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Florida Family Vacations that Kids and Parents Love

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Florida family vacations appeal to sun-loving, adventure-seeking kids and parents alike. Theme parks are an obvious draw and there are plenty of amusing options to choose from in the Sunshine State. Florida also boasts amazing sand beaches, educational attractions, and plenty of opportunities to play in nature. Here are seven of the best family vacation spots in Florida that are sure to please travelers of all ages.

All great Florida family vacations include beach time, like at this sandy spot in Key West

All great Florida family vacations include beach time, like at this sandy spot in Key West (Photo credit: fotoZapad, Depositphotos.com)

1. Orlando

Theme Parks Galore

Renowned for its amusement parks aplenty, Orlando is often the first place that comes to mind when searching for the best Florida family vacation spots. Vacationers seeking the wonder of Disney will enjoy Orlando’s four amusement parks all uniquely themed with that magical Disney touch: Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park. Also under the Walt Disney World umbrella, you’ll find two water parks, a myriad of unique hotels, two entertainment districts, a miniature golf center, and outdoorsy activities like boating and archery.

“Mickey and Friends Cavalcade” parade at Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom

“Mickey and Friends Cavalcade” parade at Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom (Photo credit: Kent Phillips, Disney)

The Orlando fun doesn’t stop with Disney, though. Universal Orlando Resort appeals to moviegoers and superhero fans. Especially appealing to followers of the Boy Who Lived is Universal’s incredible Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Meanwhile, animal loving families will enjoy a day connecting with ocean creatures at SeaWorld Orlando. Plus, approximately 1.25 million alligators live in the state of Florida and you can safely see these bad boys during a visit to the Gatorland theme park. Of course, Lego lovers will want to take a day trip to nearby Legoland Florida for a dose of interactive Lego brick-themed play. 

Families can easily spend an entire vacation in the Orlando area and never run out of things to do. Take a look at our picks for the best Orlando attractions for families.

 
Gator Jumparoo Show at Gatorland in Orlando

Gator Jumparoo Show at Gatorland (Photo credit: jjvallee, Depositphotos.com)

2. Sanibel and Captiva Islands

Paradise for Seashell Collectors

A world away from the fast-paced vacations of Orlando, families seeking a tranquil retreat will fall in love with the barrier islands of Sanibel and Captiva. These isles are home to some of the best shelling beaches in the nation. At J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island vacationers will find birds, reptiles, amphibians and mammals of all sorts. Active families will also enjoy biking the islands and canoeing or kayaking the waterways.

Amber Johnson, The Outdoorsy Travel Mama, says, “Sanibel and Captiva Islands are a dream for wildlife and shell lovers. You’ll find 15 miles of unspoiled beaches, 25 miles of bike paths, 50 types of fish, 230 types of birds, 400 types of shells, no stop lights, a ban on fast-food chains and a law that dictates no buildings taller than the tallest palm tree.”

Thousands of seashells for collecting on Sanibel Island in Florida

Thousands of seashells for collecting on Sanibel Island (Photo credit: Necro2k, Depositphotos.com)

3. Tampa Bay

A Florida Sampler

The Tampa Bay Area of Florida’s Gulf Coast is popular with families seeking diversity in a vacation destination. Three cities surround Tampa Bay including Tampa, St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Additionally, smaller towns add to the appeal of this area. Madeira is fabulous for its kid-friendly vibe, soft sand beaches, and John’s Pass Village & Boardwalk near St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, Tampa’s Busch Gardens draws visitors with a combination of amusement park rides, animal attractions, and Broadway-style shows. Also, several major league baseball teams host their spring training games in Tampa Bay.

John's Pass Village in Madeira, near St. Petersburg in Tampa Bay, Florida

John’s Pass Village in Madeira, near St. Petersburg in Tampa Bay (Photo credit: Quasarphotos, Depositphotos.com)

Nicole Wiltrout of Arrows Sent Forth says, “We love the Tampa Bay Area of Florida for one simple reason: variety. With three cities within about 45 minutes of each other, we enjoy the wide range of activities, from farmers markets to zoos to aquariums. Plus, the beaches are incredibly beautiful with gentle waves that are perfect for kids to play. You can often find direct, inexpensive flights in and out of Tampa, making getting there easy, too.”

