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Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Orlando, FL: Enjoy Nature’s Theme Park at the Beautiful Natural Springs at Kings Landing

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If you’re heading to Disney and all the sights of Central Florida for your family trip, don’t miss the opportunity to trade out the crowds for the natural beauty of the Rock Springs Run at Kings Landing just outside the Magic Kingdom. 

I love the outdoors and enjoying all that nature has in store for us because it’s almost always better than I could have imagined. And with hot days and crowds around Orlando, escaping to Kings Landing is an awesome idea if you’re in the area. I was completely blown away by these gorgeous springs.

You’ll feel like you’re in another world here – nature’s very own theme park – and never want to leave. 

Rock Springs Run FL
Paddleboarding at the springs

About Kings Landing and Rock Springs Run 

Kings Landing is in Apopka, Florida, a suburb of Orlando and only about 40 minutes from Disney World. It feels a lot further away. Kings Landing is a privately owned entrance point into Rock Springs, where you can access the incredible Emerald Cut or the Wekiva River. 

This area of water is a designated National Wild and Scenic River and once you’re out there, it’s easy to see why. The calm, crystal clear water under the shade of huge jungle-like trees is stunning and peaceful. 

This is the Florida a lot of people overlook. I grew up going to Florida often to visit my family that lived there and somehow we never took in these natural springs. I only discovered them as an adult and was swept away by their beauty. The natural springs are just amazing because their crystal clear water is filtered through limestone caves and is a constant 70 or so degrees year round.

Manatees congregate at many of these springs during the cooler months. One we visited, Blue Spring State Park, allows swimming during the summer when the manatees are gone. Another one, Ichetucknee Springs and Blue Hole Spring, is an easy day trip from St. Augustine and even Orlando. 

Most of the Florida springs allow swimming but you need to be watchful because alligators are common. More on that in a bit. 

At Kings Landing, they allow you to rent clear canoes, paddleboards, and kayaks. You can also bring your own and drop in at their site. They also offer camping on their property or you can paddle to a boat-in campsite that you have to reserve through Wekiwa State Park. Group camping is also available next to Kings Landing at Kelly Park’s Camp Joy.

Stay Near Kings Landing

Paddle Trips at Kings Landing, FL 

There are a few options for paddling from Kings Landing, from an hour or two to an all day adventure. 

We did the paddling trip out to Emerald Cut, which is just a stunningly beautiful paddle through the clear water upstream for a mile. The water isn’t deep in most spots and the bottom is sandy and soft. There are spots to stop and swim and of course, take photos. There is a really cool tree that you can climb and jump from into a small swimming hole. The river is fairly narrow so you have to pay attention to the other paddlers and watch for wildlife. 

Paddling at Kings Landing FL
Paddleboarding at the springs

You’ll go upstream the way out and then downstream on the way back. My daughters and I are fairly experienced paddlers as we have our own paddleboards and go out often during the summer but we had never paddled on a river, which was a little harder due to the current. It took us less than half the time downstream as it did to go upstream. I wish we would have stayed and swam a little more though because the trip back was too fast. 

We were told to watch for wildlife and not to approach any animals. We only saw a really cool bird up close but kept our distance. We were just about to the end of the run when a family coming downstream told us a gator was just ahead. We made a prudent decision and turned back. Typically, the staff told us, the gators hang out more on the darker water side, but they absolutely can show up on Rock Springs. 

That trip took us a little over two hours. 

If you go the other way on the river, you can go as far as 8.5 miles downstream and be picked up and taken back to your car by the Kings Landing shuttle. You have a much higher chance of seeing wildlife there, which we really didn’t want to see. To do the shuttle run, Kings Landing asks that paddlers be experienced since it is about a 4.5 hour trip. 

Making Your Paddling Reservation 

You don’t need any paddling experience to do the run we did. Paddling a kayak or canoe isn’t hard and you’ll get instruction from the staff. They also offer guided tours if you want to be sure you’re in good hands. 

If you choose to rent a vessel, you’ll have four hours total, which is enough time to paddle both the river (not the 8.5 mile trip) and Emerald Cut. Rentals are priced from $49 up to $69. The canoe can fit three people max. You can also select a kayak, double kayak or paddleboard.

If you have your own kayak or paddleboard, the cost is $10/adult and $5/kids. No children ages 2 and under are permitted. 

