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Crystal River Florida: The Small Town with a Big Heart

Crystal River Florida: The Small Town with a Big Heart

2 days after Christmas my little family and I headed south.

I have to be totally honest with you. I thought I was certifiable for loading everyone up to leave town just two days after Christmas was over.

I was anxious and doubting myself all the way up until we piled in the car and got out of dodge.

We were traveling from Louisville, Kentucky to Crystal River by car. Which, would be the only part of the trip that I would have done differently. It was a very long drive. But, until flights out of our airport are cheaper, we will continue to pile into the car for road trips!

When we arrived in town it was dark, so we checked into our hotel and headed for dinner and a good night’s sleep.

Plantation on Crystal River

We stayed at the Plantation on Crystal River, the trees that lined the driveway draped in Christmas lights was just what we needed to see after a very long day of driving. The genuine greeting and fantastic hospitality when I checked in, was a reassurance that I had made the right choice in taking my family out of town.

Plantation on Crystal River

The resort is spread over a well-manicured area with rooms dispersed across several buildings to either side of the building that houses the lobby and the on-site restaurant West 82.

Our room was in the building to the far right of the main building. Each of these sections are just 2 stories and not so large that it feels overwhelming. In fact, I found that I preferred the smaller feel of this resort.

The rooms seemed larger than a standard hotel room and were nicely appointed. The room that we were in had the ability to become an adjoining room which would come in very handy for families with older kids. We are just starting to get to the point with our two that a second room would come in handy, but it is nice to know that the option is there!

A Room at Plantation on Crystal River

Our first full day in town was packed full of exciting adventures that my family was so excited about.

A Family Bike Ride

First on our agenda was biking on the Withlacoochee (say that 3 times fast!) State Trail. We were set up with bikes at David’s World Cycle. The bikes at David’s are no joke.

Having never rented bikes before while on a trip, I didn’t really know what to expect. Honestly, I think that I was hoping for half-way decent bikes.

What we were given to ride were top of the line Trek bikes. The staff was knowledgeable about the bikes and the trails.

What I liked even more than their knowledge, was their willingness to fit all of us correctly! Even, my youngest (5) had a bike with training wheels!

Now, I don’t know how many bikes with training wheels they keep in stock on a regular basis so I would advise calling to check if they have a bike with training wheels available should you need one.

We set out on the trail which is 46 miles of paved path, that used to be a railroad track. In case you were wondering, we did not make it all 46 miles. Round trip my little family was able to do 6 miles. The paths were wide and very well maintained. Making our ride even better was the fact that on our ride we only encountered two or three places where we had to cross a road.

My kids had been asking since late November when the weather had gotten colder when they could ride their bikes, so it was very refreshing to be able to tell them that we were going on a family bike ride.

Our Airboat Tour

None of us had been on an airboat prior to our trip to Crystal River. Let me just say.

It was awesome!

Wild Bills Airboat Tours

We took an airboat tour with Wild Bill’s. The ride lasted for an hour and it seemed like it was over in just a matter of minutes!

The first part of our ride was slower paced and we got to see the wildlife in the area. In the warmer months, alligator watching is the name of the game. On this trip, we didn’t see any, and I learned this was because alligators become less active in the winter, almost to a hibernating state.

Our guide was knowledgeable about the wildlife that we saw, and he was willing to answer questions. My science seeking kid was soaking up every moment.

The second part of the airboat tour was geared for the adventure seeker. Our captain turned on the speed and my boys (and I) loved it!

Wild Bills Airboat Tour

Three Sisters Springs

There is a trolly that operates out of the city hall, taking its passengers to the springs. This was yet another instance of not being sure of what to expect.

I am so very glad that we made this trip. The springs just might be my favorite spot of the whole trip. When we arrived we were immediately greeted by a volunteer of the springs, she was friendly and knowledgeable and eager to show us around.

The springs are a haven for the manatees and a fantastic spot for a snorkeling adventure. When we visited there weren’t any manatees in the area, but that certainly didn’t take away from our enjoyment. I am quite sure that my husband and I remarked at least 2 times a piece that the springs would be our ideal spot for bringing a book and reading the day away. We didn’t get to experience the springs in this way because we had our kids in tow, but if we lived near the area you could bet that we would spend a large part of our free time enjoying the area.

Swimming with the manatees

The Plantation on Crystal River,  where we stayed,  also offers manatee excursions.

We were fortunate enough to take a manatee tour, and while seeing the manatees was something that we will never forget, the kindness of the two captains leading the tour was what stood out to my husband and I the most.

My youngest was too afraid to get into the water and my husband and I decided to take turns staying on the boat with him. Captian Greg wasn’t going to let us miss out on the adventure and since he was staying with the boat anyway, he offered to let our little guy hang with him. By the time we got back he had taught him how to call the osprey something he still does on a regular basis. Greg made such an impact on my little dude that he ended up naming one of his stuffed animals Captian Greg.

My oldest was excited to get into the water, but when the time came to hop it, it was very evident that nerves had overcome him. Captian John looked right at him and said that he could stick with him the entire time and that he did. My older dude likely got a better view of the manatees than anyone else on the tour because he was being shown these gentle giants by the Captian himself.

They both left the excursion chatting about how much fun they had and how they couldn’t wait to tell their friends. Sure, the manatees were awesome and something pretty amazing to see up close but that isn’t what made their trips the fantastic staff behind the excursion did.

Swimming with the manatees

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

While we were in town, we also visited and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. The park is a haven for animals that are species of Florida, except for their hippo, Lu who was a made an honorary resident.

We saw a wide variety of mammals, reptiles, and birds while we were visiting. The park’s setting was ideal and so beautiful. The part that I liked the most was that unlike similar type parks (think zoo’s) was that the size was very manageable. The size wasn’t overwhelming and while we didn’t stay for the entire day, the park could be done by taking your time and really observing the animals and lingering longer.


Fort Island Gulf Beach

We capped off our trip by taking the boys to the little beach that was just down the road from the resort. When we stepped out of the car, I immediately fell in love. The beach area is not huge and that is what I loved about it. I could see the entire area from my vantage point on the sand, and I didn’t feel like I needed to be right on top of my kiddos.

A recent hurricane took out the picnic tables that were located under the pavilions scattered along the beach, but once those are back this spot is the perfect place to spend the day and bring a picnic lunch.

The water wasn’t quite warm enough to go past dipping your toes in, but the sand was like a welcome friend for the boys and they immediately set off building their creations, racing the sun to get the finishing touches done to their castle.

Our family had a fantastic time while we were visiting, and we love finding towns like Crystal River. Have you been to Crystal River Florida before?


Small town charm of Crystal River Florida

Best Beaches for Families | Family Vacations U.S.

Monday 1st of January 2018

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