The 10 Best Family Vacation Spots in Florida
When I was a kid, I was all about those Florida family vacations, so it seemed like a natural conclusion that eventually I’d have to write about the best family vacation spots in Florida.
Growing up, I was incredibly lucky, as I had a family who went on trips together to all sorts of places. Looking back on it now, it’s amazes me to think about how clearly our trips were planned to make sure my brother and I got the most out of it . I’m actually almost positive that my parents were so selfless that their vacation was just watching my brother and I in a state of sheer enjoyment. I can only hope I’ll get that place as well!
For us, Walt Disney World was the crowd favourite and, believe it or not, my first trip to Disney World was as a baby, so technically my first Florida family vacation was before I could even form memories. Impressive, right? Talk about having authority to write a post!
Now, as you’ll know if you follow along with me on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter, I’m a married man who is closer to having kids than being a kid, and that’s really where this post comes into play. I have all of these precious memories from my times as a kid in Florida, and I want to help others figure out some fun places in Florida to relish as a family unit.
Not to get philosophical, but more and more lately, I’m conscious of time down to the minute, and I’ve come to understand that, despite my realization about how finite time is, I’ve never regretted a moment I’ve spent with my family and good friends. For me, I can’t imagine a scenario where I’ll look back and wished I’d spent less time with those I love, so that’s a sincere focus for me.
Personally, I know Bri and I want to focus on bringing travel into our family at an early age, and Florida is the perfect family holiday idea for a first trip. That being said, I went to Walt Disney World when I was 13, and it was still incredibly magical. For that matter, I’m sure I’d be just as enamoured today.
Though, as far as the best family vacation spots in Florida are concerned, there’s a lot more than just Disney World at play, and the following list should prove that to you in spades.
Here Are 10 Florida Family Vacation Spots Worth Checking Out!
Florida’s warmth and sun are enough of a draw for almost anybody to vacation there, but the state has effectively positioned themselves family fun tourist beacon. In particular, they’ve done a brilliant job of becoming the place that everyone thinks of first in America when they’re coming up with family holiday ideas. In truth, it has a lot to do with the amount of world class amusement and theme parks that are strewn across the state.
However, in the following list, I will also be covering some of the natural phenomena in Florida because kids can certainly appreciate a beach, especially if it’s on the tail end of a trip to Disney World where they’re totally exhausted. I’ll also include some sights that are more geared towards history lovers, as well as some places for families who are science enthusiasts to the core.
All that to say, my goal is for the list of Florida family vacation ideas to inspire your next trip, and for the list to be eclectic enough that all families can see themselves enjoying at least some aspects of the list.
Also, if you’re thinking about accommodation, I’ll give my feelings on that after this list, so be sure to stay tuned to the end. In general, exploring Florida is great, especially if you’ve doing a Florida road trip.
Walt Disney World - (Orlando, Florida)
Let’s not pretend that I wasn’t going to put Walt Disney World at the top of the list, despite the list not even being ranked or chronological order. This place will be magical to me for as long as I live which means, in all likelihood, it’ll be magical for your family as well.
As a kid, I was such a huge fan of Tigger, largely because I finally had a cartoon character that reflected my “bounce off the walls” sort of attitude. I can still remember the first time I met Tigger and I got his autograph and the overwhelming happiness that I felt. At the same time, I can remember going on Space Mountain as well on another visit and how much I appreciated that experience, so there’s really something for everyone, regardless of age here.
Between the dining experiences, meeting the characters, and the innumerable attractions for kids of all ages, you’ve got to consider Walt Disney World when taking a family trip to Florida.
If you can’t make it to Florida, don’t forget about Disney Cruise Lines as well!
The Kennedy Space Center - (Merritt Island, Florida)
If I learned anything from my years of teaching it’s that each child is incredibly unique and, ultimately, one child’s Kennedy Space Center could be another kid’s Walt Disney World, and vice versa. For families that are truly passionate about space and science, it’d be hard to imagine a better place to visit in America, let alone the planet.
Many people spend several days exploring the Kennedy Space Center, but, if you plan carefully, you can knock out the highlights in just one very full day. If you’ve only got one day, make sure you arrive at 9am, which is when it opens everyday. Closing times can vary though, so be sure to check so you can get the most out of one of the top attractions in Florida.
What’s neat about the Kennedy Space Center is that this complex really is made with the family in mind, despite the inherent complexity of the content they’re dealing with. There are many opportunities for kids to engage with exhibits, including a lot of live action gaming in relation to real NASA missions. They actually just launched an exhibit called “Cosmic Quest,” which is incredibly kid-friendly. This emphasis, to me, solidifies the Kennedy Space Center’s place in the conversation of one of Florida’s top attractions, period.
In short, this could easily be the top family vacation spot in Florida for some families, and possibly quite a few families.
