The sound of waves crashing on the sand, seagulls cooing as they munch on someone’s leftover sandwich, the warmth of the sun while everywhere else is buried in snow, this is south Florida. Maybe you are more of a nightlife person, interested in the lifestyles of the rich and famous along Millionaire Row, or the trendy clubs along South Beach. Either way, south Florida has something for everyone, and it is rich with cultures from all over the world. Traditionally, south Florida has been thought of as a spring break haven for coeds in Fort Lauderdale, a retired golfer’s paradise in West Palm Beach, and a fast paced wildness in Miami. However, there are tons of things to do in south Florida for families.
I have enjoyed these family activities in south Florida with my own family over the years. And now I am going to share these south Florida attractions for families with you. Whether you already live here or are planning to purchase a time share so you can visit again and again, these attractions are a must see. Some of these things will take the whole day, whereas some will take only a few hours. They also span ages from infants through adults, so there is something for everyone. Further, I have included photos and websites for you to find additional information and ticket info. Please research each website for details before booking to find out any current restrictions or changes in schedules.
South Florida for families: South Florida Things to do with family in the Keys
Miami is the gateway to the Florida Keys. From Miami, a few hours drive will take you to Key West. Along the way, you will pass Key Largo and Islamorada. Key Largo is the home to John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. Of course, being on the water there are boat tours available. You can take the family snorkeling along the coral reefs, or settle in for a glass bottom boat ride. I recommend taking something for motion sickness on the glass bottom boat. While the view of underwater life is amazing, trying to focus on the water through the glass floor can be confusing to the equilibrium. My husband and I ended up going back on deck and enjoying the sea spray on our faces after a while. This state park offers camping as well.
What are Florida winters like?
From December through February, the average day time temperature reaches the mid to upper 70s. Whereas, nights drop into the high 50s. However, nights can dip into the 40s at times and during the day, if the sun is not shining temperatures in the 60s can seem chilly. While winters and spring usually guarantee sunshine, showers can occasionally crop up. Be prepared.
A bit further along the stretch of highway dotted with sleepy fishing towns, you will find Islamorada. The Theater of the Sea has many marine life exhibits and shows, where you and your family will learn about the care of marine life and conservation efforts. If you want more of an immersive experience, you can swim or wade with a dolphin, swim with a sea lion, or meet animals such as sea turtles or alligators. You can even swim with a shark!
Although Key West is known for its debauchery, there are also a lot of fun things to do in this part of south Florida for families. We went camping with my son’s cubscout pack in Sugarloaf Key, which was right next to Key West. Staying at a KOA is a good way to have family fun in Florida on a budget. We were able to stay at the campground and just drive to Key West for a day of sightseeing. For more fun, visit Dry Tortugas National Park. Here you can go snorkeling among coral reefs or explore a 19th century fort. Dry Tortugas also offers camping on Garden Key. However, keep in mind the park is only accessible by seaplane or boat.
South Florida for Families: Miami
If you are looking for south Florida things to do with family in the surf and sun, visit Biscayne National Park. Since this park is 95% water, it is a great place for boating, canoeing, kayaking, and eco-adventures. The mangrove lined shores create a fun lagoon for enjoying the water for a day of family fun.
Plan ahead for rainy days. Many of these 45 Cheap Indoor Activities For Kids can be adapted to do in hotels or vacation rentals if you come prepared.
When you tire of water activities, check out some of these family things to do with kids in Miami:
- Holocaust Memorial– A bit gruesome but important for the younger generation to know, this is an outdoor memorial located at 1933-1945 Meridian Avenue, Miami Beach. A committee of Holocaust survivors created this memorial in 1985, and it will take your breath away. My kids actually chose to visit this one day, instead of going to the water park. This activity doesn’t take long to visit, but you can see from the sculptures the lasting impact it will have after viewing it. I recommend going early, before the heat of the day, and then moving on to other activities.
- Vizcaya– Explore the 10 acres of Italian gardens, and tour part of the old world mansion. Transport yourself back to Europe right here in Miami. This is an amazing place to visit. The grounds are a great place to wander and get some fresh air. This is a good place for a picnic as well. We came with a stroller, which was ok for most of the gardens, as there were ramps as well as stairs. However, if I remember correctly, we left the stroller at the entrance for the tour of the mansion. The old corridors were not made for extra vehicles.
