Looking for advice on the best places to visit in Florida with kids, or even without kids? You’re in the right place!
We’re the kind of family that loves outdoor adventure and cultural fun, which means our recommendations can suit almost any traveler.
In this post we’ll share tips on where to go in South Florida, The Florida Keys, Central Florida, the Panhandle and Northern Florida areas. The more we explore and visit Florida the more we love. So this post will continually be updated as we discover more.
Places to Visit in Florida with kids
You may wish to explore on an extended Florida road trip. It’s much longer state than you think, taking 12 hours to traverse its length.
Craig and I road tripped it during the summer on 2005. We recommend you do that outside of summer! The intensity of the heat, mosquitos and storms were a little too much!
Or, you may like to travel it like we do now, short road trips in and out to experience the many amazing Florida vacation spots. Stay connected, subscribe to our email community as we have loads to come now we live close in Raleigh, NC.
We’d love to hear your ideas on where to go to Florida too. Please leave a comment sharing your favorites and the cool things to do there for kids of all ages.
Places to Visit in the Panhandle & Northern Florida
But don’t discount inland either, we have found many hidden secrets and amazing adventures in the Natural North Florida area.
For a different Florida vacation experience, head inland and visit the charming historical town of Monticello in Natural North Florida.
Monticello is located 24-miles east of the state capitol, Tallahassee, was founded in 1827 and is the seat of Jefferson County.
Jefferson is known as the Keystone County for its unspoiled beauty and mild climate offering the ‘keys to quality living.’
We loved our few days exploring this region. We discovered a place full of adventure, unique and pristine beauty, historical and educational experiences, and a cute downtown community focused on supporting local businesses and a vibrant lifestyle.
We adored our encounters with the lemurs at the North Florida Wildlife Center and our airboat and kayak adventure down the pristine Wacissa River is one of our favorite experiences in the USA so far.
Read more tips on this beautiful Natural North Florida Region
- Airboat and Kayak the Wacissa River
- 18 awesome things to do in North Florida
- 14 Fantastic Things to do in Monticello, Fl
- 12 amazing things to do in Cedar Key, Florida
- Scalloping in Steinhatchee, Gulf Coast
St Andrews State Park | Shell Island, Panama City
Are you ready for one of my favorite beaches in the USA?
Brilliant white sand, emerald green waters and dolphins swimming close to shore, St Andrews State Park was our dream when Craig and I visited in 2005.
Located on the southern end of Panama City Beach, it’s away from the hustle and bustle of this panhandle city and the perfect place for families to spend a day.
You’ll see plenty of bird life, ocean life and perhaps butterflies. You can even camp here, which is on our Florida with kids bucket list.
The real highlight lies across the St. Andrew Bay Channel on Shell Island. It’s one of the largest undeveloped barrier islands in the Florida Panhandle (seven-miles long).
This is where Craig and I spent the day and fell in love! You can take the shuttle across to Shell Island like we did, or on my list to do when I return with the girls is to paddle over the channel to the island!
Note: This beach is such a Florida secret that I could not source ONE photo of it. Our photos are ancient print ones! I am hunting one down as you read this and will soon replace the beautiful generic Florida beach one above.
Gulf Islands National Sea Shore + Fort Pickens, Pensacola
One of the highlights of the Florida Panhandle is the 150 mile stretch of undeveloped, protected sugar sand coastline of the Gulf Islands National Seashore.
The seashore is not continuous, but spread out over one Florida island, parts of other islands and Mississippi. Around Pensacola it protects 5,842 acres of public land and 18,953 acres of water along 52 miles of Gulf and bay shoreline around Pensacola. Learn more here.
Fort Pickens is the star attraction of the Gulf Islands National Seashore on Pensacola Beach. The fort is strategically located at the tip of Santa Rosa Island, guarding the bay entrance into Pensacola.
You can walk among the ruins for a unique look into American history and the military significance of Pensacola dating back to the American Revolution.
Pensacola is the westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle, bordering the popular Orange Beach and Gulf Shores, Alabama.
For a unique USA cultural experience head to the Flora-Bama Beach bar on the border for a Bushwhacker cocktail.
Destin is known as a picture perfect Florida family vacation destination.
You’ll get access to stunning white sand beaches and that brilliant green water that gives this Emerald Coast panhandle region its name. Its super soft, snow white sand comes from the ultra fine quartz that originated in the Appalachian Mountains.
You can find any manner of water sports to suit your family’s interests: jet skis, banana boats, paddle boarding, cruises and snorkeling. Sunsets here are something special – like all Florida Gulf Coast beaches.
