South Beach isnt always top of mind for family vacations but when the destination does show up on the radar theres an enormous blip within it thats hard to miss: the massive Loews Miami Beach Hotel, which has been delivering above-average experiences for families since it opened in 1998.
Mindful of competition from upstart resorts that have cropped up in the area during the last decade, the Loews recently completed major room renovations and has been reinforcing its family friendliness by offering guests a free program, SushiSkool, held every Saturday afternoon year-round at the Sushi SoBe restaurant in the hotels lobby.
The good news is that your kids will do more than watch a sushi chef do all the work. What happens during each class, which runs from an hour to 90 minutes, is tailored depending on the ages of who signs up. The class has been known to attract young kids as well as teens and grown-ups. Children wont be handling knives, but there might very well be some hands-on sushi rolling as well as the benign-but-classic lesson on how to hold chopsticks properly.
Regardless of the age composition of the class you can count on the chef skooling students about the different types of fish as well as the history of sushi. Class size is ideally limited to eight to ten participants, but if popularity demands, the hotel will add an additional instructor.
You wont get a free lunch out of the deal, but you and your kids will get to sample the sushi rolls as you construct them. Along the way youll also be encouraged to taste the pickled ginger and, to likely humorous effect, the wasabi. Good to know is that if your children are allergic to shellfish, as two of mine are, you can make arrangements to shift the focus of the class away from fish handling and towards such pursuits as assembling rolls with chicken and steak or turning common sandwiches into sushi rolls.
Since you need to be a registered guest on a Saturday to attend the program, keep in mind that the hotel is offering 20% off a stay of three nights or more for guests arriving Thursday through Saturday. The offer is good on travel through the end of 2010.
Once youve graduated SushiSkool and potentially maxed out your time at the hotels beach and pool, you might want to leave resort grounds for a while, in which case the delightfully interactive Miami Childrens Museum (www.miamichildrensmuseum.org) and longtime family favorite Jungle Island (www.jungleisland.com) are both on Watson Island, about a 10 minute drive from the hotel.