So you want to plan a vacation but you’re wanting to keep it Florida local. What does that look like? How far is too far? What types of destinations are out there? Do we hotel or camp?
These are the many questions I personally have when trying to coordinate a weekend getaway with my family. If you follow me on Instagram you will note that in the last year, we have been well fed and well traveled in Florida. Even, down poured on while running barefoot through mud. IFYKYK!
Here are my top 3 Florida staycation destinations
Key West, Florida
I mean WHY NOT head to the prettiest waters at the southern most point in the continental US? In August of 2021 we headed across the Seven Mile Bridge to the sandy shores of Key West. From Jacksonville it was about an 8 hour drive with stops and we did stay overnight in Miami Beach.
Where to Stay:
- We stayed at 24North on the Northwest side of Key West. It was away from the city but had an amazing atmosphere and view. Our stay was sponsored by them and I will say that for the accommodations and the beautiful amenities, I highly recommend it. The bartenders made amazing drinks, they had a DJ by a perfectly 95 degree pool and we cannot forget about the wild chickens running around! We loved those little guys. + if you’re lucky, we got free snow cones on the lawn one day.
Things to Do:
- I highly recommend going to the beach at Ft. Zachary and getting there early to reserve seats & an umbrella (already there for day rent). This beach felt “luxury” because of the amenities. Of course, me being an over-packer, I already came down the Keys fully locked and loaded in the car with our own cabana and chairs to rest and relax. If you’re looking for a beach where you can snorkel, swim and search for cool rocks, this is the one.
- Rent a bike and cruise the town. We spent about 3 hours just cycling through all the nooks and crannies in Key West. Headed down to the Aquarium to let Logan see the fishies, got some amazing gelato and even grabbed an ice cold beer. The bikes give you freedom without the headache of finding parking at different destinations or even worse, walking during the hottest & most humid time of the year.
I mean WHY NOT. Orlando is the destination of destinations when it comes to visiting Florida. It encompasses Disney, Universal, Sea World, and an hour outside of Orlando is Legoland. Each park has their own respective water parks. It is the vacationers and tourists hub in Florida. But as an annual pass holder, heading to Orlando for a day trip is a bi-weekly occurrence. But when there are multiple activities to partake in, we like to stay overnight and check out the local fare.
Where to Stay:
- If you’re doing Disney I definitely recommend staying at Swan & Dolphin. I say this because it is the only Disney centric resort that I have stayed at and I am definitely Mariott Bonvoy loyal. I stayed here for the first time with my girl friends on a girls trip and the moment you walk into the resort you’re hit with a sensational aroma that gives quintessential luxury. It’s like walking past a Tommy Bahama and it sticks with you as a tropical destination. The rooms were standard size, clean with lots of places to drop your bags. It is within walking distance to both Epcot & Hollywood Studios but I recommend riding the ferry over to Epcot and there is a high liner entrance there to get to Hollywood Studios.
- As I said above I am Mariott loyal, so in November when we went to Orlando for my sons birthday we stayed at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Lake Buena Vista. We got a standard room with 2 double beds and it had a pull out couch. What we loved about this hotel was that there is a separation between the “sitting room” and the bedroom. We liked that it had 2 TV’s, one for Logan’s shows and one for ours. AND it was centrally located to Disney, Universal & Sea World (even though we were only doing Disney)
Things to Do:
- DISNEY SPRINGS! Yes I am a Disney adult but I have a kid so I guess I am just fulfilling a lifelong goal of mine to immerse Logan into Disney culture and being an AP (I was an AP at Disneyland for 10+ years). You don’t have to have Disney admission to enjoy the food and fanfare at Disney Springs. They have numerous eateries, clothing shops, specialty dessert destinations & more.
- Lace up your walking shoes & head to the parks. We have been to all of the parks in Orlando proper (minus Legoland) and have enjoyed all of them uniquely.
- Sea World is great if your kids are 50” and love thrilling roller coasters. I felt like Logan didn’t have the BEST Sea World experience outside of the shows because all of the rides outside of Sesame Street required you to be a big kid.
