Ways for Families to Have Fun in Clearwater, Florida

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welcome sign in clearwater, Florida
The welcome sign in Clearwater, Florida Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

Several times a year my family of five makes the road trip from Texas to Florida in search of sandy beaches and family-friendly adventures. While I’ve traveled to many popular destinations in the state, I recently made my first trip to Clearwater Beach. It’s now among my favorite family beaches in Florida. From soaking up sun on calm beaches to family-friendly activities, there are so many things to do in Clearwater.

Plus, Clearwater is only a little over 2 hours away from Disney World–making it a great day trip to the beach if you’re looking to venture away from Orlando for a while. We’ll highlight some of our favorite Clearwater attractions so that you can begin planning your vacation to one of the best beaches on the Gulf Coast.

Read More: 10 Best Restaurants in Clearwater

cabana rentals on the beach things to do in clearwater Florida
Cabanas Rentals near Pier 60 in Clearwater, Florida Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

1. Soak Up the Sun on Clearwater Beach

Florida is home to many of our favorite beach vacation destinations and Clearwater makes the cut for many reasons, one of them being the stunning white sand beaches. Honestly, I’m such a beach bum that I could easily spend every day of my vacation beachside with one of those drinks in my hand that’s fruity and comes with a cute little umbrella. Clearwater has the ideal beaches for true relaxation and with so many families around we felt that the atmosphere was fitting for every age group.

Read More: Stay close to the fun in one of these Clearwater Beach hotels.

My kids were so impressed by the sugar sand, they said it made “the best sandcastles ever!” If you have little ones or just like to stay protected from the sun, I highly recommend renting a cabana down by Pier 60. When you arrive, you’ll see rows of cabanas. You can pick one, settle in and someone will come by to take payment for a daily rental. It was $40 per cabana and was the perfect size for our family of five. The kids could relax under the cabana and enjoy a snack away from the direct sun. These do fill up quickly so I recommend getting there early to secure one for the day.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Rent a cabana. There are many restaurants and activities within walking distance so it’s the perfect “hub” location for the day.

winter the dolphin
Winter the famous dolphin at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

2. Visit Winter at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Picture three little girls squealing and jumping up and down–those were my kids when I told them we were getting to go see Winter the dolphin. 

Our family has been following Winter’s story since the first Dolphin Tale movie premiered in 2011. Because of the success of those movies, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium (CMA) has had massive upgrades and expansions. Not only does this mean that the guests to the aquarium will have many new things to see and explore but also CMA has been able to help rescue, rehabilitate and release more animals which of course is at the heart of what they do.

https://youtu.be/ZgTTANvSCtg?si=i_pkqdIoLjkbWBXC

One of the highlights from our visit was the VIP experience where our family was able to interact with the aquarium’s most active dolphin named Nicolas. It truly was an incredible experience my kids will not soon forget.

If I had one must-do for your visit to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, it would be to go on the boat tour! You will learn so much about marine life and our kids loved that they spotted dolphins during our ride. The boats are shaded so everyone in the family can enjoy the ride out of the harsh sunlight.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Our kids loved that they could follow their favorite dolphins on the Clearwater Marine Aquarium live webcams before and after our visit.

little girl looking out at the ocean
My daughter taking in the views of the sunset. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

3. Enjoy the Sunset Festival at Pier 60

The Sunset Festival is a nightly activity that everyone should experience during their visit. Sunsets at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach operate year-round for two hours before and after sunset.

Our kids instantly spent their souvenir money while shopping from the local artisans. There were also performers, bouncy houses and music for everyone to enjoy.

Our family really enjoyed walking on the pier (you will need to pay $1 per person to get to the end of the pier but it’s well worth it). We soaked in the views and experienced an incredible sunset that gives this festival its name.

4. Play Together at Sand Key Park

If you’re looking for another place to spend the day at the beach, Sand Key Park is both family and pet-friendly. They have cabanas, a dog park and playground.

We never made it to this area during our visit but several of the locals mentioned it to us as a great place to go. It also has some great reviews on TripAdvisor as a fun place to spend the day with the family. It’s also where many endangered sea turtles lay their eggs so be on the look out for that!

Read More: All inclusive resorts in Florida.

