Back Home

Dive into Family Fun A to Z

written by | Posted on January 28th, 2014


New FantasyLand

New FantasyLand


A is for Augustine, St. Augustine that is. It’s telling we start with this area of Florida in our A to Z countdown because this is where it all started centuries ago. In case you didn’t know it, St. Augustine is the nation’s oldest city. To get a pulse for the city’s history, tell families, who make up quite a big chunk of visitors to the area, that the charming, pedestrian-only historic St. George Street should be their first stop. Here, they’ll find The Spanish Bakery, tucked behind a garden courtyard, where they should drop in for some early-morning fresh-baked goodies before they start off on their tour of this picturesque destination. Afterwards, they should march on over to the Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park, the site that was first explored in 1513 by Ponce de Leon and which recently expanded its Timucuan Village with a 16th century Spanish mission and an authentic Timucuan family hut. Over at the St. Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum, which offers a journey through 3,000 years of high-seas adventure, little wanna-be pirates can “dig” through a new collection of silver coins, an iron musket, ceramics and more dating back to the 1600s, or if they prefer climbing, then it’s off to the St. Augustine Lighthouse to go up 219 steps to the top of the 165-ft. tower for views of historic downtown St. Augustine, the beaches and the nation’s oldest port. And if your clients are traveling with their four-legged companions, they can opt for one of several new city tours like the Pup Walk History Tour, during which they’ll hear historical facts and folklore as they take a stroll through the city’s historic district. And tell clients to be sure to drop in next year, when the city commemorates its 450th anniversary as the oldest continually occupied European settlement in the United States.

B is for Busch Gardens Tampa, the state’s oldest theme park. Here, travelers will find the park’s new Falcon’s Fury ride, being hailed as the tallest freestanding drop tower in North America as it has no connecting structures. Falcon’s Fury, which will stand 335 ft. tall and take riders soaring 60 mph straight down after they’ve pivoted 90 degrees in mid-air, will be part of the fully remodeled Pantopia area. Families with little ones who have shopping in mind while visiting Tampa can also make their way to International Plaza, which recently debuted a multi-sensory, custom-designed Busch Gardens-themed play area that features elements from the theme park, including fabricated hippos, a baby elephant, baby lions, an alligator and a safari truck that kids can climb on (and it’s free!).

C is for Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botantical Gardens, located in Sarasota. Debuting this past November, this new rainforest garden offers families interpretive, hands-on programming, along with a variety of activities for children and their families to play freely, explore and learn. The Banyan Tree is the centerpiece of this new area and it’s the entryway to the entire rainforest, which features a waterfall; a forest pool; a canopy walk and bridge; a tree house where children can play hide-and-seek; a fern canyon; an Amazon village built along the edge of the rainforest that features huts; the adventure trail that offers hidden niches under elevated decks; and a research station, which is a thatched roof hut that provides materials and interactive elements to explore and examine plants just like field botanists. Here, “explorers” can observe and record life above the forest floor using binoculars, telescopes, gauges and other equipment.

D is for Dinosaur World. Located in Central Florida’s Plant City, between Orlando and Tampa, this “world” is home to 150 life-sized dinosaurs. The dinosaurs represent a variety of well-known and unusual species, including the brachiosaurus, the triceratops and the spinosaurus, all of which are displayed outdoors. Kids ages 3 to 12 will love the Fossil Dig, where they can sift through sand in a paleontological setting in search of authentic fossils such as shark teeth, sea urchins, and dinosaur bone fragments; they’ll get to keep three fossils, too.

E is for Everglades, which can be accessed in the Naples area via the Gulf Coast Visitor Center (although there are other points of entry throughout South Florida). Here, families can enjoy eco exploration by kayak with Everglades Area Tours, which offers specially outfitted skiffs that carry up to six people and six kayaks into the Wilderness Waterway section of Everglades National Park and Ten Thousand Islands waters south of Marco Island. Travelers will paddle around beautiful islands with deserted white-sand beaches then circle back into lush creeks rich with bird life, fish and other sea creatures. Multi-day kayak camping expeditions and kayak fishing are available between November and April. Or, your clients can get on a bike and explore this subtropical paradise of cypress swamps, freshwater marshes, wet and dry prairies, and rare tropical hardwood hammocks on two wheels.

