Short Family Road Trips From South Florida

Whether you live in South Florida and just want to take a quick, affordable weekend away or you are visiting South Florida from out of state and want to see more of Florida, South Florida Finds has some suggestions for short car trips (3 to 4 hours) you can take with even the littlest or oldest family members!  For each location, we have included a variety of choices to pick from to occupy your time.

Already been to Orlando 100 times?  Check out some of the alternatives to the theme parks that we recommend.  You might not have seen all that Orlando has to offer.

There is never ending entertainment and recreation available for families in South Florida but sometimes you just get that itch to set out on the open road and explore someplace new together.  We help give you ideas for Orlando, the Space Coast area of Cocoa Beach, Fort Myers Area & The Florida Keys.  We wanted to choose places that are within a 4 hour drive of South Florida.  But aren't the Keys in S. Florida?  Sure...but if you're going all the way to the middle or lowers need extra time to get down there from most parts of S. Florida.

Orlando & Nearby Areas

Theme parks

1) Walt Disney World: The premier Florida destination, one that attracts millions of tourists from the world over. Walt Disney World is a massive spot, with a host of attractions including Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot Theme Park and Hollywood Studios that are sure to keep a visitor enthralled for days on end. 

2) Sea World: Another iconic landmark, the SeaWorld hosts immensely popular dolphin and whale shows, and boasts of a number of thrilling rides, making it an ideal family destination. 

3) Legoland in nearby Winter Haven:  150-acre interactive theme park dedicated to families with children between the ages of 2 and 12. With more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and the LEGOLAND Water Park, LEGOLAND is geared towards family fun! 

4) Universal Studios: The famed Universal Studios offer an insightful peek in the world of movies. In addition, the venue features a theme park, called Islands of Adventure, with some breathtaking rides and spectacular sights. 

5) Discovery Cove: With an island resort like setting, the Discovery Cove thrills visitors with a swim alongside dolphins, wading in the clear waters with a school of stingrays, or snorkeling through a reef. 

6) Gatorland: True to its name, Gatorland houses hundreds of gators, crocodiles and other reptiles, who participate in informative and entertaining shows and demonstrations. Alligator Jumparoo and Gator Wrestling are probably two of the most popular shows at Gatorland, and are not to be missed. Gatorland also features a leisurely swamp walk, and hosts Gator Gully Splash for kids. 


Museums and Science Center

1) Orlando Science Center: No matter which branch of science tickles your fancy, you will find that the Orlando Science Center has it all covered. From pure sciences to applied technology, the Orlando Science Center has a theme based exhibit for it all. For young kids, up to 48 inches tall, there's a special facility called Kids Town with some thrilling interactive and hands-on exhibits. 

2) Osceola County Historical Society Pioneer Village  Take the children to learn about Florida pioneer living. Excellent docent-led tours through a collection of authentic structures which once upon a time stood in different areas of Osceola County.  Or, come see the place yourself anytime between 10AM - 4PM for a self guided tour. Information panels and maps are available on-site.

3) Cornell Fine Arts Museum: Located at the Rollins College Campus, the Cornell Museum houses well over 5000 works of art, ranging from renaissance art to modern and contemporary American Art. 

4) Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art: A truly bedazzling art gallery, Charles Hosmer Morse Museum is home to the most exhaustive collection of work by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Do not miss the spectacular chapel interior designed by Tiffany, as well as several arts and crafts furnishing designed by this iconic American designer. *Warning: Glass Art may not be the best choice for small children to enjoy just yet!*

5) Dr Phillips Center for Performing Arts: Located in downtown Orlando, the venue plays host to some of the leading national and international artists in diverse spectrum of performing arts including ballet, orchestra, jazz, rock, pop, dance, and much more. 

Natural Beauty

1)  Bok Tower Gardens located in nearby Lake Wales is both a place full of beauty and Florida history. Hear the carillion bell performance from the pink marble tower, play in the new Children's splash garden, and taken in the hilly gardens that surround.  Definitely a wonderful way to spend at least half a day.  Located very close to Legoland.

2) Kelly Park or Wekiwa Springs State Park in Apopka.  Located just north of Orlando, these places are popular with the locals for a watering hole getaway.  Crystal clear waters with seasonal manatee visitors are what attract every nature lover.  Swim or canoe at either of these lovely locations as part of your next trip to Central Florida.

3) Harry P. Leu Gardens Stroll thru the gorgeous grounds and take a tour of the Historic Leu House Museum.  Depending on the time of year you can see a wide variety of native FL plants in bloom!

4) Exotic Animal Experience in Orlando.  Marvel at these adorable exotic critters and nab some memorable moments together with the kids.  Wallaby, kangaroos, a zebra and so much more make this a perfect spot for the animal lover in your family!

5) Highlands Hammock State Park in Sebring, south of Orlando.  Bring your trailer or tent and spend the night just a short drive from South Florida.  Walk thru a wonderful trail just skimming the top of the water and learn about the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) work in the park system of Florida.  Check with the state park to see if they have any special porgramming to enjoy while you're there.


Space Coast

Museums and Art Galleries

1) Kennedy Space Center Visitor's Complex: No trip to the space coast can be complete without a visit to this venerable institution. You will get to admire NASA's space workhorse Atlantis from up close, interact with astronauts, and, most amazingly, get to enjoy a true-to-life simulated space launch experience. 

