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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am going to be heading to Florida here shortly, I will be around the Orlando area. Is there any recommendations on things I should do or go see? Also what is the best beaches around that area? I have heard from others to head to the gulf beaches, that they are better and are worth the longer drive. Any suggestions? Thanks.
 

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How Long are you going to be there and how far do you want to drive. When you say around Orlando were are you talking about. I live just north west of Orlando 45 mins for a year an half.
 

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Are you taking the wife? kids?

Cape Canaveral, the Kennedy Space Center, is cool. Hit it and then go down the coast.
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
I am going to be there about 5 days. It will be just me and the wife. We have all the airfare set up. Really don't have hotels yet. I have a tradeshow for 2 days of that though right in Orlando.

My wife would love to take an airboat ride to see some alligators. Any recommendations there? I am also interested in seeing fern Hammock springs.

We don't mind driving anywhere. I would like to keep it a few hrs. out from Orlando. Thanks
 

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We used to vacation in Florida every year. Up in the panhandle area...Pensacola, Destin, etc. the beaches are awesome and the water is warm. You will definitely want to hit the beach for a day. Universal Studio's used to be pretty cool, I haven't been there in a while though. As far as gators and airboats...maybe the everglades? Plenty of gators in Florida.
 
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We saw the Gators in the orange groves on the ride out to the space center a few years back.
Space Center was very interesting.
Universal was fun as well.
 

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This time of year you may have to go south for the gators. While it isn't cold it is cold enough towards the north that the gators might not be that active.

I was north of the Tampa area 10 years ago around Christmas time and while I saw a lot of signs that there were gators around I never did see one. I do have to admit that the beaches on the Gulf coast were nice.
 

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I've spent a lot of time in Florida over the years. My brother and folks both live there, just north of Tampa. Gators are easy to see. Find a pond and you'll find a gator. My folks lived in a retirement community and there were 12-15 resident gators in the little 4 acre pond there. Signs everywhere to keep your fru fru dog close on a leash. hehe. I've been there all times of year and always found gators with very little effort.

Our favorite place to go is the Crystal River. It is where hundreds of manatees come in from the gulf to spend the winter. The best place to start is Homosassa Springs State Park and Preserve. They've got gators there as well. But the main draw are the manatees. Lots of great places to see them. You can also rent a little john boat for a couple of hours for $25 if you want to head on over and see them really up close. Great local food joints there too with great southern bbq. It is on the gulf coast, but like 2 hours from Orlando, depending on where in Orlando you are. It is my #1 favorite place to visit in Florida. (I've still not been down to the Everglades though - need to go for sure. But that is farther than you'll have time to drive). If you want, there are several guide services that will rent wet suits and snorkles and will take you out to get in the water with the manatees as well. Those are really fun too. We've done that with a guide, and also on our own several times. Either way is really cool.

I'd also add a +1 to going to the Space Center. It is the only place of its kind in the country. Worth the price of admission for sure. And if you look, you'll see gators in the many ponds on the road out to the Space Center.

So with your time considerations - one day at the Space Center and one day at Crystal River/Homosassa Springs would be ideal.

As for beaches, either side is great, but are different. The weather will clearly be warmer than here right now, but not great hanging out at the beach kind of weather. On the Gulf, the water is warmer, and more calm. Most of the Gulf beaches have no surf at all. Which is really cool if you snorkle because you can just go out and float and check out all the fish, look for shells or shark teeth. We love love love the Gulf beaches. The Atlantic beaches are colder, most have a fair enough surf, and will be more windy. Beautiful for sure. If you to to the Space Center, you can hit the Space Center in the morning and then take an afternoon walk down on Coco Beach.

Of course there are the theme parks in Orlando. We've done a few week long visits to the Disney complex and love it. If you only had one day, I'd recommend Epcot Center. Great food, and just different stuff than you'll find at the California parks. I've not done Universal Studios or SeaWorld Florida.

One last thought - I had a similar work thing in Tampa several years ago. A 3 day training thing. A week before, I found some super cheap last minute cruise tickets for a quick 3 night cruise on Disney Cruise Lines. So I took my wife and we did the 3 night cruise. It was SUPER fun. We went to Nassua Bahamas, and then spent a day at Disney's private Island. That was a ton of fun for sure. And last minute, you can get some screaming deals - I think I got ours on Hotwire.

