On a recent cold (for Florida) morning, my 9-year-old nephew, sister and I drove 1.5 hours from my home in Tampa north to Crystal River. Our mission: to swim with the manatees. Just that week, an estimated 300 manatees were spotted in Crystal River’s natural springs. The reason for their migration into the springs was simple — they needed to warm up!
Like us, manatees can suffer from hypothermia if they are in cold water too long, and need to be in water at least 68 to 72 degrees to stay healthy. And so, when winter temperatures arrive in the south, manatees seek out warmer waters, and Florida’s springs provide just that, maintaining about 72 degrees year-round.
After checking in with the team at Plantation Adventure Center and Manatee Tours, my nephew and I donned our 3-millimeter wetsuits (my sister opted for the ride along instead of snorkeling) so we would keep warm in the 72-degree water, too; the air temp when we snorkeled that morning was about 45 degrees. Before boarding the pontoon boat, we watched an education video introducing snorkelers to manatees, as well as going over passive observation and what to do — and not to do — once we were in the water. My nephew, ever the rule follower, watched with rapt attention.
A quick boat ride from the dock and we were ready to swim with the manatees! As the captain carefully dropped anchor, a baby manatee approached the boat deck, seemingly welcoming us to her winter home. One by one our group of seven snorkelers, plus our guide, lowered ourselves down the ladder. Together, we swam to where the manatees were congregating, keeping aware of the rope floating atop the calm water that designated a no trespassing zone — only manatees were allowed to go beyond the rope; we humans were to stay back.
In no time, manatees surrounded my nephew and me. One and then another and then another swam by, as curious of us as we were of them. They came right up to our masks and snorkels, and brushed against our stomachs and hands (we were not allowed to touch them, but they could touch us) as they glided past.
Side-by-side my nephew and I quietly swam with these gentle giants, and became a part of their magical underwater world, if only for a little while.
West Virginia is home to the United States’ newest national park. Last month, Congress passed a bill upgrading West Virginia’s New River Gorge from a national river to a national park. New River Gorge National Park and Preserve marks the 63rd national park in the United States.
Step right up to the greatest show on Earth as FXExpress Publications, Global Traveler, trazeetravel.com and whereverfamily.com celebrate their 2020 award winners! Join the big top on Dec. 14 as we virtually award the winners of the 17th annual GT Tested Reader Survey awards, including the Airline and Hotel of the Year; the 17th annual Wines on the Wing Airline Wine Survey; the eighth annual Leisure Lifestyle Awards; the sixth annual The Trazees; and the third annual Wherever Awards.
If the winter months have you craving a snowy retreat surrounded by off-season island fun and warm fireplaces, The Bungalow at Greydon House should be on your list. An iconic stay in Nantucket, Massachusetts, The Bungalow offers a two-bedroom, three-bathroom retreat in the heart of historic downtown.
Bringing the family to a museum is a great way to spend the day. However, with pricey admissions, some museums might be out of your budget. Thankfully, there are plenty of free museums throughout the country, perfect for a cultural experience without breaking the bank.
Our world changed in so many ways, it’s not surprising the ski experience will be different, too. As resorts — and entire states — grapple with the challenges of keeping guests and staff safe, a variety of plans emerge. Here are a few things families can expect.
A chic new hotel will open at 200 N. Field Drive, in Lake Forest, Illinois, in April 2021. The Forester Hotel, the first hotel to open in the community since 1929, is inspired by the city’s motto of “Naturae et Scientiae Amor,” or “love of science and nature.” As a Hyatt Place hotel, the Forester will offer all the comforts of Hyatt plus boutique elements like an upscale bistro and bar and more than 4,500 square feet of event space.