Sunshine State: Why Florida is the Perfect Family Destination
Got kids? Love to travel? The chances are you’ve been to Disney’s mega-resort, Walt Disney World in Orlando before, but did you even leave the city, let alone the theme parks, and take in the real Florida?
If the answer is no then you missed out, big time. Florida is about so much more than merely the mouse, the sunshine state has attractions by the bucket-load and Florida holidays needn’t centre entirely around the next big thrill ride or opportunity to meet a besuited Disney character.
Even those on package holidays shouldn’t miss out – there are plenty of non-Disney things to see and do in Orlando so even if you’re confined to the theme parks for your accommodation, there’s no need to stick to the resort when it comes to activities and days out. Why not visit Gatorland for some up close and almost too personal encounters with some alligators? Or take a scenic ride through the swamplands with Boggy Creek Airboat Rides? Orlando even has a world-class collection of Tiffany glass at the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art, so you can get in some culture between rollercoasters.
Most Orlando hotels are set up for visits to Disney or Universal; with the resorts themselves home to numerous themed hotels, complete with high-class service and prices to match. Save yourselves some spending money by staying off-site and you’ll almost certainly be offered some form of free transport to the parks – though with so much else to see you may not want to use it.
Outside of Orlando, the real Florida begins, a land of expansive swamplands, sweeping whitesand beaches and a lively South American-inspired culture. Head to Miami to see the most complete collection of art deco buildings anywhere on the planet and feast on Cuban delicacies. Continue south to the Keys to taste the original key lime pie and swim with dolphins. Go west for fabulous seafood and unforgettable sunsets at St Pete Beach and Clearwater. Or head north to discover the undiscovered resorts of the northwest gulf coast where traditional Southern hospitality meets stylish beachside living.
The possibilities are endless – and so are the accommodation options. Florida hotels are almost uniformly top-class, offering luxury without the attitude. In Miami the place to stay is the W, an ultra-modern palace of a hotel where service is second to none and every room has a beach view. In the Keys, choose the Hilton Key Largo Grande Resort to keep the kids occupied with nature trails and watersports, and on the west coast, check in to the Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort for their kids’ activity programme and adjacent children’s playground.
Wherever you choose to head for in Florida you’re sure to discover that the state’s charming laidback style rules the roost. You’ll find rooms decorated with understated opulence, casual cafes and restaurants serving sumptuous local delicacies and swimming pools which stretch right to the beach. For a family holiday there’s no better destination – even without that pesky mouse!