Florida is one of the most popular family vacation destinations in the world.
Contained within a long, narrow, sun blessed, peninsula that features some 1350 miles of gorgeous coastline the state really has everything. From wonderful beaches that are great for sunbathing, surfing or driving on, to brilliant coral reefs, numerous rivers, lakes, forests and national parks and some amazing wildlife, it is very much a mecca for nature loving, outdoorsy kind of people. But the fun is not just restricted to those types. Other attractions like famous theme parks, fascinating museums, world class shopping and major sporting events abound too. Infact there is so much to do in Florida that it is impossible to see everything. That is why we have come up with this 2 week guide to the perfect Florida family vacation.
If you are flying in from abroad the chances are you will land in Miami. Even if you are not it is as good a starting point as any for your holiday. Nicknamed the ‘Capital of Latin America’ and labelled as ‘America’s Cleanest City’ by Forbes in 2008 the city has all the trimmings and attractions of an Alpha World City including some intriguing neighbourhoods like Little Havana. However its main highlight has to be Miami Beach, especially the Art Deco Historic District around South Beach and the Lincoln Road Mall, both of which you should definitely explore.
You could easily spend a week in Miami Beach, particularly if you stay at one of the many great hotels along its iconic stretch of beach like the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel Dezerland Beach & Spa. However if you only have 2 weeks to spare in Florida then three nights should be enough time to spend there.
From Miami Beach hiring a car and driving down to the Florida Keys is essential. Not least because you get to drive along the magnificent seven mile bridge where all you can see around you for miles is water but also because en route, half way down there, you can treat your kids to the once in a lifetime experience of swimming with dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon Keys. Although bookings are essential you can do this on the same day as arriving in Key West.
Located at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, just 90 short miles from Cuba, this charming island which measures only around four miles by two miles is famous for its beautiful sunsets as well as the literary legacy left by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams. The only city in the mainland USA to have never recorded a frost, one night in Key West, particularly at the La Mer Hotel and Dewey House should provide more than enough time to get a really good feel for the place.
From Key West, a drive back through the Florida Keys to the Everglades National Park is a must. An area of immense natural beauty the Everglades are a natural region of subtropical wetlands in the southern end of the state that has created an ecosystem that houses thousands of animal, bird and plant species. The kids will love the opportunity for spotting alligators and the thrill of the airboat tour is sure to be a highlight of the entire trip. There are a number of cheap and cheerful budget chain motels in nearby Florida City where you can spend the night.
No family vacation to Florida would be complete without a trip to Walt Disney World and from Florida City you could head straight there. Covering nearly 43 square miles this union of the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT Center, Animal Kingdom and Disney-MGM Studios, as well as its numerous water parks, sports complex and evening entertainment park provides the ultimate in family entertainment and with a great range of accommodation available at the Walt Disney World Resort you could quite easily spend three fun packed days and nights there.
Loathed as you might be to leave, the short drive to Daytona Beach should more than make up for it. A great place for motor sports enthusiasts one of the best things about the region is the feeling you get when you drive along its hard, flat and wide beach. The kids will love running around on it too, whilst if you are in to spectacular views then the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum is something you really should check out.
After two nights in Daytona, which would be all the more pleasurable if you stayed at the Nautilus Inn Daytona Beach (which at the time of writing has been awarded an average rating of 10 out of 10 from 135 guest reviewers who have actually stayed there), the Kennedy Space Center is easy to get to. Containing everything from a full scale mock-up of the International Space Station to rocks from the moon and Mars you are sure to find this place fascinating, particular as you walk through the Rocket Garden of vehicles that actually launched astronauts into space or as you watch the Apollo/Saturn V Center film where the sensation of taking off in the Apollo 8 is so realistic the windows in the theater start to shake.
You should plan to spend the entire day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex and book a room at a hotel in the appropriately named nearby town of Jupiter before heading to Fort Lauderdale. An international yachting center, the city contains a number of entertaining cultural sites including the Museum of Discovery & Science. It also provides easy access to Florida’s second biggest tourist attraction – The Sawgrass Mills Mall.
Containing more than 2 miles of outlets for such world class stores as Saks, Gap, Polo, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren this massive shoppers heaven would give you the perfect opportunity to end your vacation by shopping till you drop. It also has a number of great activities for kids as well.
Providing easy access to the I95 for those wanting to drive back home, Fort Lauderdale is a suitable end destination for your holiday as it also possesses a number of excellent family hotels that offer regular airport shuttle buses to the Miami International Airport.