Ready to hit the road? Remember you were saying you wanted to do more field trips this year?
When it comes to Florida field trips, I’ve got you covered. You’ll definitely want to hold on to this list…maybe print it and store it in the car?
The more I search, the more incredible Florida field trips I stumble upon every year. With a day off and a tank full of gas, there are literally thousands of destinations in the Sunshine State you can share with your family, too!
What I love about field trips is you can correlate them with your studies. But, what I love even more is that it’s okay to just drop everything and have fun on field trips, too! You don’t have to prepare or do follow-up learning unless you want to. For the best experience, just let field trips stand alone, allowing yourselves the pleasure of days off from lessons without the pressure to do anything more.
It wasn’t easy, but I’ve identified some of the best field trips in the state. These are those can’t-miss destinations you’ll definitely want to mark on your calendar!
My criteria was simple — these field trips check all the boxes. But, if these choices aren’t your cup of tea, I’ve got an entire 40-page directory of Florida field trips you can check out instead!
The Florida Museum of Natural History (Gainesville) is an incredible field trip for every member of the family. You can learn about the flora, fauna, fossils, history and people of native Florida, while enjoying amazing displays and interactive exhibits. My favorite exhibit at the museum is the Butterfly Rainforest, where hundreds of butterflies fly free as you walk along a winding path, thru lush landscaping, enjoying waterfalls, flowers and other small animals who call the rainforest home. With Gainesville also the home of the University of Florida, there are lots of great eateries and other fun places to explore in this area, too. Make a day of it, and explore everything Gainesville has to offer.
A visit to WonderWorks (Panama City Beach or Orlando) is like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. Think of WonderWorks as an amusement park slash arcade slash science center, where people of all ages spend hours creating, imagining, and simulating using hundreds of hands-on interactive exhibits organized in zones throughout the facility. From the moment you walk through the inversion tunnel, you’ll know you’re in for something truly different. Experience natural disasters firsthand, perform physical challenges, feel what it’s like in outer space, and much more. Hundreds of centers make this a full day activity. Schedule larger groups in advance if you want to explore it with friends.
The Cummer Museum (Jacksonville) is another of my favorite places to visit in the Sunshine State. The Cummer appeals to art enthusiasts, obviously, with its world-class display of over 5,000 pieces dating from 2100 B.C. to the present day. But, the Cummer also has several outdoor acres of stunning historic gardens for strolling, gazing and contemplation. If that isn’t enough, there’s also a large interactive center for creating, touching and listening. If membership interests you, joining the Cummer will also get you in to another 150 other museums throughout the country. Bring a camera and plan to spend at least half the day at this destination. Remember to budget time to visit the trendy cafe and check out the curiosities in gift shop, too.
If you think Disney Springs (Orlando) is nothing more than trendy restaurants and overpriced shopping, think again. While there is no shortage of expensive eateries and designer brand names, the real surprise of Disney Springs comes from discovering all the family-friendly areas and attractions peppered throughout this expansive, newly renovated mall. As a portal to all things Disney Orlando, Disney Springs is a great way to sample Disney and get introduced to Disney on your own terms, with or without passes to the theme parks. At Disney Springs, you can visit family friendly spaces like the carousel, the LEGO store, the splash pad, and enjoy outdoor entertainment pretty much all day, too. Because transportation from all the resorts converge at Disney Springs, if you happen to be staying anywhere at Disney, you’ll avoid navigating the parking facilities and save a whole lot of walking that way, too.
The St. Augustine Visitor’s Center (St. Augustine) is both the launching pad to the rest of the Old City, and a a destination in it’s own right. As the hub of activity in the center of historic St. Augustine, and the area’s largest parking garage, the Visitor’s Center itself also houses varied exhibits of local and historical importance throughout the year. Located just across the famous Castillo de San Marcos (a standing masonry fort), next to a huge public playground (SWING Park) and surrounded by hundreds of attractions of historic and educational significance, the Visitor’s Center is the best place for homeschoolers to start their visit of historic St. Augustine. Check the docket of daily activities, collect as many maps and brochures as you need, and speak to one of the knowledgeable representatives at the Visitor’s Center before setting off for an exciting day of fun and learning around the Old City.