Kings Landing FL
Paddleboarding at the springs

Know Before You Go 

Here are a few tips on your trip to Kings Landing:

  • No pets allowed. 
  • No children under 2 years old allowed. 
  • Pay attention to your surroundings. This isn’t a controlled environment and wildlife exist. 
  • If you’re bringing your own paddleboard or kayak, you must have a life vest and whistle. If you don’t have one, you can rent one. 
  • The crystal clear emerald water will often turn a tea-colored brown after heavy rains due to the tannins in the fallen leaves. We went in April and the water was just like you see in photos. 
  • You must make a reservation. Weekdays are less busy than weekends but reservations are required at any time. 
  • Bring sunscreen, water, and bug spray. 
  • All Leave No Trace principles must be followed. 
  • No glass, styrofoam, or alcohol is permitted. 
Rock Springs Run kings Landing
Just hanging out at the springs

Ready to Paddle?

If you’re ready to get away to a jungle oasis and see the wild part of Florida, make your reservation at King’s Landing online

Kings Landing is open daily 8 am – 5 pm. All boats must be back to the dock by 4:30 pm. 

Looking for other adventures in Florida? Check out our Florida Travel Guide.

Kings Landing
5722 Baptist Camp Road, Apopka, FL 32712
King’s Landing Website | King’s Landing Facebook

Ahoy! Pirates and treasures galore at this pirate museum in St. Augustine, FL

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The incredible St. Augustine Pirate Museum has lots of amazing hands-on entertainment and treasures in St. Augustine, Florida. 

Making a trip down the East Coast from the Upstate, SC? The St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum is the real deal and has such cool exhibits and treasures! We checked it out and have all the details. 

Captain Kidd's Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
Everyone has fun at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

About the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum

The museum is a brainchild of Pat Croce, a best-selling author, entrepreneur, and pirate scholar. Some of the artifacts in the museum were obtained from dives he did to sunken ships. So cool. 

The museum initially opened in Key West in 2005 but was moved to St. Augustine in 2010, where it has resided ever since. St. Augustine, the nation’s oldest city, is no stranger to piracy after all. Famous pirates such as Robert Searles and Sir Frances Drake even visited St. Augustine. Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish fort which I had visited on a previous trip (highly recommend, super neat), saw its fair share of pirates. It is right across the street from the pirate museum. 

St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Today, the museum spans about 5,000 square feet and holds more than 800 authentic pirate artifacts ranging from the 1600s to the present day. The entire museum is arranged so that you feel like you’re actually on a pirate ship. 

Exploring the Museum 

Honestly, I thought the museum would be a little cheesy and touristy but I had seen good reviews and wanted to give it a shot. Also, one of my daughters had recently done a presentation on female pirates for school so we were already into the history of pirates and I thought this would make a fantastic addition to her knowledge of pirates. 

I am happy to say I was blown away by this museum. It is not even close to being cheesy. I have always been fascinated by pirates and the museum just brings the history of piracy and the more famous pirates to life right in front of you. 

There’s a scavenger hunt you can do during your time there where you look for drawers with the Jolly Roger sign (skull and crossbones) and write down what’s inside them on your treasure map. That was easy and fun for all of us and certainly interactive. 

Captain Kidd's Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum
Captain Kidd’s Chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

We found all kinds of incredible artifacts from sunken ships off the coasts of North Carolina and Florida that had been recovered even up to 2011. There were remnants of barrels, guns, pottery, glasses, and even books and Bibles. 

Exhibits featured screens with drawings of famous pirates and their stories. We even found stories about Mary Read and Anne Bonny, two of the pirates my daughter had researched. We learned about knot tying, why certain sails were raised at certain times, how pirates were tortured, and even how the famous pirate, Blackbeard, met his end. 

There is a really interesting room that holds the only known pirate treasure chest in the world from several hundred years ago plus gold and silver coins and other pirate treasure that has been recovered from shipwrecks. 

My kids are 9 and 12 and they really enjoyed it. Even as an adult, I absolutely loved it. I wish I could have stayed longer and read through more of the exhibits but the kids wanted to see different parts of the museum so we kept on going on our pirate adventure. 

Visiting the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum 

The pirate museum is open daily 10 am – 7 pm except for Christmas Day. We spent a little over an hour there and bought our tickets online. We went during Christmas Break so I just wanted to be sure that we could get in. I don’t think we would have had any problems buying tickets at the museum though. It wasn’t terribly crowded. 

St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum Treasure Chest
Treasure chest at the St Augustine Pirate and Treasure Museum

Tickets to the museum are $17.99/ages 13-59 and $9.99/ages 5-12. Military and ages 60+ tickets are $15.99. You can buy them at the museum or online.

