Fun in the Sun

April 5, 2010

Family Favs is back…from South Beach! I hadn’t been there in a while yet it is amazing how many things are the same. The weather was great — 80 and sunny every day. We hit the beach and the pool and ate all of our meals outside — all in all a great March break. And we missed a couple of monsoon-y days back in NYC, so that’s an added bonus.

We stayed at the Loews, which is definitely kid-friendly, but it’s a huge hotel and when filled to capacity (which it was), it’s virtually impossible for them to meet everyone’s needs. I’m more of a small, boutique hotel kind of person. But as my friend Suzanne said to me, there aren’t a lot of family-friendly options in South Beach. It has a lovely pool, but rise and shine and get your butt down to claim a chair early, or you’ll be sitting on the lawn. Literally. The hotel store actually has a lot of interesting finds, and is definitely a step up from a typical hotel boutique, with a pretty magnificent aquarium that will keep your little ones — or your husband — entertained while you browse. And, the hotel is in a convenient location — it’s easy to walk to Ocean Drive or Lincoln Road for several good restaurant options.

The Front Porch Cafe on Ocean Drive is a great spot for breakfast. Tasty omelettes, thick slabs of french toast, granola pancakes, all served with fresh fruit. Get there by 8:45 am or you’ll have to wait.

Over on Lincoln Road, Nexxt Cafe is a crowd pleaser. Their menu is almost as extensive as the Cheesecake Factory’s, so everyone can find something to satisfy their palate. They have a kids’ menu, too. The outside seating provides good people-watching — in fact we saw one of my kids’ nighttime babysitters passing by. She was on her spring break too!

Pizza Rustica across the plaza has surprisingly good pies — Ken picked a shrimp and pesto one, which I was not wholly on-board with, but it turned out to be delicious. They also offer a make your own salad where you can check off everything you want them to put in it, and it was really fresh and tasty.

Be sure to head half a block off Lincoln Road on Meridian to David’s Cafe II, a Cuban restaurant, and get some excellent cafe con leche — they’ll even do it decaf.

One new establishment to pop up since we had last been there a few years ago is Ghiardelli — and the kids were psyched! Their sundaes are a fun way to end a sun-filled day, and you can eat them al fresco in the pleasant night air.

We headed out for a fancy meal one night, to the new Solea in the recently opened W Hotel. The chef is from Barcelona and it has a Spanish bent. There are several tapas options, some paellas and other fish dishes. Everything seemed to miss the mark slightly, and I can’t say the food was that spectacular. But the space is relaxing and if you eat outside, you overlook a pleasant little courtyard garden. Mojitos weren’t bad, either!

I should say that overall the service is a little lacking in general in South Beach. I kept trying to figure out why: was it that we as New Yorkers are just used to better service? Was it that the people aren’t trained properly? Or was it that most places add an 18% service charge in automatically, reducing any incentive to do a good job? I never did figure it out, but be prepared for your waiter to disappear for long lengths of time, and for your water glass to sit empty.

The other thing that was tough to adjust to is the smoking. It’s unbelievable how in just a few years the smoking ban in New York has made us so sensitive to people lighting up nearby, on the beach and in restaurants. There are a lot of foreign tourists, and that adds to the smoking, too. Just something to keep in mind.

The shopping is nothing special. I used to love Brownes on Lincoln Road for unusual beauty products, but at this point everywhere carries the same schtuff and there wasn’t anything special to be had. The bathing suits in most of the stores tend to be of the rhinestone-encrusted thong variety, so unless you’re into that look, there’s probably not much for you in most stores. As I mentioned, the store in the lobby of the Loews has some unique offerings, like Mason Pearson combs and brushes and sweet bottles of perfume from some Japanese lines I hadn’t heard of. The lobby store at the W is also well stocked — Ken found a sweater he liked. Really, the best thing to find and bring home are some beautiful shells from the beach. Austin and I spent some time looking along the shoreline and we ended up with a nice selection.

It’s a pretty easy schlep from NYC (less than 3 hours on the plane) and if you hit it right, the weather is fantastic. I also like that you don’t need to rent a car and can get around on foot just about everywhere. We all had a great time.

Then again, we usually have a great time wherever we are — it’s just that much nicer in the warm sunshine!

Etc.

We came back to some nice weather in the city, and we took the opportunity to take Austin’s training wheels off of his bike. So today he learned to ride a two-wheeler! He did an excellent job, and within a few minutes was up and running. It’s great to see your child accomplish something and gain confidence — he is so proud! Addison also mastered pedaling her tricycle, so all in all a very productive day on the playground.

Hope you all had a nice week and enjoyable holidays.

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2 Responses to “Fun in the Sun”

  1. Liz Goldberg Says:

    The poor service is due to the 18% tip that is already included.


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