 

Kids riding the sea screamer boat in clearwater
Our kids loved the boat tours in Clearwater, especially the sea screamer! Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

5. Ride the World’s Largest Speedboat

Yes, you read that right, the world’s largest speedboat can be found in Clearwater, Florida. Our kids were super excited to ride this boat called the Sea Screamer. The boat filled up quickly with people who were ready to ride the waves and hopefully spot some dolphins along the way. Families with babies were onboard and several older couples–making it a fun experience for everyone in the group.

You can book early (which I recommend during busy seasons) and choose from several different time slots throughout the day. It’s a short walk from the cabana we rented near Pier 60 making it the perfect excursion during our day at the beach. The crew was great and they stayed out at sea longer than usual just to make sure we spotted dolphins during our ride.

A sign of the Moccasin Lake Nature Park
Moccasin Lake Nature Park was a great place to do some hiking with kids. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

6. Hike the Trails at Moccasin Lake Nature Park

As mentioned previously, I’m a beach bum and I could spend ALL of my time on the beach. However, with three young girls (ages 12, 9 and 7) I must plan out an itinerary that has a variety of activities. My husband is also an outdoor enthusiast and so I was thrilled to learned about Moccasin Lake Nature Park in Clearwater. Hiking down a few nature trails and seeing the wildlife present at this park was a much cooler experience than I had anticipated.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Look for the 9-foot long alligator that lives on the lake! My kids spotted her during our visit and she was pretty incredible to look at!

7. Be a Pirate Onboard a Pirate Cruise

Seriously, does anything sound cooler than being onboard a pirate ship while sailing away on the Gulf of Mexico? If you have kids 12 and under I highly recommend booking a ride on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise! During the spring and summer months, cruises are offered 7 days a week with multiple time slots each day. The cruise is 2-hours long with fun stories, activities and games for the kids. Don’t worry, these are friendly pirates so even toddlers will love this pirate cruise experience. Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise offers a selection of snacks for purchase and select complimentary beverages including soda for all guest pirates as well as beer and wine for guest adult pirates.

8. Try Virtual Reality at the Laser Ops Arcade

If you get rained out one day and need a new activity, the Laser Ops Arcade many be the perfect spot to spend an afternoon indoors. Not only does it have a large selection of fun classic and new arcade games but also state-of-the-art virtual reality games that your older kids will love.

a drink at a restaurant in clearwater, Florida
Dinner and drinks with a view. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

9. Eat and Eat Some More

There are so many delicious restaurant options in Clearwater, so I’ve added this as an activity on the list to emphasize that you should certainly make time in your schedule to enjoy some sit down meals together as a family. Our kids loved trying out the different food options and we found it to be some of our best memories during our trip. There are so many places that offer dinner with a view and we highly recommend checking them out during your trip, especially the Marina Cantina restaurant!

We have a great list of the best places to eat when visiting Clearwater, Florida.

10. Play a Round of Miniature Golf

Miniature golf is always a fun thing to do with the kids. Sometimes my kids love doing something they’ve done before in a new place and miniature golf is one of those things. Congo River Golf has been voted the best miniature golf in Clearwater, Florida. This course is so fun because of its adventure theme which includes waterfalls and mysterious caves! It’s an activity that’s sure to please everyone in the group.

11. See the Annual Sugar Sand Festival

If possible, make a trip to Clearwater during the Sugar Sand Festival. It’s one of the best sand sculpture festivals in Florida. There are many world-renowned sand artists that gather to showcase their incredible talents during this annual festival. The kids will be amazed as they view all of the different sand sculptures. It’s truly a family-friendly event with free live music, fireworks, kid’s play zones and sand sculpting classes.

12. Ride Inside a Shark

I would take as many boat rides as possible during your visit to Clearwater. The views from the boat are breathtaking and to me it’s one of the coolest ways to tour Clearwater. It’s also one of my kids’ favorite activities, especially when there is a possibility of seeing dolphins! The Mega Bite Shark Boat is another family-favorite! We walked past the line for this boat ride and the kids were all jumping up and down excited, the idea of “riding in a shark” was the highlight of their day!

13. Explore Coachman Park

Coachman Park is a beautiful waterfront park with an open-air venue making it the home to many festivals and concerts throughout the year.

UPDATE: The park is actually undergoing major construction at this time and has plans to reopen in 2023. When completed, the park will have a garden, playground, greenspace, trail and gateway plaza as well as a $15-million, 4,000-seat covered amphitheater!

