It’s no secret that Florida is a favorite destination for families (hello, Disney). But did you know there are tons of places to visit that aren’t Mickey related at all? From aquariums, scenic boardwalks, museums, and even the circus, there’s plenty to see and do all around the Sunshine State. Best of all? You don’t have to be a tourist to enjoy them. Locals can add these to their weekend fun, too. Road trip, anyone? Check out these 15 must-see attractions for yourself!
The Florida Aquarium
Considered one of the top aquariums in the country, The Florida Aquarium offers visitors the chance to actually swim with some of their favorite animals, even sharks! Plus, they teamed up with the Center for Autism & Related Disabilities to develop programs specifically for guests with autism, including having a limited number of sensory backpacks on hand for those with sensory sensitivities.
South Florida Science Center
The science center has been around since 1961, but recently underwent extensive renovations, bringing visitors a new childhood education room, hands-on exhibits, an upgraded planetarium, and even an 18-hole mini golf course! There’s so much more to see in their 5,000 square foot Hall of Discovery - don’t miss it.
Location: West Palm Beach
JW Marriott Miami Turnberry Resort & Spa
Located in Aventura, this modern and stylish hotel features tropical grounds, luxurious accommodations, and even a water park on site especially for the kids. Fine dining, poolside cabanas, championship golf courses, and more round out the amenities. You’ll be hard-pressed to leave the hotel to explore the South Florida area!
Clearwater Beach Sunset Celebrations at Pier 60
Going strong since 1995, these nightly celebrations include local artisans, music, and even free outdoor movies under the stars. Turn your beach day into a sunset celebration at Clearwater Beach!
Location: Clearwater Beach
Perez Art Museum Miami
This modern and contemporary art museum is considered Miami’s flagship art museum, and a great spot for kids, too. Channel your inner artist by checking out a bag of art supplies when you get there! These PAMM Family Packs have activity sheets, pencil kits, and scavenger hunts to help bring the artwork to life.
Orlando Circus School
If you’ve ever wanted to run off and join the circus, this one’s for you. Learn basic and core skills like aerial hoops, trampoline classes, and more. You can even learn to fly on the flying trapeze! But don’t worry, professionals with over 20 years of experience are on hand to make sure you’re doing it right.
Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key
A clubhouse for kids, sugar sand beaches, and an amazing 35-foot waterfall are just some of the key features of this family-friendly hotel in Clearwater Beach. Totally renovated, all-suites, and completely relaxing - it’s the perfect place to stay on the west coast of Florida. What are you waiting for?
Location: Clearwater Beach
Dry Tortugas National Park
This stunningly picturesque National Park, which is only accessible by boat or seaplane, is the home of Fort Jefferson, amazing snorkeling, swimming, stargazing, tons of photo-ops, and more. A true swimmer’s haven, less than 1% of the park is dry land! But don’t worry about chartering a boat to get there. Catch a ride on the daily ferry, but be sure to book in advance because reservations to this super popular locale sell out quickly.
Location: Just west of Key West in the Gulf of Mexico
Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort
If you need your Disney magic fix, a stay at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort will exceed your wildest expectations. Sure, you’ll have access to all of the Disney benefits that come with staying on property, including Extra Magic Hours if a theme park trip is in your itinerary, but you’ll also enjoy being centrally located in Orlando, where you can easily reach many of the other attractions Florida has to offer.
Location: Lake Buena Vista
Hollywood Beach Boardwalk
Stretching over two miles along one of Florida’s many gorgeous beaches, the boardwalk in Hollywood is one of America’s best. When you’re not enjoying the sights and sounds of the hustling boardwalk, grab a bite at one of the over 50 restaurants, or shop at one of the 30 boutiques along the way. Hollywood Beach is one of the first in Florida to be rated a Blue Wave Beach, making it one of the cleanest and safest.
Location: Hollywood Beach
Royal Conquest Pirate Ship
AARRGGHHH! It’s a pirate’s life for you and the kids aboard this two-level, 46-foot pirate ship. Go on an all-ages adventure featuring face painting, a dance party, treasure hunts, and much more. Plus, take in the beauty of John’s Pass as you sail along with dolphins!
Location: Madeira Beach
Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Also known as nature’s giant fish bowl, Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park gives visitors one-of-a-kind access to some of Florida’s indiginous animals. The park has many [captive] animals like alligators, flamingoes, and the oldest hippopotamus in captivity. But the real must-see feature of the park: an Underwater Observatory, where you can watch as wild manatees swim among the [hoards] of fresh and saltwater fish in the springs.
Marriott International has hotels in thousands of locations across the country, including other big cities in Florida like Jacksonville and Naples.
Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park
A staple in the Fort Walton Beach area since 1955, the Gulfarium offers a number of fun animal experiences for visitors, like a stingray snorkel, kids reptile safari, and a chance to have breakfast with dolphins, just to name a few.
Location: Fort Walton Beach
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
Go wild at this zoo which boasts its roots (literally) date back to 1919. What started out as tropical garden with exotic plants now expands over 43 acres and includes many animal faves like lions, monkeys, and giraffes. You can even hand-feed the giraffes! With exciting activities like Wild Encounters and even Zoo Yoga, there’s plenty to take in on a trip to this zoo, whether you’re a Floridian or a New Yorker on vacation.
Surf’s always up at this fun surf camp for kids over 6. Among the techniques taught are stance, paddling, even falling, but most importantly kids will learn about ocean safety. And don’t worry about lugging all the gear with you. Boards, wetsuits, rash guards and leashes are provided.
Location: Atlantic Beach
With Marriott Bonvoy™, families can enjoy special rates, free in-room Wifi, mobile check in and more! Save on your trip to Florida with Marriott Bonvoy.
— Jesseca Stenson
featured image: Kristina Moy