Three Kid-Friendly (Yet Sophisticated) Florida Resorts

Aventura Miami Florida
Aventura Miami Florida // Photo by Meinzahn/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour’s guest room bathrooms have a free-standing soaking tub overlooking the ocean.
Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour’s guest room bathrooms have a free-standing soaking tub overlooking the ocean.

Traveling with children in tow doesn’t mean you have to give up the finer things. These three resorts provide active options for children and a dash of sophisticated flair for adults.

Ritz-Carlton just took over management of the oceanfront One Bal Harbour, bringing on board its Ritz Kids program, which by policy incorporates water, land, environmental responsibility and culture into its offerings. That means little ones can spend the day visiting coral reefs and forests, learning about recycling and sustainability, storytelling and art.

At The Ritz-Carlton Bal Harbour, families can curl up in the 2,800-square-foot Presidential Suite, or opt for a two-bedroom suite. Nice Touch: Each floor has a one-bedroom suite that connects to a standard room. Good to know: All suites have full kitchens, ideal for families with little ones in tow who can enjoy meals at their leisure. Kids will love taking a bath in the freestanding tubs overlooking the Atlantic, most definitely something to brag about on the playground when they get home.

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Here’s how the views are doled out at this pet-friendly resort: All guest rooms have a view of the Intercoastal, Atlantic Ocean and a view north of neighboring Aventura. Suites overlook the Intercoastal, Atlantic Ocean, Aventura, Miami Beach and Downtown Miami.

Contact Karen Giordano ([email protected]; 786-276-4026), the director of travel industry sales, if you’re sending a VIP. Giovanni Attardi ([email protected]; 305-455-5420), the chef concierge, is the go-to person for crafting adventures for kids; he can arrange for private boating items and fishing tours, as well as family activities in the area. The Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami is just 10 minutes away and provides a cultural diversion for older kids. The Bal Harbour Shops are just down the street and along with lovely luxury retail outlets, it has a bevy of dining establishments; we’re fans of Carpaccio, a lively Italian restaurant frequented by upscale locals who vie for a spot on its patio. It’s a nice haven for adults to enjoy a cocktail in a sophisticated setting while kids dig into some down-to-earth food.

Note: The resort sits just between Fort Lauderdale and Miami; each airport is 45 minutes away. Private jets and helicopters can land at Opa-locka Airport (14201 NW 42nd Ave, Opa-locka, FL), 11 miles north of Downtown Miami.

Jungle island’s Lemur Experience allows guests to learn about these animals through hands-on interaction.
Jungle island’s Lemur Experience allows guests to learn about these animals through hands-on interaction.

Exploring the area? Try Jungle Island on Watson Island in Miami, between Downtown and South Beach, for a 90-minute VIP tour. For $240 per person (children and adults), you get your own tour guide. The tour touts personal interactions with lemurs from Madagascar, red kangaroos from Australia and Aldabra tortoises from the Seychelles Islands. Note: Jungle Island, which has just named hotelier Christopher Gould managing director (you’ll know him from The Atlantic in Fort Lauderdale), is adding on a series of new VIP experiences shortly. To reserve a tour, contact Ana Alvarez at [email protected] or 305-400-7222. Jungle Island, over the next five years, is expanding to morph “from a zoological attraction to a destination for eco adventures.”

Further north, the former Ritz-Carlton in Palm Beach, the oceanfront Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa is now a AAA Five-Diamond member of Preferred Hotel Group that’s family- and pet-friendly. It’s just undergone a redesign that incorporates a “fun and whimsical Palm Beach playground vibe” to its rooms.

Although named for business types, the Commander-In-Chief Suite suits families just fine with two bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms, a pool table, great views of the Atlantic Ocean and a bar for the adults in the group. Alternately, oceanfront Eau Lanai Suites connect to oceanfront double rooms. Nice Touch: All rooms at the hotel have family-friendly double sinks and bathtubs. Pets get a dog bed, food bowls and munchies. We hear that Big Dog Ranch Rescue gets a portion of that $250 pet fee; that’s a local pet rescue organization. Outdoors, families can cluster in the Oceanfront Cabanas by the pool; they provide private butler service. The guest services manager, Chariel Rodriguez ([email protected]; 561-540-4848), can arrange activities in the area, including scuba diving and visits to the local zoo. Note: While Worth Avenue is the primary shopping destination in Palm Beach, vintage shoppers can head to “Antique Row” to visit its boutiques. The resort offers a package that curates the experience and includes transportation in a vintage-style car.

Rodriguez can also arrange for a private dining room for families in the resort’s Angle restaurant (think local fish served in an elegant setting). She can also reserve private Rolls Royce or a minivan to deliver families to the resort from Palm Beach International, just 10 miles away. Jet Aviation is located next to the airport, that’s where private jets and helicopters can land.

While kids try their hand at manicures, pedicures and hair treatment at AquaNuts, the hotel’s youth activity club for guests five and older, parents can head to the 42,000-square-foot spa, which has 19 treatment rooms, several with private gardens. Reserve at least a week out for optimal options. Contact the spa manager, Cassy Jean-Louis ([email protected]; 561-540-4885), to make special arrangements or to request a session with Christy Chis, considered the “esthetician to the stars.” Jean-Louis can also assist with reserving a suite for an entire bridal party or bachelorette party, complete with champagne and cupcakes and stylists in waiting. Note: Jennifer Kenwell ([email protected]; 561-540-4846) is the director of weddings and special catering at the resort, which can host events for up to 450 guests.

