Miami Beach, here we come! If you live in the Northeast, or anywhere with a similarly cold climate, a February break in balmy Florida will likely sound delightful. While one of our kids was a little disappointed that he wouldn’t get to spend the week snowboarding, this was an appealing alternative!
Arrival in Miami
For our time in Miami, we had decided to stay in South Beach, one of the most famous beaches in the area, with its lively vibe. When picking hotels, we were interested in a hotel near the water and restaurants, but without the notorious nightlife noise. In that vein, we found a place a block off of Ocean Drive called Ocean Reef Suites, which worked for the stay.
There are plenty of other nice beach areas nearby. For instance, Mid-Beach and North Beach had some lovely large resorts, constructed later, which are more self-contained, and one might never need to leave the property. But that’s less our thing.
In any case, per our Florida trip itinerary post, we arrived on an evening flight. The first rental car we were assigned had a broken seatbelt, but we got it resolved and eventually arrived at our hotel in South Beach, a little after 10pm. The kids were quite tired, so they got themselves ready for bed while Jeremy and I took a quick walk. Being able to trust your kids enough to duck out of the hotel for a few minutes is a great perk of traveling with teens!
Day 1: Miami Beach
In the morning, the hotel had a modest breakfast of mostly prepackaged items, so we grabbed a tray and took it out to one of the hotel’s outdoor tables to enjoy. I miss some of great breakfast buffets, particularly like we saw in parts of Europe. I’m curious to see if, as the pandemic wanes, hotels will stick with the cost savings in reduced breakfasts, or improve them again at some point.
We started our first morning off at the nearby beach. Our hotel told us that our resort fee included rentals of two free beach chairs at the nearby 10th Street beach, so we headed that way, though paid for an umbrella in addition.
Fortunately, we had a beach blanket with us, so in addition to two chairs and an umbrella rental, we got the best combination of sun, sand, and shade!
At lunch time, we debated going and sitting down somewhere vs. bringing food back to the beach, but since the boys weren’t ready to pack up, we opted to bring food back. There didn’t seem to be a lot of good options for this. The boys didn’t like the idea that sand might get in a pizza, and a lot of the takeout taco shops seemed to have quite poor reviews, so we decided that burgers were the safest option.
At one point, I became quite cold and confiscated the boys beach blanket so I could lie in the sand with all our beach towels on top of me. The boys made fun of my goosebumps a bit, after all it was 76 degrees outside, but I had a lovely nap in the nice warm sun!
Bike Path and Ice Cream
After going back to the hotel to clean up, we decided to explore the non-sandy area. The bike path is quite pleasant!
Of course, the boys thought a large (if overpriced) ice cream cone was a great idea!
Art Deco Walk
One of the things that South Beach is most famous for is its Art Deco architecture.
Art Deco was a popular style just after World War I. Some of the features included bold geometric forms and bright colors, and you will quickly get a feel for the style as you wander through the building near South Beach. If you have time, consider getting more information by taking an official walking tour or stopping by one of the local museums!
This is also a popular area for people to bring their old cars. The boys thoroughly enjoyed car spotting!
Getting a little warm and tired, we went back to the hotel to rest until dinner.
Dinner and Evening Stroll
While a lot of the nearby restaurants looked quite atmospheric and were probably good options for expensive drinks, the food didn’t look awesome. So, we pulled out Yelp and decided on Havana 1957. There were several locations for this restaurant, so we chose the one in the busy area closest to our hotel. The food was quite tasty, the atmosphere lively, and we left feeling pleased.
From here, we decided to repeat the same Art Deco walk we did earlier in the day, but we found it to be completely different. The geometric patterns faded away as the neon lights were being turned on, party goers started to appear, and the boys saw a different side to area. Fun!
On the way back to the hotel, we stopped at a little French bakery, Atelier Monnier, that was just getting ready to close for the night. Yum!
Day 2: Day Trip to the Florida Keys
Our second day in Miami, we did not spend any time in South Beach, instead, we took a delightful day trip down the Florida Keys to Key West. Note that if driving isn’t your thing, this is a long day trip with at least 3.5 hours of driving each way!
Upon our return, we took another evening walk along Ocean Drive. Delightful!
Day 3: Morning on the Beach
After another hotel breakfast, the boys and I decided to head to the beach. The chair rentals weren’t open, so I setup our beach blanket instead. In all honesty, it was probably better. Before 9am, the air was warm, but it wasn’t all-that-warm, thus the heat from the sand was quite pleasant!
The boys and I enjoyed playing in the water; it felt much warmer than our first day!
Meanwhile, Jeremy decided to rent a bike through the CitiBike Miami app and explore the beachside bike trail. He was quite pleased with his ride! At $7/hour, it is well worth considering.
From here, we went back to the hotel to clean up, then headed out to explore the city of Miami and drive closer to the Kennedy Space Center!
We had planned to go to Costa Rica in late December 2021, but cancelled last-minute due to Omicron concerns. And hence, for this trip, which was in effect a replacement, we were somewhat cautious about booking too much in advance. We didn’t want another repeat book-and-cancel! That said, in some ways this last-minute booking for trip trip wasn’t ideal – we’re trying to find the right balance for when to book in these strange times.
Let’s just say that many other families in Boston had the same idea to travel during the February school break. When there’s a tight travel time window, like a school break, booking in advance can be helpful, as the flights were somewhat picked over. We made things work, but e.g. we ended up flying into Miami and out of Tampa, partly because of flight availability. And while the fares weren’t particularly low, we were fortunate in that we paid for the flights with expiring airline credits rather than actual money.
Hotel-wise, booking last minute was mostly problematic for Key West. We had wanted to spend the night there, but the hotels were simply quite booked up – either that or they had prices that we really didn’t want to pay (e.g. $800 for nothing-special rooms). We worked around that by driving a lot, but ideally we would have been able to find a hotel closer to Key West.
The other places we stayed, including Miami Beach, seemed to be mostly fine for last-minute booking, though perhaps we would have found better prices or more selection a bit further in advance. In the end, we were largely happy with where we stayed. That said, when we were searching hotels in different areas, we found some surprises; for instance Clearwater Beach area (near Tampa) was quite booked up, at least compared with Miami. But this ended up not being a real issue for this particular trip.
In any case, if you are interested in traveling to Florida, consider Miami Beach for your next winter vacation!
More from Adventures of the 4 JLs
More from Florida: This Trip
- Florida Trip Itinerary: February Break in Florida
- Day 2: Day Trip to Key West
- Day 3: A Half-Day of Non-Beach Miami
- Day 4: Kennedy Space Center