Best Kids' Thrill 2015 | Miami Children's Museum | Best Restaurants, Bars, Clubs, Music and Stores in Miami | Miami New Times

Miami isn't an easy place to raise kids. Although the city is lovely, the club scene ain't family-friendly. Yet you must keep your kids entertained or they'll turn into screaming balls of terror in your house. That's where Miami Children's Museum comes in handy. The museum has a wide array of permanent exhibitions meant to spark curiosity and instill a lifelong love of learning. Interactive exhibits include a child-size supermarket, a cruise ship, a climbing wall, and even a music studio for your budding American Idol. And if that isn't enough to keep a tiny person entertained, he or she can learn to swab the decks at the museum's Pirate Island exhibition, on view through September 6. Miami Children's Museum wears them out, engages their imagination, and gives you that smugly superior feeling that all parents crave. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. General admission is $18, Florida residents pay $14, and museum members, military personnel and veterans, and children under 1 get in free.

When was the last time you laughed so hard you fell over? Have you pushed your best friend off a high ledge into some salt water lately or run around for hours until you got sunburned — all without the aid of alcohol? Maybe you're looking to get a little exercise this summer but don't want to sweat the hard stuff. Perhaps you simply want to break out of your boring routine and give something wonderfully wacky a try. If you want some good, clean fun in the sun, there's no better destination than Jungle Island's floating obstacle course/water park, Rainforest Riptide. It sits curiously on beautiful Biscayne Bay, visible to passing cars yet seemingly miles away from the everyday hustle. A person can spend hours trying to climb to the top of the rope incline or clear the poleless vault. Race your friends to see who can run around those tight corners and make a full lap, which is hysterically next to impossible. Play on the trampolines, the balance beams, the catapult, and the swing, and before you know it, the sun is setting and you've worked up an appetite big enough to eat a whale. It's a great place to bring kids aged 3 to 93, as long as they know how to swim. Rainforest Riptide day passes, which include admission to Jungle Island, start at $31.95. It's open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, weather permitting, and hey, on the way out, you can stop and hang with the monkeys.

Sea cows, mermaids, manatees — whatever their moniker of the moment, these endangered mammals are in short supply. With an unknown number remaining in Florida (their numbers have diminished over the years thanks to careless boaters and reduced habitat), the gentle giants tend to stay out of sight. Luckily, though, they do take refuge 2.5 hours from Miami at Fort Myers' Manatee Park. The place offers a safe haven for these herbivorous creatures, mainly December through March, when Gulf waters dip below 68 degrees. One reason: The waters are heated by the nearby power plant. Visitors can rent a kayak or canoe and paddle out to see the hulking gray swimmers or simply stand and stare into the canal with cameras ready. Though spottings aren't guaranteed, they're pretty likely.

Politicians love to mention the mere 90-mile distance between Florida and Cuba. But there's another, lesser-known island neighbor that lies even closer to our shores: the Bahamian isle of Bimini. Once a sleepy fishing community, it now boasts a full-service resort with a casino, megamarina, and Hilton hotel — all just 53 miles away. If you're getting there via the Bimini SuperFast — billed as "the fastest cruise ship in the Americas" — it'll take you two to three hours. And in that time (a little more than half what it takes to get to popular road-trip destinations like Key West and Orlando), you can test your luck at the casino with table games and slots, dig into a meal at any of its six restaurants, and get drunk enough to dance to live bands. Embrace the vibe! You'll be rewarded with a weekend of lounging in infinity pools, snorkeling through turquoise waters, and generally living the Bahamian dream — all for a fraction of the cost of flying to any other nearby island.

If you grew up going to Walt Disney World, that Swiss Family Robinson attraction had a powerful effect. There's something about a treehouse that's magical, reminiscent of the years when your vivid imagination made everything seem possible. At Little Haiti's Earth 'n' Us Farm, you can hide out from the soul-sucking daily grind and take to the trees. One of Miami's most precious hidden gems, it includes a community of peace-loving, plant-eating residents. There's an organic garden, a cadre of rescued animals, and a genuine treehouse, available for rent via The arboreal abode sits on the third level of a pithecellobium tree. It's accessible via a narrow staircase to the sky. With mosquito netting over the bed, fans instead of A/C, and the pleasant sounds of farm life below, it's like escaping to the Amazon. There's even an outdoor shower and an open-air community kitchen, so you can leave Patrick Bateman at the office and embrace your inner Tarzan. Plus, it costs only $65 a night (with a two-night minimum stay), so frequent escapes are affordable.