Hope this helps though. We LOVE LOVE LOVE Florida. We will have a retirement home there one day. I was THIS CLOSE to buying a building lot on Crystal River several years ago, but then got laid off the week before we were to close on the property, dagnabbit!
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I've spent a lot of time in Florida over the years. My brother and folks both live there, just north of Tampa. Gators are easy to see. Find a pond and you'll find a gator. My folks lived in a retirement community and there were 12-15 resident gators in the little 4 acre pond there. Signs everywhere to keep your fru fru dog close on a leash. hehe. I've been there all times of year and always found gators with very little effort.

Our favorite place to go is the Crystal River. It is where hundreds of manatees come in from the gulf to spend the winter. The best place to start is Homosassa Springs State Park and Preserve. They've got gators there as well. But the main draw are the manatees. Lots of great places to see them. You can also rent a little john boat for a couple of hours for $25 if you want to head on over and see them really up close. Great local food joints there too with great southern bbq. It is on the gulf coast, but like 2 hours from Orlando, depending on where in Orlando you are. It is my #1 favorite place to visit in Florida. (I've still not been down to the Everglades though - need to go for sure. But that is farther than you'll have time to drive). If you want, there are several guide services that will rent wet suits and snorkles and will take you out to get in the water with the manatees as well. Those are really fun too. We've done that with a guide, and also on our own several times. Either way is really cool.

I'd also add a +1 to going to the Space Center. It is the only place of its kind in the country. Worth the price of admission for sure. And if you look, you'll see gators in the many ponds on the road out to the Space Center.

So with your time considerations - one day at the Space Center and one day at Crystal River/Homosassa Springs would be ideal.

As for beaches, either side is great, but are different. The weather will clearly be warmer than here right now, but not great hanging out at the beach kind of weather. On the Gulf, the water is warmer, and more calm. Most of the Gulf beaches have no surf at all. Which is really cool if you snorkle because you can just go out and float and check out all the fish, look for shells or shark teeth. We love love love the Gulf beaches. The Atlantic beaches are colder, most have a fair enough surf, and will be more windy. Beautiful for sure. If you to to the Space Center, you can hit the Space Center in the morning and then take an afternoon walk down on Coco Beach.

Of course there are the theme parks in Orlando. We've done a few week long visits to the Disney complex and love it. If you only had one day, I'd recommend Epcot Center. Great food, and just different stuff than you'll find at the California parks. I've not done Universal Studios or SeaWorld Florida.

One last thought - I had a similar work thing in Tampa several years ago. A 3 day training thing. A week before, I found some super cheap last minute cruise tickets for a quick 3 night cruise on Disney Cruise Lines. So I took my wife and we did the 3 night cruise. It was SUPER fun. We went to Nassua Bahamas, and then spent a day at Disney's private Island. That was a ton of fun for sure. And last minute, you can get some screaming deals - I think I got ours on Hotwire.

Hope this helps though. We LOVE LOVE LOVE Florida. We will have a retirement home there one day. I was THIS CLOSE to buying a building lot on Crystal River several years ago, but then got laid off the week before we were to close on the property, dagnabbit!
Thank you for the heads up! I will definitely look into those places. That Crystal River sounds great.
Do you have to have a passport for those short cruises?
 

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Thank you for the heads up! I will definitely look into those places. That Crystal River sounds great.
Do you have to have a passport for those short cruises?
They say you do, but you don't. They don't check them at Nassua, which is a pretty popular cruise port for many cruise lines. They have 25,000 get off a cruise ship every morning there, and there is just no way to check passports. Check with the cruise line though. Some may or may not require it. We showed ours when we checked in initially, but never used them again.
 

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Here are some links or places we like in Crystal River:
Homosassa Springs State Park
https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Homosassa-Springs
Crackers Bar and Grill - right on Crystal River - good food
http://www.crackersbarandgrill.com/
Guide for manatee tour - This is the guide we went with
http://swimmingwiththemanatees.com/
Boat Rentals we've used are at Crystal Lodge Dive Center. You could rent a john boat, kayaks, or other stuff. Really cool stuff.
http://www.manatee-central.com/
They also do guided tours to go see the manatees.

