Expecting a much longer layover at Miami International Airport than first anticipated? Missed a flight or have one canceled? No matter the reason, at one time or another we've all wished we knew where to go to pass the time. Solo traveling, on business or with kids; here are some fun and cool things to do near Miami’s major airport you won’t find in any travel guide.
Play the Odds
Located on the east side of the airport, south of the rental car companies about a five-minute drive, Miami’s Magic City Casino offers 800 Las Vegas-style slot machines, a smoking-hot poker room with 18 tables, dog racing, restaurants, bars and cocktail lounges—Big Mouth Café, Casino Bar and Sky 7-37—in addition to live entertainment in the amphitheater.
On the third Saturday of the month from 5-10 pm the casino hosts the Wheelin’ Dealin’ Food Truck Festival, organized by Burger Beast. It offers some of the best food trucks around. There are great giveaways and parking is free.
Beat the Heat
Surprisingly—for an area surrounded by oceans, bays and rivers—there's only one city water park and this is it. With four adventure-themed pools, two slide pools and a lazy river, Grapeland Water Park is a great family destination.
Conveniently located off State Road 836 (Dolphin Expressway) and half a mile from the Tri-Rail station on Douglas Road (SW 37th Avenue), the park is open March through October. From 10 am to 4:45 pm, on weekends during the spring and fall, and seven days a week in the summertime.
Kids five and under can play in the shallow waters of Shipwreck Island as they get a bucket of water dumped on their heads. Take the stairs to the top of the towers and ride the fast slides for a spin over at Pirate's Plunge.
Over at Captain’s Lagoon families can take it down a notch and hang out in the large recreation pool, no slides here just the perfect place to dip into the water. Next to the Captain’s Lagoon is the Buccaneer River Ride, a lazy river that lets the water do the work for you. Hop onto the brightly colored inflatable tubes and let the water take you for a ride.
Hit the Links
For the traveler looking for some tee time, next door to the Grapeland Water Park you'll find the oldest golf course in Miami—International Links/Melreese Country Club.
Since 1923, the 18-hole, semi-private course has hosted many celebrities and athletes including Miami Heat basketball stars Alonzo Mourning, Dan Majerle and Keith Askins and famed Cuban pitchers Livan Hernandez and Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez.
Tiger Woods even made his first professional appearance in South Florida here, hosting more than 3,500 fans while conducting a clinic.
The 135-acre golf course features five lakes, nine waste bunkers, 97 bunkers of pure white sand and a cypress wetland plus, rolling northern-style fairways, elevation changes and more. And it is the only practice facility with nighttime access, open until 9 pm.
There's no shortage of seafood and Latin eateries throughout Miami but Southern food is a different story. We found a bit of Paula Deen in our backyard in a lesser-known city on the northside of the airport called Miami Springs. Nestled in this small-town residential neighborhood is a taste of down-home cooking where everything is deep fried, battered and slathered in gravy.
Named for Florida cowboys who used a whip to “crack” cattle from swamps and scrub, Crackers Casual Dining pays homage to Old Florida. Heaping portions of black-eyed peas, pulled pork, fried chicken, sweet potato mash and a bevy of other tasty dishes are on the menu. It is no tourist trap despite being featured on The Cooking Channel's "Road Trip with G. Garvin."
The restaurant integrates mason jars of seashells, driftwood flamingos, mounted sailfish into its décor to complete the homey vibe. Its large outdoor Chickee hut patio and garden with picnic tables is sure to take you to the South with a touch of Floridian flair.