Think of Florida and it’s most likely that beaches, sunshine and the Magic Kingdom will spring to mind. What you might not know, however, is that away from the coast and the theme parks, you can find some fantastic family adventures in Florida.
Orlando might be best known for wizards, water parks and mouse ears but it’s also home to some excellent museums, family-friendly galleries and plenty of animal encounter experiences. Miami is famous for its beaches and its Art Deco buildings but there’s also vibrant street art, a brilliant science centre and an enviable outdoor lifestyle.
And those are just two places in Florida. The sunshine states has so much to offer families.
This is why we were delighted to partner with Visit Florida to discover some of best local attractions.
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The best places to go in Florida with kids
Table of Contents
- Walt Disney World
- Universal Studios
- Kennedy Space Center
- Biscayne National Park
- Everglades National Park
- Kelly Park
- Highland Hammock State Park
- Dry Tortugas National Park
- International Drive
- Mote Marine Laboratory
- Clearwater Beach
- Busch Gardens
- Tampa Bay
- Florida Caverns State Park
- Blue Spring State Park
- Daytona International Speedway
- Panama City Beach
- Florida Aquarium
- Sanibel Island
- Captiva Island
These are some of the most popular places to visit in Florida with kids. Really, you could spend myriad holidays here and never see all that there is to see. Fortunately, Florida is very easy to get around so you can do a lot on your family trip to Florida.
Combine a stay in Orlando – visiting Disney World and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – with time at the beach. Clearwater Beach and Daytona Beach are both within easy driving distance of Orlando.
On the west coast is where you’ll find Sanibel and Captiva Islands, both wonderful destinations for a Florida family holiday.
Or, you might choose to explore south Florida and places like Miami and Fort Lauderdale, famous for its beaches, art and culture. The Everglades National Park is in this corner of the state too, and always popular with families.
Key West, Florida’s southernmost point, is always popular for a family getaway. Key West is famous for its pastel-coloured conch-style houses. It’s also where author Ernest Hemingway lived during most of the 1930s.
The following are some of our favourite adventures in Florida.
Meet an Astronaut
The Kennedy Space Centre in Cape Canaveral, off the coast of Central Florida, is a must for all wannabe space explorers. Families can tour a full-size replica of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, jet off into outer space in the IMAX theatre and even meet an astronaut.
This 90-minute encounter includes lunch and a talk by one of NASA’s space pioneers. Kids can ask questions at the end and anything goes, so if you want to ask how astronauts go to the toilet in space you can! End your intergalactic experience with a photo together.
Fly Through the Air
The nature reserve of Forever Florida in St. Cloud, just south of Orlando, is home to a number of thrilling activities but we reckon that the Zipline Adventure takes top billing. This two-and-a-half our adventure lets you fly among the trees from platform to platform. For the more daring, try zipping at night under a canopy of stars.
Children must be 8 and older to zipline (10 and up for the night time event).
Say Hello to the Alligators
Shark Valley, in the Everglades National Park, is a 15-mile paved cycling loop that takes you deep into alligator territory. This is where gators big and small slink into the waters and watch your every move.
Bikes are available to hire and a full loop of the track will take 2-3 hours. If that sounds too much like hard work, tackle a smaller section and then turn around.
Florida’s largest dude ranch is located an hour south of Orlando and offers activities such as horseback riding, nature hikes, trap and skeet shooting, hayrides, a rock climbing wall, a mechanical bull and bungee jumping. Saturday nights at Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo also see a weekly rodeo featuring trick riding, bull riding, calf roping and barrel racing.
What we particularly love the sound of, however, are the luxury tents that come with double beds, a screened-in porch and private bathrooms. A glamping concierge is also on hand to help start campfires and deliver breakfast every morning. This is how to have an adventure in style.
Swim with a Manatee
Possibly the cutest creatures to call Florida’s warm rivers and bays home are the Florida Manatees. These gentle giants make their way up many of the sunshine state’s waterways but are particularly fond of Crystal River and Homosassa. Between the months of November and March you can snorkel with these endangered creatures on special tours just for families. Birds Underwater Tours is big on conservation and will teach your kids all about the manatees – and even shoot a video of them snorkelling together!
The vast Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge near the Kennedy Space Centre is home to some 550 species of animals and over 1,000 species of plants. Between May and October, it’s also home to a phenomenon called bioluminescence where light is produced naturally from organisms such as jellyfish and bacteria. Take to the water for a night time paddle and watch the water glow around you as you kayak along Indian River.