F is for Florida Caverns State Park in Jackson County. This is the only state park in Florida to offer cave tours to the public. Families can explore these dry, air-filled caves that were once used as shelter by aboriginal Indians. While doing so, they’ll encounter a spectacular world of black pools, brilliantly lit, jagged formations and dripping limestone stalactites. Once out in the fresh air, they can go hiking, fishing, canoeing or boating along the Chipola River and freshwater spring, and the state park is popular for camping, picnicking and horseback riding. Even golfers can tee off on the New Deal-era golf course set on rolling terrain.

G is for Gumbo Limbo Nature Center in Palm Beach. Here families can view several exhibits including the Sea Turtle Garden, a container garden with herbs and local flora, a gopher tortoise exhibit, a butterfly nursery, a sea turtle safe lighting exhibit, and a solar exhibit. There’s also a boardwalk that meanders through a preserved hardwood hammock, which shows what Florida looked like before modern development and industrialization. Visitors can see various flora such as gumbo limbo, strangler fig, and cabbage palm (Florida’s state tree), and there’s the opportunity to
see animals like grey foxes, red-bellied woodpeckers and five-
lined skinks.

Fort Show

Fort Show


H is for halloween treats. Visiting Florida during the Halloween festivities means treats all around from Key West to St. Augustine. In fact, in both those destinations, visitors can go on nighttime ghost tours in search of old time residents lurking in the shadows (anyone up for a cemetery walk?). In Orlando, meanwhile, there’s the always-terrifying Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Orlando—think nightmares inspired by “The Walking Dead,” “Resident Evil” and the like—or for more tame souls, Walt Disney World puts on Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party, with its Boo-to-You Halloween Parade, a ghostly Cinderella Castle, spooky tunes and Disney characters dressed up for the event. Over in Tampa Bay, Busch Gardens offers up Howl-O-Scream, with what they call “tormenting surprises around every corner,” and in Miami, the Miami Seaquarium pulls the orange carpet out for little ones with its Monster Splash event that includes a ghouls and goblins dance party, a Little Monsters play area and a haunted walk.

I is for imagination, which is offered up in droves at the Museum of Discovery & Science in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The museum recently underwent a major expansion, adding the new 34,000-sq.-ft. EcoDiscovery Center, in the process more than doubling the museum’s current exhibit space and offering dynamic hands-on explorations. The new center features five new exhibit areas: Otters at Play, Everglades Airboat Adventure, Prehistoric Florida, Florida Water Mysteries and Storm Center, plus the Mangurian Foundation Lifelong Learning Center features four new learning labs. Kids will have the opportunity to watch the playful antics of North American river otters; take a ride on the Everglades Airboat Adventure; experience hurricane force winds; dig for fossils alongside a giant prehistoric Megalodon; come face-to-face with a saber-toothed cat; walk under a 12-ft.-tall Imperial mammoth; discover the natural path of water through Florida; and learn what they can do to help protect and conserve the Everglades.

J is for Jungle Island. This Miami institution that’s been around since 1936 (originally known as Parrot Jungle) has everything from a playa (that’s beach to you non-Miami locals) to a Winged Wonders exhibit that features singing and talking birds, including a free-flying condor, with its 11-ft. wingspan, and “Mama Cass,” the world’s only trained cassowary. Families can opt for the Jungle Island VIP Safari Tour, which starts with an introduction to the park by an expert tour guide and allows participants personal interactions with everything from red-ruffed lemurs, one of the rarest animals on earth, to red kangaroos from Australia, aldabra tortoises from the Seychelles, capuchin monkeys from South America and parrots from around the world.

K is for the Keys, the Florida Keys that is. It’s all about pirates and treasure hunts in the Florida Keys, not to mention dolphin swims and Hemingway cats. The Key West Shipwreck Museum, for example, re-creates the salvage or wrecking era through live actors, film and artifacts from the wreck of the Isaac Allerton that sank off the Keys in 1856, while the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, also in Key West, houses the richest single collection of 17th century maritime and shipwreck antiquities in the Western Hemisphere. At Big Key Pine in the Lower Keys, adventurers can go in search of Key deer, while others can take to the sky, sort of, with Key West’s new Jetpack Experiences, in which participants strap on a JetLev R200 flight pack that allows them to take off, make soft turns, hover and land. For marine lovers, there’s Islamorada’s Theater of the Sea, which features live performances by dolphins, sea lions and parrots, a guided tour of marine-life exhibits and a glass-bottom boat tour of the park’s natural saltwater lagoon. Bird lovers, meanwhile, can head to the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1938 and stretches from Key West to Marathon. It provides safe nesting and breeding areas for these birds and features more than 375 sq. miles of open water and islands in the Gulf of Mexico. And literary fans—or even cat lovers—can visit the Hemingway House and Museum, which is where the famous author wrote many of his novels and where guests can still spot those 6-toed cats. Not to miss is the sunset celebration at Mallory Square in Key West. Of course, just getting though the Florida Keys is an adventure in itself, as families go island-hopping along 42 bridges—it’s been hailed as one of America’s most scenic drives.

