Whether your family vacation plans have canceled, or you are just ready to get out and explore here are three outdoor Florida destinations that should be put on your list.
The Florida Caverns
A running joke from my mom is that I was named after Marianna, Florida. I really wasn’t but happened to be born less than an hour from the actual city so everyone automatically assumed my name came from the city.
As a child my grandparents frequently took me to the Florida Caverns Park, which is in Marianna. The caverns are small but have a big personality and the tour took less than an hour. When we went last year, my kids loved “being under the earth”. It’s not a great place to go if you are seriously claustrophobic though…so hang back and enjoy the trails. Make sure to wear closed toed shoes. Even though you are underground, there are areas that are very slippery. Also, a huge reminder to take bug spray. Take all of the bug spray.
Downtown Tampa Bay
Let me tell you what my biggest surprise has been while traveling. Downtown Tampa. Large downtown cities aren’t something that I ever think of when I’m considering a safe place to travel with my kids. I’m not even sure if it’s a place I would be comfortable going with just my husband and myself but not ONCE did I feel unsafe on the streets, even at night (think 9pm, not 3am).
We stayed right along the Riverwalk area where there have been huge renovations to old warehouses and buildings. It is brightly lit at night with plenty of families walking, biking and scootering around. We were there in January and the weather was perfect.
Grab a meal at Armature Works and let your kids play out on the lawn or grab a drink and take a stroll along the river. Most of it has a fence or railing, but pay attention to the smaller kids. We also used the Pirate Water Taxi which came in quite handy after a long day of walking… While you are in Tampa make sure to visit the Tampa History Center, it was one of my favorite places there.
Castillo de San Marcos – St. Augustine
We spent 4th of July at Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine a few years ago, and I remember thinking – we HAVE to come back here! I sat down a few nights ago looking to rebook our next outing there. It is right across the street from old St. Augustine and was super family friendly. It was honestly a wonderful location to spend the holiday with little ones, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.
If you are looking at hotels in the area I think it’s better to pay more for a room and not have to worry about driving and parking, but those rooms are usually the first to go. We totally overpaid for the hotel we were in, and under normal conditions it probably wouldn’t get a great review from me… but we booked last minute and it was all that was available within walking distance. I would do it again just for the convenience.
If you happen to go on the holiday weekend, pack a picnic and some yard toys (like the balls the boys have). We found a perfect spot on the lawn a few hours before the fireworks and walked around, ate and played until it was time. Make sure to take glow sticks and other fun light up items because it can get quite dark.
Even though we might not be going on vacation right now, it’s giving us plenty of time to PLAN for our next trip. Make it memorable!