 
Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens

Serengeti Safari at Busch Gardens (Photo credit: VIAVAL, Depositphotos.com)

4. Florida Keys

Colorful Island Vacation Destination

The Florida Keys are an archipelago of more than 400 islands that stretch for 150 miles off the southern coast of the U.S. Key West, the most popular island in the Keys, marks the southernmost part of the continental U.S. Water enthusiasts enjoy the Keys’ fishing, diving, and water sports galore. Of course, while in the Florida Keys you must sample Key lime pie, a tangy dessert created in Key West and so-named for the Key limes that grow here in abundance.

Tasting Key lime pie is a must in the Florida Keys

Key lime pie, a Florida Key must-try (Photo credit: unixx.0.gmail.com, Depositphotos.com)

Charu Suri, a travel journalist, recommends the Florida Keys for families who enjoy water play. “The John Pennekamp Coral Reef Park has a glass-bottom boat ride perfect for kids, as well as snorkeling trips. There are scenic drives that are fun for the entire family, as well as kid-friendly beaches like Anne’s Beach off Mile Marker 71. Plus, Hawk’s Cay Resort in Marathon is a one-stop shop for families with several pools and lagoons.”

 
Colorful cottages in Key West, Florida

Colorful cottages in Key West (Photo credit: Wimbledon, Depositphotos.com)

5. Northwest Florida

Affordable Family Vacation

Northwest Florida, sometimes referred to as the Panhandle, is known for beach towns, turquoise waters, and family attractions. This area of Florida remains less crowded than other parts of the state and is typically easier on the budget, too. Gulf Islands National Seashore provides 52 miles of stunning white sand beaches where families can spread out to picnic and play. Also, the area’s popular communities of Pensacola, Destin and Panama City offer museums, aquariums, and historic attractions for families.

Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola, FL

Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola (Photo credit: forestpath, Depositphotos.com)

Terri Weeks from Travel 50 States with Kids recommends the National Naval Aviation Museum, where kids of all ages can learn about the history of naval aviation in the U.S. She said, “With Pensacola just a 45-minute drive away, the National Naval Aviation Museum makes the perfect outing. This free museum is home to over 150 restored aircraft as well as the Blue Angels, the Navy’s aerobatic flying squadron. The museum is roughly organized by the history of aviation. One wing displays early aircraft and exhibits. Meanwhile another focuses on the World War II era and Hangar Bay One includes post-WWII era.”

National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola Florida

National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola (Photo credit: petertt, Depositphotos.com)

6. Palm Beach County

Florida Vacation Spot for Animal Lovers

Palm Beach and West Palm Beach are renowned for their upscale resorts and socialites. Palm Beach County offers beaches, fine dining and entertainment. But family fun opportunities abound here as well. If your kids enjoy gardens, then take them to Mounts Botanical Garden or Morikami Japanese Gardens. Love water play? Zip down waterslides at Riptides Water Park or go wake boarding through a watery obstacle course at Shark Wake Park 561.

 

Animal lovers are in for a treat in Palm Beach County with McCarthy’s Wildlife Sanctuary, the Palm Beach Zoo & Conservatory, and the drive-through Lion Country Safari. You can also view sea turtles and learn about conservation efforts at Loggerhead Marine Life Center. At Manatee Lagoon, see these graceful sea giants up-close. Meanwhile, South Florida Science Center and Aquarium is home to a 10,000-gallon aquarium filled with Florida’s native fish like queen angels, moray eels, stingrays and seahorses.

Lion Country Safari drive through park in West Palm Beach

Lion Country Safari drive through park in West Palm Beach (Photo credit: mariakray, Depositphotos.com)

7. Florida Everglades

Subtropical Wilderness for Outdoorsy Families

Families who love exploring the outdoors must visit Florida Everglades National Park. The park covers 1.5 million acres of southern Florida. In fact, it is the largest subtropical wilderness area in the U.S. The Everglades is actually a slow-moving river, not the swamp that many believe it to be. Be sure to sign up for an airboat tour for a memorable view of Florida’s alligators in the wild.

