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Florida Keys Have Family-Friendly Activities From A To Z

This Family Fun story spotlights a family-focused attraction, event or place that enriches the Florida Keys for visitors of all ages

The Florida Keys & Key West teem with things to do for visitors of all ages and interests, so kids and families can make vacation days together unforgettable.

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A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Aerial adventures, aquariums, animal friends, African Queen

Aquarium

Featured activity:
Pet a shark at the Key West Aquarium, located at 1 Whitehead St. adjacent to renowned Mallory Square. The aquarium opened in 1934 and was one of the first family-friendly attractions in the Keys. Unique and inviting, the Key West Aquarium is home to grouper, moray eels, barracuda, tropical fish, tarpon, sharks, parrotfish and more. The touch tank features small sea creatures that children can touch and feed. The aquarium offers guided tours that include shark feeding and even an opportunity for guests to touch or "pet" a shark. Guided tours take place daily at 11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m., and 4:30 p.m.

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Backcountry, beaches, bird watching, butterflies, bicycling

Butterfly

Featured activity:
Become friends with herons, owls, pelicans and egrets at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center, a wild bird rescue, rehabilitation and educational facility, as well as sanctuary and visitor center located in Tavernier at mile marker (MM) 93.6. The FKWBC is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) that relies entirely on the generosity of both public and private donations. Visitors can drop in seven days a week, sunrise to sunset, and walk through the Laura Quinn Wild Bird Sanctuary to the open water of Florida Bay where you’ll see many of the permanent residents along with free-flying birds of many species. Donations and volunteerism are gratefully accepted.

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Conch Tour Train, cemetery walks, cultural events

Conch Tour Train

Featured activity:
No visit to the Florida Keys is complete without a ride on the Conch Tour Train, entertaining visitors and families in Key West since 1958. During your stay, even if it is a day trip to Key West on a cruise ship, get a conch's eye view of the southernmost city's attractions and interesting stops as you tour with the 'engineers' and helpful staff aboard the train trolleys. Kids 12 and under ride free, and discounts for military and seniors are available.

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Dolphin swims, Dry Tortugas

Theater of the Sea

Featured activity:
Swim with stingrays, dolphins or sea lions at Theater of the Sea. A lush 17-acre tropical oasis located in Islamorada at MM 84.5, Theater of the Sea features a variety of fish and marine life, native birds, colorful and personable parrots, sea turtles, crocodiles and exotic plants. General admission includes live performances by dolphins, sea lions and parrots, a guided tour of marine-life exhibits and a glass-bottom boat tour of their natural saltwater lagoon. Theater of the Sea also hosts special swim programs with dolphins, stingrays and sea lions for kids as young as 5 and dolphin wade programs for kids as young as 3. The park opens daily at 9:30 a.m.

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Eco tours

Mangrove kayaking

Visit an eco-tour outfitter in the Keys and chances are you'll be looking out the window at such environmentally fascinating places as Key Largo, where freshwater from the Everglades mixes with the saltwater of Florida Bay. Travel south to the Middle and Lower Keys beyond the Seven Mile Bridge, and the islands suddenly take a westerly turn toward the sunset and the glistening waters of the fabled Lower Keys backountry.

For those who do not kayak or canoe, there are also tour boat operators who are happy to introduce you to the wildlife and wilderness. Explore all of the eco-friendly Keys:

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Fishing, fossils

Fossils

Featured activity:
Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park, located at MM 84.9, was formed of Key Largo limestone and fossilized coral. It was sold to the Florida East Coast Railroad in 1908 for $852.80, and quarries were created to supply thousands of tons of fill for bridges and the railbed of Henry Flagler's OverSea Railroad. The quarry was used until the 1960s to produce exquisite pieces of decorative stone called Keystone. Today, kids can walk along eight-foot-high quarry walls to see cross-sections of fossilized ancient coral and preserved quarry machinery, or stroll along one of five nature trails. Also perfect for picnics, the spot is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Go-carts, golf, geo-caching

Golf

Featured activity:
Though the Florida Keys are best known for water-based activities, passionate golfers wanting to learn to play or get in a round of nine or 18 holes can find unique courses to play throughout the island chain. The continental United States' southernmost golfing challenge can be found at the Key West Golf Club, with an 18-hole course designed by golf legend Rees Jones and recently renovated greens. Highlights include the "mangrove hole," played completely over a field of thickly intertwined tropical mangroves.

