Top 10 Family Attractions
When planning a family vacation, it’s important to choose a getaway that offers something for everyone - and the variety of attractions offered in Florida means that wherever you go, there will be something to keep the whole family happy. From beaches to theme parks and zoos to museums, we’ve put together our top 10 family attraction choices; just in case you need some help with your vacation planning!
1. Daytona Beach
One of the greatest family attractions of Florida is its array of beaches, offering incredible variety at each sandy location. Perhaps the best beach to which you should bring the family is one of the most iconic American beaches: Daytona Beach. Gracing 23 miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline, the beach’s soft sands are so inviting for a day of sandcastle-building, laying out, or even just taking a stroll. Not only is the beach itself fantastic, but it’s the attractions both on and near to the beach that make it so family-friendly, providing the kind of variety that keeps everyone satisfied. Vendors on the beach are ready to provide everything from the basics like snacks and sunscreen to the more thrilling options like JetSki rentals, snorkeling gear, and more! Near to the beach you’ll find a theme park, waterpark, bandshell with performances through the summer, and plenty of shopping and restaurants.
2. Fun Spot America - Kissimmee
Everyone can get their kicks at Fun Spot America, a family-friendly theme park with several locations throughout the U.S. - and we’ve chosen its Kissimmee location because of this area’s reputation as a family vacation destination. Combining theme park thrills with classic midway games and satisfying eateries, there is something for everyone at this park. Ride the only wooden roller coaster in Florida that goes upside-down, scream in suspense as what goes up must come down on the Screamer, swing into the sky on the Hot Seat, or take it easy with scenic views from the carousel or while playing games at the midway or arcade. There are also kiddie rides for smaller tikes, and lots of places to stop for snacks. Perhaps one of the best perks of this park? It offers all of the thrills and excitement of bigger theme parks at a fraction of the cost, so you can keep coming back for more fun!
3. Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
Animal lovers of all ages will enjoy a day at the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, where you can experience wildlife from around the world through interactive exhibits and demonstrations. The zoo features more than 2,000 rare and exotic animals, award-winning exhibits like Land of the Tiger, and over 1,000 species of plants. Experience the only walking safari in Northeast Florida, two-time national award-winning South American exhibit Range of the Jaguar, the magic of Monsoon Asia, the fun of feeding the rays at Stingray Bay, and so much more. Hop aboard the Zoo Train which takes you all around the park, or take the little ones on the beautiful carousel. In the warm summer months, take advantage of the Play Park and Splash Pad, where kids can monkey around and cool off. Take advantage of the park’s special experiences like behind-the-scenes tours, become a zookeeper for the day, spread your wings at Butterfly Hollow, or listen to Keeper Talks. The zoo is also host to events throughout the year, so be sure to check their calendar to see what kind of fun things are going on!
4. Bush Gardens Tampa Bay
Masterfully blending the animal experiences of a zoo with the heart-pounding thrills of a theme park, Bush Gardens Tampa Bay is a completely unique family attraction. Each section of the park is themed for a different region of the world and the animals found there, featuring animal exhibits that educate and provide up-close connection with the animals and rides that correlate to the animals. For instance, you can learn all about the stealth and speed of cheetahs as you watch them dart around their exhibit, and then hop aboard Cheetah Hunt, which is built with the same cheetah speed and even soars above the cheetahs themselves! The park’s newest ride, Tigris, is Florida’s tallest launch coaster takes you along 1,800 feet of steel track at more than 60 miles per hour to mimic the awe-inspiring agility of the world’s largest and most powerful cat: the tiger. In addition to exhibits and rides, there are many live performances that run throughout the day, from animal demonstrations to musicals, dances, ice shows, and more! Throughout the park are fantastic shops and delightful eateries.
5. Weeki Wachee Springs State Park
Where better to see live mermaids perform underwater entertainment than Florida? There are several magical aspects of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, the first of which is the beautiful springs that bubble up from the earth to create crystal-clear pools perfect for swimming and kayaking. The second is the mermaids, who perform in the spring’s theater located 20 feet below the surface as you watch through glass walls in the 400-seat auditorium. These mermaids (ok, we admit, they are actually very talented humans) will perform feats like eating and drinking underwater, as well as a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. But don’t get too entranced by these mer-ladies, because the 538-acre park has so much to offer! Don’t miss the chance to River Boat Cruise, which is a great and relaxing way to tour the park and learn all about the plants and animals that call it home. In the summer, you and the kids can enjoy the spring-fed Buccaneer Bay waterpark!