Clearwater Beach - (Clearwater, Florida)
When a place is named something as lovely as “Clearwater Beach,” there are really only two scenarios.
One, it’s a fairly dreadful place that is trying to lure people in with their name (that didn’t work too well for “Greenland,” did it?) Or, conversely, it’s a lovely place that is trying to accurately reflect what they have.
You’ll be relieved to know that it’s very much the latter. Clearwater Beach is a beach lover’s beach. What makes it good for families is the fact that there’s a lot to do in the area. There are plenty of beautiful hotels, family friendly restaurants, and no shortage of activities that range from paddle-boarding to more extreme activities like parasailing and jet-skiing.
You can also cycle and rollerblade up and down the boardwalk, and every night at sunset the whole area is transformed into a place for performers and unique vendors.
All that makes Clearwater Beach one of the best family vacation spots in Florida.
Universal Studios - (Orlando, Florida)
As a kid, I always knew this place simply as Universal Studios, which is why I’ve written it that way, but all the research I’ve done suggests that they’ve rebranded as “Universal Orlando Resort.”
The big draw here when thinking about Florida family vacations is really, at least in my opinion, what they’ve been able to create around the Harry Potter franchise. Forget about kids for a second, I’d love to take a ride on the Hogwarts Express or check out Diagon Alley! I’m personally also a massive Dr. Seuss fan, so I think it’d be a special experience to check out some of the super family friendly rides around those stories that I hold so dear.
In terms of Florida tourist attractions, it doesn’t get a whole lot bigger than Universal Studios. Honestly, just writing about this has me hankering to go back!
You want to make sure you do this spot, and learning about some tips for Universal Studios definitely helps.
Naval Aviation Museum - (Pensacola, Florida)
Whether this is one of the Florida family vacation spots that makes sense for your family depends a lot on your family. If you’ve got a military history, or you’ve got a child who is fascinated with naval aviation, military, or machinery then this is really going to be a dream come true. If not, you may want to stick with some of the other suggestions here that are more centred around fun and so forth. As I mentioned before, I want to ensure this post reflects some variety because, frankly, not every family wants to spend the day at the theme park.
The other thing, of course, is that this isn’t just any museum - this is the largest naval aviation museum in the entire world, so you’re really going to see it all. If you move quickly, you can probably see a lot of the National Naval Aviation Museum in a half-day, but you’ll be wise to plan for the day, then see how it all unfolds. Kids love the 4D Blue Angels Experience and the flight simulators, but a main draw is the chance to see Blue Angels Practices . I mean, honestly, how could not be impressed with that regardless of age?
LEGOLAND Florida Resort - (Winter Haven, Florida)
In 2011, the LEGOLAND Florida Resort opened, and the landscape of Florida vacations for kids was forever changed. There’s no doubt that Lego’s intention was to compete with the big boys in terms of Florida tourist attractions, and from what I can gather, they’ve done quite a good job. I suppose your enjoyment is going to be somewhat predicated on how much Lego you’ve played with, right?
The whole complex is enormous as it encompasses some 145 acres, which makes it the second largest LEGOLAND on the planet (after the UK location). This location has a theme park, water park, gardens, and on-site accommodation for convenience. The one thing to note here is, unlike some other vacation spots on the list, I do really feel like LEGOLAND Florida Resort is geared towards younger children. If you’ve got a very young child, this might be the perfect fit because you can be sure they’ll be able to ride on more of the rides than perhaps some other theme parks in Florida. On their site they list the range as 2-12, which is a touch lower than some other Florida theme parks I’ve included on this list.
Overall, It’s one of the spots that people think of when they’re thinking of fun places to go in Florida, and a lot of that has to do with the creativity and originality that you can find around almost every corner.
Everglades National Park
Now, I know a picture of alligators doesn’t necessarily scream, “best family vacation spot in Florida,” but hear me out.
I would actually argue it’s even more important to introduce children to places like this so that they develop a respect for nature and the wilderness. They also need to understand that alligators aren’t just villains in childhood cartoons - they’re incredible animals that deserve our respect. Not to be morbid, but in a lot of ways the world’s fate from an environmental standpoint is in the next generation’s hands, and that’s largely because we blundered that responsibility so badly. So, at the very least, let’s educate them!
In terms of location, Everglades National Park is located in the southern portion of the state, about an hour south of Miami. This is the largest piece of tropical wilderness in all the United States, and the largest wilderness area anywhere east of the Mississippi. The ecosystem down here, to put it bluntly, is fragile and needs to be protected, so visit with care. That being said, Everglades National Park does a good job of helping you ensure you’re visiting responsibly.
There’s plenty that you can do there including spotting wildlife, climbing to the top of observation tours (some as high as 65 feet), going on boat and kayak tours, biking, hiking and so much more. The Everglades National Park website is helpful in planning out a visit for families.
