10 Awesome Florida Spring Break Destinations That Aren't Disney
Move over Mickey. Here's where you really want to go in Florida for spring break this year.
Photo By: Bradenton Area CVB
Photo By: Miles Saunders / Discover Crystal River Florida
Photo By: JoNell Modys / Naples Marco Island Everglades CVB
Photo By: ICON Park
Photo By: Visit South Walton Florida
Photo By: Visit St. Lucie
Photo By: Central Florida Visitors & Convention Bureau
Photo By: St. Augustine Ponta Vedra & The Beaches VCB
Photo By: Hawks Cay Resort
Photo By: Discover The Palm Beaches
Photo By: Bradenton Area CVB
Fantastic Alternative Spring Break Destinations
Florida has long been a perennial favorite for families eager to escape the winter doldrums for a warm and breezy spring break getaway. Many flock to Walt Disney World, but given school breaks are among the most crowded times of year to visit the resort, you may find yourself spending more time in line and less time relaxing. There's a lot to do in Florida, so we've pulled together 10 of the most amazing spring break ideas for families (that aren't Disney).
On Florida's Nature Coast, gentle manatees rule the waters. At Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, warm natural springs serve as a refuge for manatees in cool months thanks to a near-constant temperature of 72 degrees. Take in the wildlife from above by way of a quarter-mile boardwalk or get in the water on a kayak or stand-up paddleboard. At nearby Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, a whimsical mermaid show will delight every member of the family. Stay at Plantation on Crystal River where you can book a manatee snorkeling tour to get up close with these gentle creatures in the Kings Bay estuary.
BOOK NOW: TripAdvisor, Starting at $105 per night
For those eager to inject some learning into a spring break vacation, look to Marco Island on Florida's Gulf Coast. Here, budding marine biologists can help researchers catalog bottlenose dolphins as part of the 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project. Expect to see upward of 20 playful dolphins splashing in the waves alongside the 30-foot Dolphin Explorer catamaran. When not seeking out dolphins, plan on shelling at Tigertail Beach at low tide. This pristine public beach is one of the best places to find rare, colorful seashells. Book a stay at the JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort. They've got a kids’ camp and a bakery tour for kids.
Orlando is practically synonymous with Mickey Mouse, but there's much more to do here. Book a stay on International Drive at CoCo Key Hotel & Water Resort where you'll be right in the middle of everything, including ICON Park. It's home to top family attractions like SEA Life Orlando Aquarium, Madame Tussauds, Arcade City and the iconic 400-foot tall ferris wheel, The Wheel at ICON Park. Be edu-tained at WonderWorks and stay for the Outta Control Magic Dinner Show. Looking for high flying adventures? The Orlando Circus School is less than two miles from ICON Park. Need a theme park? Universal Orlando's three uber-popular theme parks are a short drive.
BOOK NOW: TripAdvisor, Starting at $62 per night
Located on Florida's Panhandle, South Walton welcomes visitors with warm breezes, eye-pleasing views and family-friendly activities, only minus the crowds (hello, Panama City). Don a mask and snorkel to admire 12 brand-new sculptures at the Underwater Museum of Art, the first permanent underwater sculpture garden in the United States. Sign up for a sandcastle building lesson with Beach Sand Sculptures for coach-guided instruction on proper sandcastle building techniques. Got rain? Take the kids to the Emerald Coast Science Center in nearby Fort Walton Beach for hands-on exhibits on robotics, physics and electricity. Book a stay steps from the beach at a boutique hotel like The Pearl in Rosemary Beach.
Port St. Lucie
There may not be an actual port in Port St. Lucie, but there's still plenty to do on the water in this delightful seaside town that boasts more than 20 miles of natural beaches. Book a horseback ride along a pristine section of coastline or enjoy a relaxing stroll along Riverwalk Boardwalk, which winds through Florida's mangroves and wetlands. Kids will love wandering the Faerie Forrest at Port St. Lucie Botanical Gardens in search of sprightly faeries amongst the trees. Spend the day at Sailfish Splash Waterpark for water slides, dumping buckets and a splishy-splashy sprayground. For a breezy all-inclusive vacay, book a family break at Club Med Sandpiper Bay. It's the only Club Med in the United States.
BOOK NOW: TripAdvisor, Starting at $99 per night
Just one hour south of Orlando, you'll feel a world away at Westgate River Ranch Resort. Yes, there is a massive 1,700-acre family dude ranch in Central Florida. Enjoy daily horseback riding and weekly rodeos every Saturday evening. Florida may be better known for sugar-soft beaches and super-fun theme parks but unplugging on a ranch is a spring vacation the kids won't soon forget. Sleep in a luxe teepee, a rail car or a canvas glamping tent. A wealth of outdoor activities awaits at the ranch, including archery, ziplines, swamp buggy rides and mini golf. Take your turn on the mechanical bull before you return home.
For history buffs, consider St. Augustine. It's where famed Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon landed in 1513. Mind you, he was looking for Bimini, a westernmost island in the Bahamas. Instead, he discovered Florida. Kids will love the Fountain of Youth. Sample the restorative water at the Spring House and snap a selfie with one of the colorful peacocks that roam the property. Climb 219 steps to the top of the St. Augustine Lighthouse for sweeping coastal views. At the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, kids will be wowed by wildlife shows and animal feedings, as well as a thrilling zipline and ropes course. Book a stay at Hammock Beach Resort, which has an on-site water park and kids' club.
BOOK NOW: TripAdvisor, Starting at $66 per night
The Florida Keys are incredible, but there's no need to hastily motor along to Key West. The Upper and Middle Keys — from Key Largo to Seven Mile Bridge — have a lot to offer families, only minus the crowds in Key West. Start with a glass-bottom boat tour at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park to see hundreds of vibrantly-colored tropical fish. Next, stop at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key to visit with rescued dolphins and sea lions. Stay at Hawks Cay Resort on Duck Key. Children will love shooting water cannons and crawling through tunnels at the Pirate Ship Pool. Adults can revel in the serenity of the adults-only Tranquility Pool. Get up close with dolphins at the on-site Dolphin Connection facility.
In Jupiter, you'll be treated to exquisite beaches and relaxing family activities. Go on a turtle hatchling walk at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park or paddle a kayak along the Loxahatchee River. Climb 105 steps to savor the coastal views from the top of the Jupiter Lighthouse. At Busch Wildlife Sanctuary wander the shady nature trails to see rehabilitated wildlife like bears, pumas and bobcats in their natural habitat. You won't want to miss ogling sea turtles at the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, along with tropical fish and colorful shells. Book a stay at Jupiter Beach Resort & Spa. It's Jupiter's only oceanfront resort.
BOOK NOW: TripAdvisor, Starting at $135 per night
Anna Maria Island
A barrier island on Florida's Gulf Coast, Anna Maria Island is where to go when you and the kids really just want to chill on a beach for a week, gazing out into tranquil turquoise waters. If you want to do more, there's more to do too, like kayaking at Robinson Preserve. Book a 2.5-hour kayak tour in search of manatees and bottlenose dolphins. Anna Maria Island is all about maximizing your time in nature. Perico Preserve is a hidden oasis, home to wading birds eager for their close-up. Walk along the boardwalk trail and stop at the overlooks for birdwatching. In Bradenton Beach, stroll historic Bridge Street for colorful cottages, art galleries and boutique shops. Savor the chill ocean vibes with a stay at the Bungalow Beach Resort.