Take the kids to Florida this summer and you’ll have endless amounts of fun. Here’s our pick of 10 family-friendly places not to miss.
Go wild at Naples Zoo at a week-long daily camp with games, activities, behind-the-scenes tours, animal encounters, arts and crafts, and more. Camp sessions continue until the week of 6 August, with ages 5-12 welcome. Meanwhile, the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve celebrates its 40th anniversary this year and is giving free admission for the entire family for its popular Kids Free Fridays every week until 3 August. Each Friday offers different programmes and activities based on an animal theme.
The whole family can take to two wheels on Daytona Beach where the 23 miles of hard-packed sand is perfect for bike rides. Check the tide and go early morning before the sun gets too hot or in the evening to watch the sunset. There are lots of places to rent bicycles by the day or week and many deliver them to your hotel. Kids will also love to ‘Climb to the Moon‘ at the Ponce de Leon Lighthouse and Museum. With 203 steps, it’s the tallest in Florida and you can join the lighthouse keeper as he leads you on a journey into the past, witnessing the moon rising and the sun setting on select dates through the summer.
Busch Gardens Tampa Bay’s Summer Nights mean longer hours in the park, party zones and thrilling coasters lit up with spectacular lights as they fly through the night. Running until 5 August, there’s a Backyard BBQ, Fiesta Festa, And Vibin’ Village where you can dance into the night and feast on summer-inspired treats. Guests age 21 and over can also enjoy two complimentary beer samples from the Garden Gate Café each time they visit the park. Valid identification is required.
Fort Myers & Sanibel
Kids will love playing on the beach and exploring the waterways of the islands, but they’ll also have fun at one of South West Florida’s top museums. The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel Island is the only museum in the US solely devoted to shells and the mollusks that make them. Children can hang out at their own Learning Lab with interactive displays, shell games, and a live tank, and families can also join guided beach walks with shell experts.
Head to the Nature Centre at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort to get to know the birds, turtles, sea life and animals that call Amelia Island their home. You can explore the forests, marshes and waters by bike, paddleboard, Segway or kayak, with many of the tours geared specifically for kids. Families can also go crabbing, learn about different sharks while combing the beach for sharks teeth, get close up and personal with snakes, and enjoy freshwater fishing.
Florida’s Historic Coast
Make the most of the balmy summer nights with free movies at the Colonial Oak Music Park, every Wednesday until 1 August, courtesy of the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum and the Colonial Oak Music Park. Also on Wednesday nights are free concerts at the St. Johns County Ocean Pier. Bring a beach chair or blanket along with a favourite beverage and get ready to dance. They’re on every week until 12 September (except for 4 July).
Join the celebrations at the Barberville Pioneer Settlement for the annual end of summer Fire & Ice party on 2 September. Billed as the ‘hottest coolest event’, this free family-friendly party includes a chili cook off, ice cream churn off, community yard sale (car boot), antique tractors and engines. There’s also free music lessons and a music jam thanks to dozens of volunteer musicians teaching everything from the guitar and banjo to the dobro and dulcimer.
Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB
See a new collection of traditional African art, works by artists of the Mexican Revolution, European abstracts, Pop Art, plus popular pieces from the regular collection at a special event to mark the 60th anniversary of the NSU Art Museum in Fort Lauderdale. The exhibition, Remember to React, 60 Years of Collecting, opening in September, is just one of the many special exhibitions and events taking place to mark this anniversary year.
New Smyrna Beach
Ride the waves in New Smyrna Beach this summer where the whole family can have lessons at the Jimmy Lane Surfing Academy. Lessons are designed not just to teach surfboard skills, but also ocean safety to adults and kids alike. Meanwhile, families with artistic, older children will love lessons at The Bob Ross Art Workshop, where they can create landscapes, seascapes, floral and wildlife in the unique oil painting style of this iconic artist.
Have a fun-filled day out at Fort de Soto, where kids can splash about in natural lagoon-style pools and in the large pirate ship playground. Spread across five islands, this hidden gem allows families to fully immerse themselves in natural surroundings. There’s more action over at Clearwater Beach, including swimming, boating, fishing, jet skiing, beach volleyball and biking along the Beach Walk promenade.
Getting around the Sunshine State this summer is easy when hiring a car from Hertz. Join the free Hertz Gold Plus Rewards programme to beat the queue, and simply pick up your car from any of the 300+ locations across the State, and take advantage of daily rates from £21 per day on Florida bookings.