When people think of the Florida Keys, many probably instantly think of Key West, with its charming architecture, southernmost spot in the continental United States fame and party vibes, and that’s perfectly fine. But there is more to the Florida Keys than Key West. In fact, the 125-mile island chain is filled with fun activities kids can enjoy, too – my then 6-year-old nephew and I found that out on a visit a few years ago.
After setting up our base camp at Cheeca Lodge & Spa in Islamorada, central in the Keys and within easy driving distance to spots to the north and south, we were off for fun and exploration. One thing to note about Cheeca Lodge, some of its rooms are ideal for families traveling together; ours had a bedroom separate from a living room and kitchen, complete with stove top, microwave and refrigerator — perfect for fueling up before our days out and about. Cheeca Lodge & Spa recently reopened after making repairs to damages wrought by Hurricane Irma last year.
Snorkeling in the Keys is some of the best found on the U.S. mainland, and one of the best spots is at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park in Key Largo. Beginning and advanced snorkelers are invited to dive into the clear waters to take a look at the undersea world, but everyone needs to know how to swim before jumping in. It was spring break when we visited the park and it was teeming with visitors just like us; fortunately, we made advanced reservations and made it out onto the water that day.
We took a second snorkeling trip with the staff at the Cheeca Lodge, and the best spot we snorkeled over the two trips was the Donut Hole — seemingly thousands of fish swam around us, unbothered by our presence. It was magical.
For those who prefer their wildlife encounters a bit more reeled in, Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters in Marathon fits the bill. During our visit, we opted to stay out of the water and instead fed and pet stingrays and sharks tank-side. Next time, though, I’m sure we’ll want to get right in with the rays for the Stingray Encounter, or maybe even sharpen our snorkeling skills in the lagoon or get into the huge tank with fish and stingrays for the Coral Reef Encounter. There’s shark feeding, too, though through a thick glass wall — not up close and personal!
I’d been to the Turtle Hospital in Marathon before, but couldn’t wait to show my nephew the amazing animals up close. While we were there, we learned about the different types of turtles that make the waters in the Keys their home, and even saw one of the patients undergoing surgery to remove some growths. The hospital works hard to rehabilitate and release their patients, and we saw many well on the road to recovery to go back home to the sea.
There’s so much more to do on our next visit to the Keys, too, from visiting wild birds in rehabilitation at the Florida Keys Wild Bird Rehabilitation Center, to trying to spot elusive Key deer and maybe even painting with a dolphin at the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key. And when we get to Key West and the southernmost point, we’ll visit the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory, the Key West Aquarium and the Key West Shipwreck Museum. Ahoy, matey!
Only the bravest of family travelers should venture to Universal Orlando Halloween Horror Nights. Every year, Universal Orlando turns into the spookiest place in Florida, if not in the country. On select nights throughout the season, visitors and locals alike can head to the popular amusement park for frights, scares and thrilling adventures. Explore 10 terrifying haunted houses; five scare zones; live entertainment; and themed attractions, food and merchandise.
United Airlines is in the midst of a major initiative to modernize its fleet over the next several years. After first announcing the plan in 2021, planes fitted with United’s signature interior are finally beginning to appear across the airline’s narrowbody fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes. United flyers are sure to notice these enhancements from the moment they step on board: Each new or updated plane sports remodeled seats, seatback entertainment screens for everyone, Bluetooth connectivity and more, all adding up to a better experience on every journey.
With kids back in school and the grueling temperatures of summer finally behind us, life is starting to get back into the routine of fall. That doesn’t mean, however, that family fun has to stop. Big international trips may not be practical for all family travelers this time of year, but places like South County in Rhode Island offer so many fun things to do for families, a quick trip to this East Coast haven is practically a must.
Take Part in England’s Exmoor Dark Skies Festival Dusk Wildlife Safaris and Children’s Art Competition
Planning a trip to the United Kingdom soon? Time your travel for the Exmoor Dark Skies Festival in Somerset, England, from Oct. 13 to 29. The setting is Exmoor National Park, located within a gorgeous mix of farmland, wild forests, stunning valleys and moorlands in South West England.
As the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, United Airlines already hit a major milestone, and now the carrier celebrates another important — and historic — step as the inaugural class of United Aviate Academy pilots graduates, leading the next generation of aviators. The 51 students in the graduating class were majority, at 80 percent, women and people of color — another stride toward United’s goal of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with half women or POC.
Part of a family who just loves a good scare or ghost story? This fall, wherever your travels might take you, chances are you’ll be near an Omni hotel or resort with a history of haunted sightings and other scary happenings. So, why not learn a bit about where you’re staying to make the experience all the more eerie …