After a long winter, spring break is a popular getaway time, and sunny Florida is a magnet for families looking for a boost of vitamin D. Spring break isn't the same everywhere you go, with schools around the country scheduling their spring breaks for different weeks, so the exact spring break season is hard to pin down. Typically, spring break at schools in the United States falls somewhere between early March and mid-April, which is when these Florida destinations are at their busiest.
Families with kids in elementary school, middle school, or high school should know that their spring break can overlap with college spring break, which can be an R-rated booze fest. While families may want to avoid the top spring break towns of Panama City and St. Petersburg, which attract the college-aged crowd, there are plenty of other destinations in Florida where your family can enjoy some PG fun in the sun.
Shell-strewn beaches, a laid-back vibe, terrific restaurants, chic shops, flower-lined lanes, and an incredibly diverse array of wildlife—these are just a few reasons families love Sanibel and the Captiva Islands. What you won't find here are amusement parks, traffic lights, billboard-lined highways, glaring neon, and tracts of high-rise condos.
Sanibel is located approximately 24 miles away from downtown Fort Myer and can be driven to via the Sanibel Causeway. Kids will have fun hunting for seashells among Sanibel's 60 different kinds of shell varieties or watching for dolphins jumping and playing on the horizon. After a day of shell hunting, you can then visit the Shell Museum, which is set up for hands-on learning about the beautiful seashells of Sanibel. The island is also a great place for bike riding with over 25 miles of trails far away from the main traffic. There are plenty of adventures to be had if you're up for a kayak journey through the mangroves or want to go climb the lighthouse.
Once the poster child for drunk college kids on spring break, Daytona Beach has done a 180-degree turn and now focuses on attracting families. Planning an affordable getaway to this family-friendly beach destination is a snap because of the many inexpensive places to stay, play and eat with kids. Must-see attractions include the Daytona International Speedway and the famous beach boardwalk.
Daytona Beach is located on the east coast of the peninsula, approximately 70 miles northeast of Disney World. Here, the kids can look forward to riding the slides at Sunsplash Family Waterpark or Daytona Lagoon Park and petting the stingrays at the Marine Science Center. At night, you can go for a long stroll along the boardwalk where you'll find even more amusement rides, plus games, and fried food. There's no shortage of kid-friendly entertainment on Daytona Beach with plenty of venues offering laser tag, mini-golf, go-karts, ropes courses, climbing walls, arcades, and so much more to keep little kids and teens engaged.
Siesta Key is a gem of an island just a stone's throw from Sarasota on the west coast of Florida. The island is easy to explore by bike or kayak through any of several rental outfitters and offers plenty of fun for families. The city is famous for its long stretch of white sand is often hailed to be the best beach in America. After the kids are done playing about in the sand and water, you can top off the day with a waffle cone from Big Olaf Creamery, which has been serving homemade ice cream since 1982. If you have teens who need a little bit more adventure in their family vacation, there are places where you can rent paddleboards or they could hit the waves further down at Crescent Beach which is a favorite spot for surfers.
In Orlando, the most popular family attraction in the world, Disney World boasts four major theme parks, two waterparks, over two dozen hotels, the Disney Springs shopping-and-dining district, golf courses, lakes, and more. If you go during spring break, be sure to read up on crowd-avoiding strategies so that you can spend more time having fun and less time waiting in line. If you use the My Disney Experience app to reserve FastPass+ times for favorite attractions and lock down dining times for special meals.
Orlando's second theme park giant, Universal Orlando Resort offers two theme parks, six beautiful resorts, and the CityWalk shopping-and-entertainment complex. It's home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Diagon Alley and has another hotel and a big water park on the way.
Tucked into the corner of Florida's Panhandle, the 28-mile St. George Island is renowned for its unspoiled beaches. Located just off the coast, the barrier island is part of the long stretch of beaches known as Gulf Islands National Seashore. Don't leave without exploring the 17 miles of biking paths or taking a dolphin-spotting cruise.
For a challenge, you can try climbing the 92 steps of the St. George Lighthouse, built in 1852, or renting a kayak and getting out on the water. While you're there, you consider stopping by Apalachicola Farmers Market, which takes place on the second and fourth Saturday of the month, or you can visit the State Reserve where there are many flat trails for hiking and campsites if you want to spend a night under the stars. Whether you want to go fishing or simply spend an afternoon on a wild beach, it's a lovely setting.
Down-to-earth Fort Myers Beach occupies a skinny barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico and offers plenty to keep families entertained. You can take the kids fishing off the pier, where you'll easily be able to rent a fishing rod, or visit the reptiles and fish and the IMAG History and Science Center, where kids will also have the opportunity to go digging for fossils or try out the hurricane simulator. If the kids catch the science bug, you can also visit the Ostego Bay Marine Science Center, where you'll be able to learn more about the ecosystem and the dolphins, manatees, and sharks that live in the waters nearby.
Anna Maria Island
If you like your beaches laid-back and natural, the Gulf of Mexico barrier island of Anna Maria Island may be just the ticket, with its seven-mile strip of beautiful white-sand beaches and low-key ambiance. Must-do experiences include fishing off the pier, shell hunting, kayaking, and paddleboarding.
Located 35 miles from St. Petersburg and 55 miles from Tampa, it takes a little more effort to get out to the island. Entertainment ranges whether you're looking to put a few rounds of mini golf at The Fish Hole or a segway tour on the beach. For something a little more peaceful, you can drive 20 miles south to the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota. Among the many exhibits, everyone's favorite is the Savage Garden which displays a wide variety of carnivorous plants. In the Rainforest Garden, kids are allowed to climb on top of roots, explore caves, and walk across rope bridges, and pass under a misty waterfall.
With 13 miles of uncrowded beaches and a gorgeous, natural setting that's a far cry from overdeveloped tourist towns, Amelia Island offers a historic downtown area, bike paths that crisscross the island, and lots for families to love. Amelia Island is approximately 35 miles northeast of Jacksonville and offers plenty for kids to do from visiting the Nature Center at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation to the Amelia Island Museum of History, which organizes murder mystery scavenger hunts in addition to themed walking tours that delve into the city's architecture and historical families.