Fun things to do in south florida with kids blog cover

Are you planning your next family vacation to South Florida? Our recommendations are sourced from GoWhee members and local parents, so you can trust that they’re tried and tested by families just like yours. Let’s dive into the fun!

Table of Content

Fun Family Activities Outdoors

Things to do when the weather is great to catch some fresh air and discover the local culture.

Family snorkeling above shipwrecks
Biscayne National park Family-Snorkel-Mandalay credit NPS.gov.jpg

1. Discover The Maritime Heritage Trail

If your family has a knack for underwater exploration, take them to Biscayne National Park, less than 1-hour south of Miami, off the coast. You can see some of the wrecks independently since the park service indicates where they are at sea and on their map. Or you can join the rangers on the guided tour.  There are no age limits, but everyone has to be able to swim comfortably to enjoy the snorkeling experience!

General info: Boat rides are $45 / person which includes the guide and all the snorkeling equipment.  Remember to bring appropriate gear such as sunscreen, bug spray, and hats for sun protection. Reservations are necessary and need to be made by phone 305-230-1100.

Insider tips:  Florida winter months are the best time since the water tends to be clearer. Also, make sure to bring a waterproof camera to capture all the underwater wonders you’ll see.

Beach in south florida with waves crashing against rock formation
Blowing Rock Preserve Credit irabassi

2. Participate in conservation at the Blowing Rock Preserve

This unique place right on the outskirts of Miami, near West Palm Beach, will help you disconnect from the city completely. The highlight is the 50+ feet waves crashing against the stone formations on the beach. But kids can also have fun by helping the conservation effort. Just head to the visitor center and they will give you little buckets for them to pick up any trash they see. It is a great place to check out one of the many species that seek refuge there, like sea turtles, or enjoy some of the easy unique trails cared for by the conservancy like their sea grape tunnel.

General info: The entry and parking for the site are FREE with a recommended donation of $2. Hikes are short super easy for little feet and offer some shade.

Insider tips: Our members don’t recommend this beach for swimming but great to spend a couple of hours playing with the send. Make sure you arrive early (they open at 9 AM) since parking fills up fast and come prepared for mosquitoes.

Fort De Soto Artillerie credit Wilsilver77

3. Take Your Family Through Fort De Soto Batteries

The Military Fortress historic site is located south of St Petersburg, FL. It was originally constructed in the late 19th century as a coastal defense system and played a significant role during the Spanish-American War. Kids can learn more about the area’s military history while exploring the tunnels, bunkers, large cannons, and fortified structures.

General info: The site is open year-round, but hours may vary. Admission is FREE and guided tours are available on select days. Bring comfortable walking shoes and be prepared to climb some stairs.

Insider tips: For a unique experience, visit the fort at sunset when the views are especially beautiful. For a little thrill, bring a flashlight and explore the dark tunnels inside the fort.

Glowing Kayak in the night on the water in Florida
Key West Paddle Night Kayak experience. Credit Keywestpaddle.com

4. Go Kayaking at Night in Key West

One of the most unique family-friendly activities in Florida is to join a night kayak experience in a clear the bottom boat. Key West Paddle offers a kid-friendly version of this activity. The staff takes you through the breathtaking mangrove tunnels of Key West. This company is family-owned and is highly recommended by parents for their attention to the whole family and the eco-system. Encounters include octopuses, nursing sharks, and other species that you will see and even touch.

General info: Kids aged 4+ can share a boat with an adult and the tickets start at $70 for a single boat. Count to stay on the water for about two hours. The night tour starts between 9 PM and 10 PM so plan naps accordingly.

Insider tips: Don’t forget to bring cash to tip your guide. Make sure to wear comfortable clothes and prepare for a wet adventure.

JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island credit Comstock

5. Take the tram and discover the local wildlife on Sanibel Island

JN Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island offers a unique experience for outdoorsy families. You have the option to drive through, bike, walk, or take the tram to see the diverse wildlife, including birds, alligators, pelicans, and manatees. The Visitor Center has interactive and hands-on exhibits for kids about the refuge’s ecosystems and the work of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling. The park’s multiple trails, range from easy boardwalks for little ones to longer 4-miles trails through wetlands.

General info: The center offers free parking and entry with a national park pass or $10 for the whole car. The center and interpretative boardwalk are fully wheelchair-accessible, and restrooms are available. The tram tickets are $40 for adults. The center and wildlife drive are closed on Fridays!

Insider tips: Parents recommend planning to go there at low tide for the best experience.
*At the time we are writing this, the accessible board is closed so check their site for updates. The park received some damages from the IAN hurricane.

Plan your trip with a travel app designed for parents!

Check out the world map here. You can find family-friendly places like museums, playgrounds, restaurants with kids play space, hotels with family rooms, even a local pediatrician just in case!

Best part, places are selected by parents like you!

Alternatives To Famous Theme Parks and Top Attractions For Kids In Florida

At GoWhee we usually don’t recommend things like Universal Studios Florida or Walt Disney World, instead, our members prefer local, inexpensive activities that will keep kids happy and your wallet happier!

Little boy feeding a giraffe in Lion Country Safari
Lion Country Safari Giraffes feeding credit Haley Passeser LionCountrySafari.com

6. Go Wild at Lion Country Safari

This wild Florida family adventure, located 1-hr outside of Fort Lauderdale, is a great alternative to the popular Miami zoo. It’s a drive-through experience to see lions, giraffes, rhinos, and more in their natural habitat. The audio tour lasts 90 minutes and talks about the animals and their surroundings. Another option is to take the walking tour and enjoy activities including paddle boats, carousels, and a splash park.

General info: Admission for adults is $39.50. The park is open daily from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Most of the park is accessible to both wheelchairs and strollers. There are two food places onsite.

Insider tip: Take cash with you so you can experience feeding the giraffes from a platform ($5). If you pull a camper or other vehicle this will not be allowed. If you are not comfortable using your vehicle, you can rent a car from the office for $35.00

Conch train parked in downtown Key West Florida
Conch train credit Maria Kray

7. Take A Ride On The Conch Tour Train

This famous train in Key West, is one of the most relaxing things to do with kids.  For 75  minutes, you sit in a charming open-air train and learn all about the island’s most popular attractions and landmarks. The guides take you through the heart of Old Town Key West, Duval Street, and more while sharing tales and tidbits from Key West’s rich history.
Great for maximizing nap time with your little one!

General info: Tickets for the Conch Tour Train start at $42 for adults and $20 for ages 4-12.  That includes a FREE admission to the Sails to Rails Museum and a coupon book. The train runs daily from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm and can be purchased online or at the ticket office on Front Street.

Insider tips: Arrive early to avoid long lines and bring a light sweater as the train can get chilly with strong winds.

Bridge in the Morikami gardens with lush plants around it.
Morikami Gardens bridge credit: Onoandrea

8. Stroll around the Morikami Japenese Gardens

This Japanese botanical garden near Delray Beach in Fort Lauderdale is designed with kids in mind. It offers beautiful gardens stretching on 16 acres of winding paths, with a world-class bonsai collection. The museum building is a beautiful and traditional Japanese villa. Kids of all ages can enjoy specific tours tailored to their age, with hands-on exhibits, ponds with koi, and traditional Sado tea ceremony demonstrations.

General info: Admission is $16 for adults and free under 6 years old. Plan for at least 3 hours or more to truly enjoy it all. The gardens and museums are fully accessible but make sure to bring your wheelchair. They do not allow outside food onsite but there is a cafe available that serves Pan Asian food for lunch.

Insider tips: Try to visit the gardens when they have one of their unique family-friendly events or classes like Kite Flying or Cherry Blossom Crafting, those events are FREE with admission.

