It's hard to believe but spring break is right around the corner so it's time to start thinking about places to go and things to do. I thought I'd give your plans a little jump start with my top five destination picks – and they just might surprise you.
Daytona Beach has been working overtime for years to lure families to their shores during spring break (in the 1980s, it was the place for college kids). Well, their plan has worked brilliantly, and their beaches are primed for family time. While you’re here, make a splash at the Daytona Lagoon, their super fun waterpark and amusement center. You'll find it right across the street from Ocean Walk Village, a beachfront multimillion dollar entertainment area that's loaded with eateries, movies, shops…and is great to visit day or night. They have an amphitheater, too, with live entertainment. Stay at the Hilton Daytona Beach Oceanfront Resort or the Daytona Shores Resort and Spa, both favorites.
Guess what? During spring break, college kids leave their beautiful college towns to go home, which leaves their fabulous town yours for exploring. And Tallahassee rocks! Visit the Tallahassee Museum and be amazed at what you can see and do here. Their boardwalk nature trail will take you past bears, panthers, cypress stumps, otters – it’s awesome. And their onsite café is great for lunch (get the bbq beef sandwich)! Mission San Luis is another hands-on experience that your entire family will never forget. You can meet a blacksmith, explore an Apalachee village and go inside a replica Spanish Fort. Wakulla Springs is a close drive and one of the largest and deepest fresh water springs in the world. You’ll love it here. Hit the beach, swim or take a river boat ride. And this is the short list of things to do in our state’s capital.
Naples has warm, beautiful beaches, glorious sunsets, world-class shopping, 35 golf courses, luxurious spas, and has the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Everglades on the other. In other words, you can please every member of your family here. For a relaxing afternoon, visit the Naples Botanical Gardens. It just reopened in November and has expanded to 70 acres. At the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, you can walk more than two miles on a raised boardwalk and spot all kinds of birds and wildlife (if you get tired, you can opt to walk just one mile). And at Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, ride a catamaran on a primate expedition cruise. You can stay at a five-star resort like the Ritz-Carlton or keep it casual at the Vanderbilt Beach Resort.
Got an active family? Vacation in Hollywood. Bike, rollerblade, run or stroll the 2.5-mile Broadwalk that runs along the Atlantic and duck in and out of shops and eateries along the way. The beaches have a great vibe here, and there are some fantastic parks to experience. Anne Kolb Nature Center has canoe and kayak rentals and they have a boat ride, too, if you don’t want to exert the effort! This place is a hidden gem. The downtown area offers a great selection of restaurants and cafes and is also perfect for just strolling. Oh, and don’t miss ArtsPark at Young Circle. It’s fun for the little ones with fountains and play areas plus live music every Friday night at 7 p.m. and storytelling every Saturday at 3 p.m. There is always something going on in Hollywood, check it out.
About 90 minutes south of Miami, but worlds away from everything, Islamorada will have you barefoot and singing Buffett songs in no time. Founder’s Park is a good place to start. Park yourself on a blanket for the day and enjoy the warm bay waters, a sandy beach, an Olympic-size pool and shady palms, too. Theater of the Sea is fantastic! Swim with dolphins or sea lions, hang out at their beach or take a four-hour snorkel cruise that includes a visit to Lignumvitae Key and a stop at Robbie’s to hand feed the tarpon. For indoor fun, bowl a game or two at The Fish Bowl (the local bowling alley), catch a movie, treat yourself to all-you-can-eat stone crabs at Ballyhoo’s restaurant or shop at World Wide Sportsman. Need more adventure? Charter a fishing boat from Whale Harbor or Holiday Isle or rent wave runners. Don't forget to catch sunset at Lorelei's.
Need more ideas for your family's spring break? Just ask!
Jill Martin, Family Insider, VISIT FLORIDA