What's your family's vacation style? Whether your family is into adventure or learning, volunteering or just plain relaxing, here are six unique ways to vacation, your way, in Florida.
Relax … If You Can
Harmony and relaxation go hand-in-hand at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. It provides entertainment for the kids and plenty of one-on-one time for mom and dad. Its white-as-snow beach, world-class amenities, on-site spa, golf and AAA Four Diamond restaurant will pamper and please the entire family. At the Hammock Beach Resort in Palm Coast, kids go crazy for the water park pavilion (with lazy river), and adults adore the tranquility of two miles of secluded beach, a spa, fine dining and signature, ocean-side golf.
Try Something Different
There’s so much families can do in The Everglades, from thrilling airboat rides to swamp slogging and wildlife-spotting. But did you know you can have your Everglades adventure without giving up your luxury vacation? You can have both when you book the Miami Everglades Package at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Miami. You’ll spend the day at Everglades National Park getting close to nature and taking part in green initiatives. Ride to the park in a hybrid vehicle and partake in tree planting, recycling projects, even slogging (wading in shallow water). Reward your green efforts with a delicious lunch provided by the hotel, followed by a ranger-led tour of this World Heritage Site.
Learn Something New
What do you get when you put certified Florida master naturalists at the helm of a kids club? The Nature’s Wonders program at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, that’s what! Kids ages 5 to 12 are completely immersed in field biology and marine life conservation (without even knowing it!) through nature walks, field trips and hands-on critter fun. At the Turtle Hospital in Marathon (The Florida Keys), families go behind the scenes and learn about rehabilitation efforts while meeting resident turtles. Also, the Meet the Dolphin and Dolphin Encounter swim programs at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key (part of Marathon) are popular with all ages.
Have an Adventure
Looking for a new family adventure? The Chipola River offers fantastic fishing, canoeing, swimming, boating and wildlife-viewing. Paddlers can stop and explore a cave along the river. At Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, visitors can take a guided tour by land of the magnificent limestone caves filled with stalactites and stalagmites (every bit as grand as Carlsbad Caverns). Want to try something unique? Two words: Dude Ranch! Just an hour from Orlando on 1,700 acres, Westgate River Ranch near Lake Wales offers a unique western experience. Ride horses, airboats or swamp buggies; try skeet shooting; attend a live rodeo; cast a line; or learn line dancing – its mega list of activities will keep everyone happy.
Get Together (Reunion Time)
Floridays Resort Orlando was recently rated as a Top Family Resort both in the U.S. and in the World by TripAdvisor. It’s no wonder, as the resort offers fully furnished units with kitchens and private balconies, with the choice of two bedrooms and two baths or three bedrooms and two baths. The resort also boasts more than 2,000 square feet of meeting spaces (for big family get-togethers), two pools, Palm Café and Marketplace and a children’s game room. Prefer to be seaside? Beacher’s Lodge on Crescent Beach is a condo-hotel with simple but nice oceanfront accommodations. Its on-site conference room is perfect for reunion gatherings, and St. Augustine is 10 miles up the road.
Head off the Beaten Path
Take a guided tour of the Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo in Gainesville and see what it takes to become a zookeeper. Learn about unique animals and their habitats as you walk a one-half-mile trail through the 10-acre forest. It’s wheelchair- and stroller-friendly, too. Tours are available Monday - Friday with an advanced appointment. On Florida’s southwest coast, explore natural Florida at Port of the Islands Everglades Adventure Resort. Only 30 minutes from Naples, this Spanish-style resort is adjacent to the Everglades and Ten Thousand Islands (think nature tours, eco tours and lots of wildlife in a rustic setting).