Personally, as far as Florida family vacations are concerned, I do think that something like this, which really reflects the nature and environment of the province and isn’t just built up from nothing, is rather important. Disney World rocks, there’s no doubt, but it’s not nature, you know?
Anyway, for me, it’s on the list of the 10 best family vacation spots in Florida!
WonderWorks Orlando - (Orlando, Florida)
This “upside down pavilion” gives a bit of an idea of what WonderWorks Orlando is all about. The focus here is on learning and education, and WonderWorks likes to cheekily call this style of florida family fun “edu-tainment.”
They’ve got over one hundred hands-on exhibits that are all about teaching kids, but also, in a way, not even really letting them know they’re learning because it’s all so engaging. In general, WonderWorks Orlando broaches topics like the environment, light and sound, space, imagination, art, and even some physical challenges as well.
As with LEGOLAND, it’s more or less explicitly geared towards kids, and I think that means you’ve got to add it to the list of family things to do in Orlando. This style of amusement park serves an important function in serving kids who find a thrill in education as opposed to fast-paced rides, so I appreciate that it exists as one of the foremost Florida tourist attractions for families.
The Dry Tortugas - (Monroe County, Florida)
The Dry Tortugas are a small group of islands off the very south coast of Florida (essentially at the end of the Florida Keys). What this area is known for, geographically, is how abruptly these islands seem to sprout from the water. These islands are continually changing, and some are as big as 65 acres, while others can barely keep their heads above the water. Some have disappeared entirely.
A popular visit is to Garden Key, which has Fort Jefferson (pictured above) on it, as well as a picturesque inactive lighthouse. In general, it’s worth noting that between Loggerhead Key, Bush Key and Garden Key, that makes up a majority of the landmass, and thus what people are visiting.
This is one of those fun places to go in Florida for families that appreciate a mixture of history and nature. Most visitors come by catamaran, seaplane, or just plain old ferry from Key West. If the name “Dry Tortugas” sounds familiar, it’s because you might recognize is from the novel Treasure Island, where Billy Bones mentions during many of his lofty tales.
The Dry Tortugas are a Florida family vacation spot that’s really something different, and, as such, I wanted to ensure I got this on the list!
The Florida Aquarium - (Tampa, Florida)
What I personally appreciate about the Florida Aquarium is the fact that they’re a not-for-profit, and they’re all about conservation and education. Kids in the area can even take part in summer camps and other educational opportunities, which I can only hope will train our next generation of marine biologists!
The Florida Aquarium itself is one of the best family vacation spots in Florida because it’s large (over 250,000 square feet), and they’ve got over seven thousand aquatic plants and animals from Florida, and also around the world. The whole premise of the aquarium is centred around following a drop of water from a fresh water spring in Florida all the way out into the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico, so you can see their clear focus on education, specifically for Floridians.
As a former teacher myself (and lifelong educator), I wanted to include this on the list because of the Florida Aquarium’s commitment to education. I also wanted to include it because of my own personal feelings about the importance of understanding what’s happening to our planet, and how, ultimately, we might be able to fix things before its too late. Learning to love animals, be it sea animals or otherwise, is a great way to develop empathy for species not named human.
At the very least, It’s a place to consider when you’re in the midst of planning your Florida family vacations!
Where Should You Stay During Your Florida Family Vacations?
Accommodation is all about preference, really, and that also changes with age. As a kid, I relished the opportunity to stay in places like the Disney Vacation Club, whereas, just last year, I was in love with the idea of staying in an Art Deco style hotel in Miami.
In creating a list like this, it occurred to me that Florida, especially considering the sheer volume of Florida tourist attractions, is a place that you might want to keep coming back to.
This leads me to my recommended accommodation option: timeshares in Florida. Not only are these resorts offered by top brands like Disney, Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton, but they also provide so much more space than your standard hotel room.
Most timeshares in Florida include equipped kitchens, fully furnished living rooms, separate bedrooms, and multiple bathrooms, making them perfect for families of any size. In fact, I’ve had plenty of family, friends, and friends of the family who have their own Florida timeshare and love their annual trips for those very reasons, tons of space and extra amenities. I’ve also found that you can find discounted timeshares by going through private owners online, making these accommodations not only luxurious but affordable too.
Putting together this article, in this strange way, kind of has me excited to think about about the future for my wife and I. What sorts of things would I want to include from the list? (hint: the answer is all). What place would I find the most enjoyment? Most importantly, what would my future family want to see?
There’s no catch all answer, so my hope is that you use this list to plan a trip to Florida that suits your needs. Feel free to link up with my on social media (@travelingmitch on almost all platforms) and let me know how it went, andhanks for tuning in. Wherever you are, I hope the sun is shining a little brighter than it is in Toronto right now. Florida, as it turns out, is sounding rather lovely right now!