From accommodation ideas to experiences, Florida beckons visitors of all ages this spring break
By the time spring break hits, everyone needs a healthy dose of sunshine, and Florida provides just that. For families and students of all ages taking a break from their studies, a getaway to the Sunshine State is an idea worthy of an A+.
Starting in the Florida Panhandle and heading to The Keys, here are some of the happenings in Florida’s most desired spring break destinations for families.
Along Pensacola Beach, families can embark on a racing trimaran with Condor Sailing Adventures, while hanging their feet off the boat, watching for dolphins, enjoying the sunset views or flying on the bows. In late April, the Flora-Bama Lounge will host the annual Interstate Mullet Toss & Greatest Beach Party. Open to all ages, participants in the Mullet Toss will throw a dead mullet over the state line of Florida and Alabama to see who gets the farthest. Families can also dine at Laguna’s Beach Bar + Grill or Red Fish Blue Fish for some of the best local flavors.
Keep kids thinking with a little historical walk down America's First Settlement Trail, a new, free three-mile marked path that traverses Historic Downtown Pensacola. Along the trail are 20 stops and more than 70 sites from as early as 1756, when the Spanish built Fort San Miguel in what is now downtown Pensacola.
DESTIN FORT WALTON BEACH
Destin-Fort Walton Beach serves as the perfect playground for the ultimate spring break getaway with tons to explore for everyone in the family. From charter fishing and Gulf-to-table cuisine, to family-friendly accommodations and natural historical sites, the destination inspires all to get outside, learn something new and find adventure in “The World’s Luckiest Fishing Village.”
There are now 50 domestic non-stop flights to the destination, and as of last year, Delta introduced a new direct flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport. Stay in style at The Island Resort in Fort-Walton Beach, where guests staying in the pool deck rooms can relax with their own private pool deck with direct swim-up access. Additionally, Hilton Homewood Suites features spacious suites with full kitchens and separate living areas, complimentary evening socials, outdoor grills and recreational areas ideal for families. Dining is easy for families at spots like Dewey Destin’s Seafood, a long-standing favorite, and Lulu’s, which allows families to check in online to join the waitlist for this kid-friendly restaurant.
Watersport enthusiasts can rent a pair of jet skis or captain their own pontoon boat with Island Watersports Company. Little Adventures offers bite-sized adventure packages, which provide endless outdoor activities for families to enjoy, such as watersports, dolphin pod excursions, surf lessons, fishing from The Island Pier and much more.
With a bit of luck, families can head down to St. Augustine this spring. The St. Augustine Celtic Music & Heritage Festival is held in America’s Oldest Celtic City with cultural events to be held March 11-12. Top international and U.S. Celtic bands, Highland Games, workshops, lectures, Celtic food, artisan crafts and a St. Patrick Day parade will be featured, plus a special whiskey tasting event on Friday, March 10. The Celtic Music & Heritage Festival and activities will be held at Francis Field, 29 W. Castillo Dr. in historic downtown St. Augustine.
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, including those in Rainbow Springs, Silver Springs, Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs and Paradise Springs. Dubbed, “Horse Capital of the World®,” Ocala boasts local horse farms offering horseback tours or carriage rides. Equestrian season runs from January to March, so early spring is the perfect time to watch a horse show like the HITS Ocala Tournament, Winter Spectacular Show Series IX and Ocala March Dressage.
Ocala is also home to spring festivals, including Strawberry Festival, Santos Fat Tire Festival, Rainbow Springs Art Festival and Springs Fest. With so many events, families need to squeeze in some time for adventure on a zip line at the Canyons Zip Line & Adventure Park. Built around a reclaimed quarry, parents and kids who meet the criteria can soar on nine different zip lines, cross two rope bridges and conquer a rappel on a canopy tour.
