Florida 2022: 10 New Family-Friendly Offerings

From immersive Star Wars overnights to new national park lodgings, a flurry of fun family adventures are headed Florida's way in the coming year.
A model of the Halcyon starcruiser is viewable by guests for a limited time in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. When guests book the two-night vacation experience for Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, debuting at Walt Disney World Resort in 2022, they will stay aboard this glamorous ship as they plunge into an all-immersive Star Wars story that goes beyond anything Disney has created before. (David Roark, photographer)
Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser Model at Disney's Hollywood Studio (Photo: David Roark)

If a trip to Florida isn’t in the cards this summer but you still want to get there soon, your timing just might be perfect. That’s because there’s a flurry of new additions, expansions, and renovations coming to the Sunshine State later in 2021 or in 2022.

Here are 10 family-friendly new offerings families can look forward to in Florida, all coming later this year or next.

New Ratatouille Attraction at EPCOT

Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure is set to debut at EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort on October 1, 2021. The new family-friendly attraction in the park’s France pavilion will make riders feel as if they’ve shrunk to the size of Chef Remy (a rat with a culinary gift, if you haven’t seen the Pixar film) as they travel through Gusteau’s restaurant.

The ride opening is part of the kickoff for The World’s Most Magical Celebration, an 18-month event honoring Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary that’ll still be one of the top family summer vacations in 2022 as well. And if all the time in the “kitchen” on the new attraction makes you hungry, new EPCOT restaurant La Crêperie de Paris also opens October 1. The kids can enjoy some sweet crepes, while the adults can sample authentic French hard cider. 

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Otter Grotto at The Wonder Gardens

The Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs will be welcoming some cute new residents when it opens the Robert & Deborah Blain Otter Grotto, targeted for completion in fall 2021. And the whole family will love how the exhibit’s clear acrylic tunnel and viewing domes provide underwater-like glimpses of the rescued otters at play. You might want to just stay there and watch the charming critters for hours, but make sure to say hello to the other animal residents at the longtime Southwest Florida spot, which range from alligators and turtles to flamingos and Chinese golden pheasants.

Margaritaville Beach House Key West

In fall 2021, Barbary Beach House Key West will transform into Margaritaville Beach House Key West. The $3-million project will bring Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts’ trademark tropical vibe to the property, which is located on the largest beach in Key West. Family-friendly amenities will include poolside entertainment, kids’ activities, lawn games and hammocks, as well as guest access to Hobie Cats, paddleboards and kayaks. There will also be signature Margaritaville dining options, which of course will be serving plenty of the namesake beverage.

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New Visitors Center Featuring Manatees

The Crystal River area has been dubbed the “Manatee Capital of the World,” drawing wildlife watchers to Citrus County on Florida’s Gulf coast north of Tampa. A popular spot is Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge—the only refuge created specifically for the protection of the threatened Florida manatee—where a new visitors center is scheduled to open in fall 2021. Interactive displays will help visitors learn about Kings Bay, Florida’s second-largest spring system and one of the most important natural ecosystems for manatees in the world. Hundreds of manatees take refuge in the bay and its springs every winter.

New Everglades Lodging

Families interested in exploring Everglades National Park will have a new lodging option around the end of 2021, just in time for the park’s 75th anniversary in 2022. Located in the Flamingo area of the southern tip of the park, Flamingo Lodge & Restaurant will feature 24 one- and two-bedroom units plus an indoor/outdoor restaurant. The lodge and restaurant are being constructed out of shipping containers, which will be elevated above the ground on pillars and connected by a boardwalk. Check the website for concessionaire Flamingo Adventures for construction updates and booking info.

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Expanded Aquatic Options

There’s a lot going on at the Fort Lauderdale Aquatic Complex and International Swimming Hall of Fame site. A $46-million renovation and expansion will transform the historic facility that’s home to Florida’s first Olympic-sized swimming pool, which dates back to the 1920s. When the work is finished, the five pools will host both competitions and recreational swimmers, and the 27-meter dive tower will also be open for “Top of the Tower” tours offering scenic views of the area. The pools are expected to open in August 2021, with other elements of the site to follow in 2022.

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Big Opening in Sarasota

The Bay, an ambitious, multi-year project in Sarasota to redevelop 53 acres along Sarasota Bay for various public uses, will open several components of its first phase between fall 2021 and summer 2022. Look for the debut of additional elements of the already-open Mangrove Bayou Walkway, including a kayak launch and tranquil outdoor “Reading Room,” plus new features in other sections of The Bay such as a concessions plaza with a shade structure and restrooms, a playground and lawn areas.

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New Immersive Star Wars Experience

Walt Disney World Resort’s hotly anticipated Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser is set to launch in 2022. The immersive lodging experience aboard the Halcyon starcruiser will offer guests a two-day, two-night interactive adventure that makes them a part of the world of Star Wars. In addition to lightsaber lessons and accommodations in out-of-this-world-style “cabins,” guests will also take an excursion to Batuu at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, where they can stroll through Black Spire Outpost and maybe even find a hidden Resistance base.

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New Seagrove Beach Boutique Hotel

St. Joe Hospitality—the company behind Florida Panhandle lodging options like WaterColor Inn and WaterSound Inn—recently announced plans for The Lodge 30A. Projected to open in 2022, the boutique hotel will be located in Seagrove Beach on Scenic County Highway 30A. It will be adjacent to the planned mixed-use development Greenway Station with its planned restaurants, shops, and trailhead access to 15,000-acre Point Washington State Forest. The WaterColor Inn also has expansions underway that are expected to be completed in spring 2022, adding family-friendly amenities that include seven suites and a new 2,800-square-foot zero-entry family pool with kids’ area. 

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Peppa Pig Theme Park

Calling all preschoolers! The new standalone Peppa Pig Theme Park will be opening at LEGOLAND Florida Resort in 2022. The new park focused on the beloved British animated TV series will include rides, interactive attractions, live shows, themed playscapes and water play areas that the little ones will love, plus opportunities to meet both Peppa and her friends. It will be located near LEGOLAND Florida’s theme park entrance and on-site hotels, but will require a separate ticket for entry.

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Beth Luberecki
Beth Luberecki is a Florida-based freelance writer who writes about travel, business, and lifestyle topics for a variety of publications and websites. She enjoys exploring destinations close to home and farther afield with her husband and teenage daughter. Visit her website at bethluberecki.com or find her on Instagram at @bethlubereckiwrites and @findingfloridafun.