After almost 6 months spent in South America and the Caribbeans, we felt it is time to move east with our sabbatical year. We just couldn’t leave the region without making at least a short stop in US with our child. We’ve been to US a few times in the past, before even considering having kids, but there still are countless things to be done there.
Finding incredibly cheap flights from Orlando to Europe and Middle East with Norwegian was the perfect excuse to stop in Florida for a few days. Not to mention visiting dear friends we haven’t seen for years!
We spent some wonderful days in West Palm Beach, taking a break from traveling. But still we managed to visit a bit of of the area. It was the perfect time to visit Florida with a toddler. End of November weather is wonderful to spend time outside, plus that he was very excited about the Christmas decorations.
Even though we were very close to Orlando, we did not visit any of the theme parks. Actually we had a long debate if we should visit Disney or any other park. In the end, we agreed we might come back in a few years. We just don’t think a child under 3 years old can appreciate the theme parks at their true value. Plus that we never encouraged Eric towards cartoons, so he doesn’t even know the Disney characters. You can read also the opinion of other travellers that chose to skip Disney and take their kids on totally different locations instead.
For our trip to Florida we focused on other locations and activities that can be enjoyed by the whole family:
Palm Beach & West Palm Beach
We set our base in West Palm Beach during our stay in Florida with a toddler. But honestly, we didn’t do much here. We were looking for some quiet days, just hanging around the house. A walk on Clematis Street and CityPlace were enough this time. Eric enjoyed a lot our peaceful neighbourhood, with ducks and large green areas. Andrei tried playing golf, but I can’t say the game was a success.
Even-though separated just by the Intercostal Waterway, Palm Beach is a totally different story. One of the wealthiest places in US, you should definitely take a a car ride around the island, to see top-notch hotels or luxurious winter residences of the richest. You can find posh shops and see how quickly some can spend a little fortune if you stroll on the famous Worth Avenue. We stopped near the Clock tower to get a nice panorama over the ocean, as I’m not sure when we’re going to see the Atlantic again. Make sure you visit Bethesda-by-the-Sea church, an impressive gothic revival construction with a large courtyard and a lovely pond with koi fish.
Kennedy Space Center
This was the best place we visited during our trip to Florida. I would highly recommend you to plan a full day here when you are in the area. The entrance costs 57$ for an adult, which I consider to be very reasonable, considering the whole experience.
Suitable for both kids and adults, Kennedy Space Center offers a great educational journey through the history of space exploration. There are additional activities like astronaut training, shuttle launch simulator or dine with an astronaut. We spent about 6 hours there with our almost 3 years old child and neither of us got bored. But the whole experience a bit overwhelming for him, so he took a quick nap during the bus tour to the Apollo section. Unfortunately Eric was to young for most of the kids related activities, but I imagine these are awesome for 5-6 year old ones!
Everglades airboat tour
An airboat ride through Everglades was on Andrei’s bucket list for a long time. We just couldn’t visit Florida without allocating one day to this trip. It is just a 2-hour drive from West Palm Beach and it is totally worth the time.
Everglades is the largest subtropical reserve in North America and it is recognised as UNESCO World Heritage Site. The largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere, it hosts a large number of reptiles and birds, even some threatened species.
We loved the boat tour, it was fun and educative at the same time. I just hated the representation at the end, when a baby alligator, with a elastic strap over its mouth, was handed over to the tourists for photos, in exchange of a fee. I just don’t see fit to do this kind of activities with a wild animal! But all the participants to the tour except for us took the chance to be photographed holding it, so I can understand the commercial reasons behind this.
If you go to Everglades with children, it would be great to have a pair of earmuffs for kids ear protection. You will get ear plugs when embarking on the boat, but those are way to big for a child and do not protect that much. The sound is very loud, probably similar with an airplane taking off. Eric got a bit scared in the beginning, but was happy to see the alligators and lots of birds.
Day trip to Miami
Famous for parties and glamour, you can find great activities to spend time in Miami with kids too. We just took a day trip here from West Palm Beach, as it is less than 2 hours away. But you can easily spend a few days around Miami with children.
During morning time, we explored the Wynwood neighbourhood, a true outdoor art exhibition. Then we took a short car drive through Miami’s Design District, heading Downtown. Here, Eric enjoyed so much the metro-train trip around impressive skyscrapers that we had to ride it a few times. Luckily it is free! Only a stop to a pizza place convinced him there are other fun things to do in Miami.
In the afternoon, we headed to Miami Beach, an island separated from mainland Miami City by the Biscayne Bay. In Miami Beach we just strolled through the streets, walked on the beach and spent some time in a nearby playground. A well deserved relaxing afternoon!
What other activities would you recommend in Southeast Florida for families?
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