Before we moved to Miami, I’d get cold chills thinking about raising my girls in a place like this. I’d panic about all the fake boobs they’d want and the slick Mario’s they’d date. But one visit changed everything.
When Anil convinced me to take a trip to check Miami out and see if I could live here, he knew what he was doing. He got me a nice room in Hotel Aria (then The Sonesta) in Coconut Grove with a phenomenal view of Biscayne Bay. The Grove’s seaside setting and outdoor cafes give it a distinct Mediterranean flair, which my husband knew his little Dutch wife would love.
Although we ended up buying a home in Coral Gables, The Grove is our favorite hangout spot. Anil’s work and the girls’ school is there and we still like to go during the weekend to walk along the marina, see the resident manatee and sea birds and have a leisurely brunch.
This is what a perfect family morning in The Grove looks like -
If you can’t wake up without your latte, and your child (like mine) tries to be sophisticated and craves a double mocha frappucchino in the morning, there’s a Starbucks on the bay-side of Aviation Avenue off South Bayshore Drive where our walk starts.
Walk along Grove Harbor and Dinner Key marina
From Starbucks, walk to the water, then turn right, so you’ll be following the path south along the Bay. You’ll pass by Grove Harbor marina first, where the pelicans hang out. Bring your camera because these birds are seriously photogenic, and you’ll be able to get up close.
Keep following the path along some tall buildings that store boats on your right. Usually there are forklifts hauling boats in and out of the water and lifting them high up onto the racks, which is a cool and unusual sight.
Miami’s City Hall is next on your right, located in the former PanAm Seaplane Terminal building. It was built in 1930 and the first inter-american routes were overseen by Charles Lindbergh, who worked for PanAm at the time. The actual old seaplane hangars are located close to where our walk started, next to Fresh Market. Funny enough, Anil’s office is located in one of them.
The resident manatee hangs out when the path takes a right turn into Dinner Key marina. My kids named him Otto, so make sure you continue the tradition. The first time I saw him I was taking a break on one of the docks with my dog Sadie. Manatees breathe out water through their nose when they come up for air and when Otto did it totally freaked Sadie out. But she’s easily scared. Hope your kid’s not like that.
When you don’t see Otto, give it some time, sit down on a dock, he’ll most likely make an appearance in the next 5-10 minutes.
Once you’re ready to say bye to your kid’s new best friend, continue your walk and on your left you’ll see a few small fishing boats. Birds love to pick on leftovers there and it’s a good place to spot and photograph some interesting specimens from up close. The earlier you get here, the more feathered friends you’ll see.
The last part of the walk brings you through Kenneth M. Myers Bayside Park, where your kid can lose some energy on the workout machines.
Reward yourself with a sumptuous al-fresco brunch at chef Giorgio Rapicavoli’s Glass and Vine restaurant in Peacock Park.
The garden setting makes it easily the most relaxing place to dine with kids – there’s even a playground in the back - the food is amazing.
The city’s first Food Network’s Chopped winner Rapicavoli focuses on locally sourced fresh ingredients, whipping up dishes like fish tiradito, shrimp ceviche, watermelon salad and carbonara fries. We like to order a few and share – the best way to sample many unique dishes here.
If your child isn’t that adventurous, there are more traditional options as well like French toast and hamburgers.
See, you can have your cake – or tiradito - and eat it too. Miami can be as much fun for kids as for you and there’s no need to worry about them getting bad influences from a rowdy drunken Spring Break crowd in South Beach.