We walk a few blocks to the Miami Beach Bicycle Center on Fifth Street, where owner­ Jack Ruiz has been renting bikes for 29 years. Once outfitted, we ease down Washington to the tip of South Beach, looping through South Pointe Park. As we pedal our mountain bikes northward through the thick sand, the number of bodies strewn on towels and under umbrellas increases.

After cruising Española Way, where Hunter becomes fascinated by intricate artwork protruding from the walls of buildings, we yield to Maddy, a reluctant biker from the start, and cut our ride short to loll on the beach. The lure of the shining blue-green water holds us gleefully captive.

A few hours later, we leave the Historical District, which has more than 800 buildings from the 1930s packed into a square mile of real estate, and head out on the South Dixie Highway to the original Shorty's Bar-B-Q location that E.L. "Shorty" Allen opened in 1951.

Plates of food arrive and are devoured: BBQ Beef Texas Brisket (Shorty's recipe comes from a barbecue master in Abilene, Texas), two sauces developed in Georgia, sweet corn on the cob, and one-of-a-kind coleslaw (an employee comes in at four a.m. daily just to make the special recipe).

After lunch, we drop by the Lowe Art Museum on the University of Miami campus in nearby Coral Gables. Students saunter by in sunglasses and shorts. We seek shade and enlightenment in the museum's permanent collection, an eclectic mix of classic and contemporary art. College-football-crazed Hunter, thrilled to be on campus, stares intently at Football Player, a dramatic life-size Duane Hanson sculpture of an exhausted athlete in a Miami Dolphins uniform.

We can't stay long, though, because we have to fit in a trip to one of Miami's hidden treasures, just minutes away. The Venetian Pool is a former rock quarry in a picturesque residential neighborhood. We slip behind the pastel stucco walls and iron gates and admire a scene complete with a lagoon and cascading waterfalls (fed by artesian wells), vine-covered loggias, and coral-rock caves.

The chill of the water dissuades Hunter from getting in at first, despite his sister's taunting. As she and I swim out of a cave, she chuckles and says conspiratorially, "Let's tell him there is a restaurant serving free Cokes in there."