We pass rows of costume jewelry, pausing at a booth run by a gregarious couple, Niki Blacker and John Reubens, more New York transplants. Blacker is a concert-level pianist who has played Carnegie Hall. Reubens is a tenor with an operatic pedigree. They moved to Miami 11 years ago. They both perform in Broward County but love selling at the market. ("I put my first husband through law school doing this," Blacker confides.) Maddy and Michelle buy a group of '60s-vintage Lucite bracelets for $25 from them. A clerk in a South Beach boutique later tells Michelle she got a terrific deal. Maddy adds a sparkly lobster pin from a nearby booth for $10. We escape, keeping to our frugal $40 budget.

We swoop across the bridge toward town and stop at Parrot Jungle Island, home to 1,100 tropical birds and 2,000 varieties of plants.

Every family has its own set of eccentric interests. One of ours is a love of birds. We immediately find affinity for two very puffy St. Vincent parrots. "This pair of birds is currently on a diet to control their weight," reports a sign on their cage. "Please do not feed." They apparently don't take dieting any better than we do - they squawk and fight so loudly a park worker has to
intervene.

Another worker approaches, carrying a 50-pound Columbian Red Tail boa constrictor in his arms. Hunter and Maddy dodge the invitation to let the boa lounge on them, but two young brothers gladly oblige.

We enjoy the birds of all feathers but are acutely attracted to the park's current celebrities, two diaper-clad, 20-month-old orangutan twins picnicking on the lawn. As we pass a pen of crocodiles, Michelle wonders aloud what the park must feed them. "Middle-age women," my teen son jokes indelicately.

We're tempted to linger, but a downtown museum that we're curious about opens its doors for free on Sundays.

The nine-year-old Miami Art Museum (MAM) and the adjacent Historical Museum of Southern Florida are part of downtown Miami's startling rebirth. Thanks to a massive five-year initiative aimed at redeveloping Miami's core, it has evolved in the past few years from an urban wasteland into a blossoming family excursion spot (as well as a thriving nightlife alternative to South Beach).