Blue Butterfly on plant
Key West Butterfly conservatory credit_ Marco Bellentani

9. Stop By The Key West Butterfly Conservatory instead of Butterfly World

This Butterfly Conservatory gives visitors the experience of walking in a lush tropical garden, with hundreds of free-flying butterflies and an array of exotic birds, turtles, and flamingos, at half of the cost of popular Butterfly World north of Ft Lauderdale. It is also a great place to learn about the different stages of these beautiful insects, with kids.

General info: Tickets are $17.50 for adults (or $15.50 online) and $12.50 for 3+. It takes about 20-45 minutes to visit this location with kids. Parking is free. Strollers are NOT allowed but they have bathrooms with a changing table inside.

Insider tips: If you keep your ticket from the Hemingway House, you get $2 off for your visit. Make sure you stop by the “southernmost point” place right nearby.

GoWhee’s Responsible Family Travel Pledge

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Family-Friendly Attractions Fun For Animal-Loving Kids

Most travel guides will recommend visiting the Everglades, or the manatees, and they are great stops, but at GoWhee, we think that swamps and alligators are not the only Florida family attractions worth a mention.

Bassins in the turtle hospital
Turtle Hospital Marathon Key turtle pools credit turtlehospital.org

10. Learn about the conservation efforts to protect sea turtles

At the Turtle Hospital in Marathon Key, Florida, your family can witness the rehabilitation of injured turtles in a real working hospital. The visit is an educational visit showing a behind-the-scenes look at the hospital facilities and rehabilitation area. After the visit, guests are invited to feed the turtles.

General info: Admission fees are $35.00 for adults, $17.50  under 12, and free under 4yo.

Insider tips: Our community of parents recommends doing this activity with kids aged 6+, as it can be a little long for young children. Check their website for release party schedules, make sure to reserve in advance, and fill out forms online to save time onsite.

Baby turtles on the beach at sunset
Turtle Release credit Muhammad Hudari

11. Watch a turtle release at the Gumbo Limb Nature Center

Located near Boca Raton it is often considered one of the best things to do with kids in South Florida because of its sea turtle release program from May to July. Families can enjoy a stroll along the boardwalk, and catch a glimpse of the tropical fishes in the aquariums, as well as the many species in a butterfly garden and container garden. Kids can also discover some pretty cool science-based/eco initiatives exhibits too like their safe lighting exhibit and a rain barrel system.

General info:  The center is FREE, although donations are accepted. The sea turtle release experience is $20 per person for non-residents. Make sure to reserve since it is often booked up. The release happens on a specific schedule in season,  (Tuesday to Thursday, between 8:45 pm and 12:00 am) and only children aged 8+  can participate.

Insider tips: Parents recommend grabbing the scavenger hunt kit or using the self-guided tours (i.e: meditative, tree scanning) to make the visit more interactive for kids. Also, check their kids’ program schedule before your visit.

What is the best tour company in South Florida?

When you book nature or water excursions (i.e dolphin and manatee boat tours, snorkeling experiences), always look for the Blue Star Provider certification. It makes sure your provider respects conservation rules.

This content may contain affiliate links, if a purchase or booking is made, we may earn a commission. This does not affect our content integrity nor decision to add or remove a location from our editorial content.

Pink Flamingos in natural habitat
Pink Flamingos credit johnandersonphoto

12. Take a look at the beautiful Flamingo Gardens

Located only 40 minutes from Miami, the Flamingo Gardens is the oldest botanical garden in South Florida. It offers a unique experience when visiting Miami with kids and a natural habitat for Caribbean flamingos. You can feed the flamingos and explore the 25,000-square-foot free-flight Aviary, a black bear habitat, and see bobcats, peacocks, and other fascinating species. They also have some temporary exhibits so check their calendar.

