The Florida Keys are known for gorgeous sunsets and endless margaritas, the perfect place for fishing, jet skiing, scuba diving, and honeymooning. Each key provides a relaxing respite from the hectic city life that often surrounds us back in Miami, and while you might not always think of the keys as a prime location for family fun, there’s plenty to do down there to keep the kids entertained as well. From Key Largo to the southernmost point in the nation, there are endless opportunities to keep parents, teens, and even toddlers smiling. All you’ve got to do is look a little closer.
John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park (Key Largo)
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102601 Overseas Hwy., Key Largo
Your first stop into the Keys should be at John Pennekamp, the nation’s first ever underwater state park. Hit the beach where kiddos can splash about, paddle board, or enjoy a nice barbecue by the sea. Stop by their Education and Visitor Center as well to cool down and learn all about the coral reef ecosystem, view their 30,000 gallon aquarium, or watch nature videos. And if that’s not enough, you can always buy tickets for the glass bottom boat–perfect to fascinate even the youngest of kids.
Theater Of The Sea (Islamorada)
84721 Oveseas Hwy., Islamorada
Theater Of The Sea is as close as you’ll get to a theme park in the Florida Keys. Kids and adults alike will delight at all there is to see and do there – from dolphin and sea lion shows to nature tours and various animal exhibits featuring nurse sharks, sea turtles, crocadilians, even birds of prey. Also offered are various animal encounters, like swimming with dolphins, feeding an endangered sea turtle, or painting with sea lions that youngsters are sure to love.
Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters (Marathon)
11710 Overseas Hwy., Marathon
This wholly unique attraction brings underwater life up close to visitors of all ages. Check out their 20,000 gallon, salt-water Coral Reef and Predator Reef tanks. You can even dive into the former for an additional fee. Youngsters will love interacting with horseshoe crabs and starfish in the Tide Pool Touch Tank, petting the baby stingrays or even feeding the adult nurse sharks.
Dolphin Research Center (Grassy Key)
58901 Overseas Hwy., Grassy Key
This non-profit education and research facility is perfect for any kid (any one, really) who wants to take a closer look at these beautiful sea mammals. Visit with dolphins and sealions (as well as various cats and birds) as they swim and play throughout the center, chat with various trainers, and then cool off at their children’s sprayground. And for just a little extra, you can even play interactively with the dolphins–a memory no kid will ever forget.
Founders Park (Islamorada)
87000 Overseas Hwy., Islamorada
This 40,000-acre public park is easy to miss if you’re not careful, but it’s certainly worth stopping by. Once inside, you’ll find a whole slew of activities for everyone in your family. Take a swim in the Ron Levy Aquatic Center, or if you prefer, dip your toes in their shallow beach. Also on-site: tennis courts, basketball courts, walking trails, soccer fields, a baseball field, a splash pad and playground you won’t be able to pull the little ones away from. Plus, there’s the chance you might get to enjoy live entertainment to boot.
Key West Shipwreck Museum (Key West)
1 Whitehead Street, Key West
You might not always be able to get your kids to visit an art or history museum, but there’s a good chance you’ll definitely get them interested in checking out this shipwreck museum. Step inside and you’ll be greeted by “Master Wrecker” Asa Tift, your tour guide into Key West’s past, and learn all about the ways in which passengers and cargo were often saved from the frequent shipwrecks that hit the keys. View real artifacts from the shipwreck Isaac Allerton, which sunk in 1856, then climb up the 65-foot lookout tower for a spectacular view of the southernmost key.
Conch Train Tour (Key West)
303 Front St., Key West
For the little engineer in your family, you can always catch a ride aboard this brightly-painted train that’ll take you all over Key West. Climb aboard at Front Street Depot for this hour-and-a-half long adventure. Pick up an ice cream cone at your first stop to keep your temp down and your kids happy, then hop on again and enjoy all the best sights the key has to offer. Added bonus: all youngsters receive a junior conductor hat while onboard the train!