Your Florida Family Vacation: 5 Things to See, and 4 to Avoid

Planning a Florida family vacation? Then you probably have heard of DisneyWorld, but if you’re looking for other options, Florida is full of hidden gems that are fun, family friendly and even educational. Here are 5 picks that might not be on your radar:

5 Family Friendly Florida Vacation Spots

1. Seaside

This picturesque planned community in the Florida Panhandle, Seaside was one of the first towns designed with using the principles of New Urbanism and is a popular stop for architects, designers and all lovers of beauty. It was also used as the setting for the movie, The Truman Show. This charming town has lots to offer families, from a repertory theater to cultural attractions to a bustling farmer’s market.

2. Ybor City

One of only two National Historic Landmark Districts in Florida, Ybor City got its start as a cigar manufacturing center.  Also known as Tampa’s Latin Quarter, it boasts a mix of cultural influences, including Spanish, Cuban, Italian, French and Greek, with authentic food and an old world atmosphere. Browse art galleries or attend family friendly festivals like the annual Fiesta Day celebration. There is a yearly Gasparilla Pirate Festival held in Ybor City, one week is a children’s version (the one the following week may not be appropriate for children).  Gasparilla Pirate Festival

3. Apalachicola

Along Florida’s so called Forgotten Coast, this quaint waterfront oasis offers a true Florida Gulf Coast experience, from charming bed and breakfasts to amazing seafood. Fun family activities including exploring acres of forest, miles of beaches and beautiful bays.

4. Cedar Key

Just north of Tampa, this little gem of an island offers famous local seafood chowders and a National Wildlife Refuge. A great place for some relaxation.  Don’t forget to go kayaking on your trip!!!

5. Steinhatchee

This coastal Gulf community is a popular vacation spot for Floridian families, who come to enjoy the Old Florida atmosphere at hubs like the Steinhatchee Landing Resort. Enjoy fishing, boating and other outdoor aquatic adventures in a fun, laid back atmosphere.

And 4 Things to Avoid

If you are planning a trip to Florida, particularly with children or dogs, there are some things you should take note of, such as the poisonous plants and insects.

Insects, not my favorite topic by far, but Florida does have them.  I would be remiss if I did not start off with the bane of my existence…fire ants (also referred to as red ants, although there is a difference).  If you have never heard of them or seen them you will know what they are in a short time visiting Florida…I feel like they are everywhere.  My daughter has had pretty significant reactions to them, fortunately her reaction has been limited to pretty intense swelling and pain at the site.  It is almost impossible to go somewhere and not see a fire ant mound, at least where we have traveled in Florida (we have not had any issues on the beaches themselves, but we do have to be careful entering the beaches.  The buggers send out a scent when they bite that call for their friends to help defend them and join in the biting. It is unusual to get just one bite. Although people who a allergic can have a significant reaction, typically there is a pinch at the bite site followed by extreme itching (swelling included in our case). DON’T ITCH!!! Itching only spreads the venom…and the itching. Benadryl and ice have worked for us, followed by a warm epsom salt soak to reduce the swelling and draw the venom out.   You will wind up with a puss filled blister at the bite site.  My daughter actually has scars left behind.

Be careful with little kids seeing a mound of sand and wanting to jump or play in it, it may very likely be a red ant mound.

fireantcomparison

There are two poisonous spiders in Florida, the brown recluse and black widow.

If bitten by a black widow symptoms will begin within a few hours and may include nausea, vomiting and intense pain among other symptoms.

The brown recluse spider is another spider to pay attention to in Florida.  If they bite blisters will usually appear colored red surrounded by blue with a white separation.  Pain and swelling accompany this bite, unfortunately necrosis can also follow.  If it turns purple that is a sign necrosis is setting in around the bite site.

Fortunately I have not encountered either of these spiders, however, my neighbor did get bit by a brown recluse.

Black Widow
Black Widow
Brown Recluse
Brown Recluse

Snakes are the next important creature to take note of in Florida; there are six venomous snakes in Florida.  It is unlikely that you will run into venomous snakes, but if you are going to a heavy snake area, click on the link to see the six most venomous snakes found in Florida. Plants that you tend to see around Florida that are poisonous and fairly common include azaleas and oleanders. This is a comprehensive list of poisonous plants in Florida.  If traveling with a pet that likes to eat plants, please take note of these plants.

All parts of azaleas are toxic.  Ingesting this plant will likely result in  nausea, weakness and salivating.

Azaleas
Azaleas

Oleanders are also commonly seen around Florida.  In fact, I had some in my yard and removed them because of my dogs (pre-child) and their high toxicity.  Touching one leaf could actually cause a reaction.  If consumed intestinal issues may develop resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, pain, even seizures, coma and death.

Oleander
Oleander

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Florida is a fun, family-friendly place to visit, and it’s even better (and safer) when you know what to check out, and what to avoid!  Have fun and enjoy our lovely beaches!!

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