Vibrant and glamorous, the Magic City offers an amazing variety of family-friendly activities from kayaking with Manatees or hand-feeding macaws at Jungle Island to taking in the Design District on Lincoln Road. Laura Albritton, mother and long-time Miami resident, shares her appreciation and zest for the city in Miami for Families: A Vacation Guide for Kids and Parents. Her insider tips and enthusiasm will have you planning your own trip in no time!
“Having to move away from Miami, for my husband’s job, and coming back to visit on vacation really showed me the city with new eyes. I was struck by how fabulous Miami is for both parents and children. (And very glad when later, we moved back.) So many travel articles focus on Miami’s nightlife and bar scene that they miss a lot of what makes this area a great place to visit – and to live,” says Albritton.
University Press of Florida (UPF): What first brought you to Miami?
Laura Albritton (LA): I was quite frankly a bit exhausted with living in Manhattan after 10 years, and wanted to move back to Florida, where my family is. I loved Miami’s energy and cosmopolitan vibe. When the University of Miami offered me a James Michener fellowship to get my MFA in Creative Writing, I leapt at the chance to move.
UPF: What is your family’s favorite activity in Miami?
LA: Besides going out to eat at one of the city’s many international restaurants, our favorite activity is definitely going to the beach. Once we rented kayaks (one single, and a double for my husband and daughter) off Key Biscayne, and saw a mama manatee and her baby swim underneath us. My daughter was amazed by the size of them, and also by their gentleness. Nothing like seeing nature up close!
UPF: In Miami, what’s one thing you should never leave the house without?
LA: Sunglasses. We get so many clear, sunny days, that I’m literally blinded without my sunglasses. (It’s also a good excuse to invest in a nice pair.) My second answer would be sunscreen. I try to slather it on before I leave the house.
UPF: Is there a popular Miami destination that you think is over-rated?
LA: While I adore South Beach, the Atlantic Ocean off its actual beach (Lummus Park) can sometimes be very wave-y, and on those days it’s really not ideal for small children. In the book I discuss this and the fact that the drop-off is fairly quick. A lot of out-of-towners have never heard of Key Biscayne, but for toddlers and little kids, the beaches there can be much easier going.
UPF: In addition to your personal experiences, how did you go about gathering material for Miami for Families?
LA: While I was writing the book, I was fortunate in that three sets of out-of-town family friends came to visit us. We went sightseeing with them, and I also listened hard and pestered them with questions about the sightseeing they did on their own. I also had some writer friends – who live with their children in Miami – look over my chapters and give me feedback.
UPF: What is your favorite thing to do in Miami that is geared toward adults?
LA: My husband and I have a standing day-time date at Le Bouchon du Grove in Coconut Grove. Adult conversation, a little Edith Piaf on the sound system, and French cuisine makes for a romantic lunch. I could also say the art galleries and museums – but we like taking our daughter along, too.
UPF: What hobbies do you have that are especially “Miami?”
LA: After years of being a jogger and a walker, I’ve discovered tennis. I have a fantastic Peruvian coach who is teaching me from scratch. It’s tough, much tougher than it looks from watching matches on TV, but what a challenge! Suddenly exercise isn’t boring – and in Miami we can play all year. Also, I want to paddleboard more; when the water is clear you can see amazing sea life right under you. It’s very Zen, very therapeutic. My daughter loves it.
UPF: Where is your favorite place to travel with your family other than Miami?
LA: That’s a tough question. We love going to the Caribbean: last year we went to Martinique, and this summer we’re going to Guadeloupe. We love the French and Creole culture mixed together. Since my husband’s Jamaican, we visit Jamaica as often as we can. My husband and I also love Greece, and we plan on taking our daughter on a trip to Athens and a few of the islands, especially Hydra—where there are no cars, only donkeys!
UPF: What’s your writing routine?
LA: I check emails and social media, then get down to writing in the morning. But I do take breaks, because sitting in a chair and staring at my laptop screen can feel stultifying. So I take my three dogs for walks down our jungle-y street, on the lookout for little green parrots and even peacocks. I also get the blood flowing by doing some household chores. After school lets out and my daughter’s home, I usually don’t get any writing done.
UPF: What are you currently reading? My stepmother just gave me a signed copy of Chang-Rae Lee’s new novel On Such a Full Sea. And I finished And the Dark Sacred Night, the new one by Julia Glass, for a review for the Miami Herald. Also, the brilliant travel classic Mani: Travels in the Southern Peloponnese by Patrick Leigh Fermor. His writing is simply phenomenal.
UPF: What are you working on next?
LA: I am doing some research on the Florida Keys, another one of my favorite places in the world. We’ll see where that leads. I’m also drafting travel articles for magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Short form travel writing has its own rules and conventions, so that’s an education for me. I love expanding my skills.
Miami for Families: A Vacation Guide for Parents and Kids is available wherever books are sold.