General info: Admission for adults is $24,  and $17 for 3 to 11-year-olds. The garden offers free parking and onsite food options. Visitors with kids are recommended to plan for 6-7 hours onsite, to explore and enjoy the various attractions. Wheelchairs and strollers can be rented.

Insider tips: Don’t forget to grab the food packets at the entrance for $1 to feed the flamingos. Parents recommend taking the 30-minute tram at the beginning since it gives you a nice overview of the whole place.

Girl feeding Tarpoons
Robbie's Marina Tarpons feeding credit Maridav

13. Feed Nurse Sharks and Tarpons on Islamorada Island.

One of the best things to do in South Florida with kids loving animal interaction, is to get up close and personal with some tarpons. Check out Robbie’s on Islamorada which usually attracts 100s of them every day. If your family is looking for something a bit more out of the way, you can experience the same feeding of the Tarpons and nurse sharks with kids at key largo fisheries as well.

General info: Going on the docks costs $2 and feedings are $4 for the fish. There are plenty of food and small shops around to enjoy the visit, so it is a great spot to stop for lunch.

Insider tips: Note that the Pelicans might be a bit aggressive around the feeding, but even if you stop by to watch the show is worth it. Our members recommend getting the punch card and trying the Mahi at Robbie’s. Also, it is an iconic spot, so it can get pretty crowded in high season. 

Hand feeding a stingray
Stingray Feeding Credit phychua

14. Hand-feed sharks at Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters

The aquarium is located about 2.5 hrs south of Miami on Marathon Key, and provides an immersive experience like no other. Parents can snorkel with kids aged 5+ in the main tank and you can come up close to the sea creatures like baby stingrays, hand-feed the sharks, and even embark on a treasure hunt to dig for shark teeth. The staff even gives informative shows to make the whole experience a bit more educational.

General info: The cost of entry is  $27.50 for adults plus additional options. For encounters like the shark experience count an extra $25. The onsite cafe offers a variety of food options along with wine and beer.

Insider tips: Parents in GoWhee, love their free reentry policy with the wristband, and recommend buying food punch cards that allow you to feed several animals. Also, Don’t forget to ask for a military discount if it applies to you.

Does my credit card insurance covers water sports in Florida?

Are you using a credit card to book your vacation in Florida? It may have limitations of coverage for water sports activities make sure to check out this article: The Real Talk about family travel insurance.

Things to do in South Florida with kids on a rainy day

With up to 250 days of sunshine in Florida, you may plan mostly outdoor activities. But hot days can be tiring for little ones and if you visit during hurricane season, these options will be life-saver.

Gravity clock exhibit at the MODS
Gravity Clock Museum of Discovery and Science credit mods.org

15. A S.T.E.A.M. activity in Florida For Kids Of All Abilities.

The Museum of Discovery and Science (MODS) in Florida offers tons of interactive exhibits for kids (best for up to 10 years old). Here, you can encounter alligators, turtles, pythons, fish, and otters as well. The two-story complex houses an IMAX theater and various fun simulations including a Mars adventure and roller coaster. Make sure to check the museum’s water experiments, outdoor activities, and special STEAM exhibits for little ones

General info: A visit to MODS typically takes 3-4 hours. Tickets are priced at $27 for adults and $22 for children. The museum also offers Sensory Free Sundays where admission is free for neuro-divergent children. Manual wheelchairs are available at no cost on a first-come, first-served basis.

Insider Tips: Parents at GoWhee, recommend reserving the Discovery Spot exhibit in advance to avoid disappointment. For parking, choose street parking which costs about $3 per hour, instead of the more expensive city lot. Also, if you’re a Bank of America member, you can enjoy free admission so make sure to take advantage of that.

Water Playground in Aventura Mall
Aventura Mall Water playground. Credit Aventuramall.com

16. Take An Art Break At The Aventura Mall

Not your traditional art museum, this mall offers a kid-friendly self-guided art walk and is only 30 minutes from the heart of Miami. Check out their collection of incredible installations made by local artists. It features some unique things like a water playground for little kids to cool off or a 93-foot-tall slide great for teens and older kids. You can download their guided audio tour to learn more about each piece, and why not, do a little shopping? 

