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In addition to its beautiful beaches, the Sunshine State is full of historical and cultural sites that make it a great place for a family vacation (St. Augustine and Little Havana). But when you’re on vacation with a toddler, simple entertainment is the most important thing.
Keep toddler vacations focused on active fun with a good mix of beach and pool time, fun natural playgrounds, and comfortable family resorts where you can prioritize nap time when needed.
Check our suggestions for the best trips to Florida with young children:
With all the theme parks, it’s clear that Orlando is the best place in Florida for a family vacation. But for toddlers, you can have just as much fun staying in downtown Orlando at a central hotel like the Marriott Orlando Downtown or in the pretty suburb of Winter Park (try The Alfond Inn for a boutique family stay) and exploring all of the city’s great parks and playgrounds.
Start in downtown Orlando at Lake Eola Park, where you can take your toddler out on a giant swan-shaped pedal boat, feed the real swans that live there, and play at the waterside playground. Every Saturday in Winter Park, there is a farmer’s market at the old train depot. It’s fun to push a stroller through the flower and food stands. Then, to surprise your child, hop on the SunRail Commuter Train for a quick ride to downtown Orlando.
2. West Palm Beach, Palm Beach
Around Clematis Street, West Palm Beach is best for walking and families. Sloan’s Ice Cream, a famous dessert place, draws kids and adults with its sweet treats and fun atmosphere. The Breakers Palm Beach is a great place to stay with your family because it has a great kids’ club, a beach, and a family pool that faces the ocean.
Take your little ones to Manatee Lagoon one day to see sea cows coming to the surface. And going to the Palm Beach Zoo, where kids can feed flamingoes and get close to exotic animals like koalas, is always a hit.
3. Anna Maria Island
This happy island north of Sarasota on Florida’s Gulf Coast is a great place for a family vacation. It doesn’t have any chain stores or restaurants, and it has a cool retro Florida feel. The Creme Brûlée French toast at Ginny’s and Jane E’s Cafe, a cute little island restaurant, is as close to a sure thing as you can get at that age.
Next, go to the Rod and Reel Pier with your child to fish and look for dolphins. Then, go to Beach Bums and rent a surrey bike for a fun ride around the island. The Waterline Marina Resort & Beach Club is a great place for families to stay because the suites have full gourmet kitchens, separate living and sleeping areas, and nice views of the marina.
4. Tampa, Florida
With the beaches of St. Pete and Clearwater only about 30 minutes from its international airport and a lot of family-friendly things to do in the city, Tampa is a great place for a Florida vacation with toddlers that combines time at the beach and in the city. A walk along the Riverwalk is a good way to get a feel for what’s going on in downtown. Nearby, you can go on a dolphin cruise and look at the great Florida-themed exhibits at the Florida Aquarium.
At the Glazer Children’s Museum, toddlers can burn off some energy with the great interactive exhibits. The Tampa Marriott Water Street is the perfect place to stay because you can walk to most of downtown’s best spots and the rooms are big and have balconies with views of the river.
5. Cocoa Beach, Florida
Nesting sea turtles, wildlife drives to see alligators and manatees at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, and rocket launches from nearby Cape Canaveral all make Cocoa Beach a top choice for a Florida family vacation with toddlers. When you and your toddler aren’t building sand castles on the beach, there are several oceanfront parks and playgrounds where you can have a picnic or let off some steam.
Stay at the Four Points by Sheraton Cocoa Beach for a comfortable family hotel close to everything. Make sure to show your kids the amazing aquarium at the Shark Pit Bar & Grill, which is full of reef sharks and bright tropical fish. Another good place to stay is the Hampton Inn Cocoa Beach/Cape Canaveral.
6. Key West
Key West, at the end of the road in the Florida Keys, is definitely a place for adults to have fun. So, parents might be surprised by how great a trip here can be even if they have a toddler with them. They’ll have a great time riding the Conch Tour Train around town. And the walk-through exhibits at the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory will blow their minds as they see all kinds of beautiful flying creatures. Fort Zachary Taylor State Park has the best beach on the island.
There are lots of shady places to picnic and play with views of the water. Casa Marina Key West, Curio Collection by Hilton, is a great place to stay because it has two outdoor pools and is close to the beach.
7. Winter Haven, Orlando
The LEGOLAND Florida Resort is in Winter Haven, which is about an hour south of Orlando. The Florida theme park is great for toddlers because it is made for kids ages 2 to 12. DUPLO Valley, the LEGO Creation and Building Zones, and the live shows are the best parts for little kids.
8. Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is a great place to go on vacation with young children because it is less busy than Miami and has a fun system of water taxis for getting around. The huge suites at the Hilton Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort have full kitchens and multiple bedrooms, making it feel like you’re sleeping in your own private beach condo. They’re also right across the street from the beach and a short walk from the water taxi dock.
Las Olas Boulevard is full of places to eat, like the kid-friendly creperie La Bonne Crepe. It’s a great place to push a stroller when you’re looking for your next great meal. And when the kids are done at the beach, take them to Florence C. Hardy Park, which has a great playground with shade.
9. Vero Beach, Treasure Coast
Vero Beach, on Florida’s famous Treasure Coast, is a great place for families. It has a great mix of natural beauty and fun things for toddlers to do. Your toddler’s trip will be more fun if you stay at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, where Goofy and the gang show up at character breakfasts (with Mickey Mouse pancakes!) and you can celebrate the end of the day with a bonfire and S’mores. The Environmental Learning Center has a great outdoor playground and a kids’ discovery center.
If you can get your child to wear a life jacket, they might even enjoy a short kayak ride out into the Indian River Lagoon. The well-known Vero Beach Museum of Art is also a great place to go because it has special hands-on exhibits for toddlers that let them explore their growing creativity.
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