We have been blessed to go to Florida three times now with my family. The first time we went we drove and spent just one week in Orlando. We decided at that point that if we were going again and driving, we would need to spend two weeks to make it worthwhile! By the time you recover from the over 20 hour drive, it’s almost time to go home again! So two years ago we drove down and stayed for two weeks.
This year we were blessed to find flights for a REALLY good price – even after the airline we booked with was grounded, then went bankrupt, God still took care of our needs and provided still great tickets with Southwest Airlines – which I was very excited to fly with since I’ve heard all good things about them from friends!
So we spent a week in Orlando at my parent’s timeshare, and a week at the beach in Indian Rocks Beach. It’s a great place to go, just south of Clearwater a bit, so it’s not quite as busy, but you still get some really great beaches and it’s very close to lots of activities.
We aren’t theme park people, although I hope in the future to take our kids to Disney (if we could just talk daddy into it :D), so we stayed mostly away from those big attractions. But we sure packed in lots of other fun things to do!
So here’s my Top Ten Favourite Things To Do In Florida.
This is without a doubt a given. Even if you aren’t ON a beach where you’re staying, drive out to one and run in the ocean! Where we stayed the 2nd week was a condo on the beach, but we were also within driving distance and walking distance of a TON of other great beaches on the gulf.
While we really enjoyed our day here, one huge caution! If you’re in the area and can get a group to go in (homeschool group rate) DO IT. Otherwise, it’s REALLY expensive. We managed to snag a deal online and with the Lego magazine for buy one adult get one child in free, so we paid a fraction.
They REALLY enjoyed the Pirate show, and most of the rides. Our kids were also the perfect age to go – 3, 5 and 7 – they do NOT like rollercoasters. Too much older than that and they might not have enjoyed it as much since they spent most of the time on the kiddie-r rides.
3. Tampa Bay Aquarium.
If you read the reviews from a lot of people, it’s mixed, but most of the people with kids give it great reviews. And we had plenty of them! They loved it, we loved it, and there were FANTASTIC shows – including the penguin show, and the diver who goes down into the shark tank! There’s this HUGE wall of the aquarium on one side, and the view is just fantastic.
4. Watch the sunset
Even if you’re not on a beach, drive to one. You NEED to watch at least ONE sunset on a Florida beach. My hubby and I went out for a date one night to Clearwater and stayed on the beach until the sun set. Beside us was a resort with people all over the beach watching. We saw people clapping and cheering and I was a bit sad, thinking, they don’t know what they’re clapping for!
5. Find a Garden and a River
Especially a garden with a magnolia tree. And bury your face in it. The most sweetest, fruitiest scent you have ever smelled from a blossom will enter your nostrils. UH-MAY-ZING.
Also, go visit Blue Spring State Park. This was recommended to us by a friend. It is just north of Orlando in Orange City, and if you go between February and end of March, the spring is JAMMED with manatees! Among other great wildlife we saw Florida gar, long-nose gar (they were HUGE!), a “wild” alligator (just a baby) and plenty of birds.
We were there too late to see manatees, but we had a great picnic and a walk along the river. At the end you can rent tubes and float in the spring (which we could have done if the kids were older) – but you can’t do this when the manatees are in there. Definitely a must see!
6. Swimming pools!
There are plenty of community centres in Florida that have them if the place you’re staying at doesn’t. My kids haven’t been overly keen on swimming, until Florida. Suddenly it seemed all they wanted to do – even over the beach! – was swim in the pool!
Ever heard of the movie Dolphin Tale? You know, the one about the dolphin named Winter who got caught in a crab trap and was rescued by the boy and lost her tail?
Well, the kids had seen the movie, but hubs and I hadn’t. So we decided to go to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium anyway and get a chance to see the animals – but, of course most importantly to the kids – Winter! It was a little more commercialized than I had hoped it would be (just being honest!) and quite busy, but between the ray petting tank and the numerous shows that were going on throughout the day, it was well worth the trip.
(For a more indepth review, check out Jenn from Daze of Adventure’s post about it!)
8. Visiting Kelli
9. Go fishing!
The Boy was so sad he couldn’t bring his fishing rod with him (don’t worry, we promised fishing opportunities camping and at the cottage), but thankfully one of Kelli’s boys is a master with the cast net, and caught a fish!
10. John’s Pass
I grew up going to Florida every few years with my family to visit my grandparents, and we ALWAYS went to John’s Pass. We used to hit Madeira Beach, watch my Opa fish, then go to the boardwalk for icecream.
It has really bloomed and grown a lot since the time I was 8 or 10, but it’s still the same great boardwalk on the waterway where you can see dolphins swimming up and down the pass, rent sea doos, go para sailing, fishing, or just walk and enjoy the many food places and, of course, icecream.
Well, those are some of my favourites from our latest Florida trip. And since I promised you another giveaway, I’m offering up a copy of the Jonathan Park Goes to the Aquarium CD!
My kids absolutely LOVE marine animals and the times in real life we could see them in Florida. They also love Jonathan Park’s adventures. This is a great series about a boy and his father and all their friends and family’s adventures in exploring, mysteries, and learning more about creation and how to refute evolution. This CD set has Jonathan and his dad going to the aquarium and learning all about how God created the animals there and how they refute evolution.
I was going to try this out on rafflecopter, but it doesn’t like me. Or my blog.
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