Canadian families continue to flock to the Sunshine State to make vacation memories that will last a lifetime. With world-class theme parks, pristine beaches, an array of kid-friendly attractions and stunning parks and trails to explore the great outdoors, Florida is the ultimate family playground vacation destination. There is so much to see and experience in the Sunshine State; family fun is everywhere.
Here is just a sampling:
PENSACOLA: Along Pensacola Beach, families can embark on a racing trimaran with Condor Sailing Adventures while hanging their feet off the boat, watching for dolphins and enjoying the sunset views. Laguna’s Adventure Park located along the shoreline is great for active families and competitive kiddos, offering zipping go-karts, miniature golf, a dizzying three-story ropes courses, unique clip n’ climb structures and a newly added 389-foot-long zip line that takes guests 40 feet off the ground and delivers views of the beautiful Pensacola Bay.
PASCO COUNTY: Florida’s Sports Coast also known as Pasco County is home to some truly unique and unforgettable family experiences. Families can spend hours at Epperson Lagoon – a massive seven-acre man-made lagoon filled with stunning crystal-clear turquoise water and lined with bright white sand. Sitting atop the Florida Sport’s Coast waters is Lift Adventure Park, designed with adrenaline-seeking families in mind. This aqua park includes a full-size cable system for high-speed wakeboarding, a jungle ropes course suspended above the bay water, kayaking, paddle boarding and massive slides for adventurous families to enjoy.
DESTIN-FORT WALTON BEACH: Families looking for the ultimate, fun-filled getaway should look no further than Destin-Fort Walton Beach. Signature sugar-white sand beaches, vibrant emerald-green waters, and warm weather set the scene for an unforgettable escape with endless activities for all to enjoy. Families can enjoy educational and adventurous experiences, from exploring marine wildlife at the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park to stargazing and camping at Henderson Beach State Park. Along with 32 km of coastline, plus protected bays and bayous, the best way to explore Destin-Fort Walton Beach is on, and in some cases, under the water. The destination’s expansive ocean areas and beaches make water-based adventures welcoming and possible for every family member. Think kayaking over the stunning crystal-clear water, endless shelling, surf lessons, and perhaps a family-friendly dolphin tour on the Southern Star Dolphin Cruises.
OCALA/MARION COUNTY: Home of the famous Ocala National Forest and other popular parks, Ocala in Central Florida invites visitors to explore more than 600 lakes, rivers and springs. Silver Springs State Park is one of Florida’s first tourist attractions and for good reason! The park, which is home to many Hollywood movies, is perfect for families. The park offers kayak and canoe rentals, as well as rides on their world-famous Glass-Bottom Boats, where families can enjoy gazing into the clear waters to catch a glimpse of fish, turtles, manatees and more. Known as the “Horse Capital of the World®,” Ocala boasts local horse farms offering horseback tours or carriage rides, so you can get up close with these beautiful animals to make any child’s fairy tale dream come true.
LAKE CITY: A wildlife haven, Lake City, has been known as the “Springs Capital of the United States” for decades and is a fabulous destination for families with kids of all ages. The area’s enchantingly diverse ecosystem makes it a natural theme park for outdoor adventure and spring hopping, with over 350 miles of rivers, 1,500 miles of trails, aquatic caves, nine state parks, waterfalls and 300 documented natural springs.
The crown jewel of Lake City, Florida’s Spring lands ichetucknee Springs State Park, where eight major crystal-clear springs join to create the six-mile Ichetucknee River, a wholesome playground for swimming, tubing, paddling, scuba diving, birdwatching, picnicking or relaxing on the river.
CENTRAL FLORIDA: Situated in the heart of Central Florida, the dramatic, 260-acre landscape of Safari Wilderness sets the scene for an unforgettable family adventure. Located halfway between Tampa and Orlando, this family-owned, working ranch offers an up-close encounter with herds of roaming exotic animals — and now, guests can stay a little longer. Safari Wilderness recently launched an accommodation option with ten beautifully appointed safari tents. Throughout the property, located within the Green Swamp, the second-largest wilderness area in Florida (after The Everglades), guests can enjoy close-up encounters with wildlife, local waterfowl and upland birds. In addition, overnight guests have the exclusive opportunity to experience organized sundowner safaris, bird watching safaris, and mountain bike excursions.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY: Named Florida’s Most Relaxing Place, Santa Rosa County has everything you need to have a fantastic family vacation filled with fun and sun. Set along the sparkling emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Navarre Beach and neighboring communities offer the ideal combination of exciting adventures for children and opportunities for adults to unwind.
