Home to more than 2,000 species of animals and plants, many threatened or endangered, the Everglades comprise one of the world’s largest tropical wetlands. Everglades National Park protects 1.5 million acres of this ecosystem, and its combination of exotic wildlife and outdoor activities makes it a favorite for family travel.
What Wildlife You’ll See
Expect to see manatees, colorful roseate spoonbills, white ibis, alligators and crocodiles. In fact, this is the only place in the world where you can see American alligators and American crocodiles living side by side. Your chances of spotting the reclusive Florida panther are remote; as one of the most endangered mammals, only about 200 exist. Southern Florida is home to more than 70 endangered and threatened species.
When to Go
The best time to see wildlife is the dry season, December–March. It’s also when the weather is most pleasant for exploring the park and when park facilities and ranger programs are most available.
What to Expect
Unlike most of the western national parks, where vistas are of mountains and dramatic landscapes, the Everglades are flat and largely covered in sawgrass. Most scenic and interesting to explore are the mangrove swamps (the Everglades include the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the Western Hemisphere). You’ll also find forests of cypress and tropical hardwoods, as well as marine habitats in the estuaries. Because the terrain is level, trails are easy for kids. Many of them are boardwalks, making them suitable for strollers.
Where to Begin
Stop at the visitors center as you enter the park to get maps and information on what is open, road conditions and free ranger programs. These guided walks, demonstrations, boat tours and children’s programs are an excellent way to learn about the park and all the ways your family can explore. Kids will also want to sign up for the Junior Ranger program.
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