When you’re looking for a family-friendly Florida destination, Miami might not be the first place that comes to mind. The bar scene on Ocean Drive in South Beach is legendary, loud and for adults only. But this beautiful city on Biscayne Bay has a gorgeous beach and plenty of free family fun to check out including one of the top Instagram spots in the world.
Free Things to Do in Miami with Kids
Few U.S. cities offer the cultural buzz of Miami and laid-back beach life of Miami Beach in one compact package. Within 10 minutes of Miami-Dade downtown, I can be basking on a beautiful Florida beach with my family. What’s not to love? I’ve visited Miami more times than I can count. But after I had kids a few years ago, I wondered if I’d be as enamored with the city as before.
It turns out there’s just as much to do in Miami Beach as a family — from city to beach to bay to river — as there as when I was a single girl on the town. We visit as often as we can from our home in Tampa, Florida, to swim in the warm Caribbean-like waters and build sandcastles along South Beach.
Nothing thrills my son like watching enormous cruise ships bellow their foghorns as they depart from Florida on Caribbean itineraries. My husband is from Cuba, so we make time to visit Little Havana, where the sound of salsa music often spills onto the streets and he swirls our girl around to dance.
And I take my budding artists to the eclectic Wynwood neighborhood, where we stroll among colorful murals that make the perfect backdrop for an Instagram photo.
Excursions to the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art would be another agenda. Or maybe a visit to the Miami Design District, Freedom Tower or the Holocaust Memorial? Possibilities are endless!
There are so many cost-free ways to live it up in Florida’s most vibrant big city. Read on for a few ideas on where to kick off your own free family fun.
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1. Stroll the Miami Beach Boardwalk
My first order of business when I’m in Miami Beach with my two toddlers is to start the day with fresh air and a walk along the Miami Beach Boardwalk. It’s a scenic pathway set just back from the dunes. We like to stroll the boardwalk and bask in the beautiful Atlantic Ocean views.
Brightly painted lifeguard stands add pops of color to the beach and you’ll want to check out the facades of the preserved buildings of the Art Deco District. The paved and plank wood surface starts right in South Beach at 500 Ocean Drive, near Lummus Park. It runs north to North Miami and Indian Beach Park, about four miles in all.
My family hardly makes it that far. But it’s so easy to push a stroller here, with lots of stretches shaded by sea grape trees, we’re surprised how much ground we cover. If you’re biking, note that the section north of 21st Street is a no-bike zone.
Last time I was here, we met a local selling coconuts along the boardwalk. We bought a few and my husband cut them open for our kids to drink.
Florida fun hardly gets any more tropical than that!
2. Ride the Miami Beach Trolley
If your kids are like mine — used to getting around in the back of a car, strapped into their car seats — they’ll likely love the chance to roll around Miami Beach aboard the city’s free trolley system.
There are stops along Collins Avenue, at the pedestrian-friendly Lincoln Road (full of outdoor cafes and boutiques!), South Beach, Middle Beach and North Beach.
The free trolley runs from early morning until midnight, seven days a week. Even if you just hop on for a few blocks as we did, don’t be surprised if it’s the highlight of your little one’s Miami Beach vacation.
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3. Enjoy Live Music and More at Bayside Marketplace
The city’s single most visited attraction, this open-air shopping complex sits right along Biscayne Boulevard, hugging the waterfront in the heart of downtown Miami.
A visit is always on my family’s agenda for an outdoor stroll once we’ve cleaned up from the beach. My kids love watching the boats bobbing in the marina. We always break for a sweet treat at one of the ice cream shops onsite. Rolly Ice Cream is a favorite.
Live music is often playing on the Marina Stage. It adds a festival feel to a day or evening out here. And when hunger strikes, quick-bite offerings abound, and sit-down restaurants add to the options.
We gravitate without fail toward the paella at Bonjour Brigitte.
4. Play at South Pointe Park Beach
My kids love to play in the sand and splash in the shallows, so hitting the beach is always a must for us. There are public access points and approaches all along the shoreline.
But my far and away favorite place to spend a few hours beaching it with the kids is the free-entry beach at South Pointe Park Beach. Big and open grassy spaces for picnicking stretch under a palm tree. Look for the onsite playground and splash pad, too.
Be sure to walk out along the pier for great views of cruise ships leaving and entering the port.
5. Visit a Museum
Several Miami museums offer free admission — some all of the time, others some of the time.
Start with the Miami Children’s Museum. There’s free admission to this excellent children’s museum on the third Friday of every month from 4-8pm. Perfectly timed, in other words, for that stretch of time before dinner and after we’ve toweled off from the beach for the day.
Interactive activities, crafts and games are usually scheduled during the free third Friday events.
My kids love the construction zone, where they burn off energy pushing wheelbarrows and operating cranes and bulldozers.
When it’s time to dial things down for the evening, we wrap up at the museum’s Multi-Sensory Room, a relaxing place with mellow lighting and a serene vibe.
The Deck at Islands Gardens is a short stroll from the museum and has a beautiful outdoor terrace where you can admire yachts and meze-style tapa dishes. We love the hummus spread.
