For many, Miami is thought of as a singles retreat, filled with hip cafes, stylish hotels, fashionable shops, trendy clubs and the lively nightlife of South Beach. But Miami is much more. It is a place where parents can take their children for fun and sun. • It is an American family vacation destination where hotels cater to tots and teens, sights are geared for both young and old, and kid-friendly restaurants abound. Joshua Dunkelman, concierge at Miami's Fontainebleau Hotel, says he sees countless mothers and fathers traveling with their kids. • "Miami has always offered both singles and families alike exciting and unique experiences," he says. "But Miami has attracted families and kept them coming back year after year. The best part, without a doubt, is that the city prides itself on offering something for everyone." • And they have succeeded. • While some tourist attractions have been around for decades, some are relatively new. Here is a sampling of what families can see and do around Miami:
Alice Burdick Schweiger, Albany (New York) Times Union
Everglades Safari Park
For a thrill on the water, the park offers an airboat tour where visitors can glide through the subtropical wilderness of the Everglades. From the airboat, exotic birds, turtles, crocodiles and alligators can be spotted. There also is a jungle trail, an alligator farm and show, Indian Village and a small museum. Admission is $23 for adults, $10 for children ages 5-11,
and under age 5 free. Open 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 26700 SW Eighth St., Miami. (305) 226-6923. www.evergladessafaripark.com.
The Miami Seaquarium
Kids fascinated with underwater life can watch a killer whale show, enjoy dolphins performing tricks, touch and feed a stingray and see a manatee exhibit. General admission is $37.95 for adults, $34.95 for seniors, $27.95 for children ages 3-9, and kids under age 3 free. For an extra fee, a dolphin encounter program allows 5-year-olds and up to swim, feed and play with these lovable marine mammals. Open 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. 4400 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami. (305) 361-5705. www.miamiseaquarium.com.
The city zoo is home to more than 1,200 rare and exotic animals, including elephants, gorillas, rhinos, monkeys, cheetahs and bears. There are interactive exhibits, hundreds of species of trees, palms and other plants, and a wildlife show demonstrating natural behaviors of animals. Visitors can feed giraffes. In the Children's Zoo, kids can ride camels and experience the traditional kind of transportation used by people in the deserts of Asia and Africa. One of their newest additions, the 27-acre "Amazon & Beyond," showcases giant river otters, jaguars, harpy eagles and anacondas, the mightiest snakes on Earth. Admission is $15.95 for adults, $14.95 for seniors, $11.95 for children ages 3-12, and under 3 free. Open 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. 12400 SW 152nd St., Miami. (305) 251-0400. www.miamimetrozoo.com.
This attraction is a tropical jungle and contemporary theme park specializing in more than 300 vibrant birds, along with such animals as monkeys, tigers, penguins, baboons, crocodiles and much more. Kids will hardly be at a loss for things to do with 1.35 miles of winding, covered trails, bird shows, safari tours, rare twin orangutans to watch and a recreation area called La Playa, with a private beach and water slides. Admission is $29.95 for adults, $27.95 for seniors, $23.95 for children ages 3-10, and under age 2 free. Open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; until 6 p.m. weekends. 1111 Parrot Jungle Trail, Miami. (305) 400-7000. www.jungleisland.com.
Vizcaya Museum & Gardens
This European-inspired, stunning estate boasts elegant furnishings, breathtaking gardens and a collection of art. The grounds consist of a subtropical forest with fountains, statues and exotic flowers. Built in the 1910s, the interior includes a lavishly decorated dining room, guest room, library and tea room. Admission is $15 for adults, $10 for seniors, $6 for ages 6-12, and age 5 and under free. Open 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily. 3251 S Miami Ave., Miami. (305) 250-9133. www.vizcayamuseum.org.
Walk through a forest and catch sight of monkeys roaming and climbing without being caged. Thirty species of primates, including gibbons, gorillas, orangutans, guenons and spider monkeys, can be seen. An Amazonian Rainforest is a 5-acre site with plants and monkeys from South America. Admission is $29.95 for adults, $27.95 for seniors, $23.95 for children ages 3-9, and children under 3 free. Open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. 14805 SW 216th St., Miami. (305) 235-1611. www.monkeyjungle.com.