Road Tripping Through Miami's Most Interesting Places



South Beach Family

South Beach

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By: Laura Medley

So, you haven't been out of the house for a while and although you absolutely love the family, the pinging from your kids’ continuous video game playing is pretty much getting on that last nerve of yours! It's also getting a bit old, staring at the same four walls and you have completely run out of binge-worthy Netflix shows.  Well, great news. Miami is open and ready for business, which makes it the perfect time to get packed up for that all-American treat—The Road Trip! Even the kids will want to put down those joysticks for this.

Whether you are coming from the east or west coast down to Miami's sunny shores, there are lots of interesting places to stop that will entertain and educate even more than "The World's Largest Ball of Rubber Bands" - although that is pretty awesome and also located in Florida. (I bet you’re going to google that right now!)

You will want to spend at least a couple of days in Miami to experience everything on this list and get plenty of selfies for your Instagram feed. And great news, Miami's hotels are opening as well. With impressive health and cleanliness protocols in place, as well as amazing re-opening offers, it's never been a better time to stay awhile. Just make sure when planning your trip, you check for hours and other important information directly, by calling the venue. 

Ancient Spanish Monastery
First stop: North Miami's Ancient Spanish Monastery

First Road Trip Stop: North Miami's Ancient Spanish Monastery 

As you drive into Miami, the first interesting place you will want to stop on route will be in North Miami at the Ancient Spanish Monastery. This is truly an ancient wonder, as it dates back to 1133 AD and hails from Sacramenia in Northern Spain. In 1925, newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst, bought the monastery and painstakingly, had each brick of the buildings and walls packed in over 11,000 wooden crates, and brought over to the U.S., which then sat in a Brooklyn, N.Y. storage yard for years due to his unforeseen financial issues. It was sold at auction, but while it was being packed up, there was a fire and all the instructions on how to put this mighty stone jigsaw puzzle back together were lost.  

That didn't stop the rebuilding of the majestic cloisters and monastery however, now standing as a testament to time and ingenuity. It was purchased to be a unique Florida attraction and has become that and more. It is also a working Episcopalian Church, a museum of historical artifacts dating from that time period, and a beautiful garden where you can lose yourself in history and tranquility as you pet the wandering, live-in cats that mill about under the trees. 

Bike Ride
Explore endless stretches of beach from Sunny Isles to South Beach

Next Road Trip Stop: Anywhere from Sunny Isles to South Beach 

Now you will want to head down A1A for a taste of the beach, since no trip down south would be complete without some sand between your toes. Pick your spot from all kinds of beautiful beachfront hotels, where you can drop your bags and head back out for some fun in the sun. You really should take a walk on the boardwalks, head to the water, and enjoy the beautiful scenery and salt air. There is also a world of great shopping and dining to be had from the upscale Bal Harbor Shops to the energizing beats of Lincoln Road and picturesque Española Way along the drive south.  

While you are hitting up South Beach, you should drop by the very interesting Wilzig Erotic Art Museum. Without a doubt, this is one of the more unique museums in Miami. Dedicated to exhibiting fine erotic art from all over the world, you can explore more than 4,000 individual works dating from 300 BCE to today. You might want to leave the kids back at the hotel for this one. 

Take the family to one of Miami's many museums

Turn Your Trip West: Downtown Miami and Wynwood 

Here is where your road trip hits the city proper. There are so many amazing things to do in Downtown Miami, you will have a full day of adventure and fun for the whole family. Visit engaging museums like the Frost Museum of Science, with its interactive exhibits, and the Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), for world-renowned art. You can also take a short drive over the MacArthur Causeway to the Miami Children's Museum, and the whole family will love the adventure-filled Jungle Island, just next door.  

Since this road trip is about experiencing places of the more interesting variety, make sure to head over to The Miami Circle by Brickell Ave. This mysterious archaeological site was re-discovered in 1998, where beneath a layer of limestone were hundreds of odd holes, 24 of which formed a perfect circle. Although there’s much unknown about the Miami Circle, artifacts found at the site matched perfectly with artifacts known to be from the Tequesta Native American tribe that occupied Miami in the 16th century. 

