Florida: 3 places for family fun


Take the plunge, the Pirate’s Plunge, at Shipwreck Island Waterpark in Panama City Beach. For a stomach-churning thrill, race a friend down this dueling waterslide that unfolds from a 60-foot-tall tower.

The park’s youngest visitors splash around Tadpole Hole, a children’s pool loaded with activities to ensure kids get sufficiently soggy. They may not be ready for the Pirate’s Plunge, but sliding down the tongue of a giant purple frog usually gets a gleeful giggle.

12201 Hutchison Blvd., Panama City Beach, Fla. 850-234-3333,


Lots of aquariums have dolphins, but the dolphins at Clearwater Marine Aquarium are special: They’re movie stars. Winter, a rescued bottlenose dolphin with a prosthetic tail, was featured in the 2011 family drama “Dolphin Tale.” When the sequel, “Dolphin Tale 2,” came out in 2014, she shared the limelight with Hope, a dolphin rescued as a calf after her mother died. The aquarium rescues and rehabilitates sea mammals and sea turtles with the goal of releasing them, but Winter and Hope can’t survive in the wild, so they are permanent residents at the aquarium. Kids learn about the region’s fragile marine ecology and the importance of ocean conservation.

249 Windward Passage, Clearwater, Fla. 727-441-1790,


Going on safari is on many a bucket list, but if your bunch can’t make it to Africa, head to Lion Country Safari in Palm Beach County — no passport needed. Drive along a 5-mile road in this wildlife preserve to see golden-maned lions napping in the sun, lightning-fast antelope with impressive horns and massive water buffaloes.

2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee, Fla. 561-793-1084,


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