L is for LEGOLAND Florida in Central Florida. The largest LEGOLAND park in the world, this 150-acre property features 50 rides, shows and attractions, as well as a botanical garden. Here, children ages 2 to 12 will be jumping out of their seat with excitement as they go from one themed land to another—there are 10 in total including The Beginning, Fun Town, Miniland USA, LEGO Kingdoms, Land of Adventure, LEGO TECHNIC, LEGO City and others. In 2012, the park added the LEGOLAND Water Park and the LEGO Star Wars Miniland Model Display, and last year, it created even more fun for the youngest members of the family by bringing in The World of Chima presented by Cartoon Network, which features an interactive water ride called The Quest for CHI, offering a chance for kids to fire water canons at targets that include LEGO characters (tell clients to bring their swimsuits!).

Loggerhead Marine Life Center

Loggerhead Marine Life Center


M is for Miami Seaquarium. This is one of Miami’s most recognized attractions and its new animal encounter that debuted early last year is one of its most unique. Led by the park’s marine mammal training staff, guests can experience harbor seal behavior up-close when they take part in the Seal Swim experience that includes an interactive educational segment and a 15-20 minute swim with the seals in the park’s seal exhibit pool. In addition, trainers personally introduce participants to a seal and receive hugs, kisses, and take part in a fun training session with these inquisitive marine mammals. Miami Seaquarium actually has a few animal encounters including swimming with the dolphins and Sea Trek, an underwater helmet diving experience bringing park guests up-close to reef aquarium residents. And in Tampa, visitors can dive with the sharks at The Florida Aquarium. This is a unique opportunity for certified scuba divers, age 15 and older, to swim in the aquarium’s largest tank, the Coral Reef Exhibit, which features massive sharks, moray eels, barracuda, a green sea turtle and more.

N is for Naples Botanical Garden, which features an expansive Children’s Garden that displays flowers, vegetables, butterflies, tree houses and babbling streams. It’s an interactive learning environment where families can cool off, splash, and play in the jets of water spraying from the boulders around the entry court—and that’s just for starters. Travelers can wander through the trail along the Repp Family Hardwood Hammock, full of native Florida plants, then take a stroll through the Gumbo Limbo grove and shell mounds, to the beach area surrounded by sea oats and full of beach toys for any castle-building needs. Each weekend throughout the year, the Children’s Garden features the W.O.N.D.E.R. (Walk, Observe, Navigate, Draw, Explore, and Read) program. Each month’s changing theme begins with a story related to the theme, followed by fun and educational activities, and from November to April, the garden features Second Saturday Celebrations, which includes themed events, activities and crafts from family gardening days to gnomes, and even a Dr. Seuss-inspired day.

O is for Orlando, because let’s face it when you think Florida family vacation the first destination that comes to mind is Orlando. Of course, there’s Walt Disney World and Universal, but they have their own entry in this A to Z countdown, so let’s give some space to Fun Spot America, which opened a 10-acre expansion this past summer adding a wide range of family-friendly go-kart tracks; the White Lightning, Central Florida’s first wooden roller coaster; Freedom Flyer, a suspended family coaster; and a 250-ft.-tall SkyCoaster. Gatorland, meanwhile, opened Panther Springs, a new 2,000-sq.-ft. attraction housing the park’s newest residents, two panthers that can be seen up-close through a wall of glass. And Hard Knocks, an indoor combat simulation arena and advanced gaming lounge, opened a new location on International Drive that provides two combat arenas and floor-to-ceiling graphics and TV screens.