Dog owners love to brag about how often they take their babies to the park. Though that canine activity is certainly important, we all know the real reason to go to dog parks: It wears your beast the hell out. The consistent pool of playmates at Blanche Park ensures your dog will be maniacally happy, full of energy, and ready to collapse in the car. A small fenced-in area in Coconut Grove, it is a nice respite from other doggie hangouts. While not as expansive as say, Tropical Park's Bark Park, Blanche has a tidier setup. The water station is easily accessible, the waste posts and garbage cans are plentiful, and the Astroturf foundation guarantees a cleaner dog on the way home. Some pups may prefer real grass for all that rolling around, but at least there's no risk of your dog going puddle diving here. Miami's regular downpours ensure that every other park in town gets a good helping of mud. Additionally, this park gets weekly cleanings and is restocked with tennis balls for those fetching types. Adding to Blanche's appeal is its people-friendly atmosphere. There are plenty of benches, shaded tables for groups, and generally sociable crowds. If you're the solitary type, Blanche might take some getting used to — these folks love to talk about their dogs.

Paddle through the mangroves out to Biscayne Bay and you'll enjoy a wonderland of sea life, weekend boating weirdness, and tiny islands where you can stop and take a dip. You'll see the scenic side of Florida International University's north campus and impressive sailboats moored, waiting for big wind. But rather than go solo, try one of the Blue Moon Outdoor Center's social kayak tours. You can enjoy sangria before sunset and then kayak under the stars on the Oleta River ($50 per person). Alternatively, on full-moon nights, these tours depart later in the evening — kayak for an hour to a private beach, roast marshmallows, and even sing around a bonfire ($50 per person). If you aren't looking to meet strangers but still want to kayak in a pack, you and your friends can schedule a private guided 1.5-hour inside-the-park beginner tour ($75 per person) that touches on local history as well as the park's fish and other animal species. Finally, the Blue Marlin Fish House Tour ($75 per person) begins with a ride through the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and Oleta River, continues along a 4.5-mile trip, and ends with a delicious lunch at the restaurant. The Blue Moon Outdoor Center is open seven days a week.

In this city of snarled traffic, high-rise apartment towers, and around-the-clock hustle, it can be difficult to find peace. Luckily, there are still at least a few green patches, like E.G. Sewell Park. The ten-acre Little Havana public nature park, named for an early-20th-century Miami businessman and mayor, is hidden so well even many longtime residents don't know it's there, tucked along the shore of the Miami River to the west of NW 17th Avenue. If you have little ones to look after, the park has an upper section with a playground and benches. If you're pining for something scenic, the lower section sits on the waterfront, the perfect hideaway in which to lounge on a warm afternoon. At Sewell, amid the chirping birds and soft river breeze, you'll forget you're only minutes from a traffic jam. Take a picnic and spread out on an expanse of some of the greenest grass in Miami, stroll under the soaring palms, and watch the boats glide by on their way out to sea. But most of all, relax — this is Miami, after all.

Jessica Gibbs

It was only a few years ago that Museum Park — the place formerly known as Bicentennial Park — was a collection of patchy sod and urine-soaked dirt. But thanks to the opening of Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) and the impending opening of the Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, the park received a much-needed face-lift. You'll find some of the greenest grass in the city center and ample walkways that hug the edge of the park and give you a clear view of Government Cut and PortMiami. But don't stare at the bay too long. There's plenty to see around the park: Joggers, pet owners, museumgoers, and downtown residents take advantage of the green space. Unlike at the much busier Bayfront Park a couple of blocks away, here you can easily lose yourself in thought as you watch people stretch their limbs before they go for a run. You'll see French bulldogs chase balls and well-heeled ladies emerge from PAMM to take in the view. On a crisp Miami day, you can easily hang out at Museum Park for hours. When the temperature rises, take a seat on PAMM's veranda as the breeze blows in from the bay and the overhang shields you from the sun.

Readers' choice: Lincoln Road

Trump National Doral is unlike any other exclusive 18-hole course in the Magic City. It's the home of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. That, of course, takes place on the 7,000-plus-yard Blue Monster, which was inaugurated in 1962 and was recently renovated by Gil Hanse, the architect who designed the 2016 Olympic golf course in Brazil. But you don't have to be a professional golfer to join in the action. There are three other courses to choose from, including the Gold Palm, for all levels of putt-putt players; the Red Tiger, where most corporate tournaments go down; and the Silver Fox, which offers three of the toughest starting holes in the sport. Membership levels range from corporate to junior (for golfers 35 and younger) to social to full golf. They include access to the clubhouse, the resort spa, tennis courts, and Royal Palms pools. Depending upon which category you purchase, you may also receive a WGC-Cadillac Championship package. Joining the club isn't cheap, but what else would you expect from one of the globe's most powerful entrepreneurs?

Best Of Miami®

Best Of Miami®