I moved to Florida when I was four years old and didn’t move away until I was 21. Once I had children of my own I realized why my parents chose Florida to raise me and just like my parents I moved my family from New York City to South Florida. Florida is one of the best states for family vacations due to its great weather year round. Below are the best family vacation spots in Florida to enjoy the next time you visit the Sunshine State.
While we live in Florida and did these trips separately if you have extended time in the state you can do a Florida road trip. We’ve done three RV trips and absolutely loved them. You can read what it’s like vacationing in an RV here.
The Best Family Vacation Spots in Florida
Fort Myers & Sanibel Island in West Florida
Even though I grew up in South Florida, only two hours away from Fort Myers and Sanibel Island the first time I visited was with my own kids. We spent 5 days in Fort Myers and Sanibel staying at the Pink Shell Resort which is right on the beach. On the beach we were able to parasail, jet ski, and paddle board on the calm waters. You’ll most likely encounter plenty of sea life, especially dolphins which we saw a ton of.
If you love nature there is plenty of that at Lover’s Key State Park. We were able to go canoeing but there is much more to do there. From canoeing to hiking to shelling to fishing there is a lot to do in the park. It’s also very family friendly with playgrounds and shaded picnic areas.
Sanibel is quaint and the perfect place to rent a bike and explore that way. It along with Fort Myers also has some pretty nice restaurants with fresh seafood and amazing desserts. The Bubble Room is a must to satisfy your sweet tooth. Read all the things to do in Fort Myers and Sanibel with kids here.
Panama City Beach in the Panhandle/North Florida
Sitting in the panhandle Panama City Beach, FL is closer to Atlanta and New Orleans than it is to South Florida. It’s a great beach destination with white sand and a turquoise ocean that is reminiscent of the Caribbean. A beach town with a great boardwalk it’s clear why it’s one of the best family vacation spots in Florida.
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From the adventurous and interactive Pirate Cruise to the Shipwreck Water Park to learning how to make a professional sand castle the fun was nonstop. My daughter says it’s one of her favorite vacations we’ve been on and keeps asking to go back. You can read our full Panama City Beach with Kids article here.
Tampa in West Florida
With Orlando just 45 minutes away from Tampa it can be easy to overlook but you shouldn’t. Tampa has its own amusement park, Busch Gardens and water park Adventure Island which are significantly cheaper than Orlando’s theme parks. Just because the prices are lower doesn’t mean there isn’t as much fun, Busch Gardens has some of the most thrilling roller coasters and also has a Sesame Street Safari of Fun section just for the smallest patrons.
Tampa is also home to one of the best zoo’s we’ve ever been to and yes I’ve been to San Diego Zoo. I loved that there is so much more than just looking at animals at this zoo with an entire area dedicated for kids. Our favorite for the tiger mini roller coaster! As Tampa is on the West Coast of Florida you’ll also be close to white sand beaches like Clearwater.
Not only is Tampa tons of fun it’s one of the most affordable family vacation spots in Florida. We saved so much money using the Tampa Bay CityPass which covered mostly all of the activities we did in the city. For our full itinerary that also includes hotel and restaurant recommendations click here.
Key West in South Florida
Growing up my family went to Key West all the time. Even though it’s in Florida being 3 hours south of Miami and just 90 miles from Cuba it feels like another world. Historically Key West has been seen as an adult only destination and while Duval Street can get a little crazy after hours during the day it’s just fine.
In June 2019 we finally took our own kids to Key West after living in Florida for 3.5 years. They loved it, especially going snorkeling for the first time in crystal clear warm water. Another family favorite activity was our visit to the Butterfly Conservatory where we got to see the process of how butterflies come to be and then walk through an area with free roaming butterflies.
Since the whole family has a sweet tooth creating our own Key Lime Pie walking tour was one of the highlights of the trip. We had so much fun having our own little taste and not just of different Key Lime Pies. The restaurants in Key West are amazing and we enjoyed tasting various food stands conch fritters as well. You can read more about our trip to Key West with kids here.
Miami in South Florida
We live in Miami and while most people think of it as a party destination there are so many families that live here. Our motto is if kids live there, kids can visit. So whether you visit Miami on the front or back end of a cruise (hopefully you’re visiting CocoCay) or visit on a standalone trip know there is plenty to do with kids.
One of our favorite family activities is strawberry picking which you’re able to do in the winter months in Miami. We love going to Knaus Berry Farm especially so we can enjoy all their fresh made treats before or after (milkshakes, cinnamon rolls and more).
Your family can also take an airboat ride to see all the alligators we have in the Everglades, visit the waterpark at the JW Marriott and even visit an old “castle” at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. Plus Miami is close to neighboring cities like Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach which also have things to do with kids. Of course there are also tons of beaches and water activities for your family to enjoy
Orlando in Central Florida
When most people think of the best family vacation spots in Florida Orlando is always at the top of the list. That’s all thanks to Walt Disney and his great marketing skills. While our kids have been making trips to Disney since before they were two Orlando has a lot more to offer than Mickey Mouse. From chocolate making classes to comedy magic dinner shows to learning about astronauts there’s so many things to do in Orlando besides theme parks.
Our favorite resort there, Holiday Inn Club Vacations At Orange Lake Resort, makes it so you might not even want to leave to see what Orlando has to offer. On site there is mini golf, rock climbing, water slides and arcade and more. Read our full review here, we’ve stayed here at least six times. However, when traveling with our extended family, 14 people to be exact, we chose to rent a 6 bedroom house through Vacasa, read more here.
We still haven’t been able to take our own kids to St. Augustine but not only did I grow up going there with my own family, I also took my husband while we were in college. We’re hoping it will be our next family vacation spot in Florida. Based on our previous trips we’re looking forward to taking our kids to the Fountain of Youth Park, on a ghost tour, to pirate school, and cooling down at Hyppo popsicles.
There’s a reason so many families flock to Florida during school breaks. I hope this article on the best family vacation spots in Florida gives you an idea of all the cities you can visit in addition to Orlando. If you found this article helpful, please share it!