The Florida Keys are full of attractions that can make vacation days together absolutely unforgettable for parents, kids, grandparents and extended families.
“Kids Free” activities include sightseeing tours of Key West aboard the Conch Tour Train and visits to the fascinating Custom House Museum, both pictured here. (Photo by Andy Newman, Florida Keys News Bureau)
And from now through Oct. 15, the Key West Attractions Association has a special invitation for families: explore the island chain’s attractions, tours, watersports and other offerings with a value-added program that provides free admission and opportunities for every kid age 12 or younger who’s accompanied by a paying adult.
Just visit the association’s KidsFreeFloridaKeys website to discover values for nature-themed and historic attractions, sightseeing tours, museums, on-the-water adventures, dining and more.
On the site, you’ll find a wide range of family-friendly activities with links to the participating Keys businesses and information about their offerings.
The featured attractions include the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, where visitors can walk among hundreds of living butterflies in a breathtaking rainforest-like setting — a setting that’s also home to two fabulous pink flamingos — and the Middle Keys’ Dolphin Research Center, an acclaimed nonprofit marine mammal research and education facility where visitors can meet and learn about the resident dolphins.
When visiting Islamorada, many families stop for a photo op with “Betsy,” a huge lobster sculpture outside the Rain Barrel Village. (Photo by Lori, Florida Keys Photo Adventure)
Also featured is one of the first family-friendly attractions in the Keys: the Key West Aquarium that opened in 1935. Unique and inviting, the aquarium houses tropical fish, moray eels, grouper, barracuda and more. Kids can even interact with sea creatures like hermit crabs and sea cucumbers in a touch tank.
And when it comes to tours and watersports, the offerings are just as intriguing.
For example, families can explore the southernmost island aboard the world-famous Conch Tour Train or Old Town Trolley, snorkel on the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef (which parallels the Keys) on a Fury Water Adventures excursion, and try paddleboarding with Islamorada’s Otherside Boardsports.
In addition to the many “Kids Free” offerings, during a visit to the Florida Keys families can immerse themselves in plenty of other activities. For example, take a glass-bottom boat tour at Key Largo’s John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, the world’s first undersea park … feed huge wild tarpon from a dock at Robbie’s Marina in Islamorada … snap a “selfie” with Betsy, a 30-foot-tall, 40-foot-long sculpted Keys lobster that greets visitors to Islamorada’s Rain Barrel Village … embark on a guided fishing trip and then dine on the catch in a local restaurant … or simply build sandcastles on a beach beside the Atlantic Ocean.
Feeding wild tarpon at Robbie’s in Islamorada is a Keys tradition enjoyed by kids and adults from around the world. (Photo courtesy of Robbie’s)
Nature-loving families can try spotting Key deer, an endangered species that lives only in the Lower Keys. These shy, appealing creatures are about the size of a large dog and can be found grazing, especially around Big Pine Key, during early morning hours and at dusk.
And after a day packed with fun, the free nightly sunset celebration at Key West’s Mallory Square is a must-see event. “Going to sunset” is an island tradition that draws hundreds of people to experience the carnival-like atmosphere featuring street performers and artisan booths. Adults and kids gather on the waterfront square to applaud tightrope walkers, jugglers and animal acts — and the fiery sun settling into the Gulf of Mexico.
For families and extended families of all kinds, a world of activities awaits in the Florida Keys.
And now through Oct. 15, many of those activities are more appealing than ever — thanks to the Key West Attractions Association’s “Kids Free” program.
Want to know more about the great experiences families can share in the island chain? Just click here.