Florida’s Sports Coast – aka Pasco County – is home to Epperson Lagoon – a massive seven-acre man-made lagoon filled with stunning crystal clear turquoise water and lined with bright white sand. There’s also Lift Adventure Park, designed with adrenaline-seeking families in mind. Sitting atop the Florida Sport’s Coast waters, the aqua park sports a full-size cable system for high-speed wakeboarding. The sizable park also includes a jungle ropes course suspended above the bay water, kayaking, paddle boarding and massive slides. Adventurous families will want to visit TreeHoppers Aerial Adventure Park for an aerial park experience, especially the Cosmic Night Climb, where nine courses light up.
In Kissimmee, there’s no shortage of things to do for spring break, but it also offers top notch places to stay. Kissimmee is the “Vacation Home Capital of the World,” with vacation homes that let the whole family congregate together without trying to squeeze into a hotel room. Just beyond the front door, Central Florida’s world-famous theme parks and unbelievable natural beauty await. Kissimmee boasts chic shopping centers to golf courses for parents, while kids can feel engaged at educational attractions like SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, WonderWorks and the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex.
St. Lucie on Florida’s east coast, halfway between Miami and Orlando, offers pristine beaches with more public beach access points per square mile than any other coastal community in the state. With exception of the Florida State Park beaches, all beaches in St. Lucie are free admission and free parking and many are equipped with amenities such as bathrooms, pavilions, dune walkovers and more. St. Lucie also has the nation’s only all-inclusive resort, Sandpiper Bay Resort. Featuring multiple dining outlets, a rejuvenating spa, infinity pools and a kids' camp, it’s a solid choice for a spring escape. And as one of the only places to ride horses on the beaches, a slow-paced ride down Fort Pierce’s natural, isolated sandy shoreline is the kind of memory families want to create.
Kids can get excited about Treasure Coast Kids Quest, an interactive and educational passport program where participating locations provide a stamp after the children have completed their activity at each stop. Once all the passport stamps are collected, a goodie bag will be provided at the Fort Pierce City Marina gift shop. There’s also the Nature & Wildlife Digital Pass, which invites visitors to explore nine locations to digitally “check-in” and enjoy the nature-based adventure and education at each spot. Passholders receive prizes as they complete the pass and passholders who complete the trail by March 27, 2023, will be entered to win the Ultimate Eco-Giveaway – a custom hammock, two vouchers for a local wildlife boat tour, two vouchers for a guided kayak tour through the mangroves, and a one-night stay at local accommodations.
On Florida’s Gulf Coast, families can spend hours playing in the sand at Holmes Beach, get up close to bottlenose dolphins taking a ride with the Anna Maria Island Dolphin Tours, or take in a show during the evening at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
St. Pete/Clearwater offers white sand beaches and crystal blue waters, perfect for the family member that wants to lay in the Florida sun for the week. The Salvador Dalí Museum provides some culture and is home to the largest collection of Dalí’s work outside of Spain.
And for accommodations, families need look no further than the TradeWinds Island Resorts – the Island Grand and RumFish Beach Resort – which has added 141 guest rooms to its portfolio, along with a new zip line on the beach and a new Mexican restaurant concept at the Island Grand. Known for its many unique, family-friendly activities, TradeWinds has also added the new Zing Ray Zip, making them the first-ever St. Pete Beach resort with a three-story, dual-line zipline on the beach.
This spring, Florida’s fizziest festival, the annual Sebring Soda Festival, takes over in April. Families can also check out the Sebring Area Geotour, a free geocaching scavenger hunt that will guide you and your family throughout the greater Sebring area to find treasures and learn about this special area of Florida.
Highlands Hammock State Park offers nine trails, an elevated boardwalk and a tram. Families might be lucky enough to spot a Florida alligator, deer or black bear among all of the other wildlife in the park. For indoor experiences, visit the Children’s Museum of the Highlands to allow kids to learn about Sebring through arts and crafts, science and games.
Families won’t want to skip Sebring Soda and Ice Cream Works. Home to more than 300 craft and vintage sodas and an array of more than 20 ice cream flavors, this soda shop is great for adults and children looking to reach for an old classic soda or try something completely new, such as cucumber, peach cobbler or chocolate soda.
