Florida does two things better than just about any place in America: beaches and theme parks. If your kids enjoy wildlife too, so much the better. A Florida family trip can easily achieve legendary status -- your only real trouble is deciding what to do. The Sunshine State offers so much for kids and families that planning can be tough.
While Orlando often grabs
the spotlight with its big-name theme parks, families looking for a broader
range of experience should head to Florida’s Gulf Coast, where you will find
fewer crowds, some of the US’s best beaches and abundant wildlife. And fear not
rollercoaster-lovers, there are theme parks too.
The prototypical Florida family beach is usually fronted by or near very crowded
commercial centres with lots of water sports and activities, tourist shops,
grocery stores and midrange eats and sleeps. The beaches listed below are
popular destinations with all ages.
Naples: the upscale
downtown bustles each evening
- Bowditch Point:
located at the northern end of Fort Myers Beach, close to urban amenities (and
restrooms), but with plenty of wild beauty
- Sanibel Island:
bike, kayak and seashell the days away on undeveloped beaches near great
- Siesta Key: powdery
white sand, plenty of activities and lively village scene at night
- St Petersburg:
the activity-filled social epicentre of Tampa Bay area
- Panama City:
crazy seaside amusements and a carnival-like atmosphere
- Destin and Fort
Walton – For quieter getaways amid unforgettable beauty.
mix of unspoiled strands and a low-key tourist centre
Zoos, museums and other attractions
Up-close animal encounters have long been a Florida tourist staple, and the
state has some of the best zoos and aquariums in the country. Florida’s native
wildlife is truly stunning, and it is easy to see. Gulf Coast cities also have
a high number of top-quality, hands-on children’s museums.
Getting into nature
Florida is exceedingly flat, so rivers and trails are often ideal for short
legs and little arms. Raised boardwalks through alligator-filled swamps make
perfect pint-size adventures. Placid rivers and intercoastal bays are
custom-made for first-time paddlers, adult or child. Book a sealife cruise, a
manatee swim or a nesting-sea-turtle watch.
National Park: bike or take a tram tour along Shark Valley’s paved road or
the short boardwalk trails around the Royal Palm Visitor Center. Visit
Everglades City and Flamingo centres for family-friendly kayaking.
- Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary: west
of Naples, this is maybe the most diverse and rewarding swampy boardwalk trail
County Manatee Park: an easy way to see wintering manatees in in Fort Myers
- Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve:
another ideal, shady boardwalk trail often packed with wildlife in Fort Myers
River State Park: there are tram tours and short hikes to see birds and
alligators; do not miss the Canopy Trail. You can also take airboat tours or go
kayaking among hundreds of alligators.
Wachee Springs: watch the mermaid show, then canoe the crystal-clear
St George Island
State Park: seabirds and loggerhead turtle nesting near Apalachicola
The article 'Florida with kids' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.