Things to do in Crystal River with kids
Maybe you heard about the Crystal River manatees, and you found yourself here looking for more things to do in Crystal River with kids. You’re in the right place!
Crystal River is a small city in Florida on the Gulf side of the state. This city is not on the Gulf’s shoreline, though. Instead, it is inland, directly on the river of the same name. Crystal River is one of the smaller cities in Florida. That doesn’t mean there aren’t many things to do in Crystal River with kids!
You can easily spend your entire vacation going from one activity and adventure to another. If you love checking family-friendly things to do in Crystal River off your list, this is excellent news.
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Things to Do in Crystal River with Kids
So, are you ready to see what awaits you when you take a vacation in Crystal River? Or maybe you need a day or two away from the craziness of Tampa or Orlando? Get ready because the options of things to do in Crystal River with kids are almost endless.
Swim or Kayak with the Manatees
This is the #1 thing to do in Crystal River, so of course, we had to mention it first. One of our favorite things to do in Crystal River with kids is swimming or kayaking with the manatees in Kings Bay. Manatees love warm water, so they tend to migrate into the canals when the ocean gets colder.
Check out the 26 best places to kayak in Florida for more kayaking ideas.
The only place in the US where you can legally get into the water and swim with the manatees is Crystal River. So, I recommend taking advantage of that by putting on your bathing suit and jumping in! You may need a wetsuit if it’s cold (and it likely will be if manatees are here.)
Fortunately, our favorite provider for all things manatees is Paddles Outdoor Rentals. They offer wetsuits as an add-on if you need them. You can also grab a kayak and head out onto the water to paddle alongside these creatures if it’s too cold to swim.
You can rent single kayaks for the big kids and double kayaks for anyone who isn’t able to paddle themselves very well!
You can also do a small group pontoon boat tour or a glass-bottom kayak tour.
No matter what you decide, I guarantee you will visit the manatees more than once during your vacation in Crystal River!
Explore the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge
One of the popular family-friendly things to do in Crystal River is explore the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. This wildlife refuge area was created in 1983 to protect the endangered West Indian Manatee.
There are twenty different islands in this refuge. Start by taking a guided tour. Then explore the nature trails before feeding your favorite manatees.
The best place to watch the manatees in the water is from the Three Sisters Springs Boardwalk. This area is where three of the springs are located. This is also where you can kayak out, take a boat tour, and see the manatees!
Visit the Crystal River Preserve State Park
It is all about the outdoors when you take the time to visit the Crystal River Preserve State Park. This is another excellent area to kayak in Florida.
A two-mile interpretive trail your family can walk along at this park. However, you may prefer to grab your bikes and ride along the seven-mile bike trail.
Explore the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
When your family arrives at this wildlife refuge, you will all be greeted by more than thirty-one thousand acres of marshes, saltwater bays, and estuaries. This is a beautiful place to visit if your family loves birds, mammals, and reptiles.
The best way to see this area is from a kayak or canoe. Make sure you take a picnic lunch with you too. There are quite a few picnic tables around, so you can enjoy a bite to eat in a peaceful setting.
Go Fishing at Fort Island Trail Park
One of the best things to do in Crystal River with kids is fishing at Fort Island Trail Park. The pier, which is one hundred fifty feet long, is the best place to catch a few fish.
Go Swimming at Hunter Springs Park
Swimming is one of the best things to do at this park. The beach area is nice. So, don’t be afraid to hang out there and build a sandcastle when everyone is done swimming.
There is also a playground your kids will love!
Spend the Day at Fort Island Gulf Beach
If you are looking for a better beach destination, I recommend Fort Island Gulf Beach.
The water near the shoreline is shallow. The swimming area is also roped off, so you can keep an eye on the kids in the water.
The nearby boardwalk is perfect for long walks, especially when you want to see a few dolphins.
Explore Crystal River Archaeological State Park
I can understand if you don’t want your family vacation in Florida filled with history lessons. But the Crystal River Archaeological State Park is such a fun place to visit!
