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Spring vacation time is right around the corner, and while when it comes to the Sunshine State many families automatically opt for the world's theme park capital, Orlando, who needs Mickey and his cartoon-character friends when you've got plenty of other interesting cities, plus miles and miles of Florida coastline with its glorious beaches and ideal weather for visiting in March? If you don't have your family spring break vacation plans yet and you'd like to soak up some sunshine on your child's school vacation with your whole family (and even pets - for such cases we bring an automatic dog water bowl), here are two Florida destinations to consider for your spring break family vacation:
Folks in this state's largest city (pop. 921,000) like to say that it's "where Florida begins." That makes sense, since it's the northeast corner of the state, not far from the Georgia border, plus it has a rich history - for example, you can learn about life on a cotton plantation in the 1800s at the Kingsley Plantation, on Jacksonville's Fort George Island.
The St. John's River runs through the heart of town, and visitors love strolling the downtown riverfront (plus the 20 miles of stunning ocean coastline). It's a green city, too: with 57,373 acres of parks, including the 46,000-acre Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve; Jacksonville boasts the largest urban park system in the country.
For families, the highly regarded Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens is a big hit, with its recently opened "Range of the Jaguar" and "Savannah Plains" exhibits. Children can play at Kids Kampus, a free, 10-acre public recreational facility with loads of playground equipment and mini versions of historic local landmarks. Enjoy free samples at the gourmet chocolatier Peterbrooke, which also gives free factory tours.
Golfers are bound to find a course they like among the 72 area links. Or they can tour they can just admire the accomplishments of those stellar players who have been inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Long plagued with a reputation for rowdy, beer-guzzling, college-age spring breakers, Daytona has finally managed to shed that image and is now a safe, fun place for families to take young children--even during traditional college spring break times, such as mid- to end-March.
The slogan of this coastal city (pop. 61,000) is "Way More than a Beach." Although its 23 miles of gorgeous strands are of course what it's best known for, Daytona Beach also offers families an abundance of adventures and activities. Kiddos (and adults!) who love an adrenaline rush need to check out the Daytona 500 Experience at the Daytona International Speedway, which includes a NASCAR 3D movie, the Motorsports Hall of Fame, and for those of driving age, the Richard Petty Experience. This multi-faceted attraction gives visitors a journey through racing history.
Marineland here is the world's oldest "oceanarium," dating back to 1938. Visitors can swim with dolphins at its Dolphin Conservation Center and teens can be "trainers for a day." Another historic site in Daytona, the Angel & Phelps Chocolate Factory, has been churning out delicious treats since 1925. Join a free factory tour and try the free samples!
And of course in both Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, active families can enjoy surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, kayaking and fishing in the Atlantic Ocean. Come try another exciting side of Florida!