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Helicopter rides, Hemingway cats

Hemingway Home cat

Featured activity:
In 1935, author Ernest Hemingway received a cat named "Snowball" while living and writing in Key West. With paws featuring six toes, "Snowball" was the first of a long line of felines that has helped make the Hemingway Home and Museum one of the most popular visitor attractions in the Florida Keys.

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Island hopping

Fort Jefferson

Featured activity:
Key West is the gateway to a vast ecotourism playground extending 70 miles westward to the uninhabited sand spits and coral formations of Dry Tortugas National Park. Seaplane tours to the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson are available for morning, afternoon, all-day and charter flights. Spot sharks, stingrays, porpoise and huge sea turtles, see submerged ships in the clear waters and snorkel the reefs to see colorful tropical fish and living coral.

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Jet pack adventures

Jet Pack

Featured activity:
Visitors to the Florida Keys can now pretend to be and actually fly like "James Bond" with a new watersport providing levitation-like flight. The Florida Keys is the first region in North America to offer the Jetpack Experiences to travelers. Participants strap on a JetLev R200 flight pack that looks like the one actor Sean Connery wore in "Thunderball." A 30-foot hose tethers the apparatus to a tiny boat with a pump that uses seawater as propellant. Flight controls allow individuals to take off, make soft turns, hover and land as the boat is dragged behind.

Watch a video

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Kayaking, kiteboarding, Key deer

Key deer

Featured activity:
Search for Key deer on Big Pine Key. Key deer are an endangered species that live only in the Lower Keys. These shy, appealing creatures are about the size of a large dog and can be found grazing all around Big Pine Key, especially in the early morning hours and around dusk. Spotting these "Bambi-like" creatures isn't always easy, but it's an adventure. To learn more about Key deer and other native species, visit the National Key Deer Refuge Visitor Center, located one-quarter mile north of the traffic light on Key Deer Boulevard in the Big Pine Key Shopping Plaza. The center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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Learning vacations

Fishing seminar

Featured activity:
Family time in the Florida Keys means moms, dads, 'tweens and teens can bond during a variety of soft adventure learning vacations. Together, they can try new sports in the active-lifestyle destination such as fishing, snorkeling, diving or sailing, learning some skills in as little as two days or embracing the ultimate experience on a weeklong adventure.

At Dolphin Research Center, younger students age 15-17 can enroll in a seven-day Teen DolphinLab or Dolphin Camps for ages 10-12 and 13-14, where students meet the resident dolphin population and observe their behavioral and physical characteristics as a way of learning respect for each individual.

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Museums, marinas, Mallory Square

Key West Shipwreck Museum

Featured activity:
Seek shipwreck bounty with wreckers at the Key West Shipwreck Museum. Salvaging goods from ships wrecked on Florida Keys reefs made Key West the richest U.S. city per capita in the mid-1800s. The Key West Shipwreck Museum re-creates the salvage or wrecking era through live actors, film and artifacts from the wreck of the Isaac Allerton that sank off the Keys in 1856. Wrecking master Asa Tift guides guests through the museum, explaining the unique industry, and invites them to climb a 65-foot lookout tower to ring a bell signaling that a wreck has been spotted. Located at 1 Whitehead St. beside the aquarium, the Key West Shipwreck Museum is open daily from 9:40 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Nature trails, nature preserves

Featured activity:
Discover shells, fish tanks and pirate costumes at Crane Point Hammock in Marathon. Crane Point Hammock is a 63-acre environmental and archaeological preserve that features fun for families with all types of interests. The historically curious can visit Adderley House, a historic home built in 1906 by a Bahamian immigrant who was a sponge fisherman, boatman and charcoal maker. Adventure seekers can get up close and personal with the museum's touch tank that features sea urchins and starfish or explore the large lagoon filled with nurse sharks and tropical fish. Nature lovers can hike along one of the nature trails or visit the Marathon Wild Bird Center, a bird rehabilitation center for injured or orphaned birds. Located at MM 50.5, Crane Point Hammock is open Monday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.

