CrandonParkBeach7Our trip to Miami was not planned, but more of a vacation cobbled together around a family member’s health crisis. We had visited Miami many times as cool young childless people, and we always stayed on the beach. Now I’m a nervous mom terrified of balconies (which every single Florida beach hotel has), so I was kind of relieved to have to stay in another neighborhood to be closer to the hospital. Since we forfeited beach, we splurged on the best place we could find in the city. Our stay permanently changed the way I think about vacationing with a kid. Now I would forfeit the beachfront view in favor of kid-friendly amenities and quality service in a heartbeat. When you have a child, convenience is the definition of luxury.

Miami in May is still hot, but not nearly unbearable. I went out for a run late one morning (though I noticed a lot of people in Miami run at night because its cooler.) One of the hotel staffers I shared an elevator with on the way out mentioned how nice and cool out she thought it was (she was referring to a humid 86 degrees.) I refrained from laughing at her in a Boston accent.

Hotel: The Four Seasons Miami

Getting There: 3.5 hour plane ride. We lucked out and found tickets to MIA for about $80 each way. Instead of paying for Logan parking and lugging the carseat, we went with Black Tie Limousine, which my husband uses for business travel. Consistently perfect service.

Highlights: The service at the hotel is amazing in all regards, but particularly in the way it caters to children. We waited about five minutes to check in, and during that time a nice woman came by to apologize to us and offer my daughter a brand new toy. Not a cheap junky toy, but a real toy. She is still in love with her remote control toy puppy. In the room, a coloring book, crayons and a stuffed toy manatee were waiting for her. The bathroom mirror had decals spelling out her name, with children’s toiletries just below it. While we waited for our car to the airport, someone came out to offer her a juice box and crackers. She was living the dream, so it’s no wonder she won’t stop asking when we can go back to “the” hotel.

The hotel pool is incredibly large, and there is a shallow wading pool behind it peppered with palm trees that have large hammocks strung between them. It’s like a parent’s fantasy come true. There is also a small “kiddie pool” with child-sized lounge chairs in a fenced off area to the side.

The bridge to Brickell Key is just a few blocks away with sidewalks on both sides, and the pathway around the island made for a scenic oceanside run. (The hotel provides a nice pocket-sized info card for runners showing several routes of varying distance, which is how I figured this out.) There are a number of decent restaurants within walking distance too, though we rocked the room service menu most days.

Bummers: When you stay in Miami, paying for valet parking is almost always mandatory, regardless of your hotel’s star rating. It may have beaches, but it’s still a city. At the Four Seasons you’re not far from a nice beach, but you’re not super close either. Miami is big and things are far apart.

Tips: Skip all of the paid “attractions” (the broken down zoos, aquariums, etc.) and opt for the natural assets of the area. Sunny Isles Beach is just north of Miami Beach and is more family friendly and a lot less busy than South Beach. We enjoyed our visit to Key Biscayne’s Crandon Park, which has a long stretch of swimmable beach as well as playground equipment and a carousel.  Unlike the beaches of New England, you pay about $5 to park by the ocean in Miami, and there were parking spaces for miles. The beach at Crandon Park did have an unusual amount of litter, so keep the flip flops on until you’re ready to swim unless you want a bottle cap embedded in your foot.

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Playing with her new toy from check-in.
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Another gift in the room upon arrival.
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This wasn’t even the room with a “view”.
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One of two plates of treats waiting for us when we arrived.

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Kids toiletries and her name on the mirror.
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The wading pool with hammocks was a hit.
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We spent most of our leisure time at the pool.
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They even had kid-sized lounge chairs!
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Not pictured: relaxed mother sipping a strawberry mojito.
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The path to Crandon Park Beach.
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The grassy areas of the park were filled with gorgeous birds who were having a great time in the trash can.
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The water is shallow a long way out from the shore.

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