CHEAP RETREAT: $999 - As part of a
series on budget travel, this family of four shows us the
best of the city - for all ages - without breaking the
Miami's South Beach is a multiringed circus, ripe with surprises
and dramatic players, and we wouldn't love it any other way.
Walking down Collins Avenue at dusk, our family of four is reminded
just how much of a big tent this sunbaked piece of sand can be. A
raven-haired woman in her 30s skates backward between moving cars,
chatting up a convertible full of admirers. Black-and-silver-clad
bikers rev their rides as they crawl through traffic.
We aren't startled, however, until the neckwear hanging off a man
walking ahead of us slowly turns to look at my 16-year-old son,
Hunter. My son stops, glances back at us, and smiles broadly. The
head of a large boa curls his way, slowly considering him.
"From far away, I thought it was a ferret or a squirrel or
something," 14-year-old Maddy says.
Welcome to the show, one that defies easy definition. There is the
Miami depicted in local author Carl Hiassen's novels, and the
stylish, wild joie de vivre Miami that prowls all night and basks
in the sun during the day. And then there is the family-friendly
Miami that offers beaches and attractions to fit almost every
Traveling to such an exotic, high-energy-nightlife city poses
interesting challenges for budget-conscious families, however, both
to the pocketbook and to scheduling. What might be a go for the
40-plussers in the clan might not fly with the teens. In
preparation, we spent a month researching our options, culling
them, and voting for final preferences (one Ostdick, one vote). In
the process, we amassed a two-inch-thick travel planner for the
weekend, complete with driving directions.