- Museums with free admission every day: The MDC Museum of Art and Design in The Freedom Tower in Downtown Miami, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in the Design District.
- Museums that are sometimes free: The Perez Art Museum Miami, free on the second Saturday of the month, and the Wolfsonian, free on Friday nights from 6-9pm.
6. Ogle the Art at Wynwood Walls
Kids love colors. And what better way to experience them than with an art walk? The grand scale of the murals on display at the outdoor art installation at Wynwood Walls make it a stimulating place to stroll with the family while enjoying the contemporary art scene for which the city has become known.
But rather than an art museum, the focus here is on seeing street art during a self-guided walking tour. The murals on display in the former warehouse district near the Miami Design District are constantly being updated, with old ones painted over with new motifs.
It’s particularly fun to show the kids an artist at work with big brushes and spray cans. This is a Instagrammer’s delight! Beautiful family photos with an artsy edge are all but guaranteed with all the backdrops here.
It takes about 15 minutes to walk from Wynwood Walls to my favorite authentic and low-key Cuban diner in all of Miami, Enriqueta’s Sandwich Shop. Order fresh fruit shakes for the kids and platters piled high with ropa vieja and platanos maduros to fill up everyone for the day.
7. Visit Pretty Maurice A. Ferré Park
A pleasant green space right in the heart of downtown, this bayfront park formerly known as Museum Park is another prime spot for spotting cruise ships. This is a particularly pleasant place to stroll for sunset. The park fronts the water and affords great views of the cruise ships entering and leaving port.
SheBuysTravel Tip: Prepare the kids for the bellowing foghorns, so they won’t be caught off guard and frightened.
8. Stroll the Coconut Grove Saturday Organic Market
Every Saturday, a gravel parking lot in Coconut Grove (33000 Grand Ave.) fills with lively vendors selling things like ready-to-sip coconuts, cupcakes, vegan ice cream (try the macadamia strawberry) and organic fruits and vegetables.
Sometimes food trucks show up, too. I love pointing out to my kids the Florida-grown produce for sale and letting them help me fill up a few bags to take home.
Greenstreet Cafe is a great little neighborhood breakfast spot nearby where you can grab an outdoor table and treat the kids to cinnamon roll pancakes and the like.
9. Ride the Metromover
My son’s first ride on this free train with big glass windows may have been the highlight of his toddler life. The Metromover train runs around downtown Miami and Brickell. It stops at popular locations that include Bayside Marketplace and the American Airlines Arena.
The joy’s really in the journey. As you ride the elevated rails, cherish views of the kids glued to the windows watching the city sights go by.
10. Play at Village Green Park
The upscale barrier island community of Key Biscayne is a quick causeway ride across the water from downtown Miami. It’s one of the best places to stay in Miami that you might not consider, but should. The Village Green Park here is my favorite stop for a playground and splash pad.
The playground is broken into separate areas for younger kids and older kids. That means I don’t have to worry about my toddlers getting lost in the play fray. My little daredevils love to venture over to the spiderweb-style ropes area.
I bring bathing suits or swim diapers so they can cool off at the splash pad in the middle of the playground.
Afterward, we usually pop by La Boulangerie Boul Mich, a small French bakery with an enticing spread of pastries, for a treat.
11. Catch the Latin Vibe in Little Havana
Miami’s Cuban culture centers around the neighborhood of Little Havana. The best time to visit this most popular South Florida attraction with the family is during Viernes Culturales (Cultural Fridays), on the third Friday of each month.
That’s when an outdoor evening fiesta takes place around Domino Park Plaza on Calle Ocho (Little Havana’s main thoroughfare). We get here from Mary Brickell Village, downtown, via a free trolley service.
The alfresco fun comes in listening to live music, watching people get up to dance, popping into local art galleries and browsing stalls selling food and local arts and crafts. It’s also the spot to grab a traditional Cuban breakfast.
12. Watch a Movie at SoundScape Park
Watch a family-friendly movie projected on the side of the gorgeous New World Center every Wednesday and Thursday from October through May. Or listen to a free multimedia WALLCAST concert. See the schedule here. This also one of the many places in Miami that offers free yoga classes.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: Is Miami a family-friendly destination?
A: Yes, Miami has plenty of free family fun to offer, including beautiful beaches, cultural attractions, and vibrant neighborhoods.
Q: What are some free things to do in Miami with kids?
A: Some free things to do in Miami with kids include visiting the Wynwood Walls, exploring Little Havana, and checking out the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art.
Q: Are there any family-friendly beaches in Miami?
A: Yes, Miami has several family-friendly beaches, including South Beach, Crandon Park Beach, and Haulover Beach Park.
Q: What is the best time of year to visit Miami with kids?
A: The best time of year to visit Miami with kids is during the winter months (December to February) when the weather is mild and pleasant.
Q: Are there any family-friendly restaurants in Miami?
A: Yes, Miami has plenty of family-friendly restaurants, including Big Pink, Shake Shack, and The Rusty Pelican.
Q: What is the best way to get around Miami with kids?
A: The best way to get around Miami with kids is by car or public transportation. The Miami-Dade Transit system offers a variety of bus and train options that are affordable and easy to use.