If you’re visiting the nation’s oldest city, I definitely recommend checking out the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum. 

You can park across the street at Castillo de San Marcos where it is metered parking or in a nearby parking garage. 

For more fun things to do in St. Augustine, see our reviews on Castillo de San Marcos, the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, and Blue Springs State Park.

St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum 
12 S Castillo Drive, St. Augustine, FL
St Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum Website

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BK Adventure: Florida Bioluminescence Tour Company Where You Can Kayak Through Glowing Waters

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Have you ever wanted to paddle through a bioluminescent sea of sparkling stars, and glow-in-the-dark waters? Then you have to check out BK Adventure! Florida bioluminescence tour companies take you on a magical journey that is a total bucket list item, and we found the perfect company for the experience. BK Adventure in Titusville, Florida uses clear kayaks, and it’s the best way to experience the glowing Bioluminescent waters of the Space Coast.

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The Space Coast: Stellar Things to Do in Cape Canaveral, Florida

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Planning a trip to Cape Canaveral, Florida? There are so many things to do that are out of this world! The Space Coast of Florida, famous for being the home base of NASA, has so much more to offer families who travel there. Kayaking thru a galaxy sounds insane, but we have the details of how your family can experience that and other unique things during a visit to the Space Coast of Florida.

This article includes:
Visiting the Space Coast
Things to Do in Cocoa Beach
More Things to Do: Space Coast of FL
Places to Eat: Space Coast of FL

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Swim, Tube, and Scuba in Crystal Clear Waters at Blue Hole Spring and Ichetucknee Springs in Northern Florida

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Are you looking for the perfect photo-ready swimming hole that will cool you off on even the hottest days in Florida? We found the perfect natural swimming spot at Ichetucknee Springs and Blue Hole Spring. This crystal clear spring is just a day trip from Gainsville, St. Augustine, and Jacksonville, Florida at Ichetucknee Springs State Park. This state park has two natural springs and one even has an underwater cavern that you can see with goggles.

Ichetucknee Springs State Park florida
Ichetucknee Spring

This article includes:
Can you swim at Ichetucknee Spring?
Getting to Blue Hole Spring
Is there tubing at Ichetucknee Spring?
What is the admission cost for Ichetucknee Springs State Park?
Where to stay near Ichetucknee Springs State Park

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Kayaking The Lido Key Mangrove Tunnels Of Sarasota, Florida

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Looking for something unique to do in Sarasota, Florida? Whenever the opportunity presents itself, Kidding Around’s Melanie loves getting on the water with a paddle in hand, kayaking the Lido Key mangrove tunnels Of Sarasota, Florida. This year she spent her birthday on the water of Sarasota Bay in Florida. I spent most of the trip on the water, and she had the chance to tour the unique mangrove tunnels that exist among a manatee playground.  

Don’t miss our Guide to Discovering Sarasota, Florida, for more info about the area.

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Best Family Things to do Near Daytona Beach

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Planning a trip down I-95? KAG contributor Kristina has some wonderful ideas for families to check out in the Daytona Beach area.

I had the opportunity to spend some time on the Atlantic coast in Central Florida and I tried to make the most of the time I had with my kids. We are homeschooling so I was searching for things to do that were both fun and educational, although you could certainly do any of this stuff without the homeschooling aspect. 

The Daytona Beach area is about a seven-hour drive from Greenville and only about 90 minutes from the Disney hotspot of Orlando. There is a lot to explore in this area and I hope you have the chance to check these places out!

This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

Dunlawton Sugar Mill

This old sugar mill has a fascinating history in and of itself and the ruins are really neat to see. You may recognize some similar equipment as was used in the cotton and textile mills in South Carolina. But then you’ve got actual dinosaurs scattered throughout the botanical gardens! They are cement and it’s a blast to find them with your kids. Although kids cannot play on them, they are certainly a fun part of wandering through the beautiful flowers and old oak trees laced with Spanish moss. 

There are also a couple free little libraries throughout the garden (a great opportunity to swap some books on your long drive). Restrooms are available on site.

950 Old Sugar Mill Rd, Port Orange, FL
Admission: Free
Website

Two girls looking through fence at a dinosaur

Museum of Arts and Sciences

We loved this place because it has a huge kids area that combines learning with fun. It has several science-related exhibits that kids can enjoy, a play pizza parlor, a remote-controlled race car track, and even a planaterium. And if you have a Roper Mountain Science Center or WNC Nature Center membership, you get in free.