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Offshore fishing, Overseas Highway

Seven Mile Bridge

Featured activity:
The Florida Keys Overseas Highway, from north of Key Largo to Key West, is an All-American Road, the highest recognition possible under the National Scenic Byways program established by the U.S. Congress in 1991. Only 30 other roadways in the nation have earned the prestigious title.

The Overseas Highway has been named one of America's most scenic drives and among the top 10 greatest drives in the United States by several prestigious publications, including Reader's Digest and more.

On the next family trip to these drive-to islands, play a game to see who can count each of the 42 bridges over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico!

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Parks, paddle boarding, photography, parasailing, Pigeon Key

Paddleboarding

Featured activity:
Paddle surfing originated with the ancient Hawaiians who would paddle their outrigger canoes through the surf while standing up. During the 1960s, "beach boys" would perch on top of big boards to snap photos for tourists. The sport has exploded in popularity and is attracting enthusiasts and newbies alike to the Florida Keys to try it. Standing on the board, typically 12 to 14 feet in length, not only allows for a better view of the surroundings, but also enables practitioners to paddle longer and more easily while standing, versus sitting as in a kayak. Standup paddling appeals to many different people because it is a relatively simple, straightforward yet diverse activity. Enjoy touring through the mangrove trees, along the beaches or in the backcountry flats in a noninvasive way.

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Quirky events, quests for treasure

Conch Shell Blowing Contest

Featured activity:
Maybe "American Idol" winners aren't abandoning their guitars to play conch shell concerts, but fans of the fluted, pink-lined shell pucker up every March for the annual test of "conch musicianship" in Key West. The Conch Shell Blowing Contest, nicknamed the Conch Honk, is a lighthearted competition that salutes Key West's seafaring heritage and is presented by the Old Island Restoration Foundation.

Several dozen kids and adults compete each year in the "conch honk," showcasing their pucker power and honoring an important Keys tradition.

Watch a video to learn how to blow a conch shell.

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Regattas, riding bikes

Bikers

Featured activity:
Getting around in the Florida Keys is as simple as riding a bicycle — literally. Full-service bicycle shops throughout the Keys help visitors and locals alike reduce their carbon footprint with bicycle rentals and services including free bike delivery.

Currently being enhanced and improved, the island chain's Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is a locally inspired project designed to provide pedestrians and bicyclists with a scenic pathway and alternative transportation from Key Largo to Key West.

Paralleling U.S. Highway 1, the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is to eventually include more than 100 miles of open trail from Key Largo to Key West. Visitors arriving at the southernmost city of Key West will discover that walking or biking is a great way to get around the two-by-four-mile island.

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Scuba, SNUBA, snorkel, swimming, seaplanes, sailing, sunset celebrations

Snuba

Featured activity:
Families that want to go beyond snorkeling to experience the continental United States' only living coral barrier reef can try safe, comfortable and user-friendly Snuba. The intriguing sport enables ocean lovers to breathe easily underwater without wearing dive gear or earning dive certification.

With Snuba, people can discover the Keys' remarkable coral formations and schools of tropical fish while gliding effortlessly beneath the surface.

