Best Family Hotels In Florida
The best family hotels in Florida naturally cluster around the famed theme parks in the center of the state. But Florida offers more than canned fantasy, and you may be surprised at the variety of family friendly hotels, attractions and sights you'll find outside theme park central.
Walt Disney World
The mega-resort offers a range of family hotel and resort options, from budget accommodations to sprawling themed resorts, right on its property. The service and amenities are always top-notch and free transportation to any of the Walt Disney World theme parks, water parks, golf courses and shopping districts is included. If you want to take a day off from traipsing around the parks, each hotel and resort schedules plenty of family activities: movie, games, crafts, etc., and there's always swimming pool time. And if Mom and Dad want to enjoy a romantic dinner at one of the many fine restaurants on Disney property, child-care options are always available at these Florida family hotels.
Nickelodeon Family Suites
Convenient to all the major Central Florida theme parks, this family hotel revolves around Dora the Explorer, Spongebob SquarePants – and slime! Your kids will feel like they walked onto the set of a show on the Nickelodeon Network. In fact, guests are cast for nightly live performances at this Florida family resort. Many of the suites offer a master bedroom for Mom and Dad, and separate, character-themed sleeping quarters for the kids. You can arrange for a family member to be surprised by a pie in the face, and of course there's always the danger of unexpectedly being covered in green, gooey slime, especially at the on-site water park.
Water park hotels
Speaking of water parks, a couple of the best family hotels in Florida let you hit the slides and sprinklers just a few steps outside your door. The guest rooms at CoCo Key Hotel and Water Resort surround a 62,000-square-foot water park that is partially covered by a huge canopy to block the sun and stop the rain during Florida's steamy summers. The water park encompasses areas ranging from splash areas and a shallow pool for the youngest toddlers to giant slides for teens – and adventurous parents.
The Clarion Resort & Waterpark, on U.S. 192 in Kissimmee, Florida, also features the gamut of water park features, from kiddie pools to towering water slides. The 630-foot-long Naylid's Lazy River lets the whole family grab some inner tubes and take a slow, cool ride through the park. After an exhausting day at the theme parks, you can soothe your aching muscles in the 90-square foot heated spa, designed for ages 12 and older.
And you don't need to stay at either of the hotels to enjoy the water park fun: both offer day passes to visitors.
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
This sprawling 2,400-acre family resort in Destin on Florida's Panhandle is more than a family hotel. Sure, there are vacation rentals – some right on the sugar-white sand beaches – but an abundance of kid- and teen-friendly activities make this a perfect Florida family vacation getaway. While the parents play a few holes on one of its championship golf courses, the young ones can partake in the fully supervised Kid Zone program, offering indoor and outdoor activities. The resort offers junior golf, tennis and sailing program, as well as play areas and nature trails. Teenagers can get extreme at the Baytowne Adventure Zone's zipline, ropes course or "Eurobungy" attractions. There are also teen sailing classes, personal watercraft, parasailing and myriad other water-based activities.
A weekend at the beach can renew and refresh the entire family, and since Florida boasts nearly 1,200 miles of coastline, there's a beach for everybody. From the famed white beaches of the Pensacola area to the quiet, uncrowded sand of Southwest Florida, around to the surf of the Atlantic Ocean on the state's east coast, family hotels in Florida pepper the coast. Be sure to get on the internet and research to make sure the amenities and nearby attractions are a good fit for your family – and find great deals on hotels. Don't forget the sunscreen!
Photo: Gerard Walen