- Universal Studios. This is one of my favorite theme parks in California just because you get a real Hollywood experience. Universal Orlando is definitely a different beast, almost double in size and double in things to do. I haven’t taken Logan here yet just because of the height requirements to ride a good portion of rides, I want him to be able to have a fulfilling experience. However, Harry Potter land is such an immersive experience if you enjoyed Harry Potter, I can definitely recommend. Plus they have ET, which was removed from Universal Hollywood in change for the Mummy ride.
- Disney. I am going to break this down by park because each one has something unique to offer but they each also have things that don’t impress me much *shania twain voice*
- Magic Kingdom. The star of the show. The nostalgia we all yearn for, in a park. MK is definitely my favorite day trip destination because you get the cozy Disney feeling here. They environment just radiates the Happiest Place on Earth and it carries all of those classic characters that we grew up with that we can share with our kiddos (+ some that they know and love). The height limit on most rides in MK is 40” but you do have some rides like Space Mountain with a higher threshold. It is the most baby/toddler friendly of all the parks.
- Epcot. When we went as a family in November, Epcot was tied for my least favorite. Hear me out, Logan wasn’t tall enough to ride just about anything. The rides he could ride had 2 hour waits and we weren’t all that hungry and couldn’t drink because we had to drive home. My opinion has since changed drastically. Logan and I went a few months ago with friends and now that he made the height threshold we had an absolute BLAST together. I then went again with just my adult mom friends to “drink and eat around the world” and let me tell you, the food and drink game at Epcot is unmatched.
- Hollywood Studios. I would say this is my 2nd favorite park, because I am a HUGE Star Wars fan. Hitting up Galaxy’s Edge really hit me in those warm tingly feels because I was raised watching all the movies and have such a passion for the franchise. Being a California transplant now living in Florida, I love the attention to detail when you’re walking through Hollywood Studios. Especially walking towards Tower of Terror, truly reminded me of my days working in Downtown LA.
- Animal Kingdom. Again, when we went in November this was tied for my least favorite park. I truly had zero desire to ever go back again. I remember as a kid watching Disney Channel when they were opening AK and being truly amazed by it and I couldn’t wait to go. As an adult for the first time, it was giving glorified zoo. Period. After much consideration about my return and now being an AP we ventured through again and I actually fell in love with it for its own unique perception of Disney meets animals. Now, it is still ranked my least favorite park BUT Disney is still #1 in my heart.
- Hit up the outlets. If you’re like me, you love a deal, steal, bargain, discount, etc., if you’re not well there’s the full priced Mall of Millenia down the street sis. But these outlets have some of the best brands and an amazing food court.
- Put on your fat girl pants and head over to World Food Trucks. Have you ever imagined one singular location that isn’t a buffet where you can get ALL the foods from ALL around the world? Welcome to World Food Trucks in Kissimmee. They had some of the most diverse and delicious options that I have seen since moving to Florida. The tacos I found there matched my California standard which is hard to do. SO SO SO good and perfect if you’re looking to get away from the amusement park craziness.
Silver Springs State Park Campground – Florida
Yesss I said campground because camping at this destination in Ocala is BEAUTIFUL. I came here in 2012 with my family and desired to go back so we planned a trip this past year and it did not disappoint. The water was a little chilly considering it was still cool outside but it was still so beautiful and serene.
Where to Stay:
- The campground! Make sure you make a reservation AHEAD OF TIME! They sell out very quickly and you want to make sure you snag a good spot. We liked ours because it was a corner spot with only campers on 1 side of us. They have a very clean bathroom and shower situation there which is a must with kids. No need to use the solar shower on this one!
Things to Do:
- Venture out to the springs. They have a watering hole that is perfect for families to gather. Picnic, play lawn games & relax.
- There are a few hiking trails but if you’re not a friend of snakes, I might avoid that one. We stumbled across a few that definitely gave me the jeebies. With little hands and feet trekking with you, this might be an older kids must have.
- Kayaking is one of the best things to do at the springs but from what I am told, launching out of Silver Springs is for intermediate to advanced kayakers because the current is so strong and there are mild rapids. It is still on my bucket list but I feel I need to hit a few practice strokes at home first.
- We gave the kids some buckets, spoons and water at the campground and let them BE KIDS! They got dirt under their nails and had freedom within the campground. It was my first time really letting Logan get filthy and he had a blast doing it.
So whether you’re from Florida or a Florida resident, these are some great destinations you can stay at and travel to with your family.