Last-Minute Florida day and overnight trips for the whole family

Last-Minute Florida Day & Overnight Trips for the Whole FamilY

Photo courtesy of Little Manatee River State Park Facebook page

By Tyler Francischine

November 6, 2023

Looking for a quick getaway? Check out  these family-friendly sites across the state of Florida.

With sports, birthday parties, and school events, it can be hard to get away for a lot of families on the weekends, but it’s that level of busy-ness that makes these little getaways even more necessary. Here are some great options right here in Florida to take a break and spend some quality time together.

Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park

Last-Minute Florida Day & Overnight Trips for the Whole Family

Photo by Russell Mick courtesy of Visit Florida

Beat the Florida heat with a refreshing dip at Ruth B. Kirby Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park. Located in High Springs, a 45-minute drive north from Gainesville, this newly appointed state park is home to Gilchrist Blue, a second-magnitude natural spring that pumps out 44 million gallons of crisp, 72-degree fresh water each day. Pack goggles, snorkeling gear, and flippers for the kids, and they’ll be entertained for hours swimming alongside the turtles and channel catfish meandering around the spring. 

Rent a canoe or kayak to explore all the nooks and crannies of the main springhead, as well as the spring run waters connecting Gilchrist Blue to other nearby springs that aren’t open for swimming. If one day at Gilchrist Blue Springs doesn’t feel like enough, take advantage of the park’s 23 campsites, which offer both tent and RV options. Campsite reservations are available on the Florida State Parks website.

Environmental Learning Center, Vero Beach

Last-Minute Florida Day & Overnight Trips for the Whole Family

Photo courtesy of Environmental Learning Center Facebook page

Vero Beach’s Environmental Learning Center equips curious young people with the information and skills necessary to become thoughtful stewards of their own environments. Your kids may become avid birders after climbing aboard one of the ELC’s pontoon boat tours, which traverse the Indian River Lagoon in search of pelicans, roseate spoonbills, egrets, and more. Visiting the Discovery Station—which contains aquariums, touch tanks, and interactive exhibits—might encourage your young ones to adopt practices aimed at creating a cleaner, greener planet. Want to make an overnight trip out of it? Stay nearby at Disney’s Vero Beach Resort, where the kids will tucker themselves out climbing up and shooting down the 163-foot Pirate’s Plunge water slide, and you’ll peacefully relax in the resort’s whirlpool spa.

Grayton Beach State Park

Last-Minute Florida Day & Overnight Trips for the Whole Family

Photo by NPI Productions courtesy of Visit Florida

This state park in Santa Rosa Beach, a quiet stretch of the Panhandle between Panama City and Pensacola, boasts 2,000 acres of adventure fit for the whole family. Build sandcastles on Grayton Beach from grains so powdery and white you might mistake them for snow. Paddle a kayak or canoe onto Western Lake, a peaceful, coastal dune setting also ideal for teaching the next generation how to fish. Lodging at Grayton Beach State Park reaches a new level of coziness without skimping on the creature comforts. Stay at one of the park’s 30 duplex cabins, each containing a pair of bedrooms, a bathroom, a screened-in porch, and outdoor grill. Book your stay as far in advance as possible on the Florida State Parks website.

Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park

Last-Minute Florida Day & Overnight Trips for the Whole Family

Photo courtesy of Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park

Family members of all ages and skill sets can learn resilience and perseverance while tackling the unique obstacle courses at Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park, located in Kissimmee. Fly like a bird among the tops of fragrant pine trees on a zip line or balance in mid-air on a hanging skateboard. Two separate kids’ courses offer the youngest adventurers 20 different challenges to navigate while remaining a safe distance from the ground. Too tired to drive home after your tree trek? Stay nearby at Winter Garden’s Liki Tiki Village Resort, home to a lagoon-style pool complete with five water slides and a volcano that erupts with splashes of cool water.

Little Manatee River State Park

Hiding in plain sight within Wimauma, a Hillsborough County town about 30 miles south of Tampa, lies a secluded, best-kept secret of a state park with ample camping, hiking, canoeing, and horseback riding opportunities along a blackwater river. Little Manatee River State Park boasts several kid-friendly nature trails including the Oxbow, which conveniently forms a quick, one-mile loop around the river and its surrounding wetlands and oak scrublands. The state park also contains 30 campsites for both tents and RVs, and each site offers access to coin-operated washers, dryers and a bathhouse with hot water. Campsite reservations are available on the Florida State Parks website.

Sugar Sand Park

Last-Minute Florida Day & Overnight Trips for the Whole Family

Photo courtesy of Boca Raton Department of Recreation Services

Boca Raton’s Sugar Sand Park isn’t your average playground. Yes, the 132-acre park is home to a jungle gym for energetic little ones, but it’s also the site of the Children’s Science Explorium, the Willow Theatre, and the Field House, a 14,000-square-foot gymnasium. Designed for children ages 5-12, the Children’s Science Explorium offers exhibits and programs designed to get young brains excited about the physical sciences. The Willow Theatre hosts live productions geared at children such as Old MacDonald’s Singalong Farm and Sherlock Holmes and the Opera Mystery. If you don’t get the chance to see all that Sugar Sand Park has to offer in one day, make a return trip the next morning after resting at the nearby and affordable Embassy Suites by Hilton Boca Raton, which offer spacious rooms and an outdoor pool.

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve

Last-Minute Florida Day & Overnight Trips for the Whole Family

Photo courtesy of Friends of Rookery Bay Facebook page

Before spending an awe-inspiring day communing with nature on the Paradise Coast, relax in affordable luxury fit for the whole family at The Capri Inn, a boutique hotel only 1 mile from Naples Beach that boasts a pool, free bicycles, and a 15% discount for Florida residents. Leave the hotel bright and early for Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. At this environmental learning center, you can take a Life’s A Beach Barrier Island Shelling tour. You and the kids will stroll along the beach with a guide identifying every manner of treasure you can find in the powdery white sands, as well as the bivalves, gastropods, crustaceans, and sponges that can wash up on these gentle shores.


READ MORE: 6 Delish Vegan and Vegetarian Restaurants in Florida


  • Tyler Francischine

    Tyler Francischine is a journalist who writes about travel, arts, culture and community. She's passionate about social justice, the Atlantic Ocean and live music.



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