There are so many cool things to do in Florida from beaches to theme parks to clear water springs. We spent 6 months exploring the state and found some really amazing things to do (that aren’t Duisney related at all). I can guarantee there is no shortness of activities in florida and we have put it all together in our Ultimate Florida Road Trip post!
We will start on the Florida Panhandle with the white sand beaches and crystal clear water of Pensacola. Here you will find the National Naval Aviation Museum (it’s FREE), the Blue Angels, Fort Pickens, and did I mention the white sand beaches?!
If you are wondering what to do in Florida our simple answer is find the beaches! There are so many of them and they really are the best in the country. Which leads us to our next stop (and favorite beach in the state).
Next stop is Destin, Florida. This is one of our favorite locations and we have returned over and over again. The beaches are the best that Florida has to offer. You get the white sand with the beautiful blue and turquoise water that is so clear you can see to the bottom.
What we love best about Destin is you can be on the beach and feel like you are on an island then turn around and go out to the main street and have every restaurant, store or attraction you would want.
We really enjoyed the Pirate Cruise and Dolphin Sunset Cruise and you can’t beat watching the sunset out over the ocean. Plus there are some great family friendly restaurants: LuLu’s and Surf Hut are some of our favorites.
Don’t confuse Destin, with San Destin! We’ve got the scoop on it, too.
From Destin you head down to Panama City Beach and let me put it this way: anytime you are on the Gulf of Mexico you want to hang out at the beach. So yes, Panama City Beach offers more amazing beaches and also great attractions for you and your family. Just don’t go during college spring break. . .
If you’re looking for a secret escape not too far from PCB, try Cape San Blas!
I am still kicking myself that after being in Florida for 6 months we never went to Crystal River to swim with the manatees. This is definitely on our bucket list to hit up next time we are there.
Manatees are these humongous, gentle, beautiful creatures and in Crystal River, Florida you are able to kayak through a river filled with them and also swim right in the water with them. We had the chance to see some up close in the Florida Keys and they truly are amazing creatures.
Ever see the movie Dolphin Tale? Do your kids want to meet Winter and Hope? You can do that at the Clearwater Aquarium. To be honest I was a little underwhelmed with the aquarium BUT they did have a free shuttle boat that took you to their Dolphin Tale museum. On the shuttle boat we saw Dolphins in the ocean and the movie museum was really well done.
Clearwater also has a beautiful beach and a fun beach city vibe to it. Be prepared for it to be busy and have a lot of traffic getting you out to the beach. If you visit in winter, don’t miss swimming with the manatees.
The beach at Siesta Key is amazing. It is huge and is filled with soft, sugar like, white sand. The water is also super clear and usually calm. They have a nice playground and concession area at the beach.
However the large beach means LOTS of walking to take all of your beach gear from the car to the waters edge. Seriously it is FAR. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go but be prepared that it will take a while to reach your destination.
Looking for somewhere that not many other people know about in Florida. Then check out Manasota Key. This would not be a vacation filled with attractions but would instead be all about hanging out at the beach.
There are a variety of condos you can rent on the beach but not many large hotels which means not many people. It is a beautiful beach and the surrounding area has some fun restaurants to check out (we like the White Elephant).
Moving on down the coast we come to Fort Myers. If you are still craving the beach head down to Fort Myers Beach. It is another great Gulf of Mexico beach and has a nice beach vibe city that offers restaurants, ice cream, and shops.
If you are looking to get away from the beach check out the Shell Factory. I am not exactly sure what to call it . . . it is a HUGE store but then also has a nature park. Yeah you have to stop to see it to understand what it is!
Looking for some fresh Orange Juice? Check out Sun Harvest Citrus where they have free samples of a variety of different flavored orange juices. They were yummy!
You can also see the Manatees if you are there during the right season (winter). There is a Manatee park where they like to come and hang out. You can see tons of Manatees in a very small area here. No swimming with them but you can observe them.
Our number one pick when visiting the Everglades is Shark Valley. I don’t know why it is named Shark Valley when it is filled with Alligators . . . maybe you can ask a park ranger when you are there. But in any case this is an amazing place to stop in the Everglades.
If you have bikes bring them and you can bike 7 miles into the Everglades on a trail that has alligators all along it. Yup they are RIGHT THERE. No fence, no barrier, just huge alligators lounging along the side of the trail. Crazy – yes – amazing – yes – a once in a lifetime experience!
We had bikes with us. You can also rent bikes but I would double check to see what they offer for kids. It is a 15 mile round trip bike ride so make sure you are ready for it. The half way point is a lookout you can climb up on to look out over the Everglades.
If biking isn’t your think then you can take the tram for the same 15 mile loop. But please note it drives kind of fast so you miss a lot of the alligators you will see when biking it. And I am pretty sure the tram fills up so you need to call to make reservations. They also have a small ranger station where you can stop in to ask questions and check out their displays.
Don’t do a Florida road trip without visiting the Florida Keys. Yes it is another 2 hours to get all the way down to Key West once you reach the Florida Keys but I promise it is worth it. You will drive over the beautiful 7 mile bridge and there are multiple stops you can make on the way to Key West at state parks, restaurants and attractions.
