I am going to start this post with brutal honesty. I usually like to travel for New Year’s Eve. As our winter break ended, I was totally bummed we did not travel for NYE. The kids are off from school and our office closes so it’s honestly the perfect time for us to travel and try to chase down some cold weather. Between one thing and another we never planned anything this year. The kids are also supposed to quarantine and do virtual school for the first week back if we leave the state and winter break ended early this year (January 3rd). Neither of these encouraged us to plan much so we found ourselves home in Miami on December 31st.
The plan was to make the best of it which is where I got the idea for this blog post. We definitely wanted to try and enjoy things here in Miami we feel we never have the time for. My idea is to share some of the activities we did in case you are looking for things to do in Miami whether you live here or you are traveling here with kids and are not looking to spend your time in South Beach or tourist areas.
Monday we visited our HAPPY PLACE! Key Largo! Our front door neighbors have a property there and they were kind enough to invite us over to spend the day! If you don’t have any friends with a place in the keys though, do not feel like you need this in order to visit the keys! The plan always was to go down to the keys one day. First of all, it’s a beautiful drive. Road trips through most of Florida are quite boring- take it from someone who once did it all the way from the panhandle down. The overseas highway though, is beautiful and very scenic! Once you get past Florida City and into the keys, you are on the water and it’s a different world! There are also so many places to eat in the keys! You can choose from so many restaurants, many of which have waterfront dining. If you eat bayside, you can also catch beautiful sunsets. If you have been following along you know that I have many blog posts related to the keys since we spend part of the summer there. You can visit my subsection Florida Keys Life for more details on our favorite spots in the keys. Some do require a boat to access but many do not!
Since we stayed home for the holidays, unfortunately we did need to cross some things off the to do list. This is definitely part of the reason I prefer to travel because the reality is that it is hard to disconnect at home. Nonetheless, we have needed to update our home office for a long time and we decided to take advantage of the office being closed to get this done at home. Peter has been working afternoons on our dining room table since MARCH 2020! We needed two workspaces in our home office and now we have them. Enough of the boring stuff though!
Although we finished the home office project later than we would have liked, we were still able to fit in the fun stuff we had on our agenda for the day! The kids had requested gift cards from Build a Bear for Christmas. We decided to make an evening out of this. One of our favorite malls in Miami is The Falls. If you have not been, it’s a beautiful mall which is mostly outdoor and has waterfalls throughout. We also find it does not feel as packed as many of the other malls in Miami such as Dadeland, International Mall or Dolphin Mall. They have a Build a Bear store here so we decided to visit this location for the kids to create their bears.
If you have children and you have not been to Build a Bear, this is a must! The kids first choose the body of their bear. They can also choose clothing and accessories for their bears. The store has a giant contraption with stuffing where the kids press on a pedal to stuff their bears. Before stuffing their bears they put the bear’s heart in and make a special wish for it. They can also choose to add a button with sounds or music to their bears or a scent. Through the process they are also issued a birth certificate for their bears where they can name their bear and it shows the date it was ‘born’. Overall it is a really cute experience!
Like any mall, The Falls has many options for dining. One of our favorites is Los Ranchos especially if we’re in the mood for steak. On this occasion though, we decided to go somewhere slightly more fun! While it’s not in the mall, just down the street is Samurai. This is a hibachi style restaurant similar to Benihana. They actually may have similar ownership- although don’t quote me on that!
If you are familiar with this type of restaurant you know that the food is cooked in front of you! Needless to say this is a hit with the kids! They love going for the show especially when the chefs do fun things like make a volcano out of onions, a beating heart, or a hidden Mickey! The food is also delicious of course!
- Unfortunately, they do not take reservations. The good thing is they do have a little bar area where you can grab a drink and some sushi to hold you over. You definitely need to go with the mindset that you may be waiting over an hour and that you are going to have a couple of drinks beforehand. We try not to give our kids iPhones at restaurants but while we wait for our table, this is a time when we will make an exception.
- I highly recommend requesting that they melt the garlic butter for you! My cousin taught me this trick and it’s so good! I dip EVERYTHING in it! Honestly I recommend this at any hibachi restaurant! Benihana has done it for me as well as Teppan Edo at Disney’s Epcot!
Similarly to Tuesday, the day started with cleaning up the items to donate and trash from the office project. Our plan was also to take the boat out the following day and Peter had to clean the boat. Luckily once again we were able to add some fun in at the end of the day!