The hotel is run by General Manager Michael King ([email protected]; 561-540-4827). Contact Dawn Bilawa ([email protected]; 561-540-4801) or Amanda Tunis ([email protected]; 561-540-4979), senior travel industry manager, who serve as the luxury travel advisor liaisons.

After a day at the beach or the pool, parents will want to retire to the resort’s “Lobby Turndown” for complimentary champagne; there’s even a DJ on the weekends and specialty food evenings (think sushi and sake-tinis). Good to know: Although the resort is Five-Diamond, it encourages casual dress, so flip-flops and shorts are welcome.

Palm Beach’s grand dame, The Breakers, has “family friendly” firmly entrenched in all of its offerings at its oceanfront location. For starters, there’s the Coconut Crew Camp, open every day of the week for kids age three through 12. A Family Entertainment Center is also open daily; it has an arcade and playrooms for toddlers and older kids. The arts and crafts room has an aquarium, and indoor activities range from magic shows, scavenger hunts and face painting while outdoor activities include beach bonfires, catamaran cruises, snorkeling and drive-in movies. There’s also a video-game room with Xbox 360 and Playstation options, and an outdoor sports court for basketball and hockey.

Bikes and tricycles are also available, gratis. Note: After 3 p.m., families can enjoy “Junior Golf” at the famous Ocean Golf Course; kids can also take lessons through the Junior Golf Academy. Golf instruction is available for adults year-round, natch, through private lessons or in an academy setting. Contact the director of golf, Tim Collins ([email protected]; 561-659-8466, Ext. 4653), to customize your program.

Room-wise, the resort can accommodate requests for a six-bedroom enclave by connecting a suite with five adjacent guest rooms. Note: Connecting rooms can be found throughout the hotel, so simple set ups are widely available.

Consider the Flagler Club for gathering clans, that’s a residence with 27 rooms and its Club lounge provides access to continental breakfast, cookies, afternoon tea, evening hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, desserts and after-dinner cordials. Perk: The lounge has a large terrace.

The Breakers’ Beach Bungalows include a private patio with teak wood furnishings.
The Breakers’ Beach Bungalows include a private patio with teak wood furnishings.

Note: The hotel is not pet-friendly, but the Breakers’ head concierge, Bernard Nicole ([email protected]), can assist with finding a local service to take care of the pet during your stay. He can also set up private helicopter rides and birthday parties for kids and book a table at any of the resort’s restaurants, including Sunday Brunch at The Circle, a weekend tradition acclaimed throughout South Florida. Nice to know: Kids under three can eat free from the children’s menu at The Breakers (each of the resort’s restaurants has the option, which includes healthy selections).

Nice Touch: The hotel will also childproof a room upon request, removing plastic bags from garbage pails, adding furniture corner guards and covering outlet sockets. Infant baths and step stools for toddlers are other options, as are mini-refrigerators stocked with snacks on request; rental strollers are also available at a nominal fee.

Of the four pools at the resort, there’s one for families specifically; it has a zero-depth entry for the little ones. Private beach bungalows for rent have fridges, TVs, Playstation 3 games, a full private bath and a “Bungalow Concierge” to deliver pool toys or ice cream.

Kids can indulge at The Spa Petite for those aged six to 12, which includes interactive fitness classes and nail services, while their parents partake in the 20,000-square-foot spa; it has 17 treatment rooms and an adults-only outdoor pool. Book several weeks out to get the most flexible selections for spa treatments by reaching out to Amy Retay ([email protected]; 561-653-6687), the director of spa operations, who can give advice on reserving the customized “Personal Retreat Massage.” Elizabeth Spicer ([email protected]), the spa sales manager, can also assist in spa takeovers for bridal parties or other celebrations. Hint: The Breakers has a new oceanfront facility called Ocean Fitness that’s free for hotel guests. At 6,000 square feet, it doubles the previous fitness offerings and also has a weekly rotation of more than 60 classes from fitness instructors, personal trainers and a wellness coach.

While kids hang out with a resort-provided babysitter, parents can head to the social scene at The Breakers’ HMF bar, where the entertainment director, Kirill Basov, curates the music offerings. Signature cocktails here include Railcar #91, with Courvoisier VSOP, lemon juice, local honey and orange foam.

Retail junkies should check out The Breakers’ shops in the Palm Courtyard; they’re owned by the hotel and so they’re unique. They serve up luxury options by Guerlain, Ralph Lauren and Lilly Pulitzer, as well as private-label offerings.

Final Notes: Kym Bichon ([email protected]; 561-659-8415), associate director of event sales, can arrange weddings and other related events at 12 different venues throughout the resort.

The hotel is run by General Manager Tricia Taylor ([email protected]), but luxury travel advisors should contact Hotel Manager Kirk Bell ([email protected]) with special requests. Ivy Wong ([email protected]; 561-653-6673) is the leisure sales manager and can also arrange special requests.

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