The two most important features of a successful family or group vacation is planning and compromising! You might not enjoy every activity (or a destination!) on the list, but with some planning, everyone in the group can (and should!) have something to look forward to. This of course is easier achieved in some destinations than others. On our recent 5-day getaway to Florida (from American Northeast) we managed to reward every family member with their share of fun. With its miles of ocean beaches and world class culture and entertainment, Florida is an easy family favorite.
We flew into Fort Lauderdale airport, picked our rental car and drove for about 30 minutes to the city of Sunny Isles. This is where we spent the first three-and-a-half days of our quick getaway, getting our fix of sun and ocean (culture too, but this is saved for later).
We like the family-friendly beaches of the city of Sunny Isles. The sandy shoreline stretches for miles, and there are a number of apartment style properties within a walking distance to the beach. The bustle of Miami Beach is approximately 12 miles away and the city of Miami is 17 miles (beware of rush hour and weekend traffic).
For this stay, we used our Hilton rewards points to stay in a one-bedroom apartment at the Double-Tree Ocean Point Resort.
ART AND NATURE IN MIAMI
Entire family enjoyed beach and pool time in Sunny Isles in the mornings, but in the afternoons, we drove to several Miami destinations to experience culture and nature. There are plenty of things to do in Miami area for all age and interest groups (stay tuned for my Things to Do in Miami article). On this short trip we discovered:
Fairchild Botanical Gardens in Coral Gables is known worldwide for its tropical flora preservation and educational efforts. There are so many ways to enjoy this property! You can hop on a tour bus, drop in at the science lab, partake in a festival, walk through the many gardens and Exhibits or simply relax with a book in a generous shadow of a tropical tree. Established in 1936, it is the oldest major cultural institution in Miami. Here are just a few highlights from our visit:
The Wynwood Walls “high-end” street art district in Miami was conceived in 2009 by late Tony Goldman with an idea to transform windowless warehouse walls of the beat-up area into the art canvasses. Today, Wynwood displays the work of some of the world’s most famous artists working in graffiti and street art genre.
The main area of Wynwood Art Walk is between 23st and 36st street (this is north of Downtown and south of Miami Design District), but for your first visit I recommend starting with the Wynwood Doors (a gated outdoor art display area which is free and stays open to the public into late evening hours).
After touring the Wynwood Gates outdoor exhibit space, see how far you would dare to venture into the neighborhood to check out the many displays on the buildings. We arrived around 5 pm and left in the dark of the evening. The area is getting gentrified with interesting stores and cafes and we felt safe in the area immediately surrounding the Wynwood Doors, but you may want to exercise reasonable caution after dark.
There are private tours offered at the entrance to the Gates – we opted for a quick free introduction to the area that took us beyond the “Doors” to admire the displays on the buildings, and inside the galleries and cafes. I highly recommend touring the area outside of the “Doors” with one of the tour guides.
Stay tuned for for more Things To Do in Miami in our upcoming article.
ORLANDO AND DISNEY
No matter how hard it was to leave behind the art and the beaches of Miami, in the spirit of family compromise we included a one-day visit to Disney’s Magic Kingdom on this trip to please our seven-year old princess. After a straight forward 3-hour drive from the Sunny Isles to Orlando, we arrived at Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa. (Read my review of this property here).
Here are my three take-aways from our Disney visit:
1. Beware of new surge pricing at Disney parks and choose off-peak days to save on the entrance tickets;
2. Take advantage of creating an account at Disney’s website and pre-register for specific attractions (and times) to minimize (and even avoid altogether) the waiting in line times. You can initially register for three attractions and add parades and such to your day plan; you can then manage your day via a mobile device to add additional attractions. We did not spend any time in lines this time.
3. Book your (full-service) dining early, but do not get discouraged if your restaurant of choice is fully booked. We got the coveted reservation at Cinderella Royal Table for our princess – on the day just prior to our visit (as we were driving from Sunny Isles to Orlando).
Have you visited Florida recently? What was on your agenda?
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