While the state of Florida is most known as the home of a famous little mouse, this peninsula is loaded with cities and towns that are perfect for families to visit. If you aren’t interested in visiting a theme park, or would like to combine your theme park trip with something else, here are some of the best places to visit in Florida (beyond the theme parks). You are almost certain to find a city or town that is perfect for your family vacation.
I visited some of these destinations on press trips (at no or limited cost) but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links. Purchasing and/or clicking on some of the links in this post helps support Family Travel Magazine®.
Best Places to Visit in Florida (Beyond the Theme Parks)
I recently traveled to Amelia Island for the first time for the TMS Family Travel Conference. Located just a short distance from Jacksonville, Florida, Amelia Island offers lots for families, including 13 miles of beaches, golf courses, delicious restaurants, and fantastic resorts. If you are looking for a relaxing beach vacation with lots of fun activities for families, Amelia Island is a great option.
St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest town, is a great place to visit with kids. It offers quaint shops and restaurants, a wild reserve, an alligator farm, eco tours, a pirate museum, and much more. Fly into Jacksonville or Daytona Beach, or combine with a vacation to other parts of Florida. I visited so many times as a kid, and I have such fond memories of visiting the unique shops and restaurants. It definitely should be included on any list of the best places to visit in Florida.
We recommend staying at: The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel St. Augustine Historic District
Clearwater, which is located on the Gulf coast of Florida, offers beautiful white sand beaches, and was rated the #1 beach according to TripAdvisor. There are numerous family amenities on the beach, which has lifeguards 365 days out of the year. I visited Clearwater Beach this past year on a family trip to Tampa, and I absolutely loved the beach. I definitely want to return and spend more time on the beach.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in the area is the Clearwater Aquarium, which is home to the dolphin Winter, star of the Dolphin Tale movies. Whether you are visiting Clearwater as part of a larger trip to Florida, or as an individual destination, I definitely recommend visiting the Clearwater Aquarium.
Destin, located on the Panhandle of Florida on the Emerald Coast has been the choice vacation destination for many southerners for years. With beautiful beaches, the Henderson Beach State Park, and so much more, it’s a great spot for a family vacation. You can absolutely have a completely relaxing vacation in Destin.
The Destin Harbor Boardwalk area offers lots of restaurants, boating excursions, and shops. Destin offers sugary-sand beaches – once you vacation on one of these beautiful beaches, you won’t want to leave.
We recommend staying at the: Hilton Sandestin Beach, Golf Resort and Spa or at one of the many vacation homes in the area.
Fort Walton, located between Pensacola and Panama City, offers the same type of beautiful white sand beaches, making it a great spot for a family beach vacation. You’ll also find paddling trails and golf courses. The closest airport is the Destin Fort Walton Beach Airport – so you can easily combine a trip to Fort Walton with a trip to Destin. Like Destin, Fort Walton offers plenty of great vacation homes that are perfect for a family vacation.
We recommend the Holiday Inn Resort Fort Walton Beach
Once known as a popular spring break destination, the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood area has lots for kids to do. In addition to the beautiful Atlantic beaches, you can also enjoy a visit to the Museum of Discovery and Science, which has more visitors per year than any other museum in Florida. It’s still a quintessential beach town, so it’s definitely a fabulous place to visit for a beach vacation.
We recommend a stay at the Diplomat Resort and Spa.
Marco Island, located about an hour from the Southwest Florida International Airport (Fort Myers), offers a beautiful beach, fabulous food, and fun water activities. During your stay, you can join shell collecting, water sports, and the Dolphin Study Eco Tour and Cruise. We visited several years ago on a spring break family vacation, and I loved just hanging out at the beach every day. If your kids love shells, it’s definitely a unique place to visit for shell collecting.
We recommend a stay at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort.
I just recently had the opportunity to visit the Gulf barrier islands off the coast of Sarasota, and I loved my stay. During our trip, we kayaked through mangrove tunnels, where we saw a variety of different birds. We also took a side trip to the Ringling, which includes the circus museum, an art museum, and the home of the Ringlings.
Where are the best places to visit in Florida in your opinion?
Get Our Free eBook
Subscribe to get our complimentary eBook with tips, tricks, and info for family travelers.