Miami, Florida Hotels And Resorts - My Family Travels

After several visits and constant change, we're ready to rate which SoBe hotels and those close to the zone will really put up with — and put out for — your kids.

Not so many years ago, Miami wasn't anyone's idea of a kid-friendly destination–too many Jewish grandmas and Cuban druglords. Then, European tourists began migrating to South Beach (SoBe), kids in tow. Now you'll catch Madonna, Gloria Estefan, Eminem and other pop stars with toddlers on Ocean Drive. Times have changed.  Here's an inside look at the current hotel scene and what you trendy adults can expect when you arrive with your dark sunglasses and happy brood.

The Art Deco District

Miami Beach's famed Art Deco district is at its most glorious between 5th and 14th Streets on Ocean Drive (with Lummus Park, a broad sand beach, across the street) and along Washington and Collins, two mixed commercial/residential avenues just inland. You can avoid some of the popular small Deco hotels because they are often fully booked by airline tours, have tiny, spare rooms, and welcome a late-night, loud-talking party crowd.

Casa Grande Suites
834 Ocean Drive
Miami Beach FL 33139
305/672-7003 or 866/420-CASA
At the corner of 8th and Ocean is a former Island Outpost hotel gone independently hip. Behind the fully-restored Mediterranean Deco facade are 35 suites with European kitchens (petite, but with all the gadgets). Carved wood-frame beds, creamy linens, mosquito netting, Asia rattan and Moroccan ornaments contribute to the tropical but other-worldly feel. It's romantic, quiet, and dignified compared to many of its brassy neon neighbors. Deluxe features include soundproof windows, A/C, voice mail, TV with VCR, CD player, twice daily maid service, and the trendy Pelican Restaurant off the lobby. It was the kitchen for lazy breakfasts and the gracious staff that won us over.

The Delano Hotel
1685 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach FL 33139
305/672-2000 or 800/697-1791
Who hasn't heard of the Delano, the design pioneer at 17th and Collins at the north end of SoBe. We cannot ignore this beautiful contemporary creation of designer Philippe Starck. Is it for you? Spare standard rooms can accommodate a crib, but you'll need at least a suite with older children. Most staff are so busy flexing their muscles they don't have time for the usual services such as handing out menus, bringing towels, delivering cars, you know, the kinds of things that drive young children who wait too long, totally insane.  A stark lap pool leads out to the beach.  There is a "Delano Kids" program that entertains ages 4-12 on a seasonal schedule. 

The National
1677 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach FL 33139
305/532-2311 or 800/327-8370

Perhaps better known as the Delano with service, the baby blue National is another beauty on the beach, owned and meticulously restored by the Summit Hotels group, who manage the larger Palms. There's plenty of style here, from hand-blown glass to billowing gauze curtains, lots of chrome, and an elegant mezzanine bridge. The rooms are a good size, it's a 10-minute walk north of the very noisy SoBe strip, the restaurant (with a very comfortable wicker-full verandah) serves terrific nouveau French fare at relatively reasonable prices, and the staff is really nice to kids. The National also has an Olympic-length lap pool leading past garden rooms to the beach, which is where you'll probably spend most of your time.

The Raleigh Hotel
1775 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach FL 33139
305/534-6300 or 800/848-1775

Nearby the fashionista scene at 17th and Collins, The Raleigh is very attractive in a Deco-inspired style and provides decent service and amenities. The huge plus here is their Arabesque free-form pool, one of the largest and prettiest on SoBe. If you can afford an oceanview room, go for it just to admire an aerial view of the pool. Your toddlers will love the squiggly shallow parts that surround the main swimming area. There may not be enough happening, but if your kids are pre-teens, they will lap up the heavy model and photog action by the chaise lounges.

Family Hotels Outside the Deco District

Since most of SoBe's Art Deco hotels have no pool and rooms are too small to welcome children, many pioneering families who've fled Ft. Lauderdale and Hollywood Beach prefer to stay in the more traditional hotels nearby. Here are some of our favorites.

Deauville Beach Resort
6701 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach FL 33141
800/327-6656; 305/779-5360
The Deauville, unlike the brash Eden Roc and Fontainbleau just south of it, boasts a distinctive MiMo or "Miami Modern" design with some of the curved surfaces, bright colors, boomerang angles, concrete cantilevers and other design elements that typify the style perfected by Mies van der Rohe. Built during the swinging 60s, it has hosted celebrities, Rat Pack stars Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Peter Lawford and Sammy Davis Jr., and its ballroom was the stage for a February 1964 performance by The Beatles. Recently restored, it's a great family place to stay because it overhangs a great beach and boardwalk. The oceanfront suites, if your family can get one, have spectacular ocean vistas, a large foyer, living room and adjoining master bedroom, sitting area with sofa bed, a work desk and full bath.

Freehand Hotel
2727 Indian Creek Drive
Miami Beach FL 33140
305/531-2727 or 800/491-2772
This hotel is a bit north of the scene, up on Indian Creek Road just a block from the beach. The Hotel features chrome and cast-iron furnishings that stay true to the SoBe '50s vibe; also a large pool, complimentary continental coffee and pastries every morning, and a restaurant. The Freehand has a friendly, relaxed atmosphere, removed just far enough from the super-trendy center of the neighborhood.

The Alexander
5225 Collins Avenue
Miami Beach FL 33140
305/865-6500 or 800/327-6121
This highrise at 52nd and Collins Avenue contains a super tasteful, contemporary collection of 150 balconied suites.  Each has a full kitchen, repro antiques and plush carpeting, and lots of space for the kids to hang.  And when you don't want to cook, there's a Shula's Steak House that welcomes children with a "Happy, Healthy Kids" menu recently introduced. Smart advice, excellent service, and beachside gardens replete with waterfalls, two pools, two Jacuzzis, volleyball and watersports facilities make it a good choice for families who don't want to leave their resort too often.

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