By Jodi Mailander Farrell
Stroller-wide spaces. A front desk that believes diapers and water wings belong on the room service menu. Waiters who don’t flinch when the water glass tips over for the third time. It’s the little things that make a difference to traveling parents and earn these South Florida hotels the right to be called "family friendly." Our top picks to make mom and dad smile:
Lago Mar Resort & Club
An Old Florida charmer, this family-owned resort on Fort Lauderdale beach has one of the most creative outdoor play spaces around, with a volleyball court, ping pong table, giant chessboard, putting course, playground and shuffleboard court, not to mention 500 feet of sand stretching out to the Atlantic Ocean. There’s also a snack bar, soda shop and an indoor-outdoor Italian restaurant where parents can relax while watching their kids play Marco Polo in the two pools. Recently renovated one- and two-bedroom suites are tidy and overlook the pools or beach. From $225 a night for a one-bedroom suite.
1700 S. Ocean Lane, Fort Lauderdale; 954-523-6511. www.lagomar.com.
The Alexander All-Suite Oceanfront Resort
It’s no easy feat to feel hip on trendy Miami Beach with a Bjorn pack strapped to your body, but the XL suites at this mid-Beach resort help families relax and enjoy the vibe in a city known for its shoebox-size hotel rooms. Suites include living and dining rooms, fully equipped kitchens, two bathrooms and terraces with stellar views of the Intracoastal Waterway or the Atlantic Ocean. Poolside cabanas are available for rent at the two lagoon-shaped swimming pools, and the beach is just a few steps away. A poolside grill and bar keeps lunchtime an outdoor affair. Older kids and teens will like the private marina, with rentals for kayaks, jet skis and banana boats. Stressed-out parents (are there any other kind?) might want to take turns slipping away for the 6:30 p.m. weeknight yoga on the beach. From $239 a night for a one-bedroom suite.
5225 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-865-6500. www.alexanderhotel.com.
Ritz-Carlton Key Biscayne
An island away from downtown Miami, South Florida’s only AAA Five Diamond Resort is a 12-acre spread in a community where kids are king. Posh rooms, two oceanfront pools in a palatial setting, a private beach with its own cabanas, a full-service spa, a top-notch restaurant and a supervised program for ages 5-12 may entice you to stay put, but Key Biscayne has plenty of kid-friendly attractions you’ll want to explore. Among the pickings: Getting splashed by killer whales and dolphins at the Miami Seaquarium, renting bikes at Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park, riding the merry-go-round at Crandon Park Beach or learning about sea turtles at the Biscayne Nature Center. From $339 per night for a single room.
455 Grand Bay Dr., Key Biscayne; 305-365-4500 or 800-241-3333. www.ritzcarlton.com.
Pelican Grand Beach Resort
A Lazy River tubing ride and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor win kid points at this condo-hotel, which looks like a tin-roofed sand castle. It’s one of the few Fort Lauderdale hotels that sit directly on the beach. (No crossing busy AIA traffic to get sand in your pants.) The 159 rooms have mini-refrigerators, microwaves and coffeemakers; most have oceanfront views with private balconies and sleeper chairs so junior can have his own pull-out bed. White rocking chairs that line the wrap-around veranda add to the charm, but you’ll really dig the heated pool, the on-site restaurant with ocean views and the poolside cocktail lounge. From $209 a night for a standard room.
2000 North Ocean Blvd. (A1A), Fort Lauderdale; 954-568-9431 or 800-525-OCEAN; www.pelicanbeach.com.
The Palms South Beach
With the Fontainebleau’s lagoon pool and cabanas closed as the hotel undergoes a massive renovation, the next best kid-paradise beachside pool in Miami Beach is at The Palms, where families can opt for the Rip Roaring Family Package, which includes tickets to Jungle Island and a half-day Everglades adventure and a pizza and ice cream party. At the northern end of South Beach, the hotel is a short drive from Lincoln Road, Jungle Island and the Miami Children’s Museum. Rates start at $1000/three nights.
3025 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 800-550-0505; www.thepalmshotel.com.
Sheraton Yankee Clipper Hotel
A budget option just a short walk from Fort Laduerdale beach, the Yankee Clipper has been a legend since the 1950s, when it hosted spring breakers and New York Yankees visiting for spring training. It’s seen better days, but its location is prime, with 500 rooms and suites facing the ocean or the Intracoastal Waterway. Parents can enjoy cocktails at the famous Wreck Bar and watch their kids in the main swimming pool through portholes. There’s also a sports deck with basketball and bocce ball. A private walkway crosses AIA and connects the hotel to the beach. Check out the nearby International Swimming Hall of Fame Museum and walk to restaurants. From $169 a night.
1140 Seabreeze Blvd., Fort Lauderdale; 954-524-5551; www.sheraton.com.