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.
Sign the family up for a volunteer project while on vacation to create new memories, help others and make the world a better place. Consider one of these organizations for your next family vacation.
When traveling with kids, a lot of factors come into play to ensure happiness and interest. The Family Vacation Guide researched Tripadvisor’s traveler reviews to determine the Top 100 Cities in the United States. Consider these cities when deciding where to vacation. From kid-friendly places to eat, hotels, attractions, ease of navigation and access to options, here are the top 10-ranked cities for kids according to real, family travelers’ reviews.
Disney Parks around the world shut down for months due to the global pandemic. Since then, most parks reopened, but with restrictions like limited capacity, no Fast Passes and more. Guests hoped they would bring back the beloved Fast Pass, allowing guests to skip long lines and head straight to the ride.
The St. Regis Punta Mita encourages guests to take a break from devices with the Disconnect to Reconnect experience. The offer promotes a digital detox, focusing instead on physical and mental wellness.
Before Disney Parks around the world shut down due to the global pandemic, guests were allowed to purchase and enter the parks with an Annual Pass. This ticket let visitors enter the parks multiple times a year, get discounts on food and merchandise, and more. Since reopening, Disney dropped the Annual Pass due to lower capacity and the reservation system. Recently, Disneyland Resort announced a new pass system for frequent visitors: the Magic Key Holder. There are a couple different levels for the passes, so make sure you do your research before purchasing.
Eastern State Penitentiary announced Halloween Nights, a new iteration of its Halloween celebration for 2021. From the creators of its Terror Behind the Walls, Halloween Nights at Eastern State Penitentiary transforms abandoned cellblocks and courtyards into newly designed immersive environments, featuring large-scale video projections and other special effects. Sections of the complex will be open to the public for the first time ever.