6. The Florida Aquarium
Considering the abundant marine life found in Florida, it is no wonder that one of the best places to take the family is to the Florida Aquarium - particularly since it is a top USA TODAY-ranked aquarium in North America; a TripAdvisor top 10 Aquarium in the country; and Parents Magazine top 5 "Kid-Friendly" aquarium! Located in downtown Tampa, The Florida Aquarium is specifically designed to take you on a journey that begins with a freshwater spring and continues to the open waters of the Florida Keys. Along the way you will see simulated wetlands, shallow bays and beaches, and a coral reef ecosystem encompassed in half a million gallons of natural seawater. Children and adults alike will delight in the curious critters that you meet along the way, from otters and lemurs to sea stars, sea dragons, and sharks! Visit the 4-D theater that combines 3-D films with a variety of sensory effects built into the seats and theater environment to bring to life bubbles, snow, scent, FX lighting, water mist, seat vibration and wind. During these warm months, you’ll also want to visit the Splash Pad outside, an outdoor water play zone with wet and dry elements, a zero-depth water area with dumping buckets, spray zones, and more.
7. Museum of Discovery and Science
Located in the heart of downtown Fort Lauderdale’s Arts and Science District, the Museum of Discovery and Science is an incredible experience for your family. The museum features 120,000 square feet packed with dynamic science exhibits, both permanent and rotating. Kids ages six and under will enjoy hands-on learning in the Discovery Center; older children can board the 20-person airboat ride simulator for an amazing journey into the Everglades; the bi-level Florida Ecoscapes exhibit allows students to discover one of the world’s most unique ecosystems; Prehistoric Florida explores ancient species that lived millions of years ago; and there’s so many more exhibits to delight the whole family! Head outdoors to the museum’s Science Park, which expands the museum’s hands-on learning with multiple, content-rich opportunities in which visitors can experiment with basic principles of the physical world and come to intuitive understandings about how they work.
8. Everglades National Park
Pull on your walking shoes and set off an epic adventure when you visit one of the nation’s largest national parks: the Everglades. Spanning over 1.5 million acres, and contains rare species of wildlife as well as one of the most important ecosystems in the world. Even if you aren’t a particularly “outdoorsy” family, the park is an incredible life experience, and offers several different touring options for those less hiking-inclined. You can take a two-hour tram ride through Shark Valley for a more leisurely way to see the park, or even rent some bikes to take down the Shark Valley Trail. One of the most popular ways to tour the Everglades is with an airboat ride! Imagine zipping across the swamplands at high-speed, slowing down here and there as your guide points out an alligator, egret, or intriguing flora and fauna. For those who want to delve further into the park experience, there are fantastic hiking trails that range in difficulty and length, depending on the legs of your youngest hikers. Kayaking and canoeing are also great ways to experience the park. Visit nearby Everglades City for some authentic South Florida cuisine at local restaurants. nps.gov/ever
9. LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Embark on a multi-day adventure with a trip to LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, just a short drive from Orlando. Spanning 150 acres, the interactive theme park features over 50 rides, shows and attractions, a world-famous botanical garden, plus the five acre LEGOLAND Water Park. In 2017, the park added LEGO NINJAGO World, an all-new theme park land where kids learn to become the ninja with a variety of hands-on attractions before the ultimate showdown on LEGO NINJAGO The Ride. In addition to the theme park, LEGOLAND offers two hotels: LEGOLAND Florida Hotel, which is just steps from the entrance of the park and sports interactive areas, LEGO sculptures, and more; and the LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, which offers a village-style layout of brightly colored, beach-themed bungalows just a half hour from the park. They are also partnered with several other resorts in the area, all offering great deals on park admission!
10. The Ringling
Once the sprawling estate of John and Mable Ringling, of circus fame, The Ringling is now a multi-faceted family attraction that sits beside the waters of Sarasota Bay. Featuring several museums, a playground, cafes and restaurant, along with immaculate grounds and gardens, this is a great place for the family to spend the day. Adults and older children will appreciate the art museum, which houses a massive collection of rare works of art inside a castle-like building surrounding an open air sculpture garden, and showcases traveling exhibits in addition to its permanent works. Children will especially love the circus museum, which tells the story of circus life with incredible exhibits including a stunning 44,000-piece Howard Bros. Circus Model, real artifacts from circus times past, and hands-on areas that let kids try a tightrope walk, balance on a trick horse, a mini cannon to shoot off, and a Tony clown car to climb into. You can even get a behind-the-scenes look at how the Ringlings traveled when you view their actual railroad car! Summer is the best time to visit Mable’s rose garden, when the fragrant flowers are in full bloom.
Whether your family loves bumming around on the beach or getting your adrenaline rush on a roller coaster, there’s fun for the whole family in Florida!