lummus Park and marvel at the historic Art Deco architecture of the neon and pastel hotels and restaurants that line the street.
Head south of Fifth Street for a morning on the sand in a more relaxed and family-friendly beach setting. You can also explore nearby South Pointe Park and walk along the South Pointe Pier for breathtaking views of South Beach.
For lunch, head to the pedestrian Lincoln Road Mall, arguably the heart of South Beach. It’s a prime spot for people watching and a great place to do some afternoon shopping. Grab burgers at Shake Shack or head to Spris for pizza. Afterwards, don’t skip a sweet treat from Frieze Ice Cream Factory to enjoy window shopping along the pedestrian promenade filled with boutiques and art galleries.
In the evening, check the calendar at the New World Center, which is adjacent to Lincoln Road. This Frank Gehry-designed building is home to America’s orchestral academy and offers incredible, free outdoor cultural programming at its Soundscape Park. From live “wallcasts” of symphony performances to screenings of classic movies on its 7,000-square-foot exterior wall, it’s the perfect place to end the day with a picnic and allow the kids to run around the green grass at this beautiful 2.5 acre park in the heart of South Beach.
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