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Family Must-Sees

By: Carrie McLaren

From water parks, theme parks, and baseball to coral reefs, space centers, and zoos, here’s a list of Florida must-sees for families.

Is it any wonder that Florida is the Number One dream vacation spot for kids? After all it’s the home of Walt Disney World  Universal Orlando Resort  Busch Gardens Tampa and other thrilling theme parks. And Florida has 1 800 miles of coastline translating to sandcastle-building fishing and family fun.

Here are some places that just shouldn’t be missed while in Florida.
Alluring Amusement Parks

The Orlando area is theme park central home to the Walt Disney World Resort (including Magic Kingdom Park  Epcot  Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom)  Universal Orlando Resort (including Universal Studios Florida andUniversal’s Islands of Adventure) and SeaWorld Aquatica and Discovery Cove.
In nearby Winter Haven  LEGOLAND Florida is a family favorite filled with rides for little ones and even a waterpark.

Busch Gardens Tampa  about an hour away offers thrills as well as animal encounters.

A Launching Pad for Fun

Get swept up in the thrill of space exploration at the awe-inspiring Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on the Space Coast. Here your family can learn about early space pioneers see their personal memorabilia and feel what it’s like to walk on the moon. Also enjoy 3-D movies in two giant IMAX® theaters live shows and exhibits. A behind-the-scenes tour will bring you by huge rockets as well as launch and landing facilities. Meet a member of NASA’s Astronaut Corps by signing up for the “Lunch with an Astronaut” program. For an extra treat make sure your visit coincides with a rocket launch – a truly out-of-this-world experience.

A Beach for Each

A visit to Florida just isn’t complete without spending at least one day at the beach. From powdered sugar-white sand and emerald water in Northwest Florida to hard-packed golden grains and pounding surf on the Atlantic coast a beach can be easily reached no matter where you are in the state.

Toddlers love wading and splashing in the warm water or digging holes in the sand. Older kids swim snorkel play a game of beach volleyball or surf (surf’s up mainly from New Smyrna Beach to West Palm Beach to Venice Beach).

Beaches offering food restrooms and rental beach toys or chairs are particularly family-friendly. Check out Siesta Key  Clearwater Beach  Fort Myers and Fort Walton Beach to name just a few.

For a unique special event kids of all ages can experience the Mardi Gras festivities in Perdido Key. With a lighted boat parade live music and the Cajun cook-off the festivities carry on into the evening with a fireworks show over the water.

Batter Up!

Take your family out to the ballgame — on a budget. Florida hosts 14 Major League Baseball teams during Spring Training. Bring your mitts and catch a game; your kids can see their favorite pros up-close and you won’t go broke on tickets.

Undersea Exploration

Give your children an unforgettable experience — snorkel or scuba dive the crystal-clear warm waters of the Florida Keys to view the only living coral reef in the continental U.S. Head to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and the adjacent Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary where kids can see brain corals and sea fans up-close and swim with rays turtles and tropical fish. While breathing underwater is part of the fun for many children younger tykes might rather experience the reef via a glass-bottom boat tour.

Water Parks

Florida is blessed with more than its fair share of water parks — cool wonderlands that provide a refreshing complement to traditional theme parks. From daunting nearly vertical waterslides to “rivers” with currents allowing you to float lazily along in a tube Florida’s water parks offer rides for every family member including teen daredevil and toddler. Check out Adventure Island in Tampa or Wet ‘N Wild in OrlandoWalt Disney World Resort has two water parks: Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach which features the world’s tallest fastest waterslide.


For Kids Only

There aren’t many places in this world made especially for kids. But Florida is one big exception. At Ronnie Van Zant Park south of Jacksonville for example you can’t fish unless you’re accompanied by someone younger than 16 years old.

Or check out one of the many children’s museums located throughout the state. Jacksonville’s Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens interactive kids’ section called Art Connections allows little ones to touch/feel and make their own art. Pensacola’s Children’s Discovery Museum is a historical museum featuring a trading post a Native American village and displays from the city’s maritime industry. Also the Florida Aquarium in Tampa offers an outdoor aquatic exhibit for kids called Explore-A-Shore. Here kids can climb on sea creature models board a pirate ship slide down a waterslide and play in water jet sprays.

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