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Turtles, tropical gardens, tarpon feeding, treasure hunts

Turtle

Featured activity:
"Meet" rescued sea turtles at the Turtle Hospital in Marathon, where dedicated staff members focus on the care and rehabilitation of sick and injured sea turtles. The world's only licensed veterinary hospital that specializes in sea turtles, the hospital even has its own turtle ambulance. Kids in the Keys can take guided tours of the facility to learn about sea turtles, get a behind-the-scenes look at the hospital and rehabilitation facility, and even feed some of the permanent residents. It's also possible, if you're lucky, to witness the release of a turtle that has been returned to health. Releases take place at beaches throughout the Keys, and since 1986 the hospital has released more than 1,000 sea turtles back into the ocean. The unique facility is located at MM 48.5 with daily tours at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

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Underwater activities - music festival, egg hunt, even pumpkin carving!

Underwater Music Festival

Featured activity:
The marine life that inhabits the Florida Keys' living coral reef is widely acclaimed for its diversity, but it usually doesn't include an underwater orchestra or costumed mermaids. Except, that is, during the Lower Keys Underwater Music Festival. The unique event draws several hundred divers and snorkelers to enjoy the sound of music in the Keys' ocean realm each July. The underwater concert takes place at Looe Key Reef, an area of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary approximately six miles south of Big Pine Key.

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Voluntourism

Coral Transplant

Featured activity:
Increased efforts to promote "voluntourism," or volunteer opportunities for vacationers, can contribute to the self-sufficiency and sustainability of tourist destinations. Marine scientists with Key Largo's Coral Restoration Foundation are offering voluntourism-minded divers a chance to aid in reef conservation during planned coral restoration dives. Certified divers of all ages can participate.

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Wildlife refuges, wakeboarding

Great White Heron

Featured activity:
Visitors from around the world are drawn to experience the Florida Keys' priceless natural resources. Protection of these resources began more than a century ago — demonstrating the region's commitment to environmental stewardship. The Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge, established in 1938, provides safe nesting and breeding areas for great white herons, North America's largest wading bird, and other migratory birds and wildlife. Stretching between Key West and Marathon, the refuge features more than 375 square miles of open water and islands in the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors' primary access is by kayak, canoe or shallow-draft boat, although the refuge manages lands on Upper Sugarloaf and Lower Sugarloaf Keys that are accessible by car.

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Xoxo

Florida Keys e-card

Sign your Florida Keys e-card with hugs & kisses to friends at home!

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Yachting, Yankee Freedom, yoga-by-the-sea, yellowtail snapper

Sailing

Featured activity:
Families can get underway and hoist the sails during sailing lessons targeted to novice sailors who want to experience on-the-water training. Basic through advanced cruising, live-aboard cruises and charters are offered in the waters off the Keys.

Florida Keys Sailing, located in Marathon, offers training for a sailing license to charter or rent a sailboat. Classes range from day sailing trips (with lessons but no tests!) to three-day soup-to-nuts learning courses, after which sailors should be skilled enough to skipper a 24- to 30-foot boat. Five- and seven-day bareboat cruising classes offer serious candidates the skills to captain and charter a 40- or 50-foot sailboat anywhere in the world, and be able to take the family out for a cruise.

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Zoo

Sheriff's Animal Farm

The Sheriff's Animal Farm is open between 1-3 p.m. to the public without charge, on the second and fourth Sundays of every month. Bring the family to visit the animals on the farm: horses, cows, pigs, goats, bunnies alligators, tropical birds, sloths, a lemur, emu, turtles, tortoises and more. The farm is located on Stock Island, off College Road, at the Sheriff's Office Headquarters complex. Admission is free, and donations to the farm are always appreciated.

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Insider's Tip

Our featured "A-Z" letters on this page are hand-painted by Key West's Alberto DeAndrea, a prolific artist who studied in Italy and Switzerland, influenced by the craft of Renaissance masters and inspired by the hues of impressionism. He uses a leather-tipped brush and watercolors to delicately paint names and messages.

Looking for a memento of your family vacation?
Visit
www.GalleryUno.com
to have your own custom signs, names,
and expressions created by DeAndrea.

More Family Activities & Entertainment for Children