Anglers will be happy to know Destin is known as the world’s luckiest finishing village!
It’s also a place you can find world-class resorts, shopping, dining and brewery trails.
May – September are the best months to visit for beach lovers. Outside of that will bring cooler weather and less crowds.
We chose to skip Destin for our recent Florida winter vacation as we wanted warm weather. Martin County was the much better choice (see below).
Craig and I had a brief stay here on our Florida road trip, but it was super busy with construction. We much preferred the quieter St Andrews State Park and Grayton Beach State Park.
We do eventually want to bring back the girls to experience this family-friendly Florida destination.
St. Augustine, Florida
Welcome to St Augustine, the nation’s oldest city. It’s one of the best places to visit in Florida and to put on your East Coast road trip itinerary.
Craig and I visited years ago and fell in love with the brick-lined streets, the city’s European flavor, Spanish style centuries-old buildings, horse-drawn carriages and hidden courtyards.
We can’t wait to take the girls so they can feel the 450 years of history in the streets.
There is so much history to explore in St Augustine, a top place to visit in Florida with kids. Here are a few not to miss:
The Fountain Of Youth
We know evil Stepmothers around the world, will stop at nothing to get their hands on the elixir for youth.
You now know the easy way: drink from the magical waters in St Augustine.
The Fountain of Youth in St. Augustine is legendary, known as the place where Ponce De Leon discovered the healing waters that magically maintain your youthful appearance.
Drink from the magical spring’s waters, plus explore many exhibits and historical attractions at the 15-acre Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park.
And don’t miss visiting the Native Timucua Village of Seloy, where you can learn about how these Native Americans lived and hunted for over 3,000 years.
Fort Castillo De San Marcos
Not to be missed is the Castillo De San Marcos, this 17th Century fort is the oldest masonry fort in the continental U.S. and a National Monument. This Spanish stone fortress built to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World.
Regular daily programs and ranger-led tours are free with admission, as are cannon firings and weaponry demonstrations.
Put this on your list of places to see in Florida with kids!
Family history lovers: See this post for ideas on an East Revolutionary Road trip!
Old Trolley Tour
A great way to gain more insight into the history of St Augustine is with a kid-friendly Old Trolley Tour.
It’s a hop-on-hop-off experience taking you to 23 stops with access to over 100 points of interest. In a historical city like St Augustine, it’s worth it.
Florida Freshwater Springs
Its not just the Florida beaches to love in Florida with your family, but also the stunning freshwater springs you’ll find throughout the state. Florida has the largest collection of springs on earth – more than 700!
They are perfectly suited to the hot Florida climate and, with temperatures 72 degrees year round, it will be the refreshing dip you need on those humid days.
Most of the springs are located in the central and northern parts of the state and within the state or national parks. They are great for swimming, kayaking, tubing and even snorkeling with manatees and turtles.
Sadly, we did not get to experience many on our recent Florida road trip due to flooding and murky waters. We did get to swim in Madison Blue Springs State Park, which has been dubbed by USA Today, “the best swimming hole in the US” and one of the top north Florida attractions!
We also loved the ethereal beauty of Wakulla Springs, which has been the backdrop for films such as Tarzan and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. With its large grassy area by the beach with diving platform, it’s a wonderful place to spend the day with the kids enjoying picnic, swimming and relaxing.
Based upon our research, these are the Florida freshwater springs we have listed to visit on our next family Florida vacation.
- Ichetucknee Springs State Park – popular for tubing runs and kayaking.
- Manatee Springs – firs magnitude spring offering snorkeling, summing and up-close views of manatees.
- Fanning Springs – blue-green spring waters under ancient live oaks dripping with Spanish Moss.
- Crystal River – the only place you can legally swim with Manatees
Places to Visit in Central Florida
Although boundaries for Central Florida seem to be unclear, you can be sure the name pretty much tells you the location.
On Central East Florida, you have Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral, and on the West Tampa Bay and its nearby magnificent Gulf coast beaches. Hugely popular for kids is the Kennedy Space Center and a firsthand encounter with the NASA space program, insight into the life of an astronaut and how our lives have changed because of it. It’s on our list of top attractions in Florida for our next visit.
In the middle, you have Orlando, Kissimmee and the infamous theme parks of Universal and Walt Disney World Resort. This area also has a lot of lakes and springs you can enjoy! Always check with the locals before swimming due to the presence of alligators!
Clearwater Beach is one of our favorite beaches in Florida. It’s not too far from Tampa which makes it easy to get to and its only a short drive from Orlando, giving you that much needed serenity beach break after too much fun at the theme parks.