Admission: $12.95/adults, $6.95/kids ages 6-17, free/under 6; also free if you have an affiliated ASTC membership.
352 S Nova Rd, Daytona Beach, FL
Website

Ponce Preserve

This small park is such a treasure. It has great nature walking trails that wind through the preserve and come to a little playground and tower that you can climb up and look out at the ocean. There are boardwalks through the marshes with kayak launches as well. Birds, crabs, and other wildlife are plentiful. The trail also has some fitness equipment, which my kids loved playing on. 

Admission: free
Website

Two girls walking along sunny path

Marine Discovery Center Boat Tour

We did the full moon boat tour and it was the coolest thing. Our guide was very knowledgeable about the area and we learned all about the local ecosystem, birds, dolphins, and manatees. The sunset was unreal and seeing the full moon rise was amazing. We got to see the Ponce Inlet Lighthouse (which we climbed the week before) so my kids had fun seeing it light up. The Marine Discovery Center also does kayak tours and the boat is covered so you are shaded from the sun. The center itself has some crabs, an eel, a corn snake (which we got to see eat some mice), and other fish plus a walking trail.

520 Barracuda Boulevard, New Smyrna Beach, FL 
Admission: Free to the discovery center itself but the boat tours are an extra cost.
Website 

Ponce Inlet Lighthouse

Climb the 203 steps that twist up the middle of Florida’s tallest lighthouse. You can also tour the old houses of former lighthouse keepers and a really neat lighthouse building with lots of mirrored panes that show how the lights work. There are also other historical aspects to the lighthouse which are worth taking some time to explore. 

4931 South Peninsula Drive, Ponce Inlet, FL 
Admission: Free to tour the historical homes and buildings about the lighthouse. To climb the lighthouse, the cost is $6.95/age 12+, $1.95/ages 3-11, free/under 2.
Website

Red lighthouse

Blue Spring State Park

Want to swim and canoe in crystal clear water over the summer and see manatees in the winter? Then you have to go to Blue Spring State Park. It’s an easy day trip from the coast or Orlando and completely worth it. Read our review here

2100 W French Avenue, Orange City, FL
Website

Girl walking down stairs into water

Riverwalk Park

During those hot months, which is most of the year in Florida, Riverwalk Park has a great splashpad and playground plus lots of space for kids to run around. We loved hanging out here. You can also rent kayaks and canoes to use on the river. 

3459 S. Ridgewood Avenue, Port Orange, FL
Website

Children playing at a splash pad

Seabird Island

If you like to fish, this is the place. There are two piers to cast your line into the intercoastal waterway. I didn’t see anyone catch anything when I was there but the view was awesome. You can see the Daytona Beach skyline and it’s just a neat location to check out, maybe have a picnic. There are restrooms and boat launches as well. 

Ramp at the bottom of the bridge onto Daytona Beach
Admission: Free

Kennedy Space Center and Cocoa Beach

Just an hour south of Daytona Beach and the same distance from Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center and nearby Cocoa Beach should definitely by on your day trip list. I love all things space-related so going to the complex was just fascinating. And since my kids and watched the 2020 SpaceX mission, they were just as interested as well – and kept asking if we would be seeing the astronauts, Bob and Doug. Cocoa Beach is close by so going to the pier there and checking out the fun shops was an easy add-on. 

Space Commerce Way,
Admission to the Kennedy Space Center: $57/adult, $47/child
Admission to Cocoa Beach Pier: Free

Ocean pier with covered space at the end

New Smyrna Beach

We spent a day at New Smyrna Beach at Flagler Avenue browsing the shops with lots of cool apparel and jewelry from local artists. We had lunch overlooking the beach at Breakers, which was fairly reasonable. If you want to drive on the beach from there, it will cost you $20. Or just park in area lots and walk on the beach. There is also Smyrna Beach Dunes park with access to fishing and swimming. 

Admission to Dunes Park: $10
Admission to the drive on beach at Flagler Ave: $20

St. Augustine

This was my favorite day trip I took my girls to because the feeling of walking through our country’s oldest city was just amazing. We loved it. Of course there are touristy aspects but the locally made pumpkin spice latte and Castillo San Marcos made me fall in love with the city. The fort – Castillo San Marcos – is built right on the water and has a very interesting history. The free Junior Ranger Program is a must-do if you go to make the most of your visit and learn about it! The old town was such a pleasure to walk through. There are little shops and restaurants and cafes that are fun to wander around in. If you’re Catholic and want to attend Mass, the cathedral downtown is just the place. The church is decorated beautifully. You can head to the Alligator Farm Zoo in St. Augustine to make it a full day trip.