General info: Entry is FREE since it is in the mall. The mall operates from 10 am to 9:30 pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 12 pm to 8 pm on Sunday, but some installations like the slide only operate on the weekend. The slide has size restrictions for little ones. Tons of food options onsite and Parking is free.

Insider Tips: Bring a change of clothes for your kids as they’re likely to get wet in the water playground and the play area for the little ones requires socks so come prepared.

17. A Kid-Friendly Escape room at Escapology, Ft Lauderdale

For a more thriling experience suitable for school-aged kids and teens in South Florida, take a look at this escape room center with a unique “kids mode”. It’s designed specifically to engage children in captivating narratives, and puzzle solving, and encourage critical thinking in a fun way. They can embark on a variety of 60-minute-long adventures, like a Scooby-Doo-themed room. Plus, all escape rooms are private, so your family won’t have to share the experience with strangers.

General info: Tickets to Escapology are priced at $44 per person for 7-14-year-olds. While a minimum of four children is required for the kids mode, adults can either assist in the game for free or choose to relax outside in the lounge.

Insider tips: If you don’t have four children to enjoy the kids’ mode, Escapology also allows children to participate in their traditional escape rooms.

Indoor play space with a mini camper kitchen and chairs
Kids Hideout space Credit Kidshideout.com

18. Pretend play for younger kiddos at Kids Hideout

The cute indoor play place in Fort Lauderdale, is best for kids aged 0-8. It includes an animal hospital, a fire station, a restaurant, and a special area for babies 18 months and under. This play area is perfect for handling Florida’s hot days and even caters to parents, with a comfortable lounge.

General info: The entry is $15.00 between 1 and 8 years old, which covers up to 4 hours of playtime and includes two accompanying adults. Children 8+ can enter for free if they are accompanied by a paying sibling. Snacks and drinks are available for purchase.

Insider tips: Remember to bring your socks! Also, our community highly recommends checking out the unique classes offered at Kids Hideout, such as music classes and “Zumbini” classes.

Tip for transportation in South Florida

For a fun way to discover Key West Make sure you grab one of the Golf carts since you can drive them legally in the street and they are much easier to park (note: golf cars are responsible for paying for parking too)insurance.

The Miami Trolley is free and accessible to all!

Bucket-List Worthy Florida Activities

South Florida is not just about Miami, Ft Lauderdale, and a few famous Keys. There are so many more things to do with kids out-of-the-beaten paths. Our community recommends taking a look at these beautiful spots if you have a little extra time in the area.

Arial view of pigeon Key Florida
Pigeon Key Florida Credit Gabriele Maltinti

19. Marco Island

Located 2 hours west of Miami, Marco Island is known for its calm waters and soft sandy shores. The pristine beaches on the island like the Tigertail Beach, are perfect for building sandcastles, shell collecting, bird watching, and splashing around. Plus, there are plenty of restaurants and ice cream shops nearby for a quick snack break.

20. Pigeon Key

Pigeon Key, located off the coast of Marathon, FL, is only accessible via a car-free 7-mile-long bridge by train, bike, or walk. It offers some exciting things to do for kids like snorkeling, fishing, a narrated train ride, and a museum. Parents recommend a full-day trip and packing food since there are no concessions on the island. You can bring your bike or rent it BEFORE entering the bridge in Marathon. Note that there are no hotels on the island and pets are not allowed.

Arial view of Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park
Fort Jefferson Dry Tortugas National Park Credit Maisna

21. Dry Tortugas National Park Island

Only accessible by ferry service from Key West, these remote islands are home to a beautiful coral reef, white sandy beaches, and a Civil War-era fort. The shallow waters directly accessible from the sandy beach are perfect for little ones to snorkel and explore marine life, including the chance to see turtles and dolphins.Entrance fees to the Dry Tortugas National Park and Fort Jefferson are typically included in the ferry cost. For families whose children enjoy the great outdoors, consider checking out the camping options available it is a once-of-a-lifetime type adventure.

