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From Disney World to Universal, Florida is known for its abundance of theme park attractions. Adding up the cost of entrance fees, food and accommodation, however, can add up pretty quickly when you’re planning a family getaway to the Sunshine State. Luckily for those on a budget, Florida is also home to plenty of low-cost attractions where you can escape the tourist crowds and save your hard-earned money. From outdoor adventures to budget-friendly activities, read on to discover cheap things to do with the kids in Florida that won’t break the bank.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Spring Hill
A perfect place to show the kids Old Florida, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park is world-famous for their unique underwater theater and mermaid shows. A beautifully developed state park, visitors can watch the show before swimming, snorkeling, and kayaking through the 72-degree crystal clear waters. Kids will especially enjoy the slides at the on-site water park, Buccaneer Bay.
Ichetucknee Springs State Park, Fort White
Ideal for a day of tubing down crystal clear springs, Ichetucknee Springs State Park offers six miles of shaded hammocks and wetlands. Here kids can enjoy swimming, snorkeling, and canoeing through eight major springs, while hiking and wildlife viewing are also popular activities on land. Float under the lush live oak and cypress trees as you try your best to spot the park’s array of otters, turtles, wild turkeys, and egrets.
Naval Aviation Museum, Pensacola
The world’s largest Naval Aviation museum and one of the most visited museums in Florida, the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola offers visitors a peek into the rich history of over 150 restored aircraft. Representing Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aviation, visitors can experience hands-on history with more than 4,000 artifacts on its 37-acre grounds, while both kids and adults alike will be mesmerized by the famous Blue Angels practicing over the museum.
Pier 60 Sunset Celebration, Clearwater Beach
One of Florida’s most popular beaches, Clearwater Beach is known for its beautiful coastline and array of land and water-based activities. Boasting three miles of pristine white sand, this award-winning beach is home to free nightly events at Pier 60. A pedestrian-friendly area that comes alive in the evening, the area is packed with visitors soaking in the sunset colors reflecting on the water as musicians and street performers entertain along the area’s restaurants and shops.
Bok Tower Gardens, Lake Wales
One of the most impressive gardens in Florida, Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales is famous for its 205-foot singing bell tower and majestic 60-bell carillon. Nature loving families can spend an entire day here, meandering through the diverse grounds and strolling past swan filled pools. Soak in the array of azaleas, camellias, pinkish-blush Cinnamon Cindy and explosion of colors that highlight the area, explore scenic trails, or relax in one of the garden’s peaceful resting spots.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Key Largo
One of the most visually stunning state parks in Florida, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is consistently rated as one of the most exciting snorkeling and diving spots the state has to offer. Kids will love the chance to explore the first undersea park and only living coral reef in the United States, where an entire day of seeing the area’s plethora of colorful fish and diverse underwater marine life will leave lasting travel memories.
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island
Animal loving adventurers will enjoy a day out at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island. A 6,300-acre refuge that covers almost half of the island, here families can get up close and personal to some of Florida’s unique wildlife, from alligators to a variety of birds. Hiking and biking through the trails is a popular pastime, in addition to riding on the open-air tram along the lively Wildlife Drive.
Rainbow Springs State Park, Dunnellon
One of the oldest springs in the state, Rainbow Springs State Park is the perfect place to take the entire family on one of Florida’s famously hot summer days. Take a dip or float on a tube through the perfect 70-degree crystal clear waters, where a vibrant array of azalea blooms highlight the moss-draped cypress trees and waterfall views. Kayaking and canoeing are also popular daytime activities, and quiet picnic areas are available throughout the park.
John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota
Located in Sarasota, the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art is a 66-acre European palace-style complex with a circus museum, art museum, and railroad car. Offering a range of vibrant gardens, visitors can explore this bright pink attraction to find a full day’s worth of activities. Kids will be delighted with the chance to walk the wire in the Circus Museum, explore memorabilia dedicated to the “Greatest Show on Earth,” and explore the whimsical Dwarf Garden.
Sun Splash Family Waterpark, Cape Coral
One of the most budget-friendly water parks in Florida, Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral offers the entire family the perfect escape from the summer heat. Nestled on a 14-acre piece of land, younger kids can enjoy the park’s array of interactive water features and mini slides while older visitors can try their hand at the more adventurous 30-foot darkened tunnel and a five-story slide with a steep drop.
A family-friendly island with small town charm, Sanibel Island offers laid back beaches and unique treasures ripe for the picking. Known as the “Shelling Capital of the World,” Sanibel Island is where people from around the world come to scour the beaches every morning for pieces that have washed up on shore. Easily accessible for even the littlest beachgoer, kids can spend hours combing through the 300 species of colorful shells.
Three Sisters Springs, Crystal River
Located on Florida’s west coast, Three Sisters Springs is a beloved natural springs area known for its unspoiled habitat. A 57-acre oasis, kids can have the opportunity to swim with manatees in certain months of the year. These gentle creatures can be spotted from land or boat, and an on-site trolley tour takes visitors to a boardwalk where manatee viewing is available.
Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, Key West
Located in Key West, the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory is home to over 50 species of butterflies in its 5,000 square foot aviary. Visitors can explore butterfly anatomy, physiology, the life cycle of a butterfly and the migratory world of these gorgeous winged creatures. Enough to entertain the kids for an entire day, visitors will also find over 20 exotic bird species, 3,500 plants, and a tranquil set of waterfalls.
St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, Port St. Joe
Considered to be one of the best beaches in the country, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park offers 9.5 miles of snow-white beach. Its untouched natural beauty and postcard-worthy views are surely impressive, but the area is also a perfect day out with the kids, where fishing, swimming, and picnicking are popular. Visit the nearby Wilderness Preserve, hike along the bay shore to find nature trails, or set up camp for a night of stargazing and s’mores.
Castillo de San Marcos, St. Augustine
Situated in America’s oldest city, Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine is the perfect day trip for kids interested in the past. The city’s 500 years of history is highlighted throughout the city’s charming streets, where cobblestone roads are met with fascinating landmarks. Castillo de San Marcos is the centerpiece of the city’s history, where visitors can walk along the walls of this massive fort where centuries-old historic battles took place.
Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach
A stunning Japanese-inspired garden, Morikami Museum & Japanese Gardens will take you and your family around the world with its Zen-like tranquility, brightly colored cherry blossoms and serene landscapes. Perfect for a sunny day, meander through the six neatly manicured gardens and explore the colorful displays and exhibits, or attend one of their lively festivals held throughout the year.
Perdido Key State Park, Pensacola
Located between Pensacola and Alabama, Perdido Key State Park is a perfect place to get away from it all. With 16 miles of rolling white sand dunes and tranquil Gulf waters, the kids can enjoy a secluded beach area all to themselves. It’s easy to lose track of time here, as hiking, crabbing, and fishing are popular daytime activities, while camping is found across the bridge at Big Lagoon State Park.