The Florida Keys is one of America’s premier vacation destinations offering leisure or adventure for visitors of all ages. Islands such as Key West, Key Largo, and Islamorada offer tranquil beaches, water sports, and snorkeling, as well as one-of-a-kind shops, galleries, and restaurants. Whether you’re sunbathing by the palm trees in a hammock or dining on fresh, local seafood by the water, you’re going to fall in love with this tropical paradise. There are plenty of Florida Keys vacation rentals readily available, many in close proximity to a wide variety of wonderful indoor and outdoor attractions, as well as gorgeous nature. Here are some of the best family-friendly places in the area to bring your kids.
1. Key West Aquarium
The Key West aquarium is a must-visit attraction for families. You and your children will be treated to a wide variety of exhibits featuring exotic marine life, including jellyfish, alligators, sea urchins, and crabs. There is also a touch tank where you and your kids can touch and hold sea stars, sea cucumbers, conchs, crabs, and more. If you go to one of the shark feedings, you can even touch a juvenile nurse shark on the tail.
2. Conch Tour Train
The Conch Tour Train has been one of Key West’s most popular attractions since it started in 1958. The 90-minute adventure takes you through many of the area’s hot spots, including the Key West Lighthouse, the Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory, Truval Village, and many other exciting locations. At Station Depot, your train stops for 10 minutes so you can get ice cream and enjoy it on the train. Kids under 12 ride free, making this classic ride a budget-friendly activity for the whole family.
3. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park
Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is America’s first undersea park. Spanning 70 nautical miles, there is plenty for the whole family to explore — above ground and below. The upland area boasts relaxing hammocks and scenic mangrove swamps, but what’s below the water is the main attraction. The breathtaking coral reef and marine creatures that inhabit the area are truly a sight to behold. You can see them up close and personal snorkeling or scuba diving, or simply take the glass-bottom boat tour if you’d prefer to stay dry. There are also picnic areas and hiking trails, making John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park the perfect place to spend a day with the whole family.
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4. Founders Park
Located in beautiful Islamorada, Founders Park is the perfect place to get some sun when you’re not relaxing in your vacation rental. With 40,000 acres to explore, you’ll never be bored. If you want to beat the heat, go to the Ron Levy Aquatic Center, where you can cool off in an Olympic-sized swimming pool (there’s also a splash zone for the toddlers). Relax by the gorgeous shallow beach with your favorite book, or enjoy a stroll through the scenic nature paths. The park offers a variety of amenities, including sports fields and courts and a fantastic playground. Depending on when you come, you might even see some live entertainment.
5. Dolphin Research Center
Head to beautiful Grassy Key to visit the dolphins at the Dolphin Research Center. You’ll be treated to 90,000 square feet of gorgeous lagoons that are home to dolphins and sea lions. Your kids can have a blast playing with the dolphins with hand signals, or you can even get in the water and swim with them. As an added bonus, there’s a delightful water-themed children’s playground for the kids to play on and cool off after visiting the local wildlife.
6. Sombrero Beach
If you’re looking for a traditional Florida beach experience, the Sombrero Beach area is a fantastic spot to look for vacation rentals. Because of the reefs that surround the islands, many of the beaches in the Florida Keys don’t have large, sandy beach area, but Sombrero Beach certainly does. Enjoy sunbathing while the kids splash in the crystalline water. In addition to the well-kept beach, you’ll have access to amenities such as picnic shelters and tables, clean bathrooms, and even a playground area for the kids. It’s also a pet-friendly beach, so feel free to bring your four-legged travel companion.
7. Fury Ultimate Adventure
This one may not be ideal for toddlers, but it’s a fantastic experience for the older kids. It’s an all-inclusive day on the water that includes boating, snorkeling, jet skiing, and much more. They even provide inflatable structures that you can play on and jump off in the middle of the ocean. Meals are provided on the boat, including beer and wine for the adults and endless soda for the kids.
8. Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory
The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory is truly a magical place that vacationers of any age will enjoy. There are as many as 2,000 butterflies in the garden at a time, as well as vibrant flamingos, turtles, birds, koi fish, and other exotic creatures. There are plenty of butterfly-shaped benches available if you want to sit down and take in the enchanting sights. Don’t forget to bring a camera — you’re going to cherish those memories for a lifetime.
9. Higgs Beach
Old Town Key West is a fantastic spot to look for vacation rentals, especially because the stunning Higgs Beach is just a stone’s throw away. The gorgeous beach includes tennis courts and volleyball courts, as well as a playground for the young ones. If you’re feeling adventurous, go to Tropical Water Sports, where you can rent kayaks or paddle boards, as well as beach umbrellas and chairs. Enjoy delicious food and drinks by the water at Salute on the Beach, and then finish the day with a sunset stroll down the scenic White Street Pier.
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