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8 Distinctive Issues To Do With Youngsters on Florida’s West Coast

On the lookout for Florida street journey sights which might be family-friendly and one among a form? There are many stops alongside the western fringe of Florida’s Gulf Coast the place you may pull over for a style of native kitsch or tradition.

However I’m speaking extra than simply fast picture ops right here. These are the locations the place it is best to spend at the least an hour, usually longer, to expertise one thing out of the abnormal and assured to make lasting recollections. 

Learn on for eight of the highest sights to improve any journey with children on Florida’s west coast. This street journey itinerary runs from Naples as much as Crystal River. 

You would possibly surprise how a zoo finally ends up on a listing of distinctive household sights. Effectively, this zoo is not like every other. About two hours from Miami, Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens is a tropical backyard and zoo rolled into one. Residents vary from macaws to mountain bongos, and you’ll feed a giraffe or watch alligators devour their lunch as a keeper talks about their weight-reduction plan and habits.

However essentially the most distinctive factor to do at Naples Zoo needs to be the Primate Expedition Cruise. This 15-minute cruise aboard a coated catamaran winds between mini islands on Lake Victoria the place monkeys, apes and lemurs reside cage-free. Your information explains all about them as they lounge and climb round their island residence. Check out the video under for a sneak peek.

Touring with tykes? The zoo’s Safari Squad features a story, animal encounter, craft and themed actions particularly for ages 1-4.

Keep longer: If you happen to’re staying in Naples and wish the consolation of residence with the luxurious of a resort, I extremely suggest GreenLinks Golf Villas at Lely Resort. Everybody will get their very own room, you might have a full kitchen plus a washer and dryer (a boon for road-trippers), and breakfast on the screened lanai overlooking the lake or golf course is pure bliss. We particularly loved the resort pool. In addition they provide cribs and highchairs on request.

Bubble Room on Captiva Island

Wish to dine in a trolley automobile or beneath a miniature practice driving across the ceiling? In fact you do! The nostalgic and generally wacky decor of the Bubble Room on Captiva Island makes it a should for any go to to the Gulf Coast.

Its signature options embrace toys from the ’30s, signed pictures of movie stars, Christmas elves and coloured lights galore. The restaurant was just lately broken in a hurricane, however the Nineteen Seventies landmark nonetheless stands. When it reopens, be sure that to go for a scrumptious Carmen Miranda (that’s rice and shrimp in a pineapple bowl) or possibly the Pita Fonda (a rooster, avocado, pepper jack wrap). Ending with a mega slice of cake is compulsory. 

Der Dutchman

Der Dutchman

Der Dutchman is far more than a spot to eat. It’s a vacation spot with purchasing, tradition, award-winning meals and hospitality within the coronary heart of Sarasota’s Amish neighborhood, Pinecraft. They draw guests from world wide, and when you attempt one among their well-known do-it-yourself pies, you’ll perceive why. 

If you enter the restaurant, you’ll see some individuals in conventional Mennonite and Amish costume, however all are welcome right here, and the vibe is informal, heat and family-friendly. The child’s menu even teaches snippets of Pennsylvania Dutch like “groombadda mush” for mashed potatoes.

Whilst you can order á la carte, it’s laborious to beat the buffet. Hearty consolation meals like roast beef, potatoes and contemporary bread make any day really feel like Thanksgiving, and their well-known broasted rooster, completely seasoned and moist, is a should. The buffet has some wonderful desserts, however for one among their legendary pies, you’ll want to select from the dozen-plus flavors on the menu.

If you happen to don’t have time for a full meal, go to the bakery for some fudge, pastries or different treats to go. Then head upstairs to the Carlisle Reward Store. It’s a wonderland of crafts, garments, cookware, linens and extra particularly fitted to presents and souvenirs. Staying longer within the space? You may take pleasure in extra Amish hospitality on the charming Carlisle Inn close by. 

Zen Glass Studio

From Sarasota, head to St. Petersburg and its wonderful artwork scene. From music to murals, St. Pete has all of it, however most surprising is the colourful glass artwork. There’s an astounding variety of glass museums and galleries right here (together with the Chihuly Assortment), however if you wish to get hands-on, hit up Zen Glass Studio.

This working studio affords glassblowing hotshop workshops, excellent for teenagers and adults, the place you may make your very personal decoration, pint glass or paperweight. First, decide your colours. Then pay attention as your artist teacher explains learn how to create your piece. You’ll swirl the molten glass, coating it with colour, and maintain it spinning as you soften it within the furnace. We picked the decoration, and it was unbelievable to blow into the steel pipe and watch the globe broaden. You may decide up your customized piece the subsequent day — it wants to chill in a managed atmosphere in a single day.