- Coral Castle– How did a man only 100lbs. and 5′ tall build this marvel of stone? Built in the 1940s, without machinery, Ed Leedskalnin built this fortress as a gift for an unrequited love. Come tour the castle and learn its fascinating history. Narration is available in English, Spanish, French, and German. This is another experience that only takes about an hour and a half, but it is a must see. It is outdoors, so plan accordingly. South Florida weather is hot in the summer and we can get monsoon rains between June and November. It is a good idea to carry fold up rain ponchos with you.
- Zoo Miami– This zoo is the only sub tropical zoo in the United States and houses animals from around the world. Feed giraffes or parrots, ride a camel, or get up close and personal with critters during a presentation. Take a safari tram tour, or hop on the monorail. If you want to relax, lounge on a pedal boat, or go for a ride on the Lostman’s River Ride. I don’t know if I will ever get to go ride a camel anywhere else, so I had to seize upon this bucket list opportunity.
- Monkey Jungle– Here the people are caged and the monkeys run free. Numerous presentations are available. You can even buy art work created by a gorilla. However, use caution. The attraction is set up where the people walk through cage like tunnels. Monkeys love climbing, and therefore often run around on top of the cages. DO NOT stand directly under a monkey. They are not toilet trained! That being said, there are opportunities to hoist food to the monkeys for a fun feeding experience.
- Miami Seaquarium– In addition to the usual sea lion and dolphin shows, view penguins and other sea life in their underwater habitats. For an additional fee you will have the opportunity to swim with the dolphins or seals or experience penguin or shark encounters. Our family had the amazing experience of suiting up in wetsuits to meet a sea lion. After learning about sea lions and safety precautions for interacting with these animals, we went into a man made lagoon for a hands on experience with a sea lion. It was a once in a life time experience.
- Parrot Jungle Island– Children can walk through 8′ tall hammocks, nets, and wood bridges. Then walk among the kangaroos while you feed them. Interact with squirrel monkeys, macaws, and more. After that head over to the petting barn. For an additional price you can interact with a lemur, encounter a sloth, experience flamingos, or meet a capybara.
- Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens– This is a great place to experience the world of nature such as plants, flowers, butterflies, and birds. While there is a cafe on site, you can bring your own fare for a picnic. While south Florida nature is beautiful, we are located in the sub-tropics so you will need bug spray.
South Florida for Families: Fort Lauderdale
Fort Lauderdale is found just north of Miami in Broward County. There are endless miles of beaches and parks. Fort Lauderdale Beach has numerous shops, nightclubs, and restaurants lining it. For a beach where locals hang out, head a little north to Lauderdale By The Sea. Visit the weekend farmer’s market, and take a break from the surf and sand to browse quaint shops and get a bite to eat. South of Ft. Lauderdale is Hollywood Beach, with a pedestrian boardwalk, where you will find numerous joggers, rollerbladers, and bicyclists. Beaches are free. You will only need to pay for parking.
When you need a break from the sun check out these family things to do in south Florida:
- Butterfly World at Tradewinds Park– Open since 1988, Butterfly World sits on 3 acres which includes 3 butterfly aviaries, botanical gardens, and a butterfly farm. This place has many things to do with toddlers in south Florida. You can feed the birds. Walk through the butterfly aviaries. Kids can play on the playground. In addition, the north side of Tradewinds Park has a farm and stables where children can enjoy pony rides. Fields are available for various sports. Also picnic grounds and playgrounds are available. And, if you visit during the holiday season, come at night for an amazing drive through lights display.
- Everglades National Park– The everglades is the slowest moving river in the world. There are many things to do in Everglades National Park with kids. Here you can take guided boat tours through this wild alligator farm, explore trails, and enjoy real Florida. However, bug spray is a must, and watch out for alligators. This is their home. They are not in cages.
- Flamingo Gardens – This is a tropical garden where families can see native plants and animals. Bring a picnic lunch. This is easy to navigate with strollers and is great for younger kids. Schools often take elementary classes here for field trips. It is not an all day experience, so it is great for those with short attention spans.
- Carrie B Cruises– Experience a bit of the lifestyles of the rich and famous as you view mansions and yachts along the inter coastal waterway on this 1.5 hour cruise. Drinks and snacks are available for purchase. While there are more elaborate cruises available, this one is short, fitting the attention span of families with younger kids. However, it is great for adults too, as cocktails are available for purchase.
- IFly– Do you want to try skydiving but are afraid of heights and possible death? Powerful electric fans lift you into the air. It is a very unique experience open to all. They are even able to make accommodations for those with limited physical and cognitive abilities. If you are looking for things to do in south Florida with a teenager, this is it. I went twice with my son. This is another great bucket list activity.
