When most of us think Florida, we think sand, sun and a certain mouse. But there's so much more to Florida than that, and the village of Bal Harbour is truly a treasure of the state. Covering an area of just under one square mile and with a population of just over 3,000, Bal Harbour truly is a "dream village"...which is exactly how it was conceived.
Founded in 1929 on the very north tip of Miami Beach, Bal Harbour was envisioned, from the beginning, as a modern community that would maintain exceptionally high standards, provide superior services and foster civic pride. It was built around a shopping mall, so you know that Mom's going to love this travel destination, but there's so much more to the village, and on a recent trip I discovered just how much it had to offer the entire family.
Here's a lowdown on the A, B, Cs (and bonus Ds) of Bal Harbour, Florida.
The St.Regis Bal Harbour Resort is the newest jewel in this village's crown. Opened earlier in 2012, it is the recipient of the AAA Five Diamond award. From the butler service with suites to the Remede Spa, to the opulent lobby, this hotel is as decadent and beautiful as you can possibly imagine. The suites are spacious and perfect for families looking for a little more room (and for moms looking for more space for the packages from the Bal Harbour Shops conveniently tucked across the street).
There's a reason you'll feel "at home" in the St.Regis;
the hotel's acclaimed designers were the Canadian firm Yabu Pushelberg
Other hotel options include ONE Bal Harbour Resort and Spa, where your kids will be treated as VIPs from check-in until check-out, with all sorts of special amenities guaranteed to make younger visitors special, including ice cream and a welcome kit.
You'll have no problem convincing your kids to have a bath
in a ONE Bal Harbour Resort hotel rooms..good luck getting them out!
If you're looking for a smaller boutique style hotel, consider the Bal Harbour Quarzo. With access to ONE Bal Harbour's spa and beach, this hotel offers spacious rooms for families traveling with the amenities that make a hotel a home for your duration, including full kitchens, iPod docking stations and flat screen televisions.
For old school charm and family vibe, nothing beats the SeaView Hotel. Once you step into the comfortable and classic lobby, you'll understand why families have been returning year after year for over half a century. Rent a poolside cabana by the day or by the week, drop the kids off at the Kids Club (available to guests of any of Bal Harbour's hotels), and pull up a chair at the retro diner...you'll be booking next year's vacation before you depart from this year's visit.
Bal Harbour's beaches are wide and clean, and except for a very limited public access, they are used only by the hotels' guests. Spend the day digging in the sand, casting for fish, or indulge in a free Pilates or Yoga class to start your morning.
There's also a beautifully maintained trail that runs along the beach for your morning jogs or walks with the family.
Wait, there's more to a vacation than eating, drinking and shopping? Why culture abounds in Bal Harbour and vicinity!
The proximity of the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami (an easy ten minute drive) allows visitors to access some of the nation's most celebrated artists and collections. Drop your kids off for one of the regular half- or full-day camps while you take in an exhibition (or indulge with a massage back at the hotel spa)! Frequent collaboration with the Shops at Bal Harbour means you may end up exposed to some contemporary art while you're perusing the racks of Gucci or Jimmy Choo.
Those shops do contain a gem of a bookstore called (appropriately) Books & Books with an amazing kids section and frequent author appearances.
You can't go wrong with the hotel restaurants in Bal Harbour. Mister Collins in ONE Bal Harbour Resort is renowned for its seafood and wine list.
The menu of the amazing J&G Grill in the St.Regis Bal Harbour Resort is matched only in its impeccable taste by its breathtakingly scenic views.
If you're looking to go a little further afield, there are highlights to be found in the Shops of Bal Harbour. No restaurant will give you a better view of celebrities and doyennes exiting their luxury vehicles than the patio of Carpaccio. Your kids will love the pizza; you'll love the stargazing.
If your kids are gourmands, treat them to the incredible Makoto. Indulge in some of the most amazing sushi you'll ever taste, and be sure to order the Frosty Kobe Fried Rice. I've had dreams about it since devouring a plate during my visit.
There is absolutely nothing about Bal Harbour that does not pamper the visitor, and the destination offers something for everyone. You may never want to leave the village, but if you want to travel down to South Beach or Miami, you'll find the complimentary shuttle available at your door.