The trainer covers every part from security to science, and youngsters as younger as 13 can be fascinated. However adults may even take pleasure in being a “visitor artist” on the studio as you form the glass into one thing one among a form. I assure it will likely be essentially the most distinctive factor you do in St. Pete, and also you get a hand-crafted memento! 

Extra warmth: In addition they have “Flameshop” workshops, the place you may make glass artwork on a torch, proven above. 

The one attraction on this listing that’s seasonal, Enchant has rapidly turn into a neighborhood Christmas custom. In contrast to different mild shows, it’s indoors, so it’s dim sufficient to benefit from the sparkles any time of day, and also you’re not freezing exterior — it will get chilly after sunset in winter, even in Florida.

And what a light-weight show! We have been blown away by the creativity and high quality of the preparations, from flowers and snowflakes to the 100-foot-tall Christmas tree. There have been lights that modified colour as you stepped on them (nice for teenagers), lights you may match between (nice for selfie-loving teenagers) and a light-weight flickering on the backside of your spiked cocktail (Mother and Dad, this one’s for you). It’s each merry and shiny.

The principle draw is the sunshine maze, purportedly the most important on this planet. A themed story with clues guides you to the top, though it’s not likely the sort of maze you get misplaced in. It’s extra the sort the place you cease each couple minutes to snap one other picture.

Across the maze, there’s ice skating (an add-on), a vacation village, purchasing and snacks, and a stage with leisure. Little ones can meet Santa and go to Little Elves Play Place for video games and tales with Mrs. Claus.

Tip: If you happen to’re bringing the household, make the most of the household four-pack and the kids-free night time every Wednesday. They do timed entry, however when you enter, you may keep so long as you want.

Tip: Learn this story for extra concepts on what to do in St. Petersburg.

Florida has some stunning springs, however none are fairly like these at Weeki Wachee, proven within the function picture above. Mermaids first started performing right here in 1947, they usually nonetheless do right this moment, although the location has since turn into a state park. Arrive early to get a great seat. Seeing the Weeki Wachee mermaids is an absolute should while you’re in Florida, and also you don’t need to miss it. 

After the present, head over to Buccaneer Bay, included with park admission, to take pleasure in swimming within the springs, floating down the lazy river, and driving the water slides. There’s concessions, a sandy seashore and even kayak and paddleboard leases. And children six and youthful have a devoted wading pool and play space, Lil’ Mates Caribbean Cove, only for them. Given how lengthy you may spend and the way little it prices as compared, this is without doubt one of the greatest offers round.

Tip: Get there early. The park closes entry when it reaches capability, which frequently occurs in the course of the summer time. You may textual content them to seek out out in the event that they’re closed.

Brooksville is a little bit of a detour from U.S. 19 as you drive north alongside the coast, but it surely’s price it. Not solely is town charming, particularly the downtown, however there are many sights. The perfect for households who’ve been cooped up in a automobile is the FLG X Journey Course & Zip Line

Climb and swing by the bushes, cheering one another. It’s an amazing team-building exercise as you overcome challenges collectively, and the sense of accomplishment on the finish of the course is palpable. The obstacles are color-coded for various ages and talents to verify junior climbers (ages 9/11) can discover safely. There’s even a Little Ninja course so adventurers aged 5-9 can be a part of within the thrills at floor stage.

For the last word adrenaline rush, end with a zipper line race down two parallel 600-foot strains. It’s a rush, and a pleasant segue for a physics debate as you drive to your subsequent cease: Why do adults at all times zip sooner than children if objects fall on the identical charge no matter mass? Or could also be that’s simply us. 

Three Sisters Springs

If you happen to assume seeing mermaids is magical, simply wait until you see the OG sea maids. I’m speaking about manatees, in fact, and Three Sisters Springs is without doubt one of the greatest locations within the state to see them.

Go on a chilly day from mid-November to late March when the cool temperatures within the Gulf drive a whole bunch of manatees to the hotter springs. Recognized for his or her clear water, you may simply see into the blue swimming pools to admire the manatees as they float, frolic and infrequently floor for air. We even noticed child manatees. 

To get to the springs, take the handy trolley to the refuge, the place you’re dropped off proper by the boardwalk that results in a number of viewing platforms.

The springs are a part of the Crystal River Nationwide Wildlife Refuge, a haven for chook life (over 100 species) and biodiverse wetlands, so there are many climbing alternatives if you wish to spend a bit longer. We particularly loved speaking with the volunteers, who’re a fount of manatee information. They’ll fortunately clarify manatee habits and habitat to you and your children, and also you’ll go away understanding why Floridians love these light giants and the way essential it’s to guard them.

In regards to the Creator:

Cheryl Rodewig is storyteller, marketer, and award-winning function author specializing in journey. Her Venn diagram contains minimalism, waterfalls, French, and the em sprint. Discover her at or on Twitter at @cherylrodewig.



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