Now that you have engaged your brain power with an archeological mystery, enjoy engaging in some power of an adrenaline-pumping nature, because just down the road in the Wynwood area of Miami you will find a place to channel your inner Rambo - oh, and don't worry, it’s totally legal. Enter Lock & Load, Miami’s state-of-the-art shooting experience. Strap on one of 25 different machine guns or other firearm and start your target practice. With 24 firing lanes and one-on-one professional guidance, you can fire away in a safe and controlled environment. 

After you've “taken out all the paper bad guys,” you can wind down with some of the best street art in the world. Even graffiti has gone mainstream—the Museum of Graffiti celebrates graffiti art and its influence on fashion, design, and advertising. Complete with indoor exhibitions and 11 exterior murals, you'll never look at your kids’ sidewalk chalk drawings in the same way again.  

As you get back on the road, just a few minutes away is Key Biscayne, where you can get in some kid-friendly Miami Seaquarium fun with dolphin and stingray encounters, penguin and seal experiences, as well as all the sea life you could possibly dream of seeing. 

For even more beach time, but with some history thrown in, stop at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, where you can take in some of Miami's best bike trails, an antique carousel, kids playground and a mini-wetland next to a mile-long shoreline where you can enjoy an unobstructed view of the Atlantic.  

Your road trip continues at historic attractions like Vizcaya Museum & Gardens

What's at the end of I-95?   

Jump back in the car and head down I-95 until it turns into US1, and you are now a moment away from the beautiful Vizcaya Museum & Gardens. Once the home of early 20th-century industrialist, James Deering, this incredible mansion and garden was designed in breathtaking European extravagance. Imported gilded panels, carved mantels and fresco ceilings from Tuscany and France fill the rooms. Spend some time exploring the site’s 11 historic buildings filled with treasures dating back to the 15th century and 11 acres of manicured Italian-styled gardens. 

A short drive south and tucked in the community of Coconut Grove, The Kampong is a 9-acre garden focused on unique tropical plants. While wandering the Kampong, you will find more than 50 types of mango, peanut butter fruit, and cocoplums, among other exotics. Formerly the home of famed horticulturist, Dr. David Fairchild, you can now walk the paths he created and enjoy an incredible collection of exotic fruit trees and plants in a beautiful hidden garden almost made for Instagram moments.  

You might want to take a break here, as there are lots of great places to eat in Coconut Grove and the nearby Coral Gables. If you decide to stay the night to relax and rejuvenate for your travels in the morning, you can spend it in one of the local hotels that will leave you not only refreshed and ready to take on the day, but also just might take your breath away in the process. 

Airboat Tour
Explore Miami's National Parks

Next Stop: South Dade's Tropical Adventures 

Been dreaming of fresh, open-air spaces to enjoy the outdoors? What's a good road trip without some native scenery and atmosphere? Perhaps wildlife spotting and some local flavors? Well, South Dade has all of these in abundance. It is a treasure-trove of fun-for-the-whole-family outdoor adventures waiting to happen and a great next step on your road trip through Miami.  

Here you will be able to get back to nature in all kinds of ways, from walking the trails in Everglades National Park, to taking a short boat trip to Boca Chica in Biscayne National Park. Have a picnic, get out on a kayak, enjoy the lush subtropical environment, and commune with the great outdoors

Craving still a little more excitement? How about getting up close and personal with an apex predator that has existed for millions of years—the alligator. For a truly never-to-be-forgotten experience, head to Miccosukee Indian Village, Everglades Alligator Farm, or Everglades Safari Park and see if you have what it takes to hold a gator in your bare hands. Don’t forget that selfie. 

Now that your adrenaline is flowing from that close encounter, it's time to take another break and get into those local flavors we were talking about. Head over to Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery in the Redland, and take full advantage of the one-of-a-kind menu with tasty treats like the brewery bread and stuffed avocado. It’s a perfect companion to the wine they make from star fruit, mango, lychee, and even avocado. Enjoy a tasting of a few varieties or get a whole bottle to take back home with you. You can also try original microbrews made with ingredients like coconut and key lime at the attached Miami Brewing Co. 

You Did It 

When you finally decide to head back home, you will have memories you won't soon forget, a phone full of photos that you will actually want to print out and frame, and maybe even a growler or two of some subtropical flavored microbrew that you certainly can't get anywhere but in Miami. This is a road trip full of interesting surprises and unexpected adventures that will give the family stories to tell again and again, and get you planning your return vacation before you even get back home. 

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