P is for Plant City in the Tampa Bay area. It’s considered the “Winter Strawberry Capital of the World,” and come spring visitors can come to the area to pick strawberries during season. In fact, all around this area, travelers can find blueberry and vegetable farms, with peaches available for picking in Dade City in mid-April. Artesian Farms in Ruskin has tomatoes during the spring and fall, as well. But back to Plant City for its annual Florida Strawberry Festival, which will take place Feb. 27 through March 9 this year. Visitors can step back in time to “a time in American history when fairs and festivals brought communities together through celebrations of their harvests.” It’s a piece of Americana in Florida.

Q is for Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, the biggest butterfly in the world with a wingspan of up to 1 ft. wide. For families interested in learning more about butterflies, Butterfly World in Coconut Creek in southern Florida features a bug museum that highlights the world’s most exotic creatures, including an Asian cockroach, as well as the Tropical Rainforest Aviary, where butterflies flit from branch to branch amid tropical plants, some even landing on visitors themselves.

R is for rockets at the Space Coast. Of course, the big news here is that the space shuttle Atlantis has been unveiled at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The Space Coast is one of only four destinations worldwide where visitors can view an orbiter and one of only three destinations where visitors can view one that traveled to space. Space shuttle Atlantis made NASA’s historic final launch, completing the 30-year shuttle program. Atlantis is housed in a brand-new, $100 million interactive exhibit complex. Additionally, visitors to the Kennedy Space Center can also experience unmanned rocket launches that continue from Kennedy Space Center regularly, as well as participate in in-depth tours, explore the Rocket Garden, showcasing historic NASA rockets, view the Apollo/Saturn V Center, with rockets and equipment from the Apollo missions to the moon, and ride the Shuttle Launch Experience, in which participants “feel and live the powerful journey to 17,500 mph.” Coolest part is that it includes a breathtaking view of Earth seldom seen in the first person. If clients don’t want to take it all the way into the stratosphere, they can head to the Fantasy of Flight in Central Florida to experience what is hailed as the “World’s Greatest Aviation Attraction.” Here, families will find more than 100 rare and vintage aircraft, and while exploring they can view daily aerial demonstrations, take a spin on a state-of-the-art hang gliding simulator or even go on the Wing WalkAir ropes course and go ziplining. There are even opportunities for hot air balloon rides.

S is for SeaWorld Orlando. This year marks the 50th anniversary of SeaWorld, which means, as they put it, “a sea of surprises” at all parks across the brand. That means new interactive experiences, and shows, even more up-close animal encounters and the SeaWorld “Surprise Squad” treating park guests with prizes and special experiences every day. This year, too, Aquatica, SeaWorld’s waterpark, will debut Ihu’s Breakaway Falls, a watery free-fall water slide. The drop will be the tallest, steepest and only multi-slide of its kind in Orlando. Last year, too, was a big year for SeaWorld Orlando as it debuted Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, the biggest and most expansive attraction in SeaWorld Orlando’s history. Tell clients that on this family ride, they’ll be transported to the South Pole and see it through the penguins’ eyes. Nice touch for sunny Florida!

Atlantis Space Shuttle

Atlantis Space Shuttle


T is for tight rope, such as the one kids can try walking on in Sarasota’s The Ringling Circus Museum, part of The Ringling Museums, Theater & Gardens. Here, kids can squeeze into a clown car; take photos with a ferocious tiger (well, not a real one) and peruse parade wagons, posters, and glittering costumes, as well as the cannon that shot performers through the air. There’s also a 44,000-piece Howard Bros. Circus Model and the Greatest Show on Earth mural that celebrates everything circus. Art lovers, too, can get their thrill at The Ringling Museum of Art that houses true masterpieces, everything from European masters to ancient art, as well as, of course, circus photographs.

U is for Universal Orlando. Although TRANSFORMERS: The Ride 3-D made quite a splash at Universal Studios last year, The Simpsons, too, had quite a party thrown for them when Springfield finally opened in the summertime. Guests step right into downtown Springfield and hang with The Simpsons as they enjoy Buzz Cola at Krusty Burger; grab a Homer-sized helping of donuts at Lard Lad; imbibe at Moe’s Tavern with a Flaming Moe; enjoy a “Taco Fresho” at Bumblebee Man’s Taco Truck; hang out at Duff Brewery and enjoy a Duff Beer, brewed exclusively for Universal Orlando Resort; go for an intergalactic spin on the area’s new attraction, Kang & Kodos’ Twirl ‘n’ Hurl; and meet Krusty the Clown and Sideshow Bob, Universal’s two newest walk-around Simpsons characters. And for Harry Potter fans, 2014 will be a banner year as Universal debuts a new themed environment, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter-Diagon Alley. This will be the world’s first centrally themed, multi-park experience, expanding The Wizarding World of Harry Potter across both Universal Orlando theme parks. Diagon Alley and “London” will be located within Universal Studios, which is adjacent to Universal’s Islands of Adventure, which is currently home to Hogwarts and Hogsmeade. Best part? Guests will be able to travel between “London” and Hogsmeade aboard the Hogwarts Express. There will be shops, a restaurant and an innovative marquee attraction based on Gringotts bank.