 

Michelle Brennan with family travel site, Trekaroo, took her family to the Florida Everglades. They hiked, bicycled and rode an airboat through the national park in search of the rare Florida panther that her animal-loving daughter was hoping to see. Michelle says, “Although we never saw the panther, we did spot deer, gators, squirrels, beautiful plants and birds on the small one-way 11-mile road full of adventure!”

Airboat tour in Everglades National Park

Airboat tour in Everglades National Park (Photo credit: lunamarina, Depositphotos.com)

Explore More of Florida with Kids

Traveling with tweens or teenagers? You need to read these tips for visiting Disney World with teens.

For additional water play and amusement parks, take a look at these things to do in Destin.

Art enthusiasts may be surprised by the impressive Fort Lauderdale art scene.

Animal lovers will love swimming with manatees in Clearwater.

7 Florida Family Vacations that Kids and Parents Love

Save These Florida Family Vacations

For future reference, be sure to keep this list of vacation spots for families in Florida. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Do you have favorite memory of your Florida family vacations? Or do you have any suggestions for additional vacation spots for kids in Florida? Let us know in the comments below!

 
About Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments
  1. Ellen Lanin says

    Great post. I really enjoyed the references to many bloggers. This made me feel like I was getting a nice balanced outlook on what to see and do in Florida. I have been to Florida a few times and found Sanibel Island and the Nasa areas a great way to expand our visits in addition to Disney World which is always fantastic, no matter what our ages.

  2. Mums do travel says

    This is really interesting, thank you. I visited Florida for the first time with my family this summer and we had a great time. We concentrated on the Orlando theme parks and our favourite was SeaWorld but we also spent a lovely day in the town of Winter Park.

  3. Sarah Ebner says

    We would absolutely love to come to Florida again! We visited Orlando (from London) earlier this year and the kids also loved Harry Potter the most. I enjoyed it all, having never been as a child, but I knew there was so much we weren’t able to see in our 10 day trip. Hopefully another time.

  4. I have a friend residing in Orlando, and she totally agree the it has vacation places that are enjoyable for kids and their parents. She always take her son outdoors particularly in theme parks to make his mood better after tantrums.

  5. All great places…can’t wait to revisit all of ’em!

  6. Fantastic Experience after reading your amazing blog! I have learned some new and amazing ideas from your article. Thanks dear for sharing this amazing blog with us.

  7. Tilly Wilson says

    Great list.Thanks for recommendation.I really love that.

  8. Ridley Fitzgerald says

    Florida seems like a great place to go on vacation. The amusement parks are a given, but something like the Florida everglades would be something unique! Reading about all the cool wildlife you can see makes me want to go and check it out.

  9. I have a good experience of Florida Keys because I have been there couple of the times in my whole life to enjoy my holidays and always spent lovely time with my family and Friends. In my point of view it is a perfect destination to enjoy family vacations in Florida.

  10. Louise Hamilton says

    Awesome blog post, my family ended up staying in Destin! We rented a vacation rental from Exclusive 30A, which although was not the most budget friendly was an absolute blast. We also visited the Gulf Islands National Seashore and the National Naval Aviation Museum, both very much enjoyed by the kids.

  11. Harmony, Momma To Go says

    we are always in Orlando (great for kids obviously) or SWFL – the Naples/Marco area is great for kids = between Sanibel and Everglades which you mentioned. I gotta get back to the Keys and take my kids. I have not been down that way in so long. I want to do that Miami – Key West drive!

  12. Keri | Bon Voyage With Kids says

    This is a great post! Our favorite spot is Anna Maria Island. Florida is a great spot for such a versatile family vacation! There are so many options.

    • Colleen Lanin says

      Keri – Agreed! My family is considering heading back to Florida this summer and it’s overwhelming narrowing down where to go. Good problem to have! 🙂

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