One of Florida’s best kept secrets yet most phenomenal experiences is the guided tour of the robot factory at Sally Corporation (Jacksonville). Sally Corp is a 40,000 sq. ft. facility dedicated to designing, engineering and manufacturing “animatronic” figures for theme parks and attractions like Six Flags and Nickelodeon. Tours take audiences through real life ride simulations and explain the inner workings of their real-life humans, animals and fictional characters. Small groups (reserve in advance) are able to view projects currently in progress as well as participate in interactive games and programs on the factory floor. There is something for everyone at Sally Corporation, and best yet, tours are absolutely free.
A visit to Everglades National Park (Homestead) should be on every Florida family’s list of destinations, perhaps every few years for how much this park has to offer. A visit to the Everglades allows exploring a vast diversity of flora and fauna in many different eco-systems, including freshwater sloughs, wet prairies, tropical hammocks (habitats), coastal lowlands, marine, estuarine, and more. Visitors are exposed to the history of the peoples, conservation, scientific research, and more. It’s important to plan this visit wisely, as it changes with the seasons and covers so much ground. The web site is a great source to start planning, and it contains lesson plans to help explain and/or extend the learning, too.
Driving down the coast toward the Marine Science Center (Ponce Inlet) is a treat in itself. Upon arriving at the Marine Science Center, you’ll be able to choose from different several areas to begin your tour of the area. The turtle rehabilitation area is where sea turtles are cared for to be later released back to the ocean. In the sea bird area, you can view previously injured birds as they recover before being set free, or meet some of the permanent ambassadors who call the center home. The indoor area consists of viewing exhibits, touch and feel centers like a 14,000 gallon stingray pool, other specimens, and a gift shop with someone for everyone. Nature trails surround the park plus the Center is also within walking distance of Lighthouse Park where your family can enjoy a breathtaking view of the lighthouse while sampling the sand and views along the shoreline.
It’s hard to beat a day at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (Clearwater). With so much to see and do, you’ll want to plan a full day to take in all the activities and exhibits, including otters, nurse sharks, sea turtles, and any temporary residents who live there while awaiting new homes. The aquarium also houses a surgical center, where visitors may get the chance to witness life saving procedures being performed on injured animals. Can’t-miss exhibits at the aquarium include the homes of Winter, the Dolphin from the film “Dolphin Tale”, and Hope, a rescued dolphin who was unfit to return to the wild, but is now flourishing at the center. Boat adventures, close up encounters and behind-the-scenes tours are also available.
Nothing says ‘Florida’ like the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex (Titusville). You’ll learn the history of space exploration and hear of modern-day expeditions up close and personal. With so much to do at Kennedy Space Center, I recommend looking at the sample itineraries before deciding how to plan your day. From guided tours to bus tours to personal experiences and even an IMAX, there’s a lot to take in on this field trip. If traveling in the summer, keep an eye on the weather, too, because exhibits may close when skies are particularly stormy.
What I love about this list
What I love about this list is these destinations are great for the whole family. You’ll never have to worry about boredom (yours) or eye-rolling (your teens), since these are great for all ages.
For the largest state-wide field trip directory in Florida, check out my latest book, The Ultimate Guide to Florida Homeschooling. It contains another 40 pages of Florida field trips just waiting for you and your family to discover.
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Dr. Marie-Claire Moreau is a college professor who traded in her tenure to become a homeschool mom 20+ years ago. A homeschooling pioneer and the founder of many groups and organizations, she works to advance home education, and is an outspoken supporter of education reform coast to coast. Her book, Suddenly Homeschooling: A Quick Start Guide to Legally Homeschool in Two Weeks, is industry-acclaimed as it illustrates how homeschooling can rescue children and families from the public school system, and how anyone can begin homeschooling within a limited time-frame, with no teaching background whatsoever. A writer, a homeschool leader, and a women’s life coach, Marie-Claire mentors in a variety of areas that impact health, education and lifestyle. A conference speaker, she has appeared at FPEA, H.E.R.I., Home Education Council of America, The Luminous Mind, Vintage Homeschool Moms, iHomeschool Network, and many other events. Her articles have appeared in and on Holistic Parenting, CONNECT,Homefires, Homemaking Cottage, Kiwi, Circle of Moms, and hundreds of sites and blogs nationwide. Marie-Claire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.