Miami is a great place to let loose and party, but it’s also a family-friendly destination with lots of activities for kids — just look at Zoo Miami, the Miami Children’s Museum, and Jungle Island. Besides the benefit of having beach weather in December, Miami is also known for its diverse culinary scene filled with Caribbean, Latin, Mexican, and Italian restaurants.
But living in Miami also comes with a hefty price tag. For some more affordable Miami alternatives, I rounded up five South Florida cities that also have stunning beaches, great restaurants, and outdoor activities for the whole family. The best part? You can pay less for housing and still visit Miami on the weekend.
Deerfield Beach is home to lots of family-friendly destinations like Quiet Waters Park, a 400-acre green space that includes a sprawling water park for kids, plus plentiful camping, fishing, and walking trails. While Deerfield Beach may not have high rises like Miami, it does have a boardwalk and fantastic waterfront dining like JBS on the Beach and Oceans 234. Overall, Deerfield Beach has a laid-back surfer vibe. Case in point? It’s also home to Island Water Sports, a family-run surf and skate shop that holds surf camps and lessons for students of all ages.
Located in the middle of Florida’s Gold Coast, which stretches from Palm Beach to Miami, Pompano Beach is known for its scuba diving, water sports, and access to public parks. The town’s main beachfront is dog-friendly and has a wide, sandy shore ideal for sunbathing or playing volleyball. There are over 50 public parks, and kids will love nearby Butterfly World, the largest butterfly park in the world. The newly opened Beach House and Oceanic Pompano, located near the Pompano Beach Pier, are great for Sunday brunches with friends. Pompano Beach has lots of local breweries and bars, but if you need something a little more upscale, you can head about 10 miles south to glitzy nightlife in Fort Lauderdale.
Florida has its own Hollywood, and the area has seen recent improvements with the addition of more shopping and dining options downtown. Hollywood Beach is the main attraction here, and its wide boardwalk is a great place for bikers, joggers, and scooters. Downtown Hollywood is full of eclectic stores and rivals Miami’s Wynwood with its creative street murals. There’s also the ArtsPark at Young Circle, a family-friendly park that hosts outdoor movie nights and live events. If you need some peace and quiet, head to the 1,500 acre Ann Kolb Nature Center for the nature trails and guided boat tours. Hollywood is also the home to the only guitar-shaped hotel in the world, The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.
West Palm Beach has become an enclave for young families, thanks to a recent uptick in new businesses and shopping venues. The waterfront city’s main thoroughfare is Clematis Street, a dining and nightlife destination, while there’s plenty of art and culture at The Norton Museum of Art, and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts. West Palm Beach is a little over an hour’s drive from Miami, and the beaches are just as nice (and a little less crowded). Some of the best beaches are Carlin Park, Ocean Beach Park, and Peanut Island, a public island that can only be reached by ferry or boat. Forget expensive Miami yachts — the ferry to Peanut Island is only $15 roundtrip, and you can bring your own food and spend the day there.
Boynton Beach has some of the cleanest, well-maintained beaches in South Florida, and on the weekends, locals hang out at Oceanfront Park. While Miami has the Florida Everglades, Boynton Beach has the Arthur S. Marshall Loxahatchee National Refuge, a 145,000-acre wetland where visitors can hike, kayak, or ride horses. The best restaurants in Boynton Beach are located near the water: Two Georges Waterfront Grille and Prime Catch are great places to enjoy a dinner with a view. Boynton Beach also has a great collection of art galleries and a downtown arts district full of vibrant street murals.