Schools are off, and you are wondering what to do. Why not plan a trip to Florida’s stunning coastal town, Crystal River? If your family loves adventure, watersports, and exploring historical sites while eating exquisite seafood, then you’ll be in the right place.
Crystal River has many activities, from swimming in the springs to kayaking, hiking, diving for scallops, and visiting museums and archaeological sites. But the main reason many people come to this magical town is to swim with the manatees.
How to Prepare for Your Trip to Crystal River
You want to enjoy all that Crystal River has to offer, such as kayaking, paddling, hiking, swimming, and snorkeling. But if you don’t know how to do any of these things, you’ll need to start with the basics? Here’s a great place to get started with guides and other resources that will fast-track your learning process.
The Best Time to Vacation in Crystal River
During the period between November and March, the weather is cooler, allowing you to enjoy as many outdoor activities as possible. But to swim with the manatees, you’ll have to book your trip from December through February. These months are the coldest in Florida, meaning you will get to see more manatees in the springs as the water temperatures remain constant.
12 Things to Do and Places to See in Crystal River
Upon arriving in Crystal River, you may be tired, so why not start your vacation with some low-key activities that will fill your time and get you a better knowledge of this coastal town.
Stroll Around the Downtown Area and Heritage Village
We recommend that you start with a stroll around downtown and also visit the heritage village. This quaint village features charming cracker-style cottages that make for stunning photo backgrounds. Plenty of shops also sell unique items, making it the best place to buy gifts for your friends and family back home.
Heritage Village is a great place to learn about the origins and history of Crystal River.
After you visit the village river, you can stop by the village theater. You’ll be a lucky bird if it’s on a Sunday as they usually have live theater, music, and other community events starting from 3 p.m. You’ll have a great chance to interact with the locals and other tourists.
This is enough activity for your first day. You can go back to your hotel, refresh, and relax as you dine in, or you can opt to hit the town for the nightlife. You can ask your hotel for recommendations on the best eateries and clubs.
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
If you have children, the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is excellent for seeing all kinds of animals. The best part is it is open all year round. The park was originally a zoo that was later transformed into a state park, and the state of Florida manages it.
The animals you will see at the park include manatees, bald eagles, Florida panthers, and alligators. And you can’t leave without having a look at Lu the hippo. He might be the odd animal out of all the ones found in the park, but this is because he was left behind under the locals’ petition when the park was transitioned from a zoo.
Three Sisters Springs Center
No one comes to Crystal River and fails to visit Three Sisters Springs Center. It is a great refuge for manatees, especially during the winter, as the water in this spring remains constant at 72 degrees.
Since access to the Three Sisters Spring is strictly limited, you can visit the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge and take a walk along the wooden sidewalk, enjoying the clear view of the manatees and marveling at the crystal clear blue water.
While visiting Three Sisters Springs, you can choose to swim with the manatees. It’s a fantastic experience since the water is blue and clear. But note that during the manatee season, you will be cautioned on the areas to visit and those not to.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Crystal River if you didn’t get a photo swimming with manatees, so find a guide to show you the way around and take your photos.
Kayaking is a popular activity in Crystal River because some springs and rivers, such as Crystal River and Kings Bay, do not allow swimming. Therefore, you can only enjoy viewing them via kayak.
It’s advisable to have a guide with you when you go kayaking so they can guide you into areas where you can get a view of these fantastic sea creatures. Some best places to go kayaking or paddling include the Crystal River and the Chassahowitzka River.
Caution, do not take the kayak over the manatee, as they need access to the surface for when they resurface to take a breath.
Dive for Scallops
You can also book a scallop hunt. This is where your knowledge of water sports activities is tested, as you must snorkel and swim in shallow grass while hunting for the blue-eyed creatures.
This is a pretty exciting activity as you have to be careful not to startle them as they will run away, making it harder for you to get any. The best part is that after your hunt, some hotels will cook them for you.
You should book your hunt for scallops with a tour company because there are strict regulations, but the best time to go is between June and September.
Crystal River Archaeological State Park
If you are a history buff, then Crystal River Archaeological State Park is the best place to learn about the ceremonial and trading activities of Native Americans. You will only pay a three-dollar entrance fee. The park occupies 61 acres of land and has plenty of activities and things to see.
Within the park, you will view the six-mound burial and temple complex. Although people visit the archaeological site, at the edge of the park, there is an expansive coastal marsh where fishermen can catch both saltwater and freshwater fish.
Bird watchers can also indulge in their hobby by taking the Great Florida Birding Trail and having a peek at the unique and stunning variety of bird species. So take your camera with you. You can have a picnic as the park provides a small picnic area.
Crystal River Escape Room
This is a fun activity to do with family or a group of friends. This is a puzzle game with a total of four rooms, namely, the bait shop, the mystery at the mansion, the hidden treasure, and the alien autopsy.
In these rooms, you have to find clues and solve a problem presented to you within 60 minutes. As such, you are required to work as a team to find all the clues before an hour is up. It is fun, exciting, and challenging as it gets your adrenaline up, especially when the time is near and you have yet to find everything.
The rooms are comfortable and air-conditioned to make your expeditions fun.
Florida Tree Top Adventure
This is an excellent activity for kids and adults. Crystal River offers adventurers the chance to walk through the treetops. It’s not an easy activity as you need good balance, but don’t worry; you can’t fall as the instructors have you wear a harness.
This Tree Top Adventure is based at Faith Haven Christian Retreat Center and is usually a R.O.P.E.S, training course that is built 25 feet off the ground. They also have seven zip lines. It will take about one and a half to two hours to complete the R.O.P.E.S. training course, which costs about $36 per person.
You should consider visiting Monkey Island, which is based inside the Panama Canal. Its location and setting are quite interesting. You might be interested to know that Monkey Island is situated in the middle of Lake Gatun, and here you get to see and play with the monkeys. It’s a great place for kids. You will also get to see beautiful butterflies. Each person pays $100 for this tour.
It’s not a trip to Crystal River without taking a sunset cruise around Kings Bay. You can visit King’s Bay Park during the day for your kids to have fun and join the cruise in the evening.
Go to the Beach
Being a coastal town, you can’t leave without visiting the beach for much-needed swimming and tanning. You can visit the family-friendly Gulf beach and dip your toes in the white sands.
Crystal River is every traveler’s dream as there are loads of activities and places to see. Plus, you can see the manatees clearly from transparent kayaks. Pack your bags and book a flight to get your dose of Crystal River.