While the city doesn’t have much of a pedestrian culture, the best parks in Miami do give us plenty of reasons to head outdoors. Miamians have access to a range of green spaces with eye-catching flora and fauna, fitness trails and all sorts of water-based activities. A day in the park is not only one of the best free things to do in Miami, but also makes for a cheap date idea in Miami and is one of the best things to do in Miami with kids. What's more, special programs and events at many of the best Miami parks can turn a boring visit into a genuine learning experience for the whole family.
Best parks in Miami
This diminutive green space is widely used by people in the community for sports, exercise and all sorts of outdoor pursuits. There's free yoga on the weekends, a dog park with plenty of seating for owners and pet lovers, a bike trail (Citi Bike docking stations were recently installed on park grounds) and an exercise course with calisthenic equipment. Regulars will recognize the A.C.'s Icees truck, which has had a permanent spot in the parking lot for more than three decades. It’s common these days to see generations of locals sipping on frozen lemonades as they make their way around the park during evening walks.
If you live in Miami and own a boat, chances are you’ve been turned away at Matheson Hammock Park—the single-most popular marina and boat ramp in the area, which on weekend mornings is always at capacity (read: arrive early). It’s far less stressful for those driving or biking in to enjoy the artificial atoll pool, a great way to expose small children to the beach, as well as the hundreds of acres of green space and the on-site seafood restaurant, Red Fish Grill.
While most of Key Biscayne’s public beaches are shallow and not great for swimming, Crandon Park offers two miles of white-sand beaches that are free to enjoy. Families love Crandon Park for its ease and convenience: plentiful parking ($7 per vehicle) with proximity to the water and numerous cabanas with barbecue capabilities, which are available to rent. A visit to Crandon Park is more than just a day at the beach; it’s an opportunity to play volleyball, go on an eco-adventure tour, take a self-guided nature walk and ride a family-sized bike built for four.
It’s not uncommon to see parrots and other tropical birds flying freely through the areas of Pinecrest and Palmetto Bay. To get help identifying your new aviary friends, head to Bill Sadowski Park and Nature Center, covering 30 acres of pineland, tropical hardwood and hammock habitats with all sorts of wildlife. The park organizes regular birdwatching tours and nature walks for visitors, while the observatory on site, the Southern Cross Astronomical Society, holds stargazing sessions on weekend evenings.
As Florida’s largest urban park, Oleta River offers way more to do than most other parks in Miami. It’s got off-road biking trails for novices and enthusiasts; kayaking opportunities through mangroves during the day and through the bay in the evenings when there’s a full moon; and cabins and camp spaces for true outdoorsmen wishing to stay overnight on the premises. Need a break from all that outdoor adventure? Oleta has its share of requisite pockets of peace and quiet and covered shelters to catch some downtime.
If all there was to do in Miami parks was picnic and frolic, few locals would go for fear of melting in the hot sun. We like our green spaces with proximity to water, which is what makes Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park a favorite of tourists and natives alike. Visitors can tour the Cape Florida Lighthouse, the oldest building in South Florida, try their hand at shoreline fishing or ocean kayaking, or gather the family for a picnic underneath one of many covered pavilions available to rent.
Admittedly there’s not much to do in northern Hialeah, so a place like Amelia Earhart Park is near and dear to the community. Like the superwoman it was named after, this park can do it all. It serves as a place to wakeboard, play soccer, ride a pony and take a hayride. The park boasts a 91-acre lake, so there’s also a place to rent kayaks and paddleboats, if you’ve still got the energy.
This isn’t your typical marine park, as a visit to Biscayne National Underground Park requires some planning. With approximately 95 percent of the park covered by water, visitors will need a boat to tour the premises—encompassing meandering creeks, shallow lagoons and mangrove areas that are perfect for exploring. The remaining five percent of park life happens at the visitor center, which hosts photography exhibits, lectures and events for children.
You don’t have to travel to Brazil to see a huge monument dedicated to Christ. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park has its own 4,000-pound statue of Jesus approximately 25 feet underwater. Snorkelers and divers, rejoice! The park is also home to beautiful coral reefs, including the Coral Reef Theater, a reconstruction of a living patch reef enclosed in an aquarium. To see it all without getting wet, book one of the daily glass-bottomed boat tours.
Coconut Grove might as well be one giant park, with so many green spaces and pockets of foliage hidden throughout the neighborhood. One of the community’s most beloved is Barnacle Historic State Park, which offers a glimpse into what frontier life was like in the area at the turn of the 20th century. Guests can tour the former home of Coconut Grove pioneer Ralph Middleton Munroe and explore the grounds he so meticulously preserved—entering through a slim stretch of hammock-enclosed trail that leads to the waterfront dotted with giant old trees.