Miami is known for its beautiful blue waters, sassy Latin flare and party scene. However, locals know that Miami is a city of so much diversity and the real fun begins beyond South Beach. Contrary to popular belief, Miami is the perfect travel destination for the entire family and venturing outside of Ocean Drive can lead to unique adventures that the locals love to keep to themselves. Here is my local’s guide to Miami and finding the best Miami hidden gems off the beaten path.
Best Beaches in Miami for Families: Explore Local Favorite Miami Beaches and State Parks
Locals know that South Beach is crowded with tourists and party seekers. Miami is home to a ton of beaches and state parks to enjoy minus the crowds and hard to find parking. Here are some of our highly recommended off the beaten path beaches in Miami that are family friendly + miami hidden gems not overrun with tourists.
South Pointe Park:
South Pointe Park is a 17- acre beach on the southern end of Miami’s famous South Beach. Not only was this our favorite beach because of the views but it’s also less crowded and more family oriented than the others in the area. This family friendly beach in Miami offers a ton of amenities for kids like a splash pad, bike riding path, modern playground and picnic lounging areas. Here, you’ll find killer sunsets, beach front snack shacks and restaurants, water sports and watching the cruises leave port Miami.
Note: Parking can easily be purchased with the Park Mobile or Pay to Park apps. However, Sunday parking is a flat $20 and often hard to find a spot.
Best Miami Hidden Gem Beach
Matheson Hammock Park:
Matheson Hammock Park is located in the Coral Gables neighborhood near Cutler Bay. This beautiful beach state park is part natural and part manmade. In the center of the beach, you’ll find a man- made atoll lagoon which is perfect for swimming and play with small kids. The rest of the park is a 360- degree scenic view of beautiful Miami Biscayne Bay and Boat Marina. On a clear day, you can even catch a glimpse of the Miami skyline. In my opinion, nothing beats the golden sunsets here that shine between the palm trees and beautiful natural coral. This is the perfect beach for a quiet family beach day, water sports, boating or a picnic.
Note: The park is often subject to renovation and hurricane repair. Parking is $5 on weekdays and $7 on the weekends.
Crandon Park Beach (Key Biscayne)
Crandon Park is a stunning beach right on Key Biscayne. The park is connected to Miami by a causeway bridge. This beach is one of the most serene and you will not find a ton of tourists here. Not only does this area offer a beach but it also has an area for golfing and tennis court. Take a scroll on the beach, ride the biking trail, chill under a sleepy palm tree or have a picnic…the choice is yours.
Note: This park charges an entry fee of $5 for weekdays and $7 for weekends.
Florida State Parks Near Miami
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park
If lighthouses and water sports are your thing, then this is the park for you. Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Parkis a short drive from downtown Miami and it comes complete with a historic lighthouse to explore from 1825. In this state park, you can bike, hike, water boat camp, fish, paddle board and more. The opportunities are endless and this is the perfect place to forget about the busy Miami streets. Tuesday- Friday, you can catch a tour of the historic lighthouse.
Note: The charge is $8 per car to enter the park and additional fees may apply depending on your activity of interest.
Are Miami Beaches Free?
While Miami’s beaches are technically free, you will often have to pay for parking or beach equipment like chairs, umbrellas, and cabanas. Other than that, the beaches in Miami are free and you are free to bring your own food, drinks and beach toys for children.
Note: According to Miami Beach Laws, alcohol of any kind will not be tolerated on the beach.
Unique things to do in Miami: Horseback Riding in South Miami
When most people think of Miami, Horses and horseback riding never come to mind. However, locals know that in South Miami, land is lush and rich and there are many farms where you’ll find unique experiences such as horseback riding. The Miami Equestrian Centeris located in the Kendall area and offers an amazing one on one training session where you can train for an hour or two like a real equestrian. They offer hands on training on riding techniques or you can relax and ride the horses around the large property. You can find the best deals for this on Groupon which gives you the option of one or more training session bundles and ends up being much cheaper than booking directly with the company.
Miami Hidden Gems : Knaus Berry Farms
Miami is hiding something from the tourists but I’m going to let you in on a secret. The very best dessert you’ll ever have in your life can be found in South Miami at Knaus Berry Farms. This 63- year- old family owned farm started off growing strawberries. While you can visit and pick pounds of fresh strawberries, the locals go for the baked goods.
The most popular items on the menu are their crazy delicious hot and fresh cinnamon rolls and fresh made to order milkshakes. These treats are like nothing you’ve ever had and worth the 30+ minute drive from South Beach. They also have a farmer’s market, fresh baked breads, pie and more. As a word of caution, the farm is only open from November to April of each year for the strawberry season making it a hot commodity. Plus, be sure to bring cash! This one of the many things to do in Miami with kids.
