31st October 2018
Some of Floridas theme parks are on a smaller scale, loved by locals and ready and waiting for families in the know.
This family-owned amusement park has attractions that will appeal to both small children who need gentler rides, and teenagers ready for big drops and thrills.
Little ones will love the bumper cars, the Cadet Track (a go-kart track where they can drive themselves and race against others), the gentle Sea Serpent roller coaster and the spinning Tea Cups.
Older kids step it up on the Quad Helix, a multi-level quad corkscrew track and the Commander extreme track.
Gatorland is one of the best places in the world to see alligators and crocodiles of all sizes, from babies (known as grunts) to 14-foot monsters. And you’ll learn that Florida is the only place in the world where alligators and crocs live side by side in the wild.
The park also has exotic birds, wild cats, snakes, critters and tortoises. And there’s plenty of fun with a Screamin’ Gator Zipline and opportunity to become a trainer for a day.
If you’re brave enough, join the Gator Night Shine adventure. Armed with only a torch, you make your way along the winding wooden walkways of Gatorland’s Alligator Breeding Marsh to observe night-time activities.
Like the London Eye, but in Orlando with an aquarium, Madame Tussauds was museum and restaurants, the 400-foot ICON Orlando 360 is the tallest observation wheel on the United States East Coast.
There are many airboat outifts that’ll skim you across the natural phenomenon that is the Everglades, but Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures do it with panache.
Families zoom around this natural habitat on a 17-passenger airboat, whisking across the water at speeds of up to 45mh while shooting between walls of tall grass. You can spot wildlife – including alligators, turtles and birds — along the way.
Back on dry land, there’s a Native American Village and Fossil and Gem Mine to explore.
If you and your kids can’t get enough of high ropes, zip lines, floating logs and treehouses, TreeUmph! should be on your Florida hit list.
With challenging terrain and hundreds of aerial adventure games, TreeUmph! makes for both an exhilarating and healthy day out. Here you can fly through a dense forest from tree to tree. It’s definitely an experience to share on Instagram.
A Sarasota must-see is the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens where children can learn all about epiphytes – plants that grow on other plants – such as orchids, bromeliads and Spanish moss. Kids will adore the rainforest waterfall, treetop camp and mighty banyan tree, all of which encourages them to embrace and care for nature.
Have a great day out and educate your kids about marine conservation and have a great day out at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium. The aim is to get families involved with sea life safaris by boat or kayak, take part in educational programmes, and to get up close to marine life and learn how to care for them. Children can meet Winter, from the film Dolphin Tale.
Presentations include interactive games involving sea turtles and dolphins and opportunities to feed a pufferfish.
Comprising seven small islands, the Florida Keys’ Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the world’s most unique eco-attractions. Its crown jewel, the historic Fort Jefferson, was once used as a prison during the Civil War. Explore and learn its history with a guide or simply snorkel in the surrounding waters, enjoy a secluded white sand beach or look to the skies for a spot of birdwatching as migrating birds travel between South America and the USA.
Camping in the Dry Tortugas National Park is a memorable experience. Kids won’t forget sleeping under the stars on an island 70 miles from civilisation.
Let your kids be pirates for the day with Bluefoot Pirate Adventures. This fun, interactive cruise sets sail daily on a treasure hunt along the picturesque Fort Lauderdale waterway. Kids will help the pirates find the hidden treasure, learn pirate talk, dress like a pirate and ward off the attacks of rivals with water cannons. Eye patches at the ready!
There’s nothing quite like riding a horse along a beach to blow the cobwebs away and create a magical memory.
The Kelly Seahorse Ranch is the premier beach horseback riding outfit for Amelia Island and greater Jacksonville. It’s a family business endorsed by the Florida Park Service and nestled within the maritime forest of the Amelia Island State Park. A short trail ride from the ranch takes you directly out to ride miles of beach along the park’s Atlantic shore.
Families can spot wild dolphins and shorebirds as they ride one of the gentle, well-trained horses. And don’t worry; most riders are complete beginners.
Who doesn’t like a crazy golf challenge? Stateside, it’s been renamed Goofy Golf and this family owned Panama City attraction, in operation since 1959, features two 18-hole miniature golf courses.
It’s a bargain at $US10 per round and kids will love the giant statues of monkeys and dinosaurs (which feature glowing eyes at night) that they can climb.
© ZooTampa at Lowry Park
Tampa Zoo is all about educating your children about the wonder of the animal kingdom, at the manatee critical care centre or by going backstage with the animal care team who look after and study African elephants.
Give your kids a special experience by booking them on a kids-only sleepover at Tampa Zoo. The package includes animal mingles, behind-the-scenes tours, crafts and activities, pizza and a light breakfast.