It isn’t all for partying and drinking. It is actually a really cool town with some fun museums and great water activities to do with your family. We highly recommend the Fury Ultimate Adventure!
Looking for fun in Florida with your family? Key West does not disappoint. There is so much to do from exploring old forts to getting out on the water to feeding sharks at the aquarium! And don’t forget to try the Key Lime Pie.
If you can swing it plan a day trip out to the Dry Tortugas. It is AMAZING! 70 miles off the coast of Key West is an island with an old fort on it and after a 2 hour bumpy boat ride (bring your dramamine) you reach the island and have a few hours to eat lunch and explore before heading back. Or if you want you can tent camp for a few nights here too – we totally want to do this next time we go!
Welcome to Miami! Miami is such a culturally rich city so we recommend making sure that you see that part of it. Make a stop down in little Havana to get a Cuban Coffee or some ice cream and listen to the Cuban music on the streets.
Then head to Wynwood Walls to take in the amazing graffiti artwork and hipster vibe. If you have time in the morning make sure to stop to get the best cinnamon rolls we have ever had at: Knaus Berry Farm. They do sell out so check their site for more information: http://www.knausberryfarm.com/
After leaving Miami head up to West Palm Beach to visit the Palm Beach Zoo (we were able to feed a sloth while we were there and they have a cool splash pad) and the science center. We were also able to take an Everglades Airboat Tour when we were here.
They have nice beaches but be aware you are on the Atlantic side so the water isn’t as clear and is usually pretty wavy. But lots of great shells to collect!
Now we head inland to visit Highland Hammock State Park. It is one of the oldest state parks in Florida and is beautiful. I am not normally a big fan of Central Florida but this place has started to change my mind.
The hiking trails are beautiful and the surrounding area is so peaceful. One of my all time favorite, yet a little scary, hikes is here: The Cypress Swamp Trail.
Bet you were wondering when we were going to hit one of the Florida attractions that the state is so well known for. Well here you go! Legoland is a great option since it isn’t as crazy as – parking your car, riding a tram, getting your tickets, then finally going in – as you know where.
Legoland is the perfect size and even better if you stay at their fun hotel – which has a scavenger hunt for kids in your room when you check in, a dance party elevator, and legos galore! I would recommend Legoland for ages 4 to 10 but have heard many teens say they really enjoy it.
Ok, Ok I couldn’t leave it out. Yes, Disney World is pretty cool but I hope you have seen from the other stops on our road trip that Florida has so much more to offer! But I totally agree if your kids haven’t been to Disney World you have to go at least once.
But don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do Magic Kingdom in one day because you can. Here are our tips on how we did it: www.crazyfamilyadventure.com/11-tips-for-visiting-magic-kingdom-in-a-day/
And I kind of think the rest of the parks can be skipped and you won’t be missing out on much.
If you are a Harry Potter fan go. Harry Potter World is pretty darn amazing and the butter beer is awesome! If your kids are younger it won’t be worth it. Younger meaning under 7 years old. If they are 7 or older make sure to check their height to see how many rides they can go on. Here is more about Volcano Bay, as well.
Our pick for top things to see in Florida is in the Orlando area but has nothing to do with the theme parks but instead is an amazing nature escape! Just 30 minutes from Orlando is Kelly Rock Springs where you can go inner tubing down the river.
It is amazing and the water is crystal clear. As you float down the river you feel like you are in a juggle with the lush trees around you. Yes it is a little scary at times but also really magical. Once you reach the bottom you can get out and play at the small beach area and just sit back relax and take in the beauty around you. Beats SeaWorld for the price!
Heading up the Atlantic coast we get to St. Augustine. To be honest I didn’t know what to expect and wasn’t that excited about visiting. Boy was I wrong. It was a really cool city and there were so many great things to do with kids!
We visited the Fountain of Youth and the fountain itself was underwhelming but the surrounding grounds were beautiful and they had a lot of great hands on activities for the kids. We also enjoyed visiting the fort and watching them fire a cannon!
Our favorite thing to do was visit the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. We figured we had been to a lot of zoo’s but hey it was worth checking out. We literally could have spent all day there exploring! We got to feed alligators, hold a baby alligator, see 100’s of alligators and watch some great shows.
We never made it to Jacksonville but will have to check it out next time we road trip through Florida. They have a variety of museums, a zoo, planation tours, and great food.
Plus they have the Jax Ale Trail which takes you on a tour of all the local craft breweries. And we can’t forget the beach and the state parks in the area!
If you are looking to hit a lot of the top attractions throughout Florida you may want to check out a Florida tourist pass like the Go Orlando Card.
As you can see there are a lot of awesome things to do in FL and in reality to do this whole trip we would recommend at least a few months. Then you have plenty of time to take in each of these amazing cities and stops. However if you only have a week or 2 then go through the list, pick your favorite places, and hit the road. We know you will have an amazing time!!
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After 18 years in software development, Lesli bailed on the corporate scene. When she’s not traveling, she’s hiking in the mountains or checking out Atlanta’s culinary scene, whiskey in hand.
Lesli has two kiddos -Cooper and Elliot- plus two bonus kids currently at UGA, and she’s happily married to her soul mate.