V is for Venetian Pool. Tell families to take a step back in time to the 1920s, when Miami was just beginning to bloom and take a detour to the Venetian Pool, one of the city’s most historic attractions and one that hails back to 1923. It’s an 820,000-gallon pool complex that features two historic lookout towers, two waterfalls and cave-like grottos (ideal for those hot summer months!). It’s also got the advantage of being located in one of Miami’s most picturesque neighborhoods, Coral Gables. This Mediterranean-inspired walkable neighborhood that is enveloped with trees and greenery is ideal for families offering year-round events, including a family-friendly farmers’ market and Christmas festivities, an array of restaurants and kid-friendly theater offerings.

W is for Walt Disney World. This is a family vacation goldmine with four theme parks, two water parks, and dozens of resorts, and this year Walt Disney World is going to score even bigger with you and your clients by introducing the MyMagic+, “an innovative approach to personalizing family vacations through the use of cutting-edge technology specifically designed by Disney,” says Randy A. Garfield, executive v.p., worldwide sales and travel operations, Disney Destinations and president, Walt Disney Travel Company. By visiting their “My Disney Experience” account online, families can pre-plan their trip and sync their itinerary to their new, customized Magic Bands. “Magic Bands,” adds Garfield, “will allow guests to access their resort rooms, reserve FASTPASSES, pay for food and merchandise, and even hold reservations, all with a magical tap.” That’s big news and one that’s ideal for families in terms of organization. Also new for 2014 is, of course, the completion of New Fanstasyland, which is the largest expansion in the history of Magic Kingdom. The Seven Dwarfs Mine Train is scheduled to open this spring and it will feature a family-style roller coaster designed with a first-of-its-kind, back-and-forth swing motion. This past year, too, new Glow with the Show Ear hats that magically change colors in sync with fireworks, shows and each other at Magic Kingdom and Disney’s Hollywood Studios debuted. And tell “Avatar” fans to get ready, because a new “Avatar”-inspired attraction is coming to Animal Kingdom in 2017. Walt Disney Imagineering is working with filmmaker James Cameron to bring to life the mythical world of Pandora, with floating mountains, bioluminescent rainforests and soaring banshees.

X is for eXotic—as in Miami Exotic Auto Racing. Ok, so this might not be for families with little ones, but families with older children will definitely get a thrill at the Homestead-Miami Speedway when they jump into the driver’s seat. Miami Exotic Driving Experience offers several experiences for wanna-be racecar drivers with its Ferrari Driving Experience, Lamborghini Driving Experience and Audi Driving Experience, and the best part is drivers can go 140 mph on the course.

Y is for Y not give it a try? In the Sarasota area, families can spend the day learning where milk comes from at Dakin Dairy Farms in Myakka City. They can take a tour of a working dairy farm, get lost in a corn maze, squeal with pigs, count eggs in the henhouse and go through a hay tunnel.

Z is for zoos from St. Augustine to Miami. Florida offers up so many great zoos, including Zoo Miami, named one of the top zoos in the U.S. by both Tripadvisor.com and Travel + Leisure. It’s home to more than 2,000 wild animals in an environment that closely approximates the animals’ natural habitats. In Tampa, there’s the Lowry Park Zoo, which has been rated the no. 1 zoo in America by Parents magazine. Here, visitors will find more than 1,500 animals throughout 56 acres of lush natural habitats. Visitors to Naples, too, get a day at the zoo with the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, featuring a new cheetah exhibit, and in Palm Beach, Lion Country Safari takes the “zoo experience” to a whole new level as visitors drive through the safari with hundreds of animals roaming free (yikes!). In northern Florida, it’s the St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Museum that will lure families with its zipline tour that has visitors zipping through the treetops with live crocodiles and alligators at their feet.