You may be interested in reading “Things to do in Miami with Kids: Is Miami a family friendly destination?”
Explore Coral Gables: Things to do in Coral Gables, Florida
While most people believe that the glitziest neighborhoods in Miami can be found near the beach, the locals know that Coral Gables in full of old money glam. Coral Gables is a gorgeous neighborhood with a diverse list of sites to see and places to marvel over. In most places, you can find fairytale mansions on both sides of the road and Spanish moss lined streets. Its free to daydream and drive through neighborhoods and drool over their beauty.
What Attractions are in Coral Gables
Coral Gables is large and you can very well spend an entire day in this part of town exploring off the beaten path. Here, you’ll find museums, golf courses, and tons of attractions. Some local favorite things to do in Coral Gables are: Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens, The Gorgeous Venetian Pool, Capital One Café’ and swanky shopping at Miracle Mile and shops at Merrick Park. Coral Gables also has a ton of dining experiences both casual and fine.
Biltmore Sunday Tours and Weekend Brunch
No visit to Coral Gables would be complete without visiting the Biltmore Hotel for a tour, photo opp or brunch. This stunning 93- year- old hotel is pure luxury. While on property, you can partake in an award- winning spa experience, golfing, Sunday Champagne Bunch or Sunday walking tour inside and outside the property. This tour is another free thing to do in Miami on the weekend!
Spend Time at A Marina
There’s nothing that says Florida living more than spending the day out on a boat or enjoying the Marina. On the weekends, locals flee from downtown and South Beach Miami area to enjoy the calm and serene Marina’s down south. Our favorite hidden treasure is Black Point Marina which can be found in South Miami (Cutler Bay).
Here, you can charter a boat for the day or fish but the real magic is at the Open-air Marina Restaurant Black Point Bar and Grill. Their specialty is a Fried Grouper Sandwich TO DIE FOR or you can step outside your comfort zone and try Dolphin! Everything that comes out of the kitchen is fresh and tastes delicious. Plus, their drinks are refreshing and place has a good breeze and island vibes.
Visit Miami’s Hidden Gem Museums: Best Museums in Miami, Florida
There are truly two sides to Miami. While one side is vibrant party goers, the other side is serene natural beauty with history and culture. Museums are cheap things to do in Miami and will help you stick to a low budget while in the city.
Miami Museums with Walking Tours
Vizcaya Museum and Gardens
Locals and visitors both can agree that Villa Vizcaya is the most beautiful place in Miami and it should not be missed. John Deering had Villa Vizcaya built in 1916 as an Italian style winter retreat. If you wish to get away from Miami’s modern appeal, this villa will take you a step or two back in history. Spend the day with a walking tour or spend your time by Biscayne Bay watching the waves crash against the shore. This stunning property has a ton of gardens, bay front seating, a gift shop and on site eatery for your convenience. Visiting this Miami palace is sure to inspire you.
Tip: If you love Vizcaya then you will adore the James Deering Estate in Miami as well which is one of South Florida’s largest and most historical estates.
Coral Castle Museum
Looking for one of Miami’s most unique museums and destinations? In South Miami, you will find the Coral Castle Museum which is over 1,000 tons of artfully carved coral rock sculpture garden. Between the 1920s to 50s, one man created one of the world’s most mysterious accomplishments. The remnants of his art is what you will see when you visit the castle. So, if you visit South Miami for any of the other attractions listed, be sure to visit this exhibit.
Miami Cultural Museums
History Miami Museum
Want to know everything about Miami’s History from its complex history to its vibrant art deco culture? If so, the History Miami Museum has everything you can dream of. This Smithsonian affiliate institute has a ton of amazing exhibits to keep you busy for hours. You’ll learn about the various cultures and historical moments that came together and made Miami what it is today. Throughout the year, the museum also hosts events and festivals such as Free family days, culture fests and summer programs for children and teens.
Note: The History Miami Museum is a part of the Miami-Dade Cultural Center and made up of two buildings.
American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora
What better way to explore that culture than visiting the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora? This museum showcases Miami’s strong Cuban culture, history, culture and artistic contributions that Cubans brought to Miami and America. This museum also often hold cultural and artistic festivals and shows so be sure to visit this museum if you’re in Little Havana.
Note: Little Havana’s Calle Ocho (8thStreet) offers Miami’s best Cuban cuisine and authentic Cuban experiences. Calle Ocho in Miami is for history or cultural buff looking for immersion.
Jewish Museum of Florida
Did you know that Miami and South Florida has a large population of Jewish Americans? At the Jewish Museum of Florida, you will find stories of Jewish immigration and their contribution to South Florida . Not only does it talk about the holocaust but visitors can also learn about arts, culture and how they built their generational wealth in the area. The tour takes about 90 minutes and volunteers are always willing to share personal stories during your visit.
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