Peter is big on cars in general and racing. For some time now he had wanted to take the kids to K1 Speed but we could never find a good time to go with our busy schedules. I don’t know if many know that we have indoor karting here in Miami located in Hialeah. We took the kids over here expecting to be there for hours since at times you may need to wait your turn to race. Although the wait for adults was about 1.5 hours, for kids there was barely a wait! As a result, Peter and I decided to sit it out and give the kids a chance to drive. We bought three races. Although Natalia enjoyed it, she only wanted to race once. Peter raced twice. The races last a few laps and are roughly 5 minutes each. Fortunately, the races never expire so we will hopefully be back! Both kids did say they want to come back and by then they’ll have a better idea of what to expect.
To our surprise we finished this earlier than expected and decided to knock another item off our activities we wanted to take advantage of on our week off. Peter Jr. is really into video games lately so we had been wanting to take him to Dave and Busters at Dolphin mall. If you don’t know, Dave and Busters is a giant arcade. The kids went absolutely nuts! Peter is more into video type games while Natalia was more into collecting tickets so she could redeem them for prizes at the end. There was something for both of them and I know they definitely want to go back! On that note I will admit that I am not sure I would go alone there with the two kids. It’s a big place, overwhelming and they each want to bounce from arcade game to arcade game based on their preferences. Peter and I divided and conquered. I will also take this opportunity to share that there is a full bar for us adults and there are food options if you wish to dine in!
I wish I could share about a wonderful day out on the boat and a beautiful waterfront lunch! Unfortunately, that’s not how things worked out for us. As everyone knows, the Christmas 2021 break was unlike any other thanks to the omicron variant. Fortunately, it did not infect us, however, Peter did come down with a cold and was not feeling well Thursday morning. He even had a slight fever. We have had COVID in the past and it did not feel like COVID, however, many who were infected with the omicron variant describe the symptoms to be very similar to the common cold. We weren’t sure what he had and he had to go get tested. Furthermore, COVID or not he did not feel well so the boat did not happen! The uncertainty while waiting for test results caused us to have to spend this day quarantining.
I will share something different that I did with Natalia though. Back in the spring the Easter bunny had dropped off a gardening set for her with soil and seeds. I am embarrassed to admit that I never got around to doing this with her. In my defense, there is always something on our schedule and once summer came and things slowed down, I did not want to plant these seeds for us to take off to the keys and leave them to die. I know this likely was not the best time to do this since hopefully we will have a few cold snaps in the coming months but I started to realize it was never going to be the right time. If anything we will bring them inside if the temperature goes down a few days. I am no expert on this so we shall see if there are even any flowers to bring in! For Natalia’s sake I hope something sprouts!
If you are ever quarantined, this is something to do. She spent the day complaining that we were not doing anything fun and after this, she felt accomplished and like we had not lost a day to quarantining. If you are stuck at home though, you would need a way to get the supplies but otherwise, it’s definitely an idea!
Friday- New Year’s Eve!
By Friday morning Peter was able to get his hands on an at home rapid COVID test and we were able to confirm that he just had a common cold. He also already felt better. In case you are wondering, when the PCR results did finally arrive, he was in fact negative. We decided to head to Zoo Miami!
This was not anything new for us. We oftentimes go with friends when the kids have days off from school. We have the annual passes to the zoo because they are inexpensive given everything the zoo has to offer. Nonetheless, we do not go as often as we’d like so it was definitely on the list for our week off.
Miami Zoo feels like you’ve stepped into another world in my opinion. I know it’s not Disney’s Animal Kingdom but it is the closest thing you will find in Miami to anything that resembles a Disney theme park. They have done a great job with it! They have several exhibits and many wild animals to see. You can also rent family sized bikes to get around because the zoo is pretty big. They also have playgrounds and even a splash pad which is great when it’s hot out! The kids always really enjoy it and I definitely recommend it if you are looking for something to do with kids in Miami!
In case you are wondering, we spent New Year’s Eve at my sister’s house with family. No suggestions here on places to go New Year’s Eve in Miami but maybe one day I’ll have something to share on that end!
I would say we definitely made the best of it given all the circumstances, especially including so many loved ones being sick and not able to spend the holidays with us. For what it’s worth, the first week of 2022 did not go as planned AT ALL! We finally did get to take the trip and ended up in Disney the following week! I have a blog post in the works regarding their new Genie Plus and Lightning Lane platform so I’ll elaborate more then!
Thanks for visiting!