St. Augustine, FL
Admission: No fees to walk around Old Town or the fort, although you’ll have to pay for tickets to Castillo San Marcos and any of the attractions in town.

Two girls walking along a path next to stone fort wall

Where would you choose to go in Florida on the Atlantic Coast?

Get Up Close to Gators, Goats, Birds and More at Wild Florida

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If a trip to Central Florida is in your family’s future, consider a stop at Wild Florida, a gator-themed park that has lots of unique experiences for your family. KAG’s Kristina has the scoop. 

There is a lot to do in the Orlando area besides the theme parks. One such adventure is Wild Florida, less than an hour from downtown Orlando. The park is home to lots of alligators, crocodiles, snakes, a Florida panther, birds, and our favorite – goats. The park also has airboat rides on the nearby lake, the headwaters of the Everglades, as well as a drive-thru safari and unique animal experiences. We only did the gator park so that is what this review will cover. 

Find a place to stay in Orlando, FL. This article contains Stay22 affiliate links.

Alligators and Crocs

Even though South Carolina has alligators, they (thankfully) aren’t located in the Upstate so I’m not too familiar with their characteristics and lifestyles. Wild Florida does a great job of educating their guests on all things gator and croc-related with boards around the park explaining different facts about them. There are also gator feedings twice a day and a place where you can feed smaller ones yourselves. 

We got to see the exotic animal show when we went to Wild Florida, which was super interesting. The guide brought out a blue-tongued skink, a Burmese python, and an American alligator. The crowd loved learning about the animals and seeing them up close. Reptiles have lots of cool facts about them and seeing them up close like that was enjoyable for my kids, especially since they are homeschooled and we are learning about animals like these currently in our studies. 

There are several enclosures throughout Wild Florida that house alligators, including two albino ones. You can walk over a wooden walkway to see tons of alligators right below you in the lagoon – terrifying and fascinating. 

Birds, snakes, and lemurs

Wild Florida has several different snakes at the park like the copperhead, pygmy rattlesnake and even a King Cobra. They also have an enormous Burmese python, which are invasive species in the Everglades just a couple hours south. I love anything having to do with python hunters so seeing one up close was pretty neat. 

They also have a neat aviary where you can walk through a bird enclosure and feed the birds from a stick (there’s a small fee to buy one). There are so many gorgeous birds in the aviary so walking through was quite the memorable experience. 

Several lemurs are at the park, which my kids loved. They are pretty cute I have to say. Other exotic animals live at Wild Florida, many of which have been rescued or donated if their owners couldn’t care for them. 

Petting Zoo

While my kids, ages 9 and 6, enjoyed all the animals at Wild Florida, the petting zoo was our favorite. The park allows you to walk into the big, fenced in space where there are lots of goats and even some baby goats! You can buy food to feed them or just go in and get happy playing with them. 

Readers at Kidding Around Greenville know how obsessed we are with goats so this part of the park was especially awesome. The goats are very friendly and the babies were adorable. It was a lot of fun to play these animals. 

There is also a small cow and large tortoise here plus some peacocks, although we didn’t see anyone trying to pet them. 

Manageable Size

I thought the size of Wild Florida was not too big but also not too small, a very Goldilocks-esque kind of park . There is plenty to see and do plus an on-site restaurant and lots of areas to sit and enjoy a meal.

We spent around two hours there and would have spent more time except that it was brutally hot.  The park had fans and mists everywhere but Florida heat can be oppressive so be sure to hydrate well when you’re there. 

You can add on an airboat ride to your park ticket as well as the drive-thru safari. 

If you want to take a break, there is a shaded playground near the alligator lagoon, which makes for a nice rest.

COVID-10 policies

In accordance with local regulations, masks are mandatory all throughout the park, both indoors and outdoors. 

There are hand sanitizing stations all throughout the park. 

Admission

Admission to the gator park alone is $10/adults (ages 13+) and $8/kids. Follow them on Facebook for special deals. When we went, they were doing a promotion where you got free admission if you donated canned goods to the park.

Wild Florida has several Animal Encounter packages for guests, most of which require kids to be at least 12 years old. You can see what they offer and prices here.

Airboat rides start at $30.50/adults and $27.50/kids. And the drive-thru safari is $29/adult and $20/child. You can also combine experiences with Adventure Packages and they do offer transportation from some parts of Florida.

The park is open daily from 9 am – 6 pm.

Wild Florida
3301 Lake Cypress Rd, Kenansville, FL
407.957.3135

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