22. Anna Maria Island

Parents will appreciate the laid-back atmosphere, perfect for spending quality time with the kids, while building sandcastles, swimming in the clear, shallow waters, or spotting dolphins on a boat tour. Without high-rise buildings, the island’s charm is all about the small-town feel, with little shops, family-friendly restaurants, bike paths, and local parks.

When is the best time to visit Florida ?

Before traveling to Florida, take a look at the cruise ship calendar and try to stay away from cruise days to prevent hoards of people.

Florida Winter months' temperature ranges from 50s to 70s and crowds usually visit in the spring. So we recommend January to beginning of march.

Kid-Friendly Beaches that are not the South Beach in Miami

Despite popular beliefs,  South Florida and in particular the Keys’ beaches are not all great for kids. But we found a few stop-worthy spots thanks to our community of parents.

Boca Raton beach
Boca Raton Beach credit rmcguirk

23. Family-Friendly Beach in Boca Raton

The Spanish River Park in Boca Raton,  has a great stretch of clean white sand with lounge chaise, umbrella rentals, and a beautiful playground (also offering some shade). The beach typically has lifeguards until 5 pm or so.  Note that the playground is highly recommended, great for all ages with tons of things to do like zip lines and other cool structures.

General info: Parking is between $25 and $50 but this includes the beach amenities with clean shower facilities and wheelchair-accessible bathrooms. You can also decide to park in the meter parking area if you don’t plan on using the park’s amenities.

Insider Tips: Plan to stay the day there since the parking pass is the same whether you stay 1 hour or the full day. Our community of parents loves that you can use a safe tunnel from the parking lot to the beach without crossing the busy road.

 

Red Lifeguard booth on the siesta beach
Siesta Key beach lifeguard booth credit Trigger Photo

24. Family-Friendly Beach in Sarasota County

The Siesta Beach offers families a safe and picturesque beach experience.  This beach is highly recommended because the lifeguards on duty provide an extra sense of security, and kids will love the playground adjacent.

General info: The parking is FREE, and there are some food stalls on site. There are clean bathrooms and showers and you can use the pavilion area to picnic in the shade.

Insider tips: Parents in our community recommend arriving before 11-12 PM since parking tends to fill up after and to follow the local lifeguard updates (using #Scotteronthebeach on Facebook).

Bahia Honda State Park beach credit dosecreative

25. Family-Friendly Beach in The Keys

Bahia Honda State Park beach offers a more secluded and peaceful experience for a vacation with family. Bahia Honda has the Keys’ largest stretch of natural sandy beach. Its crystal-clear waters are perfect for snorkeling and you can even spot some dolphins if you’re lucky!

General info:  Admission to the park is $8 per vehicle. There are picnic areas, restrooms, and showers available.

Insider tips:  Arrive early to secure a parking spot, and bring some cash for the entrance fee. Also, don’t forget your snorkeling gear! The best time to see dolphins is in the morning or late afternoon.

Playground with beach in background
Playground Florida Credit dosecreative

Noteworthy Playgrounds in South Florida

Miami South Point Park Playground
1 Washington Ave, Miami Beach, FL 33139

Sugar Sand Park in Boca
300 S Military Trail, Boca Raton, FL 33486

Truman Waterfront Park Key West
Southard St, Key West, FL 33040

Tiny town sunrise Florida
11100 NW 44th St, Sunrise, FL 33351

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All inclusive sailing cruise with private chef, beautiful sceneries and water fun everyday! Rene and his wife are making you feel so welcomed & share their love for the Turkey coast. Kids have their own cabin and menus can be adapted to them. You can be matched with another family to ofset the cost.