Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum
2081 Radford Blvd., Pensacola
Climbing 177 steps is one way to tire little legs out. But the views of the Gulf Coast at the top are worth the exertion. Pensacola Lighthouse was built in 1858 and, with its accompanying keeper’s quarters, is a treasure trove of Civil War, maritime, and Coast Guard history. Bring identification, like a driver’s license or a passport, and sneakers for climbing the tower. Flip-flops aren’t allowed.
Joe Patti’s Seafood
524 S. B St., Pensacola
Joe Patti has been a Pensacola institution since 1931. Back then, Captain Joe and all six of his sons were Floridian fishermen who stocked the emporium with their own catch. These days, the dockside market is still a family-run business, and the love and care lavished on the place are evident. The warehouse-style space is packed full of locals browsing displays of the entire cast of Finding Dory. If it swims somewhere in the region of Florida, Joe Patti has it. There’s a sushi counter for a lunch of fresh-off-the-boat sashimi, plus salty, vinegary fried fish and chips. Conveniently, a beignet truck is parked outside the entrance, and a serving of that irresistible fried dough dusted liberally in powdered sugar is a mandatory part of the Joe Patti experience.
Sea Critters Café
2007 Pass-a-Grille Way, St. Petersburg
Sea Critters Café delivers everything you could want from a Floridian dockside restaurant. The walls are a sunny, tropical yellow and blue, seafood is sea-to-plate and always caught that day (if you catch something yourself, they’ll prepare it for you, so long as the fish has been cleaned and filleted). The menu is an easy list of American classics, like lobster rolls and hearty crab cakes. Located on the southernmost tip of Saint Petersburg, the porch hangs right over the dock, which makes for some delightful views of the shoals of catfish swimming below.
Salvador Dalí Museum
1 Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg
Salvador Dalí is an artist easily appreciated by children. His surrealist works often look like illustrations of a weird, mystical world you might find in a bedtime story. Take a guided tour of the largest Dalí collection outside Europe (audio headsets are complimentary), and afterward, wander through the exhibits. The endless symbols—elephants, ants, and snails being common ones—hidden in his paintings make for a competitive game of I spy with the kids. Café Gala, named for the artist’s wife, serves up small bites or tapas of classic Spanish dishes like tortilla de patata, a type of delicious fried potato cake no one can turn down. Outside, there is an “avant-garden” complete with a hedgerow maze to get intentionally lost in and a mathematical section (Dalí loved dimensional geometry) for the future mathlete.
The Don CeSar
3400 Gulf Blvd., St. Petersburg
The Don CeSar is a flamingo-pink palace masquerading as a hotel. Situated right on St. Pete’s powdery white beach, the building’s blend of Mediterranean-meets-Moorish design wouldn’t look out of place in Morocco or southern Spain. For families, reserving one of the self-catering beachside suites is a good idea—the experience is comparable to moving into your own, gorgeously outfitted house on one of Florida’s prettiest beaches (cerulean water, clean sand that runs through your fingers like fine sugar…it’s beyond). For the kids, it’s nirvana: game rooms, seashell hunts, sandcastle building, even their own all-day camp. The two swimming pools—overlooking that glassy, emerald sea—are as captivating for the adults as they are for children. Once the kids are tucked into bed (with one of the hotel babysitters keeping watch), parents can unwind and grab a drink in the lobby bar.
Fort de Soto Park & Beach
3500 Pinellas Bayway S, St. Petersburg
Aside from endless sunshine and famously impressive orange juice, Florida benefits from an abundance of beautifully maintained parks. Fort de Soto sits on a skinny splinter of land hugged by both the Gulf of Mexico and Tampa Bay. The park measures over a thousand acres, and the crumbling walls of the fort—built in 1898, during the Spanish-American War—are now home to hundreds of species of birds, and a stellar historical tour. Visitors can kayak, fish, hike, or snooze on the beach to the sound of the lapping waves. North Beach, with its calm tidal pool, is best for smaller kids, and the seven-mile paved trail with views of the water is ideal for a family bike ride.
The Standard Spa
40 Island Ave., Venetian Islands
Whether you’re lounging on the heated marble steps of the enormous, coed Turkish-style hammam, sipping fresh-pressed green juice while the ocean glitters before you, doing serious yoga or Pilates—or all three plus an astrology reading and a pedicure—a few hours here takes you far, far away from everyday stress. Located inside the Standard, the spa is a sleekly modern ashram combined with a sybaritic retreat. The incredible facials include crystal-infused masks, essential oils, lymphatic drainage massages, and more.
Skin Apeel Day Spa
21301 Powerline Rd. #215, Boca Raton
Granted, the name of this spa isn’t especially compelling, but once you walk in, you’re instantly enamored of the place, which is a gorgeous enclave with blooms literally hanging from the ceiling (an atmospheric flourish if ever there was one). Organic kojic acid, “fitness facial” protocols that aim to work face muscles for a toning effect, organic enzyme peels, cryotherapy, and microneedling constitute the spectacular treatments that leave you gleaming. But it’s the aestheticians, who are knowledgeable, passionate about the spa’s holistic ethos, and incredibly informed about skin health, that make this place legit.
100 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach
You haven’t really lived until you’ve had the Four Hands Essence Facial here; one aesthetician tends to your face, while a second specialist treats your hands, arms, feet, and legs. The Eau Naturale treatment, less over-the-top but plenty restorative, revives skin with layer upon layer of beta glucans (commonly taken in supplement form for glowy-skin support), fatty acids, ellagic acid (linked to skin elasticity), and antioxidants via beautiful, organic, botanical formulas.
The Spa – Tammy Fender
711 N. Flagler Dr., West Palm Beach
The facials at Tammy Fender’s gauzy white studio are transformative—it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say they verge on a sort of spiritual awakening. If you’re ever anywhere near Palm Beach, we recommend moving heaven and earth to make time for an appointment. Fender’s touch is nurturing, soulful, and sure, and the scent and feel of her gorgeous skin care, as well as the herbs, plant butters, clays, and flower essences she customizes for each client, are dramatically revitalizing. She has you choose (unlabeled) essential oils specifically for your treatment, a fantastic reflexologist works on your feet as the facial happens, and Fender walks you through where she sees you in that moment, mentally, physically, and emotionally. You walk out completely at peace, with the best skin of your life.
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