- Mai Kai Dinner Show– Enter Polynesia and wander through the gardens. Then enjoy tropical drinks in unique glassware. Non-alcoholic cocktails are available for the kids. My daughter was so excited to drink out of a pineapple. After that sit back and enjoy the show. The performers will treat you to flame throwers, hula dancers, and rhythmic beats. And of course, there is a gift shop for cool souvenirs.
Unfortunately, last I checked, Mai Kai closed until further notice. However, as of November 2021, they have found new business partners to sponsor repairs needed to reopen.
- Museum of Discovery & Science– This children’s museum is fun for all ages. It houses a traveling exhibit which changes frequently to keep things fresh. The first floor of the museum houses the center of discover for those under age six. You will be lucky if you can get your children out of there and on to the next exhibit. Next take in the Everglades airboat adventure. Learn about Florida’s water supply. View underwater ecoscapes. Then play the recycling game and explore prehistoric Florida. Test your skills at the science park and experience storm force winds at the Storm Center. The second floor is home to Keller Science theater, in addition to opportunities to perform simulated surgery, explore a dinosaur bone yard, and go on a simulated plane flight. Various events take place throughout the year such as North Pole Pajama Party and Wine Spirits Culinary Celebration.
- Young at Art– Explore the world of the imagination. Make projects from recycled materials. Learn about cultures from around the world. Keep returning for changing exhibits. My family has come here so many times over the years and there is always something new to explore as well as the old favorites. This is great for toddlers as well kids through age 100.
- Coral Springs Museum of Art– This museum features local artists as well as changing exhibitions. On Wednesdays admission is free. Art classes and camps are available. The museum offers children’s classes several weekends a month with different themes. The museum is housed in the Coral Springs Center for the Arts which has ballets, musicals, comedy, and music performances.
- Plantation Historical Museum at Christmas Time- Located at 511 North Fig Tree Lane in Plantation, FL this museum is hidden away in a residential area. Outdoors are beautiful butterfly gardens and a table for picnicking. At Christmas time, the museum has a dollhouse display and over 20 themed Christmas trees in addition to a electric train. It is worth a visit. Admission is free, but there is a box for donations. This is another family fun south Florida favorite for those on a budget, especially if you are visiting during the holidays.
South Florida for Families: West Palm Beach
West Palm Beach is known for golf and retirement communities, but there is more here to south Florida family life.
- Schoolhouse Children’s Museum– Fun exhibits for the young ones. Outdoors there is a large wooden playground and picnic area. It is a great place to spend a few hours and only requires a donation, so it is very affordable.
- Coconut Cove Water Park– Most people head to Rapids Water Park, but I recommend this if you are looking to spend less money and have younger kids. There is a 986′ lazy river, 2 four story high water slides, a pool, and a children’s water playground. In addition there is a lily pad walk that I even did as an adult. It is great exercise and fun trying to balance. Concessions are available, and you can eat in a covered picnic area. The park has plenty to do, but it is fairly easy to keep an eye on your kids.
- Henry Morrison Flagler Museum– Visit the opulent home of railroad magnate Henry Morrison. Completed in 1902, it is now considered a National Historic Landmark. You can tour the first and second floors of Whitehall on your own and download the narration on your phone. You can also visit the grounds and Flagler’s Railcar No. 91.
- Bedner’s Farm– My daughter went her with girl scouts but it is an experience for the whole family. There are tractor rides November-May. During the winter and spring months you have the opportunity to pick your own strawberries, peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, sunflowers, and black-eyed peas. You can feed the animals and kids can ride a pony. Fresh food from the smokehouse is available as well.
- Lion Country Safari– Drive your car through the safari with an audio tour through Bluetooth as zebras and ostriches walk right up to you. Then go feed some lettuce to a giraffe. When you are done take in a game of mini golf. Hot? You can cool off at the water sprayground. Additionally, you can spend the night camping and hear the roar of the lions as you sleep.
- Palm Beach Zoo– The zoo has 3 new Malayan tiger cubs! Don’t miss this opportunity. This zoo takes care of many endangered species such as Golden Lion Tamarins, Cranes, Baird’s Tapir, Panthers, Peacocks, besides other species which are less threatened. Learn about conservation efforts.
If you are looking for more things to do or ongoing events, there are many free south Florida magazines that list events and activities for all ages. South Florida Parenting Magazine specifically identifies events in the tri-country area for families with young children.
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