Known for its many offerings of beaches, Sarasota County is the place where families can hunt for shark teeth in the Shark Tooth capital of the U.S. in Venice, play on the white sand of one of America’s top-ranked beaches of Siesta Beach or simply relax on Longboat Key Beach. Serious students can keep their education going at Suncoast Science Center, where the Faulhaber FAB LAB offers hands-on activities for kids. The Ringling Museum of Art and Circus Museum offers several programs for families and kids, including ROAR! Storytime that connects art and literacy, family art making and stroller tours. Myakka State Park offers a Junior Ranger program, and teaches kids about the park by completing six CORE activities to earn their Junior Ranger badge.
For pure adventure, Tree-Umph! Adventure Park has courses for all skill levels, from easy to adventurous. Baseball fans can see professionals playing during MLB Spring Training in March, with the Atlanta Braves based at CoolToday Park in North Port and the Baltimore Orioles based at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
PUNTA GORDA/ENGLEWOOD BEACH
Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach is the place for outdoor fun, with Babcock Ranch Eco-Tours inviting families to see alligators, wild hogs and turkeys, as well as the historic Cracker Cattle. Get outside and collect seashells or take a discovery walk through nature at Englewood Beach and Stump Pass Beach State Park, where manatees, gopher tortoises, snowy egrets, least terns and magnificent frigate birds call home. Outfitters near Englewood Beach offer activities such as jet ski, kayak, stand up paddle boarding, boat and parasailing packages for the whole family.
Tire little ones out on Punta Gorda’s Harbor Walk along the beautiful Charlotte Harbor shoreline. The Harbor Walk is a fantastic location to take advantage of the Free Bike Loaner Program that is unique to Punta Gorda. Bike stations include Fishermen’s Village, Laishley Marina, Bayfront Punta Gorda’s Wellness Center, Sheraton Four Points and SpringHill Suites.
THE PALM BEACHES
For the ultimate spring break getaway in the Palm Beaches, parents and kids alike can unwind at the newly renovated Forbes Five-Star Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa. The new Kids & Teens Club is outfitted with environments specialized for games, crafting and culinary activities with a beach resort feel, an arcade and direct access to the new Family Pool splash pad, conveniently located next to the new ice cream shop, Melt. Parents can take advantage of treatments at Eau Spa or experience the new Savor spa terrace. They can dine on a new prix-fixe seasonal menu at Angle or browse the Champagne Bar menu at Stir Bar & Terrace. They can also book breakfast, lunch and dinner and a new brunch at the Italian restaurant Polpo Palm Beach, or an intimate Omakase experience at a new sushi concept, Bōken.
Animal fans will want to explore the many wildlife attractions in the Palm Beaches. Busch Wildlife Sanctuary, for example, doubles as protection of Florida’s wildlife and natural resources while being a popular attraction where visitors may see Florida Panthers, bobcats and black bears, among other native wildlife. There is also Lion Country Safari, Florida’s largest drive-through safari, which displays 900 animals roaming in wide-open habitats within inches of your car! Rhinos, giraffes, zebras and more can be spotted through the four-mile drive safari space and other attractions at Lion Country Safari include an adventure park and a water park. Palm Beach Zoo & Conservation Society invites guests to go wild with koalas, tigers, macaws and more. Journey with the entire family to meet over 500 animals at this West Palm Beach attraction.
Loggerhead Marine Life Center promotes the conservation of the ocean’s ecosystems with a special focus on sea turtles. This center educates the public through engaging programming and rehabilitates sea turtles for release back into the wild. The perk here (besides the many sea turtles and friendly staff) is that this center is located just steps away from some of the most densely nested loggerhead sea turtle beaches in the world. There’s also the Snorkel Trail at Phil Foster Park, where blue waters are home to a variety of marine life including sea turtles, tropical fish, sailfish, goliath groupers and dolphins. Manatee sightings are frequent in the winter and springtime, while sea turtles are common year-round. For the best snorkeling conditions, time your visit with high tide.
