|Finding a place for a memorable family getaway, with no neon and no lines to stand in, is easy in this Northwest Florida destination. Just one hour west of Tallahassee and one hour north of Panama City, Jackson County, Florida, is filled with opportunities for family fun.|
Jackson County is known for its waters. While divers from throughout the world come for technical cave dives here, there are diving and swimming options in area springs that are fun for everyone! Swimming in Jackson Blue Springs at Merritt’s Mill Pond is a favorite. Blue Springs Recreational Area (5461 Blue Springs Road, Marianna, Florida 32446; 850-482-2114) has tube, canoe and paddleboard rentals as well as boat docks and picnic and play areas. The Mill Pond and other area waters are popular for family fishing trips, too. Whether learning to cast a line or searching for trophy bass, this is a great way to reel in memories that will last.
Kayaking the meandering Chipola River is also a great way to spend a day with the kids. Outfitters like Lillypad Adventures (3150 Highway 2, Campbellton, Florida 32459; 850-326-4884) offer half- and full-day trips as well as overnight adventures. There is fun both on and off the water at Three Rivers State Park (7908 Three Rivers Park Road, Sneads, Florida 32460; 850-482-9006) and even underground adventure at Florida Caverns State Park (3345 Caverns Road, Marianna, Florida 32446; 850-482-1228).
For a taste of farm life in Jackson County, there are farm tours and U-Pick opportunities the whole family will enjoy. A day on the farm can mean learning about sustainable practices for raising animals at The Lazy Acres Family Farm (6512 Americus Road, Marianna Florida 32446), learning where Southern Craft Creamery (2884 Jefferson Street, Marianna, Florida 32446; 850-372-4958) gets its milk or picking tomatoes, watermelons, peppers, snap beans and more at Jackson Farms (7681 Shady Grove Road, Grand Ridge, Florida 32442).
If getting a little history lesson in sounds like fun, the area is filled with preserved downtown districts and homes. There are numerous historic sites, a Spanish Heritage Trail and the Civil War’s Battle of Marianna. Jackson County’s official Visitor Center, the Historic Russ House (4318 West Lafayette Street, Marianna, Florida 32446; 850-482-8061), is a great place to start when planning all the stops.
Family-friendly lodging is abundant here. National and regional limited-service lodging properties offer plenty of options. For those who want to enjoy the area’s outdoors, there are more than a half dozen campgrounds offering a variety of amenities and settings.
Where to eat
Gazebo Coffee Shoppe and Deli (4412 Lafayette Street, Marianna, Florida 32446; 850-526-1276) Early morning breakfast and delicious baked goods are local favorites at this staple in downtown Marianna.
Spears Café (2903 Orange Street, Marianna, Florida 32448; 850-693-2306) Known for the “best burgers around,” this unassuming family spot is full of character and flavor. Take-outs are popular, as seating is limited.
Johnny Mac’s Wood Fire Grill (8178 U.S Highway 90, Sneads, Florida 32460; 850-593-5622) Burgers and sandwiches, soups and salads, steaks and seafood are served, all in a family atmosphere.
Grady’s Seafood (981 6th Avenue, Graceville, Florida 32440; 850-263-4247) Seafood is the specialty in this casual family-owned local favorite. Oysters, shrimp and scallops are joined by landlubber staples and tasty homestyle sides.
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