Springfield at Universal Orlando

Springfield at Universal Orlando

Five Top Hotels for Families in Orlando

1 Universal Orlando Resort (universalorlando.com) saw the addition of “Despicable Me”-themed suites at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel last year. The 2-room suites, 18 in total, feature a kid’s room decorated with custom-designed missile beds and Minion-inspired bedding, and the adults’ room has a king bed and new Italian luxury decor. A new feature of the suites is that they only have one door, so the children’s side does not open to the hallway. Debuting in March at Universal Resort will be the 1,800-room Cabana Bay Beach Resort, the fourth hotel within Universal Orlando Resort and one that evokes the classic, retro-feel of iconic beach resorts from the 1950s and 60s.

2 The four-diamond Castle Hotel (castelhotelorlando.com), located on International Drive in Orlando, became part of the Autograph Collection late last year. The 214-room property, part of The Kessler Collection, is modeled after European castles with Bavarian-inspired walls; a pool with a fountain, surrounded by a garden; tennis courts; two sky terraces; the Garden Bistro & Bar; the Poseidon Spa; and the Antlers Lounge. Accommodations include jr. suites with “castle-inspired touches,” such as a red and purple color scheme, a plush velvet chair, carved headboards and gilded mirrors.

3 The Mediterranean-inspired Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort, Bonnet Creek (wyndham.com), located next to its sister property, the Wyndham Bonnet Creek Resort, offers 400 guestrooms, a spa, five restaurants and six pools overlooking a private 10-acre lake. The pools are the centerpiece of the resort, including a zero-entry pool that features cabanas with TVs and refrigerators; pools with two lazy rivers, a pirate ship kid’s water activity pool, and a splash activity pad.

4 Let all your luxe clients know that the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort (fourseasons.com) is coming to Mickey Mouse’s universe this summer. It will have a lazy river, water slides, climbing wall, and recreational centers for kids and teens, as well as Kids For All Seasons centers. The property, which offers 444 spacious guestrooms, including 68 suites, will also feature a rooftop restaurant with fireworks views on all sides.

5 The Villas at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa (disneyvacationclub.disney.go.com/destinations/resorts/grand-floridian-villas) opened for Disney Vacation Club Members this past October. The new resort—offering complimentary monorail rides to Magic Kingdom—features a variety of villa accommodations that sleep anywhere from five to nine guests, and it’s the first Disney Vacation Club property to feature deluxe studios that sleep up to five guests. Additionally, expansive grand villas sleep 12 guests and feature multiple bathrooms and bedrooms, as well as a media room with a home theater system.

Brevard Zoo

Brevard Zoo

Five Top Hotels for Families in Florida

1 Parrot Key Hotel & Resort (parrotkeyresort.com), with 148 boutique hotel rooms and suites, is one of the newest luxury waterfront hotels in Key West. It boasts four pools and a white-sand terrace overlooking the water and offers some of the largest guestrooms on the island, plus spacious 1- and 2-bedroom suites.

2 The James Royal Palm (jameshotels.com) in South Beach offers spacious and residential-styled guestrooms and welcomes the littlest ones in the family with its lil James kids’ program. Play Space is a dedicated indoor/outdoor area designed in partnership with the Miami Children’s Museum, filled with kid-friendly activities including artist easels, activity tables and sand and water play stations, as well as complimentary healthy snacks
and water.

3 DiamondHead Beach Resort & Spa (diamondheadfl.com) in Fort Myers overlooking the Gulf of Mexico offers 124 newly remodeled 1-bedroom suites right on the beach. Guests relax at the Gulf-side pool; enjoy the full-service spa; or grab some sail boats, paddle bikes, kayaks and wave runners.

4 The 216-acre Club Med Sandpiper Bay (clubmed.com) is North America’s only all-inclusive resort and it’s located on the shores of the St. Lucie River. Here, kids’ clubs are a dream come true with something for every age group, and there are other child-friendly activities, including petit tennis, circus school and a creative arts program, as well as an array of accommodation options.

5 Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort (sandestin.com) on Florida’s Emerald Coast is a 2,400-acre property, including a variety of Destin vacation rental accommodations, that offers sugar white-sand beaches, full-service beach services, golf for every level, a tennis club, watersports, a marina, a spa, biking and walking trails, and even its own pedestrian village, with shopping, dining, events and entertainment.

LEGOLAND Florida

LEGOLAND Florida

Tell us what you think.