Families coming to Fort Lauderdale will want to know about the best lodging options that await them. B Ocean Resort, a modern oceanfront resort located directly on the pristine sands of Fort Lauderdale Beach, is one of the only destinations in the country to offer live underwater mermaid performances. With the Winter Escape deal, B Hotels & Resorts invites travelers to seek refuge from dropping temperatures and embrace a springtime escape.
And there’s news to note! Following stops in New York City, Houston, San Antonio, Chicago and Denver, PIXAR PUTT, the ultimate pop-up, open-air mini-golf experience, will be arriving in Fort Lauderdale at The LOOP (Las Olas Oceanside Park). Made up of 18 fun, interactive, Instagramable holes inspired by the stories, characters and icons from some of Disney and Pixar's most beloved films, including Toy Story, The Incredibles, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Coco, A Bug's Life, Wall-E and Inside Out, PIXAR PUTT is set to take guests to infinity…and beyond!
The beachfront town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, on the southeast coast of Florida, offers beautiful white sand beaches, low-rise hotels (literally on the sand!), shopping and many dining options. Families should take note that many hotels offer free bikes, and bike rentals are available along with free “around town” Pelican Hopper bus. Take a stroll to the picturesque Intracoastal Waterway to discover marine sculptures, locally owned shops and eateries, as well as ice cream shops and bakeries. The Town Walking Map is a handy guide for your family’s visit to our small seaside town.
Recognized as “Florida’s Beach Diving Capital,” Lauderdale-By-The-Sea teems with marine life less than 100 yards off the white sand beaches. The whole family can enjoy snorkeling, diving, kayaking and paddle boarding right off the beaches’ shorelines. Lauderdale-By-The-Sea is also a designated “Blue Wave Beach,” a distinction given to clean and environmentally responsible beach communities.
In Miami, JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa invites families to spend spring break enjoying sprawling views, comfortable rooms and more during a relaxing stay in Aventura. With the Discover JW Miami Turnberry package, guests can enjoy entrance to Tidal Cove, an award-winning waterpark with seven water slides, a 4,000-square-foot kids pool and the first-ever FlowRider® Triple surf simulation pool in the nation.
There's also Acqualina Resort’s newly enhanced AcquaMarine Kid’s Club, which provides educational adventures for the resort’s youngest guests and is complimentary when booking accommodations at the luxury resort. The AcquaMarine program presents young guests with fun, educational activities and adventures like beach yoga, seashell-themed arts and crafts, a marine life puppet show, reading about Miami’s marine life and a cultural immersion in the form of a fun Spanish lesson.
Keep things a bit educational in Miami by visiting the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, located in downtown Miami. The science museum sparks wonder and investigation across four acres that house the Frost Planetarium, Aquarium and the North and West Wings. Families can geek out over exhibitions about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in an experiential setting with interactive exhibitions and unique shows all year-round.
Foodie families in Miami can also enjoy the Deering Seafood Festival scheduled for Sunday, March 26, 2023, at the Deering Estate. Fresh seafood, chef demos, live entertainment and activities for the kids await.
Islamorada Resort Collection, comprised of four premier resorts located in Islamorada, a village in the Florida Keys, offers the perfect escape to enjoy sunshine and sparkling blue waters for the spring break season: Amara Cay Resort, Pelican Cove Resort & Marina, Postcard Inn Beach Resort & Marina, and La Siesta Resort & Villas. Each oceanfront resort provides a combination of suites, villas, cottages and multiple pools to satisfy families of all sizes. Visitors can choose from four private beaches to relax on or embark on boating, fishing, snorkeling and diving excursions. New to the collection this spring is the Islamorada Spearfishing Adventures at Amara Cay, which invites families to embark on an excursion with a local captain to find Florida Keys’ spiny lobster, participate in inshore and offshore fishing or enjoy an underwater hunt. There’s also Banana Bay Resort & Marina, which provides easy access to nearby activities that the Keys are known for, such as the Dolphin Research Center and the largest turtle hospital in the country.
For details on other family fun to book this spring, check out 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 122 million visitors in 2021, an increase of 54 percent from 2020. 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.