Growing up in Miami, we’ve seen our hometown go through plenty of changes over the years. And while we locals have been trained to realize much of our city is catered to travelers, it still makes our hearts swell when we see some of our favorite childhood landmarks still serving good times to new generations of young Miamians. From the best birthday party spots to classic eateries that dish out nostalgia with every bite, here are some beloved gems from our Miami childhood:
OG Miami locals will also remember Bird Bowl from their high school days (and nights) spending hours hitting the lanes with a big group of friends no matter the occasion. But if you’ve ever adventured away from the bowling, you’ll find an impressive arcade inside, neighboring another large room dedicated to billiards and more.
No matter the age and level of cool, Super Wheels was the prime spot for birthdays and weekends. It’s the only premier skating center in Miami still around, and the nightly themed skates are still every bit as fun. DJs and funky lights are definitely still the vibe there too.
Leveling up from the roller skating rink, a party at the Kendall Ice Arena was hard core. Not only did it prompt you to bust out the cute long sleeves from Limited Too you’ve waited all year to show off, but it provided much in the way of entertainment when you’d catch your nemesis slip on the ice. Whoops, did I say that out loud?
Yelp Miami / Ricky C.
While we locals know it as Metro Zoo, the animal attraction is still the same beloved escape in very way. They might have expanded new sights and activities over the years, but the natural landscaping and tropical walks are all still the same.
Many locals know this place for its mini lagoon and water sport access. We love Matheson Hammock for its perfect balance of natural habitat and magical exploring. You can spend a whole day in its oak-filled entrance alone or frolic through the bike paths along the mangroves. Or even better still, watch the Miami you just escaped from along its Biscayne Bay views.
You weren’t a middle schooler in Miami is you never gathered your friends up for some “Loser Laps” around the malls. Miami’s many shopping centers were okayed by parents as a safe spot for socializing, and Sunset Place‘s outdoor shops (and towering fake trees, if you can still remember) were the prime hang. If you favored the south, The Falls was equally as exciting, especially if you liked picking your songs at Johnny Rockets.
For nearly 100 years, Venetian Pool has offered locals and travelers a scenic way to cool down that doesn’t involve a strenuous drive to the beach. For kids, this was the best spot to host a pool party and show everyone you’ve upgraded from the kiddy pool to where the big kids swim. It’s also easily one of our city’s most beautiful historic landmarks and just underwent a sweet renovation.
via Coral Gables
Yes, it still exists. At one point, there wasn’t a neighborhood in Miami that didn’t have a Color Me Mine. And there wasn’t a single girl in your elementary school who didn’t host a party there (2nd grade, over here!). The paint-it-yourself ceramics spot still churns out its handmade specialties and hosts its fair share of celebratory paints.
Ice cream will forever be a childhood favorite, and a few of Miami’s vintage parlors are still serving serious scoops. Walls Old Fashioned Ice Cream, with its towering scoops and seemingly endless flavors and proximity to The Big Cheese still makes us smile. Same goes for Whip’n Dip in South Miami, where the homemade charm hasn’t changed for nearly 50 years.
While this South Miami gem witnesses the heartbreaking closure of Spec’s Records next door–a huge blow to Miami’s music scene–this unassuming American grill is still kicking. Whether it was birthday parties or after school eats, Swensen’s serves the classic comfort food every kid looks forward to special occasions for.
While this one might not be a locally-founded business, Fuddrucker’s is still very much a part of a Miami childhood. Mainly because of the yellow tokens that got you a cookie, but also because of its familiar air, and classic American recipes (and hanging meat?) that still welcome you after all of these years.
While the purpose of this piece is to spotlight the beloved places that haven’t changed over the years, we still feel like some of them must be mentioned. Mainly places like the Frost Science Museum and Jungle Island which have relocated from their original, historical homes to larger pastures but are still every bit as awe-inspiring. Miami’s Best Pizza also moved across US-1 to a new home, but still serves up the classic slice and observation window we know and love. Pinecrest Gardens, though no longer the home of Parrot Jungle, is still luscious and magical–and features many of the elements (like the banyan bowl and tropical bird aviaries) that remind us of its parrot-y past. And finally, two seasonal happenings that are still very much happening regardless of the pandemic or city changes are: The Fair and Santa’s Enchanted Forest, both coming back in the fall.
Cover photo via Zoo Miami.