The Gulf Breeze Zoo is the perfect adventure for families to take the traditional zoo experience to the next level by feeding giraffes by hand. Families can also get up close with budgie birds or farm animals or hop on the Safari Express Train Ride for a closer look at the exotic animals, such as the gorillas and Nile hippos who call this 500-acre reserve home.
Fishing is great family fun, and Santa Rosa County has some of the best in Florida especially when it’s from Florida’s longest fishing pier. Leave the sea behind and explore the unique natural environment found among the pine trees and sandbars of the Blackwater River. The 600-acre Blackwater River State Park offers kayaking, tubing and swimming in the gentle current of the river that gives the park its name.
MARTIN COUNTY: Tucked away along South Florida’s enchanting Atlantic Coast exists an idyllic slice of paradise called Martin County. A true hidden gem of the Treasure Coast, with more than 35 km of uncrowded beaches and over 100,000 sprawling acres of parks and conservation lands. A magnet for multigenerational getaways, this is a place for unwinding and reconnecting.
Tired of entertaining the kids yourself? No problem! The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast offers a variety of spaced-out attractions and events for the kiddos! The kids can do it all from being a Publix manager, mechanic, firefighter, veterinarian, or doctor for the day. Not only can your kids spend the afternoon learning and exploring the museum, but they can also participate in the museum’s ever-changing calendar of events. For example, the museum hosts special Sensory Friendly Days for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. These days, the museum limits the number of guests and modifies its lights, sounds, and other aspects to create a safe and inclusive environment. As a result, it’s one of the most popular spots for curious little ones (and big kids, too!).
To learn more about all the kid-friendly adventures waiting to be discovered in Martin County, check out the Kids By Kids video series.
CRYSTAL RIVER: Meet gentle manatees, tackle some incredible fishing, explore lakes and rivers, hike through unspoiled forests, go scalloping, or explore our parks and attractions. Crystal River, Homosassa, Inverness, and Floral City, families will leave with great memories and a desire to return soon. Whether walking the boardwalk at Three Sisters Springs, dining along King’s Bay or during a Manatee Tour, encounter Crystal River and Homosassa’s most notable locals, the manatee. Families can book a tour to swim alongside manatees in their natural environment or a kayak tour where they can spot their noses when they come up for air. It’s an unforgettable experience best enjoyed with loved ones in the Manatee Capital of the World.
ST. PETE/CLEARWATER: St. Pete/Clearwater’s record-breaking 361 days of sunshine per year greet families with the perfect place to make long-lasting vacation memories. Fun in the sun is guaranteed at St. Pete/Clearwater!
Curious kids can come face to face with St. Pete/Clearwater’s aquatic ecosystem on Get Up and Go Kayaking’s tour of Shell Key Preserve. This crystal-clear kayaking adventure takes guests through the mangroves to see a wide variety of fish, including snook and sheep fish, and many diverse birds nestling in the trees. Paddle by the bird sanctuary where guests commonly see Great Blue Herons, Pink Roseate Spoonbills, and Anhingas swimming alongside the kayak!
Kids will be fascinated by rescued marine life at Clearwater Marine Aquarium, former home to beloved late dolphin Winter from the “Dolphin Tale” movies. In January 2022, guests will be able to pay respects to Winter through a virtual reality experience compiled from 360-degree footage and 2D photographs taken during her life at the aquarium. Be sure to stop by Winter’s memorial and exhibit to learn more about her rescue, prosthetic tail, and personality. And, kids will delight in visiting rescued dolphin Hope, star of “Dolphin Tale 2,” and her friends PJ and Nicholas.