You can walk to plenty of restaurants and local shops. Sunset is a fun event here, not just for its beauty, but for the various street performers out near the pier.
One of our favorite things to do in Clearwater Beach was learning how to build sandcastles. It has the perfect sand castle building conditions.
So much so that each year, world-renown sand artists come here for the Sugar Sand Festival and its sand sculpture competition.
We stayed at and loved the Wyndham Grand Clearwater Beach. family friendly hotel. It was absolute beachfront, with a pool area as gorgeous as the beach. Great food, location and sunset views.
Orlando is a city that is buzzing with happy vacation spirit. We visited several times pre-kids for conferences and loved the party like vibe.
It’s a little different now with kids and we are yet to explore Orlando beyond the theme parks with them. Stay tuned as we have it penciled in for a possible trip this Summer/ Fall.
It’s probably high on your list for its access to the Florida theme parks. It’s also close to many other cool places to visit in Florida with kids.
Plan well. We rented a vacation villa near Disneyland for a week in Kissimmee and had a blast just staying at the villa. We also experienced a neighborhood Trick or Treat Halloween, which was awesome.
Universal Orlando Resort
We LOVE Universal Orlando Resort and have been with the kids a few times now.
Universal Orlando Resort consists of three parks:
- Universal Studios – a lot of shows, theme lands and some rides
- Universal’s Islands of Adventure – the best for thrill rides
- Universal’s Volcano Bay – amazing fun water park
And then there is The Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which is located in both Universal Studios (Diagon Alley) and Islands of Adventure (Hogsmeade).
I could spend all day in there alone drinking butter beer. We have all the tips below on how to plan your day, save time and money, and the best things to see and do!
- 18 tips for visiting Universal Orlando Resort
- 25 Tips for Volcano Bay Orlando water park
- Your guide to Family fun at Universal Studios Florida
- How to have fun at Universal’s Islands of Adventure
- How to spend one day at Universal Orlando Resort
Walt Disney World Resort
Stay tuned as we plan to visit Disney World in Florida with our kids soon. Craig and I visited in 2005 and enjoyed it.
But, it is a pretty intense experience and involves careful planning and time management.
Disney World has four separate parks so choose which ones best suit your families needs. I think Magic Kingdom is a given.
Our girls really want to visit Animal Kingdom, but since we backpacked Africa for 6 months in before kids, I’m not too sure I’m up for a zoo like experience. You can’t beat seeing rhino, crocodiles, zebras and lions in the wild.
I wasn’t too thrilled with Epcot when we visited. As I’ve been a global traveler for so long the world section didn’t excite me too much. But, it may be fun for you and your kids.
- Which Disney Resort is best for your family
- Best Epcot Restaurants (and what to avoid)
- What is the best ride at Disney
- DisneyWorld tips and tricks
- Disney Orlando – your essential guide
Located in Winter Haven, just a 45-minute drive from Orlando, Legoland Florida Resort is the largest Legoland theme park in the world, and it’s one of the most popular things to do in Central Florida.
If you’re familiar with the old Cypress Gardens theme park, Florida’s first theme park, that’s the location of Legoland.
The 150-acre property now offers a unique mix of more than 50 rides, shows and attractions. Plus restaurants, shops and a beautiful botanical garden (unfortunately this was closed during our visit due to damage from hurricane Irma).
The Legoland theme park is geared towards children ages 2 to 12, who obviously love lego! Our kids are aged 10 and six and most of the attractions and rides were suitable to their age, so that seems to be the sweet spot.
You can buy your Legoland Florida tickets online through Undercover Tourist and by doing so you can save money before arriving at the theme park.
Highland Hammock State Park
I want to return to cycle the 3.1 loop road and hike some of the many trails that lead off it.
Well, I should say walk. The longest trail in Highlands Hammock is only just over half a mile, and this area of Florida is pancake flat.
It’s an opportunity for you to get lost in nature for a while, surrounded by 1000-year-old oak trees and walking under shaded canopies past cypress, hardwood swamps, evergreen flatwoods, ferns, and other habitats.
We did fit in one trail with Ranger Laura – the park’s most famous, Cypress Swamp Trail. We also did an amazing 90 minute tram tour of park.
Put the beauty of Highland Hammock, Florida’s first state park, on your south central Florida road trip.
Listen: We recorded a podcast episode on our South Florida Road Trip.
Places to Visit in South Florida
We now head down to South Florida which includes Little Havana, the Everglades, and the Keys. You could spend months just in southern Florida with everything there is to do here.
Don’t miss these 8 wow experiences we had on our South Florida Road Trip.
