1. The Kennedy Space Center and Bioluminescent Kayaking
The Cool Factor: Launch your family vacay into the next stratosphere with two Space Coast attractions sure to garner glowing reviews. Divided into Mission Zones with attractions grouped by time period, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex delivers a chronological exploration of the U.S. space program with engaging visual exhibits and hands-on activities. Afterward, embark on a dazzling journey just after sunset with Adventure Kayak of Cocoa Beach and see the nighttime ecosystem as you never have before. During bioluminescent kayaking tours (available on select summer evenings when there’s little to no moonlight) participants will witness a natural phenomenon wherein every paddle stroke produces a streak of luminous blue water.
The Cool Factor: Stroll the eclectic Wynwood neighborhood, a former Caribbean immigrant enclave and previous home to Miami’s Garment District that has been reborn as one of the nation’s most prominent creative communities. Absorb the visual impact of the various galleries and the first outdoor street art museum, Wynwood Walls, before satisfying your hunger at a wide array of artisanal eateries (including those of three James Beard–nominated chefs). Kids can exert some extra energy at FunDimension, a three-story playground with a bungee dome, spin zone, arcade, and 7-D theater. Save room for unique treats like Taiyaki NYC Miami’s ice cream in fish-shaped waffle cones or made-to-order gourmet pops at Cielito.
3. Clearwater Marine Aquarium
The Cool Factor: Home of Winter, the bottlenose dolphin with the prosthetic tail who inspired a movie and won fans around the world, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium immerses visitors in the world of marine-life rescue. A general admission ticket provides access to the rescue, rehabilitation, and release facility and its inhabitants, but opt to add a behind-the-scenes tour (limited to 10 people) for a crash course in everything dolphin.
4. Florida Keys Fun Fishing
The Cool Factor: Why deprive anyone of the thrill that earned Islamorada its designation as the Sport Fishing Capital of the World? Helmed by 30-year South Florida fishing veteran captain Mark Johnson, Florida Keys Fun Fishing is the family-friendly option for those looking for the gratification that comes with actually catching fish. Instead of focusing on trophy catches, Johnson’s team patiently teaches kids to cast, fight, and reel in sea trout, snappers, jacks, ladyfish, catfish, and even sharks. Bring along snorkels and masks in the summer months for underwater viewing.
5. Treeumph! Adventure Course
The Cool Factor: Take playful spirits to new heights at TreeUmph! Adventure Course. Zip, climb, swing, and soar your way through in-tree challenges that span a forested area the size of 10 football fields. Participants tackle suspended logs, wobbly footbridges, and cargo nets on their choice of five adventure courses that range from easy to challenging, as well as a 650-foot-long, 60-foot-tall zip line. Kids ages 7 to 11 can also conquer the Ape Up course, outfitted with a climbing wall, suspended wooden tunnels, bridges and nets, and a zip line. Tap into even more adrenaline at a second TreeUmph! location in Brooksville.
6. Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science
The Cool Factor: The biggest challenge in your Frost visit will be figuring out how to fit all of its available awesomeness into a single day. Any itinerary should include the three-level aquarium and a show in the cutting-edge planetarium, but be sure to leave time to wander through the various special exhibitions, such as “The Power of Poison.” On view through September 3, this exhibit looks at poison’s role in nature, human health, and mythology, with live poisonous species (like dart frogs) on display and interactive tableaus that ask youngsters to solve poisoning mysteries.
7. Zoological Wildlife Foundation
The Cool Factor: Get up close and personal with Miami’s most exotic—and often adorable—residents. Zoological Wildlife Foundation aims to educate the public about rare and endangered animals, offering tours of its five-acre facility, home to primates, reptiles, lions, and rare birds, among others. Up the ante by splurging on amazing add-ons such as tiger cub, jaguar cub, or baby chimpanzee encounters or the primate experience, which includes a play session with three types of baby primates.