As home to some of the most famous theme parks in the country, Orlando is synonymous with family vacations in Florida. But if you are looking for something a bit different, there’s so much more to see and do.
Florida is a big state, filled with noteworthy destinations that kids, parents and grandparents can enjoy together. From beaches and waterside fun to cultural attractions and other amusements, you may be surprised at just how easily your itinerary will fill up.
When it’s safe to start traveling again, discover Florida beyond Orlando at one of these family-friendly cities or islands.
Lighthouse Point Park is a natural retreat that boasts beaches and great views of the bright-red lighthouse. Smyrna Dunes Park has a 2-mile boardwalk and is wheelchair-accessible and dog-friendly, making it a relaxing spot for everyone in the family.
Find a wave pool, tubing river, laser tag, go-karts, mini golf and more at Daytona Lagoon amusement park. And for slightly older kids, there are plenty of thrills at Screamer’s Park. The Marine Science Center in Ponce Inlet is a child-friendly aquatic museum featuring a live reef aquarium and stingray touch pool. Before you leave Daytona Beach, racing fans should visit the renowned Daytona International Speedway.
You’ll find gorgeous white sand and plenty of opportunities for family fun at Destin beaches. There’s the dune walkovers, picnic tables and pavilion of James Lee Park; 40-acre Wayside Park on Okaloosa Island; and the quiet, clean beaches and outdoor showers of John C. Beasley Park.
Big Kahuna’s water and adventure park offers a wide array of family-friendly activities, including a wave pool, lazy river, 40 water play areas, miniature golf and go-karts. Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone in Okaloosa Island is an indoor, dinosaur-themed adventure park featuring an indoor arcade, laser tag and 4-D movie theater. The Emerald Coast Science Center is a hands-on discovery center with a robotics exhibit, hurricane simulator, chemisry lab and more.
The gentle surf of Sombrero Beach in Marathon Key is ideal for families with little ones. One of Key West’s longest stretches of beach, active families will love Smathers Beach, thanks to the available water sports rentals, picnic areas and volleyball nets.
The Keys are home to nearly five miles of living-coral barrier reef, setting the scene for unforgettable underwater memories for the whole family. A prime spot for snorkeling is John Pennekamp State Park in Key Largo, where the remains of an early Spanish shipwreck sits about 100 feet off the beach. But the clear waters and rocky bottom of Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and Beach, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Atlantic Ocean, make it the best snorkeling beach in Key West.
Fort Lauderdale’s version of Central Park, Hugh Taylor Birch State Park is a family-friendly destination thanks to staffed lifeguard towers located every 200 to 400 yards. There’s family fun galore at Hollywood Beach and its walkable, 2.5-mile Oceanfront Boardwalk. The 138-acre Topeekeegee Yugnee Park is home to nature trails, playgrounds and Castaway Island Water Park.
Treat your family to natural beauty during your Florida vacation. The largest butterfly preserve in the world, Butterfly World is home to tropical gardens, waterfalls and 20,000 butterflies. Or, enjoy guided star-watching through powerful telescopes at the Buehler Planetarium.
Make your next Florida vacation something the kiddos will never forget by treating them to surfing lessons. Jax Surf & Paddle in Neptune Beach provides extended and half-day surf camps while the all-female staff at Saltwater Cowgirls in Jacksonville Beach offers girls-only surf camps and private lessons for all ages.
Arts and Culture
The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) features an “Art Explorium” on its fifth floor, with 16 interactive art stations for children. The Seawalk Pavilion in Jacksonville Beach hosts free concerts, light shows and moonlight movies. Downtown Jacksonville comes alive for Art Walk on the first Wednesday of every month.
Regularly named one of the top 10 beaches in the U.S., Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park is also home to historic lighthouses and two outdoor restaurants. Sabrina’s Adaptive Beach promises fun for people of all ages and abilities with an accessible beach, inclusive playground and ADA-accessible dune crossing.
The historic, spring-fed 1923 Venetian Pool located in Coral Gables is a public pool that’s truly worth a visit; the zero-depth entry play pool at Flamingo Park is great for families with babies and toddlers; and Grapeland Water Park’s water slides, lazy river and splash pools will thrill older kids.
The fine, white sands of Perdido Key’s Rosamond Johnson Beach make it feel like a getaway, and the picnic areas are perfect for the family to gather. Head to the 160-mile, federally protected Gulf Islands National Seashore and you’ll find both the beautiful Pensacola Beach and the “lost island,” Perdido Key.
Beyond the beach, you’ll find the Pensacola Beach Boardwalk, lined with cafes and shops. There’s a little bit of everything at Sam’s Fun City, a waterpark with over 20 rides and games for kids, including bumper boats, laser tag, water slides and more. Fast Eddies Fun Center features go-karts, batting cages and mini golf, along with a fun water balloon game.
Named a top family beach by Parents magazine, Fort De Soto Park is beloved for its calm waters, fun playgrounds, historic fort and nature trails. You’ll find a plethora of watersports, including kiteboarding, parasailing, stand-up paddle boarding and windsurfing at St. Pete Beach. Its southernmost tip, Pass-a-Grille Beach, is also worth a visit, being the county’s longest stretch of undeveloped public beach.
From the roller coasters of Busch Gardens, to the waterslides, wave pool and lazy river of Adventure Island, Tampa’s theme parks are chock-full of fun for the whole family. Find go-karts, arcades, batting cages, mini-golf and more at Grand Prix Tampa.
What family-friendly Florida destination would you like to visit? Tell us in the comments.