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Florida style outdoors Christmas


Every year we head south to visit our extended family in Florida. This year it will be our 10th Christmas in Florida. When asking my 7 year old what is our Christmas tradition she said  “Swimming with manatees in Florida.”

Every Christmas Eve, we wake up early and get on a boat to spend the day on the Crystal River with our Florida family. We are up early because the best chance to see manatees is sunrise, especially during the winter months when manatees gather up in Three Sisters Springs to stay warm. This is a protected place warmed by the spring waters constant 22°C (72°F) temperature. According to manatee experts, the best weather for viewing is after a cold front moves through central Florida and the manatees congregate in these warm spring areas.

After anchoring the boat near the entrance of the spring, we quietly slip into the water and swim together to the spring’s entrance. (You are not allowed to enter until sunrise) We keep our group together to make sure we everyone is ok and swimming well and ready for a 4m (13ft) 590kg (1,300 lbs) animal glide up to you.


Swimming in Three Sisters is a magical experience every time; not just because of the manatees, but the beauty of the crystal clear water surrounded by cypress trees around the shore. We look for manatees, observe and try to be quiet and definitely not splash. Both my kids know not to touch or chase manatees but wait for the ones that come to you. It is not only the law (manatees are a federally protected animial) it is important to their heath and survival as the last thing you want to do is chase them away from the warm waters. The pay off is when a curious one comes along you can find yourself eye to eye with one of these gentle giants.


After our swim we will continue exploring Crystal River by boat and canoe. We find our secret spot and have a Christmas Eve picnic together as a family year.

Do you have an outdoor family Christmas to share ?

Facts about swimming with manatees in Crystal River

* Best times to swim with manatees are between November – March.

* The Springs of Three Sisters is one of the most popular spot to swim with manatees. If you want to swim with them you need to get there by boat, canoe or paddleboard from one of the area shops.

* The best way is to book a tour with one of the many-guided tours you can take in Crystal River.

* Early morning is always the best way for the ultimate manatees experience.

* Be respectful of the manatees don’t chase and touch them.

* You have to be ok with being in the water for one hour in the water. You are not allowed to go on the shore. Good swimming skills are essentials for this activity and also you will get more out of the activity.

* Crystal River is two hours from Orlando and Tampa.



Looking for stocking stuffers for active kids ?

Check out our safety reflectors






Check out more stories about familes celebrating outdoor Christmas:

Outdoor Christmas Stories from familes 

Cottage Christmas with Rhonda in Ontario.

How to celebrate an Outdoor Christmas by Tanya

Happy Holidays !

Let us know do you celebrate Christmas connected to the outdoors ?


About Kari:


Kari Svenneby is a freelance travel and outdoor writer and speaker, She is also an entrepreneur of her own line of European style Safety Reflectors.'s safety reflectors are distrubuted to stores in Toronto and sold online.



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