Martin County and the Treasure Coast
Martin County on the Treasure Coast quickly became one of our favorite places in Florida on our South Florida road trip for its buzzing, happy atmosphere with plenty of outdoor attractions.
In Martin County, you’ll find sophistication and Old Florida charm as well as the all-embracing kick off your flip flops and slip on your Key West persona.
Nature is the center of attention in Martin County, with the St Lucie River and Intra-coastal Waterway and the 22 miles of undiscovered and untouched beaches on the Florida Atlantic Coast.
You can balance your nature activities with local art festivals, live music, and beautiful murals.
You’ll find incredible dining experiences from delicious breakfast smoothie bowls and outstanding coffee to local hole in the wall taco places and classier seafood restaurants with water views.
Read our post on the perfect winter vacation in Martin County. Here is our full review on our AMAZING houseboat rental. Check our IG feed for content on that while you wait! (Subscribe to our YouTube here.)
Stump Pass Beach State Park, Manasota Key
For a much quieter, lessor known Florida Gulf Beach, head to the 11 mile Barrier Island, Manasota Key. You’re likely to find your own private stretch of beach.
Here is where you’ll find one of Florida’s prettiest state parks, Stump Pass Beach State Park.
It consists of 245 acres of the Southern tip of Manasota Key and has access to pristine beaches on Lemon Bay and the Gulf Coast.
A 1.3-mile sandy nature trail takes you through the low-lying forest with pockets in the trees giving you glimpses of the wild Gulf Coast on one side and the calmer luminescent aqua waters on the other.
The trail ends at Stump Pass, the end of the island where the Gulf meets the bay. You will be wowed by the view.
As soon as we got to where the white sand met that beautiful water, two dolphins rose out of the water, right near the edge of the shore.
With its eclectic mix of cultures and personalities, Miami is one of the most unique and vibrant cities in the USA. It’s definitely a place in Florida to visit with the kids.
So many experiences in Florida are centered around coastal adventures, historical towns, and theme parks. Miami is the place for families to soak up some city culture.
Plus, it’s surrounded by pristine and protected areas of natural beauty, so you will never be bored and your Miami vacation will be balanced.
Miami Beach is one of the most beautiful city beaches I’ve ever seen. It’s hard for city beaches to keep a pristine status, but this beach does it!
Explore the Miami Neighborhoods
Miami is not just party central, South Beach – and probably not the best place for you to visit with kids. Make South Beach an early morning walk through.
It’s neighborhoods are worth exploring. We loved our 24 hours spent in Coconut Grove before our Western Caribbean cruise. It was a beautiful neighborhood with Spanish dripping live oaks, great food and a gentler pace.
Wynwood is famous for graffiti art on th walls of the old warehouse buildings, showcasing that Miami artistic flair.
Probably the most well-known Miami neighborhood to explore is Little Havana with its opportunities to dance to Cuban music, eat Cuban food, and play dominoes in Domino Park.
Related post: 3 hip and quirky Miami boutique hotels
Everglades National Park
High on everyone’s Florida bucket list is the Everglades National Park, home to numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther.
At 1.5 million-acre wetlands is the is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. It’s a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance.
It’s a must see Florida destination and can be easily accessed from Miami or if you are on a South Florida road trip heading down to the Keys.
Now that we’ve established why this is one of the best places to visit in Florida as a family, we will offer our most important piece of advice:
Do not visit Everglades National Park in the SUMMER!
Craig and I learned this harsh lesson and wondered why we almost had the entire park to ourselves when we arrived. Until we got out of the car and were swarmed by mosquitoes. BAD IDEA to camp!
Plus, it was so humid and uncomfortable. We still loved it but we recommend the cooler months!
Some highlights of the Everglades include:
- The popular Everglades airboat tour through the marshy grasslands and the mangrove waterways in the park. Although, we preferred the airboat tour in Sebring, and the Wacissa River.
- Biking the 15 mile loop paved The Shark Valley trail. An observation tower offers panoramic views of Everglades National Park.
- Hiking. There are plenty of hiking trails you can do with kids’ in Everglades National Park. The Ahinga Trail is an easy .8 mile-long boardwalk trail. Pineland Trail is a half-mile walk through Florida pine forest. Mahogany Hammock Trail is an Everglades boardwalk trail through dense jungle to the largest living mahogany tree in the United States.
You are likely to encounter alligators everywhere, and possibly sunning on the side of the road. Keep your wits about you and remember they are WILD and DANGEROUS.