2) Air Force Space and Missile Museum: Located at Cape Canaveral, this is another famed institution that showcases the impressive American history in the field of missiles and rocketry. 

3) Art Gallery of Viera: Located in Melbourne, the Art gallery of Viera has carved for itself a name as one of the leading galleries of the region. A visit to this gallery would expose you to some dazzling works of art from local and international artists, in a variety of mediums including watercolor, pottery, acrylics, pastels, and 3D works. 


1) Cocoa Beach Pier: Located at Meade Avenue, the Cocoa Beach Pier offers much more than just a normal beach experience. You will discover restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world, bars, live musical entertainment, and massive 800 feet long wooden fishing pier. 

2) Alan Shepard Park: Located in Cocoa Beach, the Shepard Park provides idyllic picnic spots, as well as shower and restroom facilities to visitors. There are 10 picnic pavilions, as well as several grills to make sure you and your family can enjoy an outdoor BBQ experience in tranquil surroundings. 

3) Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge: Located in Melbourne Beach, the Archie Carr National Wildlife Refuge is deemed the most important nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles. The best time to view sea turtles is in June and July when guided, night-time sea turtle watch programs are offered. Reservations for the programs are required. Click here for sea turtle watch program information:  Fish, Swim at the public beaches and stop by the visitor center during the non-nesting season.


Fort Myers Area


1) Imaginarium: Located in downtown Fort Myers, the Imaginarium hosts dozens of interactive exhibits that are at once educational and fun. This is the kind of place that brings out the child in you, as it makes you touch and feel a cloud, experience Florida's famed thunderstorms, and excavate biological ruins of extinct species. 

2) Edison and Ford Winter Estates: Spread over a sprawling 20 acres campus along the Caloosahatchee river, this museum will let you take an insightful peek into the lives of two of the nation's most celebrated inventors - Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. You will get to admire the original Model-T from up close, as well the jaw dropping range of Edison's patented inventions. 

3) Mound House: Located in Estero Island, the Mound House sits on an ancient Calusa Indian Mound. The guided tour here will educate you about its 2000 years of history, native wildlife, and showcase an impressive archaeological exhibits. 

Beaches and Outdoors

1) Fort Myers Beach Fishing Pier: No matter what your interest, whether it is fishing, lazing in the sun, or watching people, you can have them all at this popular Fort Myers destination. The pier itself is an impressive structure that extends far into the Gulf of Mexico, and is always bustling with activity. 

2) Captiva Cruises: One of the best ways to explore southwest Florida Coast, this Cruise will take you through Cabbage Key, Useppa, Boca Grande, and Cayo Costa. The water itself is pristine and captivating, and the on board guide will inform you about the wildlife, history and much more. 

3) Sanibel Island Beaches: Home to some spectacular beaches, you can do much more than regular beach activities here including shelling

4) The Everglades: Consisting of millions of acres of swamps, saw grass prairies, and sub tropical jungles, the Everglades is a unique Florida nature reserve. Protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Everglades is home to well over a dozen endangered species, with many of them endemic to the area. The vastness of the park means that is offers a surreal experience of magnificent desolation, one that has to be experienced to be believed. Access to the Everglades can be had from both the East (Broward/Miami-Dade) and the West (Everglades City) as well as by boat. 

Nearby Towns Worth Visiting:
1) Naples
2) Sarasota

Florida Keys

1) John Pennekamp State Park: Part of Florida Keys National Maritime Sanctuary, this state park stands out from the rest as it is largely underwater. Snorkelers and Scuba Divers can experience a rich coral reef, and mysterious wrecks. 

2) Bahia Honda State Park: The beaches at Bahia have earned the reputation for being the nicest beach anywhere in the Keys. Visitors can enjoy impressive views, lovely picnic sites, and camp ground areas. 

3) Dolphin Research Center: An important venue for DOLPHIN enthusiasts. You will get to admire, and learn about Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins and California Sea Lions at this exceptionally efficiently run Center. Options include being a trainer for a day, playing with the dolphins or general admission where you get to watch them interact.

4) Hemingway House: For those with a taste for literature, the former home of Ernest Hemingway is nothing short of a pilgrimage. You can take a tour of the home, and watch the house cats, descendants of Hemingway's own pet cats. Stroll through the gardens and enjoy life as Hemingway once did. 

5) ECO-Discovery Center6,000 square feet of interactive, interesting and most importantly, educational exhibits for everyone to enjoy. This free attraction is a wonderful place to allow the kids to explore that is inddors on a hot or inclement day.  Marvel at the marine bio-diversity on display.

6) Key West Botanical Garden:  If you aren't from the Keys, visiting a botanical garden is a wonderful way to learn about the flora and fauna of the area.  Givwe kids the self-guided tour map and let them play tour guide thru the grounds.  Don't miss two of the last fresh water ponds in the Keys as well as amazing tropical plants, flowers, birds and butterflies.

7) Robbie Tarpon Feeding:  This Islamorada roadside gem is easy to fly right past but the kids will be glad you stopped!  These huge marine beasts can jump out of the water with their huge gaping mouths to catch bait fish..  Though tarpon don't have teeth, they can still draw blood so we do not recommend letting the children hold the bait for the tarpon.  They can drop them into the water or watch the other tourists risk their limbs.

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