Naples may once have been considered a sleepy beach town, but it’s become one of the Sunshine State’s most desirable vacation destinations for families. Look for beautiful beaches and opportunities to explore nature, but even then, you’ll only scratch the surface of what Florida’s Paradise Coast has to offer. Here are the top 10 things to do in Naples Florida for families.
10. Naples Botanical Garden
Families will love exploring multiple gardens at the Naples Botanical Garden, such as the Asian Garden featuring bamboo trees, rice paddies, statues, and temples. The Children’s Garden is also not-to-be-missed for the dancing fountains, tree houses, and Nature Bingo, an interactive way for kids to learn more about the garden’s herbs, plants, and flowers.
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9. Naples Zoo
Feed a giraffe, ride a camel, and take in multiple animal shows at the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. Kids can even watch as alligators are fed in Alligator Bay and take a short boat cruise to see monkeys and apes before learning the ins-and-outs in a day in the life of a zookeeper. Take a break at Cub Kingdom or Cub Corral, two shaded animal-themed play areas at the Naples Zoo.
8. Dolphin Explorer
Just down the road, on Marco Island, a three-hour boat ride on the Dolphin Explorer is an absolute must. Help the survey team catalog dolphins as part of the 10,000 Islands Dolphin Project and take the Dolphin Challenge to earn a patch upon completing an activity booklet. Kids will also love getting off the boat to collect shells and splash around at the beach.
7. Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
Take in the local flora and fauna at the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary as you make your way along a 2.25 mile boardwalk that takes you through marshes, cypress forests, and wetlands. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators and turtles alongside the path. Volunteers are often available to help identify birds and other wildlife in the swamp.
6. Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples
Kids will love the hands-on activities and creative ways to play at the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples. Learn more about Florida by exploring Journey Through the Everglades, complete with wildlife sounds and a mangrove exhibit. Meanwhile, Mother Nature’s House will teach children all about the weather and seasons, while the At the Beach room allows children to explore shells, pelicans, and turtles.
5. Bonita Beach Dog Park
Bonita Beach Dog Park is a dog lover’s paradise. Not only is it a great beach with beautiful white sand, but it’s the place to go if you’re traveling with a dog or if your kids love dogs. It’s an off-leash beach. You’ll find plenty of furry friends chasing Frisbees, splashing in the water, and taking a snooze in the sand. There’s even a doggie shower station for pups to clean up after a saltwater swim.
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4. Coral Cay Adventure Golf
When you’re ready to take a break from shelling, splashing, and sun-seeking, head to Coral Cay Adventure Golf for 36 holes of miniature golf. Kids will love the tropical flowers, waterfalls, and palm trees that beautify the course. With two separate courses, it’s a great place to spend the afternoon or to enjoy as an after-dinner family treat.
3. The Everglades
No trip to Florida is complete without a visit to the Everglades. Enter at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City, which is less than 45 minutes from Naples. Take an airboat ride, go for a hike, or hook up with Naples Bicycle Tours for a guided bike tour as a family. For kids, the Everglades Junior Ranger Program is a must. Complete a variety of activities and earn a Junior Range badge.
2. Clam Pass Beach Park
You’ll find fine white sand and plenty of room to spread out at Clam Pass Beach Park. Take the multi-rider golf cart out to the beach or walk along the .6 mile boardwalk through mangroves to get to the public beach, which is shared with the Waldorf Astoria Naples. Free nature walks are offered in the winter and spring, providing a great way to learn more about the local scenery and conservation efforts.
1. Rookery Bay Reserve
Take a guided tour of Rookery Bay Reserve either by boat or by kayak to explore the bays, mangrove forests, and wildlife. Families will also enjoy several short walking trails (1/4 mile each) that are marked to help visitors learn about the trees and flowers native to the area. In the summer, look for free kids programs complete with story times, touch tanks, and crafts.
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Must-Do Day Trips from Naples, Florida
Sarasota: Just two hours up I-75 from Naples, plan to spend an afternoon at Siesta Beach, which consistently ranks as one of America’s top family beaches. You’ll also want to make stops at Mote Aquarium and Save Our Seabirds, which rescues and rehabilitates wild seabirds.
Venice: Bring along a pail and hit the beach in Venice, the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. You’ll find loads of shark teeth on the beaches, along with lots of great shells. Before you leave, make a quick side trip to Ciao Gelato for tasty treats and people watching.
Ft. Lauderdale: Ninety minutes from Naples, it’s worth a trip across Alligator Alley for stops at Butterfly World, the EcoDiscovery Center, and the Museum of Discovery and Science. Or, simply chill out on a land and sea Duck Tour.
You’ll find a number of delicious places to eat in Naples that are perfect for kids and families. Here are a few of our favorites:
Gumbo Limbo: Choose from a variety of casual seafood options and tropical drinks at the Ritz-Carlton’s own Gumbo Limbo. Stay for sunset and ring the bell when the sun dips below the horizon.
Bonefish Grill: Go to Bonefish Grill on Sundays for delicious brunch options like Surf + Turf Eggs Benedict and Crème Brulee French Toast. Moms and dads will love the Passionfruit Mimosas.
Truluck’s: Go into downtown Naples and make a stop at Truluck’s for the popular half-price menu between 4:30-6:30 pm. Look for Oysters Rockefeller, Baja Ceviche, and Sweet Potato Fries.
Be sure to walk around downtown Naples before or after dinner and top off your meal with a stop at Kilwin’s for an ice cream cone.
There are a variety of family-friendly hotels in Naples and Marco Island. Here are a few of our favorites:
Waldorf Astoria Naples: Enjoy a short walk along the boardwalk behind the hotel, then hit the beach with pails and shovels for everyone. Take on the only water slide in Naples before splashing down into one of three pools. Look for the kids club and pizza-making classes on Saturdays.
Ritz-Carlton Naples: Kids will love the Nature’s Wonders program led by naturalists that teach children about the marine life and ecosystems in Florida. Walk out to the beach and build sand castles before capping off your day with a perfect sunset.
Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort: Located in the heart of Marco Island, kids can become junior explorers at the Tiki Tribe Discovery Camp. Kids will love staying here as they swim, play, and even take a tour of the hotel bakery to design their own chef hats and decorate cookies.
Disclaimer: I was recently a guest of the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention & Visitors Bureau. However, all opinions expressed here are my own.