From the Visitor’s Center artifacts to the burial grounds, there is always something fascinating to see. And I guarantee no one in your family will be bored learning about it all.
See the Animals at the Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is only a short fifteen-minute drive from Crystal River.
Many animals live within this park. You will have the opportunity to see manatees, alligators, and bald eagles. There is even a Florida panther that was orphaned.
The one unusual animal at this park, though, is the hippopotamus. Lu the hippo has been at this park for years. Back when it was a zoo. The locals couldn’t fathom the thought of her being sent elsewhere, so they petitioned the state to keep her at her home.
You will be happy to know that Lu the hippo was granted Florida citizenship! And she spends her days and nights at this park doing all the things hippos do.
Visit her while in Crystal River, and let your kids make a new friend!
Pick a Few Blueberries
Blueberry picking season in Florida goes from the middle of March until May. So, if you happen to plan your Crystal River family vacation during those months, blueberry picking should be on your list of things to do.
There are plenty of blueberry farms to choose from. A couple of popular options include Bette’s Blueberry Farm and Misty Meadows Blueberry Farm.
Check Out the Art at the Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts
One of the best art galleries in Crystal River is the Franklin Anderson Gallery of Arts. If you take the time to venture inside, you will be greeted by numerous types of works of art.
You never know what you will discover in this art gallery. So, keep an open mind, and you may take a piece home with you.
If nothing else, your kids will have gotten their art lesson for the day!
See the Boats at Crystal River Boat Builders
Preserving the area’s maritime history is quite important to the Crystal River Boat Builders. They opened a museum to showcase the different boats used for commercial and residential purposes throughout the years. There is also an exhibit of traditional hand tools.
During your visit, your family can learn the different methods used to build boats and keep them running.
Visit the Coastal Heritage Museum
Another interesting museum to visit in Crystal River is the Coastal Heritage Museum. You will find this museum inside the Crystal River Old City Hall.
Numerous exhibits are inside this museum. The most popular ones are the reconstructed jail holding cell and the fish house.
Scalloping is similar to crabbing or catching lobsters. When you go scalloping, all you need is a snorkel and a mask. Go in the water and then go on a scallop hunt down on the grassy bottom.
The scalloping season goes from July until early September in Crystal River. You are limited to two gallons of scallops per person each day.
You don’t need to do this activity on your own. There are quite a few chartered boats that will take you out for this adventure.
Go Back in Time at the Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park
The Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park used to be a plantation that produced sugarcane, cotton, and citrus.
You can still see the machines that were used at the plantation. Step back in time and think about what the area would have been like when the cane press, iron gears, and other machines ran all day long.
Take a Horseback Ride Through the Withlacoochee Forest
The Sunny Side Up Farm will allow you to ride one of their rescue horses through the Withlacoochee Forest. This is an excellent option if you want to see more of Crystal River and relax simultaneously.
These are some of the best things to do in Crystal River with kids. There are many other family-friendly things to do in Crystal River, though, so carefully plan your time there.
Things to do in Crystal River with kids
As you can see, Crystal River is more than just manatees! There are plenty of things to do in Crystal River with kids, but we still recommend that you go and swim or kayak with the gentle giants in the winter.
If you’re taking a day trip to Crystal River from Orlando, check out First Timer Tips for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and Star Wars Land vs. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
Taking a day trip to Crystal River from Tampa? Don’t miss 30 Things to do in Clearwater with Kids and Dinosaur World Florida Review.
More Florida Travel Ideas:
- 15 Things to do in Siesta Key
- 7 things to buy at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- The 12 best places to see manatees in Florida
- Where to find Dole Whip at Disney World
- First-Timer Tips for the Wizarding World of Harry Potter
- 50 free things to do in Tampa with kids
- Seaside Seabird Sanctuary review
About Florida Travel With Kids
Florida Travel with Kids was started by a family who loves to travel the state of Florida with kids! This site will help you explore the fun state of Florida and all of the kid-friendly activities you’ll find here.
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