Family trips to Florida can often include long lines at the theme parks. Though Disney World and Universal Studios promise great fun, they aren’t the only things that the Sunshine State offers.
There are fantastic beaches, natural springs, museums, cultural attractions, outdoor excursions and one-of-a-kind wildlife. The many things to do in Florida caters to a variety of tastes.
So, pack some snacks and load up the kids because these are some of the best day trips that Florida has to offer.
Related: 50 Florida faves: Where to go and what to
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
There are 112 state parks in Florida and three national parks, making it hard to choose.
But Everglades National Park, which is the only subtropical preserve in North America, is hard to resist.
A quick way to enjoy all that the park has to offer is to hop on an Airboat tour. You will go through narrow canals and glide on top of swampy open water areas, viewing some of Florida's wildlife at its best. From frogs, birds and 40 species of mammals, you can see them all in their natural habitat. Just be sure to call before you arrive to reserve your spot.
If Airboats aren't your thing, you can opt for a scenic bike ride through the bike loop instead. Don't want to pedal? Take the tram. You'll likely see plenty of gators sunning themselves along the path, but don't worry. Just keep your distance.
Fun fact: The Everglades is the only place on Earth where alligators and crocodiles coexist.
Related: Everglades National Park: 5 reasons you should visit this Florida park
Related: Florida couple take road trip through U.S. to 61 national parks
SIESTA KEY BEACH
Boasting 825 miles of beaches, Florida is home to Siesta Key, which is consistently voted to have the best beach in the United States and one of the best in the world. The calm waters of the gulf make this eight-mile barrier island a Florida west coast paradise.
You can snorkel at Points of Rocks, which can be found at the south end of Crescent Beach. Or bask in the serenity of Turtle Beach where it’s okay to do absolutely nothing. The kids will love Siesta Beach, where they can sculpt sandcastles or make use of the playground.
If you are in the mood for a little adventure, stop in at Siesta Key Watersports, which offers boat and jet ski rentals, private charters, sunset cruises, as well as dolphin tours. Or book a ride with Parasail Siesta. You will hover at about 450-500 feet while parasailing, giving you a bird's eye view of the keys.
Fun Fact: Siesta Key’s crystal white sand is 99% pure quartz sand and always feels cool between your toes.
Related: Visit Siesta Keys: 4 ways to enjoy the island like a local
Related: 10 of the best uncrowded beaches in Florida
The natural springs of Florida are some of the most beautiful sights that you will ever see. And Ginnie Springs in High Springs, about 45 minutes northwest of Gainesville, is said to be a slice of heaven. The water is always 72 degrees, and you can expect to see cypress and other hardwood trees along the waterfront. You’ll also find picnic tables, a children’s playground, volleyball and more. It can get packed early, especially during weekends and holidays. So try to arrive before it opens.
Ginnie Springs’ crystal clear water makes for excellent snorkeling, or you can rent tubes, diving equipment, paddleboards, kayaks and canoes.
Just keep in mind that like any body of water in Florida, you’re bound to see alligators. Don’t feed or swim with them. If you see one, get out of the water and contact the park ranger.
Fun Fact: In addition to alligators expect to see animals in and out of the springs such as manatees, different types of turtles, tortoises, snakes, birds, and more.
Related: Ginnie Springs day trip: Because heaven is a Florida kind of place
Related: Rainbow Springs state park: Float down a lazy river, explore waterfalls
PEANUT ISLAND CAMPGROUND
There is no shortage of places to go camping in Florida, and Peanut Island Camping Ground makes it easy. Located in the Intracoastal Waterway near Lake Worth Inlet in South Florida, the campsites include a tent pad, a grill and a picnic table. The 80-acre tropical park also has beaches, a fishing dock, hiking trail and plenty of areas for boating or snorkeling make this campground a gem to residents and visitors.
There are comfortable restrooms with hot indoor showers. There’s also a large fire ring. But call or visit the website before going as conditions can change due to weather or renovations.
Fun Fact: All plants and animals are protected by special regulations from the county, state and federal governments. So, be careful when setting up your campsite.
Related: Best of: Florida camping sites you’ll love
There are many historical and cultural destinations in Florida and St. Augustine has earned the title of being the oldest city in America. You can explore the area via bike, rent a ScootCoupe or book one of the many tours. The architecture is an awe-inspiring mixture of styles and cultures.
Head downtown and check out Lighthouse Park. While the stairs will put your legs to the test, the amazing views at the top make it well worth it. Plus, there are platforms available for resting so you can pace yourself.
No trip to St. Augustine is complete without a visit to Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. It boasts numerous rooms that once housed soldiers and prisoners, an interior courtyard, and a gun deck, which offers a great view of the city.
Fun Fact: Castillo de San Marcos National Monument is the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States---more than 315 years old---and was designed by the military engineer Ignacio Daza.
Related: Trip to St. Augustine: The best vacation, no plans required
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This story has been written and syndicated across Gannett Media's Florida markets.