Savor the summer, while you still can

08/11/2013 2:22 PM

08/11/2013 2:23 PM

For some kids, the end of the summer can feel like one long Sunday-before-school night.

But it’s a great time to have one more summertime blast, getting out and exploring South Florida’s parks, pools, waterways, ice-skating rinks and museums.

Linda Friar enjoys boat rides on Florida Bay.

“You get out on the bay and think, “This is why I live here,’” she said.

Friar, a spokeswoman for Everglades National Park, encourages families to “consider their comfort levels” when planning any outdoor activities in August.

“Like anything in Florida, you need to be cautious of the weather,” she said.

Boat tours are available at the park’s Gulf Coast Marina area and the Whitewater Bay backcountry of Florida Bay. The park has seven canoe trails, including the Nine Mile Pond to the Mud Lake Loop. You can bring your own canoe or rent them, Friar said. “It’s a great way to stay fit for the whole family.”

John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is another affordable, family-friendly option. Pennekamp, the first undersea park in the United States, extends about two miles into the Atlantic and is about 25 miles long. Park-goers can go as far as six to seven miles away from the shoreline via glass-bottom boat, snorkeling and diving tours, park manager Pat Wells said.

“We provide affordable, resource-based activities the whole family can do,” Wells said.

Kalyn James has explored the park with her family and agreed with the park’s manager.

“It’s good for families on a budget, but it’s also a great way to take advantage of the natural resources we have here in Florida.”

While she and her family were snorkeling, dolphins approached them. “That was a really unique experience, to have the dolphins swimming so close to us,” she said.

This summer, they visited the Venetian Pool for the first time.

“Our family loves the water — the beach, the pool, it doesn’t matter,” James said. “We had never been [to the Venetian Pool], and we’ve lived in Miami for 10 years. We thought it was really special.”

Anywhere from about 500 to 800 people visit the pool daily from June to August. It’s drained and filled daily and maintains a temperature of about 76 degrees, Venetian Pool aquatics supervisor Carolina Vester said.

The pool, which was carved out of a rock quarry, is the only public pool featured in the National Register of Historic Places. Waterfalls, caves and a sandy beach area are all part of the appeal, Vester said.

Miamian Maryan Firpo enjoys museums, art festivals “or just going to the pool,” she said. Firpo loves exploring different parts of South Florida. Her regular outings include the Miami Science Museum, the Miami Children’s Museum and the Venetian Pool. Her advice is to follow the crowds.

“The tour buses are the best,” she said. “They will certainly take you places you’ve never been, they will tell you more than you ever thought you knew about Miami, and you’ll mentally highlight new places you want to go in the future.”

The summer is the busiest time for the Miami Children’s Museum, CEO and executive director Deborah Spiegelman said.

The Dino Island exhibit transports children back to the prehistoric age, where they learn about dinosaurs, their habitat and how they were named. The museum is open to children of all ages, but those 8 and younger are its primary audience.

For those looking to cool off, ice-skating is available in Kendall at the Kendall Ice Arena and in Miami Beach at the Scott Rakow Youth Center.

“It gives you an opportunity to get out of the heat in a family environment,” youth center ice-rink manager Anthony Scallo said.

You can also cool off at HistoryMiami, the museum in downtown Miami. Check out “Opa-locka: Mirage City,” an exhibit that is on display until Sept. 8. The exhibit presents original drawings and architectural models that show the city as it was originally envisioned — a romanticized, Hollywood-like Middle Eastern oasis.

This article includes comments from the Public Insight Network, an online community of people who have agreed to share their opinions with the Miami Herald and WLRN. Become a member at MiamiHerald.com/insight.

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