British & Irish families continue to flock to the Sunshine State to make holiday 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 holiday destination. Here is just a sampling of some lesser-known destinations that are geared up for family fun:
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.
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 organised 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 holiday filled with fun and sun. Set along the sparkling emerald waters of the Gulf of Mexico, Navarre Beach and neighbouring communities offer the ideal combination of exciting adventures for children and opportunities for adults to unwind.
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 children. The kids can do it all from being a store 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. On 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!).
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.
The Sunshine State offers visitors an assortment of unparalleled culinary options. To learn more and plan your next trip, visit www.VISITFLORIDA.com.
About VISIT FLORIDA
VISIT FLORIDA is the Sunshine State’s official tourism marketing corporation and travel planning resource for visitors across the globe. As Florida’s No. 1 industry, tourism was responsible for welcoming over 137.6 million visitors in 2022, the highest number of visitors in the state’s history. VISIT FLORIDA promotes tourism through sales, advertising, promotions, public relations and visitor services programs, and serves more than 13,000 travel industry partners throughout the state. To learn more about VISIT FLORIDA, follow @FloridaTourism on Facebook and Twitter, or go to visitflorida.org. For inspiration in the Sunshine State follow @VISITFLORIDA on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram or visit www.visitflorida.com. For media resources, visit www.visitfloridamedia.com.