Did you know there is only one another Everglades in the world? It’s in Noosa, Australia and we have kayaked through it! No alligators though. You can see more of our Noosa Everglade and Hinterland adventures here.
Places to Visit in the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a string of tropical islands stretching about 120 miles off the southern tip of the U.S. state of Florida, between the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico.
For many, it’s at the top of their list of places to visit in Florida, especially during the ideal warm temperatures of winter.
The islands are made up of five unique destinations: Key West, the Lower Keys, Marathon, Islamorada and Key Largo. So choose which ones suit your family more.
At the Florida Keys you’ll find days filled with relaxation on the beaches, or, if you’re up to it, many outdoor adventures like snorkeling, fishing and kayaking.
Here are a few ideas on things to do in the Florida Keys.
John Pennekamp State Park
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park was the first undersea park in the U.S. It’s biggest draw card for visitors are the coral reefs and marine lands. It’s known for its snorkeling and diving.
Craig and I went snorkeling years ago on a tour boat quite a way from shore. However, you can snorkel off the beach.
For those who don’t want to snorkel, glass bottom tour boats are available.
There are also mangrove swamps and tropical hammocks to explore. Kayaking through the mangroves is an activity the kids are sure to love.
Drive the Seven Mile Bridge
For many, a highlight of a visit to Florida Keys is driving the famous Seven Mile Bridge located at the west end of the City of Marathon.
It connects Knight’s Key (part of the city of Marathon, Florida) in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. It can feel a little unnerving driving over all that open water, but the views all round are stunning!
Just don’t crane your neck to far to look at the old Seven Mile Bridge beside it.
The first bridge was built under the direction of Henry Flagler and Clarence S. Coe as a part of the Florida East Coast Railway’s Key West Extension, also known as the Overseas Railroad. After it was destroyed by a hurricane, in 1935, the new bridge was constructed only for automobile access.
Today, the Old Seven Mile Bridge to Pigeon Key is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
People still like to walk or cycle along what remains of the old bridge, and fishing is popular.
In the middle of the Old Seven Mile Bridge is the historic, Pigeon Key. You can tour the island to learn more about the historic buildings that housed the workers who built the Seven Mile Bridge from 1908 to 1912.
The entire Overseas Highway carries US. Route 1 through the Florida Keys to Key West. Its a total of 113 miles of roadway and 42 overseas bridges that leap from key to key and is a Florida attraction unto itself. It’s an All American Road and one of the best scenic drives in America.
Florida Key Beaches
You’re in the tropics with endless islands at your fingertips, of course you want to hang out at the beach.
Because the Florida Keys are built on coral rock and are protected by offshore reefs, (ideal for snorkeling and diving) the shoreline is mostly rocky or mucky as the reef prevents sand from building up to create beaches.
There are a few notable beaches in the Florida Keys though:
- Sombrero Beach in Marathon has the white sand your dreaming of
- Bahia Honda State Park in Big Pine Key has three natural beaches to choose from
- Fort Zachary Taylor State Park and Beach in Key West is where the Gulf waters meet the Atlantic. IT’s a popular place for snorkeling.
Kick off your flip flops and let yourself hang lose. Key West has that party island vibe.
It’s the southernmost city of the Florida Keys. It is famous for Duval Street’s many bars, Mallory Square’s nightly Sunset Celebration, and the Ernest Hemingway Home and Museum.
I loved the upbeat, colorful vibe of Key West. It’s a fun place. Duval Street is probably not where you want to take the kids in the evening hours.
Craig and I haven’t visited Key West with kids yet, but we did a fantastic sunset catamaran tour that I’m sure they’ll love! Keep your eyes peeled for dolphins.
Dry Tortugas National Park
Looking for an undiscovered, lessor visited Florida attraction?
Then take yourself to the Dry Tortugas National Park, located 70-miles from Key West by boat or plane.
This 100-square mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. It’s dominated by the coastal Fort Jefferson, the largest brick building in the western hemisphere that was used as a prison during the Civil War.
You can tour the fort, enjoy the beaches and snorkel the crystal clear waters.
Only about 60,000 people visit each year, compared to 11 million at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the USA’s most popular.
Take this family experience up a level by camping near Fort Jefferson on Garden Key.
More National PArks in the USA
- 7 US national parks you may not have heard of
- 7 of the best national parks in the United States
- Channel Islands National Park – a California day trip
- All USA national park content
Planning a Trip to Florida
Popular Tours and Attractions in Florida
Get Your Guide offers a wide variety of tours and attractions.
.Do you have any tips on where to go in Florida? What other fun things to do in Florida with family can you suggest? Share in the comments