14. Shop for Souvenirs and More

It’s not a vacation unless you bring something back with you right? Ok, I don’t really feel that way but apparently my kids do. They are always itching to spend their souvenir money as soon as we arrive. The best place to shop in Clearwater is at the Westfield Countryside Mall with 150 shops, a state-of-the-art 12-screen movie theatre and restaurants that include P.F. Chang’s and BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse. It also has an ice-skating rink that is a huge hit with families!

15. Go Jet Skiing in Clearwater

If your family enjoys water sports but you’re looking for something other than a boating adventure, consider renting jet skis for the afternoon. Kids as young as 5 can ride on the jet skis when renting through H20 Jet Ski Rentals and teenagers 14 to 17 must have parents present and a photo ID showing date of birth to rent. They offer guided tours which is an awesome way to explore Clearwater!

beach views in clearwater Florida
Views of the Pier in Clearwater, Florida. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

16. Walk the Memorial Causeway Green Trail

We love taking our daily beach walks when on vacation but the Memorial Causeway Green Trail is a different experience that offers some of the most incredible views! This is also a great biking trail if you’re looking for one during your trip.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you’re looking for hiking trails near you when on vacation download the AllTrails app. It’s where we always discover kid-friendly / pet-friendly trails for our family to enjoy.

sunset views in clearwater Florida
Beautiful sunsets in Clearwater, Florida. Photo credit: Breeze Leonard

17. Take Classic Sunset Photos

What is a beach vacation without sunset family photos? It’s always something my family puts up with because I’m always determined to capture those beautiful family photos. One of my favorite spots in Clearwater to take family photos is right outside the Palm Pavilion restaurant.

SheBuysTravel Tip: If you want to have professional family photos taken during your trip we recommend booking a photographer through Flytography. They will set you up with a local photographer and give you $25 off your photo session when you book with this link. This is one of our favorite experiences to gift ourselves, especially while our kids are still young.

Places to Visit Nearby

18. Go on an Amazing Scavenger Hunt Adventure

This activity is not in Clearwater but it’s a 40-minute drive away in St. Petersburg. This 3-hour scavenger hunt is a smartphone guided walking tour. It starts along the bay and take you on a “game route that will explore the rich history, the lively art scene and other hidden gems of this great city.” Doing an activity that we can enjoy at our pace is exactly what we need on our family vacations. Plus, kids are always excited to do scavenger hunts.

The following 4 activities take place outside of the Clearwater area in Tampa, Florida. But they’re a short drive from Clearwater so we thought these friendly-family activities were worth mentioning!

19. Take a Day Trip to Dinosaur World

If you have a dinosaur-loving kid you should consider a day-trip to Plant City (near Tampa) to take them to see the 200 life-size dinosaurs at Dinosaur World! They have a dinosaur themed playground and several other fun activities that future paleontologists will love!

20. Make the Trip to See Busch Gardens

Busch Gardens has been called one of the most beautiful theme parks. And it’s only a short drive from Clearwater. Called Florida’s Coaster Capital, Busch Gardens is the ultimate family adventure. It also has one of the nation’s largest zoos.

21. See the Animals at the Tampa Zoo

Looking for more animal adventures? Head over to the Tampa Zoo where you’ll find an open-air safari tram ride, a splash pad and many other fun things for kids. The zoo is home to more than 1,300 animals! The kids will love how close they’ll get to wildlife by touching a giant tortoise and getting nose-to-horn with a rhino!

22. Experience the Thrill of Visiting Adventure Island

If you want to ramp up your vacation, Adventure Island is the way to do it! Seriously, this 30-acre water park has everything a family with kids of all ages will love. With high-speed thrill rides, 10 waterslides, a 17,000-square-foot wave pool and several family-friendly play areas, it’s what my family would call the perfect attraction!

Looking for accommodations in Clearwater, Florida? Use this interactive map:


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Breeze Leonard is a travel enthusiast and the affiliate manager for SheBuysTravel. A marketing and advertising specialist, she is also a social media strategist and travel writer, with several years’ experience writing for digital media. A Texan born and raised, Breeze left a corporate career to fulfill her passion for seeing the world with her three little girls. Their adventures have taken them across the globe, spanning visits to favorite Caribbean isles and motoring cross-country in an RV through some of America’s most beloved national parks. She believes that no adventure is too small and that every memory made, good or bad, is part of the family’s story.
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