This is THE BEST time of year for seeing the manatees. There will be hundreds of them in King's Bay, at both Crystal Spring, and Three Sisters Spring. We've stayed at the Comfort Inn in Crystal River (because I had hotel points for there). It was what you'd expect. Like I said, we've taken our kids there several times. On the trips where we've spent a week at Disney, we've always done a day at Crystal River, and it has been THE favorite for the kids and for us - more so than the amusement parks.
 
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Spent a week in the keys 3 years ago. Rented a house in marathon for a week. Just hung out and wandered around. Was a bunch of fun. Will do it again if the chance comes up.
Very enjoyable.
Fishing was great, food was fantastic. Hit the gronc festival. Great party.......
Had manatees right at our boat slip. Would roll up and let us pet them.
 

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Sounds super cool 2full. I've not been to the Keys. SOOOOOOO want to go though. For sure on the list of things to do.
 

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I've spent a lot of time in Florida over the years. My brother and folks both live there, just north of Tampa. Gators are easy to see. Find a pond and you'll find a gator. My folks lived in a retirement community and there were 12-15 resident gators in the little 4 acre pond there. Signs everywhere to keep your fru fru dog close on a leash. hehe. I've been there all times of year and always found gators with very little effort.

Our favorite place to go is the Crystal River. It is where hundreds of manatees come in from the gulf to spend the winter. The best place to start is Homosassa Springs State Park and Preserve. They've got gators there as well. But the main draw are the manatees. Lots of great places to see them. You can also rent a little john boat for a couple of hours for $25 if you want to head on over and see them really up close. Great local food joints there too with great southern bbq. It is on the gulf coast, but like 2 hours from Orlando, depending on where in Orlando you are. It is my #1 favorite place to visit in Florida. (I've still not been down to the Everglades though - need to go for sure. But that is farther than you'll have time to drive). If you want, there are several guide services that will rent wet suits and snorkles and will take you out to get in the water with the manatees as well. Those are really fun too. We've done that with a guide, and also on our own several times. Either way is really cool.

I'd also add a +1 to going to the Space Center. It is the only place of its kind in the country. Worth the price of admission for sure. And if you look, you'll see gators in the many ponds on the road out to the Space Center.

So with your time considerations - one day at the Space Center and one day at Crystal River/Homosassa Springs would be ideal.

As for beaches, either side is great, but are different. The weather will clearly be warmer than here right now, but not great hanging out at the beach kind of weather. On the Gulf, the water is warmer, and more calm. Most of the Gulf beaches have no surf at all. Which is really cool if you snorkle because you can just go out and float and check out all the fish, look for shells or shark teeth. We love love love the Gulf beaches. The Atlantic beaches are colder, most have a fair enough surf, and will be more windy. Beautiful for sure. If you to to the Space Center, you can hit the Space Center in the morning and then take an afternoon walk down on Coco Beach.

Of course there are the theme parks in Orlando. We've done a few week long visits to the Disney complex and love it. If you only had one day, I'd recommend Epcot Center. Great food, and just different stuff than you'll find at the California parks. I've not done Universal Studios or SeaWorld Florida.

One last thought - I had a similar work thing in Tampa several years ago. A 3 day training thing. A week before, I found some super cheap last minute cruise tickets for a quick 3 night cruise on Disney Cruise Lines. So I took my wife and we did the 3 night cruise. It was SUPER fun. We went to Nassua Bahamas, and then spent a day at Disney's private Island. That was a ton of fun for sure. And last minute, you can get some screaming deals - I think I got ours on Hotwire.

Hope this helps though. We LOVE LOVE LOVE Florida. We will have a retirement home there one day. I was THIS CLOSE to buying a building lot on Crystal River several years ago, but then got laid off the week before we were to close on the property, dagnabbit!
This^^^
Crystal river and Rainbow river. You can do a kayak trip down the Rainbow and see a lot of cool animals. Very easy lazy river.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
We are staying in Port Richey a couple days, and we are going to Crystal Springs. I can't wait. We are going to try and float the river.
 
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