When it comes to family fun, Florida is hard to beat. Some of the world’s best beaches, theme parks, and campgrounds abound with accommodating weather all year. So, for Family Fun Month, celebrated each year during August, you’ll have no shortage of options that are safe for everyone, from grandma and grandpa down to the little ones. Another form of entertainment that is more and more prevalent in Florida and accessible from anywhere on the web – though not intended for everyone in the family – is gambling.
Everyone has different ideas about how to get the most out of their leisure time. For example, one person might enjoy seeing the latest blockbuster at the theater, whereas another might prefer to spend their free time kayaking on the lake, while the children may opt to remain indoors, glued to the TV. Pulling the whole family together for an adventure is not as easy as it sounds!
Know When to Take a Break
Most of us know that it’s best to do certain things in moderation. Watching TV, exercising, browsing the Internet, eating, playing video games, sleeping, and spending time in the sun all have their healthy limits. When we enjoy something, we’re “wired” to seek it out by way of the brain’s reward system. But when that reward system gets hijacked by a chemical, as in the case of substance abuse, or by a behavior, as in problem gambling or gaming, the result is loss of control and addiction. The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as “a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory, and related circuitry.”
Though some people get bored easily and need to toggle between different things to maintain their interest and attention for a duration of time, others do not tire from engaging in repeated activities for hours and hours on end. Keep in mind that both gaming and gambling addictions consume an individual’s thoughts, depriving the time necessary for life’s responsibilities, including maintaining strong relationships, tending to children, and taking care of the homestead – or responsibilities at school, work, or elsewhere.
Disordered gambling can break bonds of trust and bring financial ruin to an entire family, but help and hope are available. If you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, call Florida’s 24-7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine at 888-ADMIT-IT (236-4848). Hundreds of gamblers and loved ones reach out to the HelpLine each year and connect to resources for self-help meetings, professional treatment, the FCCG’s Peer Connect Program and more.
Try Something New with the Family This Month
Let’s call it the Family Fun Month Challenge. Break the habit, get out, and try something new this month! Check out these often overlooked – and free – attractions around the Sunshine State.
- Wakodahatchee Wetlands – Delray Beach, FL
If you have an appreciation for nature and want to inspire that in children, look no further than the Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Walk along the three-quarter mile elevated boardwalk through this all-natural adventure and behold the wonder that our subtropical state has to offer. You can expect to see turtles, alligators, rabbits, and more bird species than you’ll be able to name!
- The Florida Keys – Key Largo to Key West, FL
From the Southernmost Point in the Continental U.S.A. to the Dry Tortugas National Park and downtown Key West, there’s plenty to explore in this chain of tropical islands. On your way to snorkeling, scuba diving, fishing, and more, the 100+ mile stretch along U.S. 1 makes for one of the most scenic drives you’ll ever take.
- Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory – Daytona Beach, FL
Those with a sweet tooth will enjoy the free tour offered at the Angell & Phelps Chocolate Factory. See your favorite chocolates and candies being made the old-fashioned way and conclude your visit with free samples. Tours are offered throughout the day from Monday through Saturday.
- Old Town – Kissimmee, FL
Take a stroll down memory lane and pass a charming assortment of unique shops, restaurants, and attractions. A wide variety of free-to-attend events are held here throughout the week, including Family Movie Night on Sundays, the Wednesday and Friday Night Car Shows featuring live entertainment, and a rotating schedule of local band performances.
- St. George Street – St. Augustine, FL
You can make a day or two out of the historic city of St. Augustine, with plenty of history to behold. The centerpiece of the nation’s oldest city is St. George Street, lined end to end with quaint shops, museums, and street performers. Head over the Bridge of Lions to explore more than 40 miles of breezy beaches, including a nature preserve at the north end.
- The Jacksonville Skyway – Jacksonville, FL
Ever wish you could fly? The complimentary Jacksonville Skyway is an automated monorail train connecting the city’s hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues from above the streets of downtown. On the first Wednesday of each month, the Skyway stays open late to take riders to and from the Art Walk, where you can browse local art, see a concert, and much more. Admission to the Art Walk is also free.
- Naval Aviation Museum – Pensacola, FL
Get into the world’s largest Naval Aviation museum for free, where you’ll see 150 aircraft from different eras on display. Jump into a flight simulator with the kids and experience the twists, turns, and G-forces felt by fighter pilots. Check the schedule and plan to visit during a Blue Angels practice to see the makings of their breathtaking aerial performance on display.
- Florida’s State Capitol – Tallahassee, FL
Taking a self-guided tour of Florida’s Capitol Complex makes for a great civics lesson for children and adults alike. Ride the elevator up to the 23rd floor and get an eagle’s eye view that spans for miles. Walk next door to the Historic Capitol Museum and step inside the Governor’s Suite from 1902 and the Florida Supreme Court Chamber from 1903.
Don’t see your favorite? Tell us about it in the comments.
 “ASAM Definition of Addiction.” American Society of Addiction Medicine, 12 Apr. 2011, www.asam.org/resources/definition-of-addiction.