Perhaps your parents read South Florida Parenting 20 years ago. Now you have a family of your own. Do you remember hula dancing at the Mai-Kai as an uninhibited child? Its still there. Take a walk down Memory Lane to revisit attractions you loved as a child.
Old attractions survive today because they grew with the times. Thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, doorways are wider and pathways paved. That helps people who have physical challenges while also benefiting parents pushing strollers and carriages. Admission prices have gone up substantially, but now, attractions offer annual passes, member discounts and online specials. Best of all, the old Dont Touch signs have been replaced by hands-on and interactive exhibits that kids love.
Florida has to offer families. Rates are plus state and county taxes.
Fort Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau at 954-765-4466 or 800-22-SUNNY, or visit www.Sunny.org.
Birch State Park was once a private estate, so it survived while the city grew around its tropical hammocks, freshwater lagoons and a sandbox beach thats now reached via a tunnel under State Road A1A. Canoe, kayak, fish from a seawall, or walk, bicycle or skate the pathways. The visitor center displays artifacts from city history. Admission is $6 per vehicle.
Butterfly World at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek is open every day, so get an annual pass, and follow your favorite larvae through their life cycles. A family favorite since 1988, its 10 wondrous acres of butterflies and the flowers they like best. Adults and seniors pay $24.95; children ages 3 to 11 pay $19.95. Annual passes are $40 and $30. A gate fee may be added by Tradewinds Park on holidays and weekends.
Flamingo Gardens. The Wray homestead was built on 60 lush, tropical acres in the 1930s, and now its an island of Old Florida amid the swirl of city life. Take a guided tour of the home, see wildlife shows, and take quiet strolls under centuries-old live oaks. For $50 you can adopt a wildlife child. Admission is $17 adults, $8.50 ages 4 to 11. Discounts for seniors, college students, military. Tram tours extra.
International Swimming Hall of Fame is a must-see for your budding Olympian, but theres something here for everyone. See swim-related art objects, historic items related to aquatic sports, medals, trophies, posters and old swim suits. Admission is $8 adults, $6 seniors, $4 students and free to children younger than 6, members and active military.
Jungle Queen Riverboat excursions have been captivating tourists for generations, but locals may not realize how educational and fun it is. See the city from the water as the first settlers did. With barbecue, its $39.95 for adults and $21.95 for children. Sightseeing only cruises leave morning and afternoon. Prices vary seasonally.
Museum of Discovery and Science is a marvelous place to spend a nonbeach day to see IMAX movies and displays of minerals rocks, an interactive Everglades nature trail and Gizmo City. The Discovery Center is just for kids age 6 and younger. Buy admission only, IMAX only or a combo ticket that costs $16 adults and $12 children older than 2. It covers museum admission and one 45-minute IMAX show.
Flagler Museum. This eye-popping palace was a wedding gift from railroad magnate Henry Flagler to his wife, Mary Lily. The mansion and grounds will wow even the most jaded tweens and teens. Eat in the café, and make a day of it. Admission is $18 for adults, $10 for youths, $3 for children, free for kids younger than age 6.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse & Museum has been a beacon to sailors since 1860. Older children (48 inches or taller, no flip-flops) can boast that they climbed to the top. View of land and sea are unforgettable. Admission $7 adults, $5 children ages 6 to 18, free younger than 5. Includes museum and tour.
Lion Country Safari is different every day because animals roam free, so buy an annual pass and come often. Drive through. Ride thrill rides. Camp, play, eat at this animal-icious theme park. Admission ages 10-64, $25.59, seniors $22.50, ages 3 to 9, $18.50. Parking is $6.
Loggerhead Marinelife Center of Juno Beach is a sea turtle hospital where kids learn about the sea, its creatures, conservation and the healing arts. Admission is free; donations welcome.
Loxahatchee Everglades Tours Your party of six to 12 will have a private guide as you fly over the river of grass. See wildlife below and above for an hour youll never forget. Tickets cost $44 adults, kids half-price.
The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Children learn about Japanese culture while feeling the peace of gardens, paths and tranquil water. Adults pay $12, seniors $11, children ages 6 to 17, $7.
South Florida Science Museum is never boring, always worth a whole afternoon for educational, hands-on fun with aquariums, Egyptology, astronauts, submarines and much more. Admission is $9 for ages 13 and older, less for seniors and ages 3 to 12. Miniature golf and planetarium shows are additional.
Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau at 305-539-3084 or visit www.MiamiAndBeaches.com.
Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Beach is super-awesome because kids love the lighthouse and its exciting history. Walk or bicycle the trails, bring a picnic or buy food at the concession, swim off the beach, fish, rent umbrellas or watersports gear. Admission is $8 per carful.
Biscayne Nature Center offers serious science including guided tours at low tide to capture the sense of the sea and bay. Connect with the centers superb camps, family outings, programs and special events. Admission is free after one pays the $6 Crandon Park parking fee. Membership is tax-deductible and gains access to members-only events such as turtle releases each summer.
Coopertown Airboat Rides. Since 1945, this family-run attraction has been taking visitors into the heart of the Everglades. Their fleet of airboats takes just you and yours or a group of up to 24. Professional guides take you through Hardwood Hammock. Rates vary. In the family restaurant, the menu features gator tail, frogs legs, sodas and sandwiches.
Crandon Park Beach is family-friendly with its 13 lifeguard towers and long, long beach embracing a docile lagoon. Play volleyball. Fish, swim, hike or bike the trails, shower, picnic and rent beach chairs and watersports equipment. Admission and parking are $6 per vehicle. Tram ride $2 extra.
Jungle Island. The Parrot Jungle you remember from childhood is now an island and an educational eyeful. See the bird and tiger shows, orangutans and rare plants. Its open weekends only. Admission is $32.95 ages 11 to 61, less for seniors and children ages 3 to 10. Annual passports are the best deal. Ask about education programs including camps, home-school and scout groups and special events.
Miami Childrens Museum is an all-day party of programs, hands-on exhibits, camps, classes and exhibits for kids of all ages. The gift shop has educational toys, books and games. Admission is $12 for Floridians, $15 for others. Have lunch at Subway within the museum. Parking is $1 per hour every day. The museum can also be reached on bus routes C, K, M or S.
Miami Seaquarium goes back to your grandparents day when Flipper flickered on black-and-white TV screens. Still a prime-time attraction, Seaquarium has shows, a killer whale, Flipper, manatees, sea turtles, a Pirate Playground and 32 acres of fun. Admission $37.95 adults, $27.95 children ages 3 to 9.
Zoo Miami has zoomed to national importance, a 327-acre habitat for more than 1,200 animals including koalas, camels, giraffes and elephants. Get around on a Safari Cycle, the monorail or the tram. Admission is $15.95 ages 13 and older, $11.95 children ages 3 to 12.. The ticket booth closes at 4 p.m.
Janet Groene is a professional travel writer who holds a Parenting Publications of America Gold Award for one of her features published in South Florida Parenting.