My family is coming up on almost a year since our big move down to Florida. It’s taken time to get used to new stores, restaurants and of course roadways and traffic patterns. As more time goes by we have started to feel a little more like locals and less like being on a long vacation. Recently we were talking with some neighbors and they told us about something that tourists obviously like to do, but it definitely a locals thing to check out.
About an hour away from our house we headed up to Blue Spring State Park. This is an area of central Florida where during few months out of the year manatees head towards the warmer waters.
We have seen manatees in captivity before at aquariums and zoos but the usually was only one or two in an exhibit. As you can see from the sign we came across this day there were 308 spotted in the waters. This was really going to be interesting.
There was a small fee of $6 for our car load to get into the park. Just like any state park there were nice wide open areas, and some hiking paths.
This park however also had some special viewing areas along the main pathway giving you various views of the manatees.
Seeing them in the wild was really unique. Plus the large number of them all in one place was also amazing.
The day was a little chilly when we visited, but we really took our time and enjoyed this special opportunity. At the end of the main pathway was a small gift shop and snack bar with some things like hot dogs, coffee, and hot chocolate. We eventually started to head back towards where our card was and came across the Thursby House.
As the sign says this house was built by Louis Thursday in 1872.
This house is set up like a small little museum. There is no cost to go inside and walk around but the upper floors are off-limits. Not sure if that’s all the time or just certain times of the year.
There is not a whole lot going on inside the house / museum. There is the kitchen full stocked in the back of the above picture but is behind glass so you can look but not touch.
In the main entry way just behind the stairwell I found a penny pincher machine. Before we headed on this trip I did check good ol’ pennycollector.com and knew about this machine ahead of time and came prepared. But as I always say you should keep a few extra sets of quarters and pennies in your car just in case. You never know when you may find an unexpected penny machine.
Once thing I noticed about this machine is that it had wheels on the bottom. I’m not sure if those are due to the machine always being moved around inside the house. But figured I would mention it as the machine may not be in the same location all the time.
This set of pennies pressed pretty well, but I do find these machines have a tendency to roll short. The designs included with this set are of a Manatee, Alligator, Bear and a Scuba diver. The last one I didn’t get, but did find out once I got home that during some times of the year you can go scuba diving in the lake but I don’t think it can be done when the manatees are around.
This place can get very busy during the manatee watching season so make sure to go early in the day or the park may be closed for capacity. This was really a wonderful true Florida experience. Our kids had a lot of fun and the manatees are really a strange but very special create. Make sure to bring some pennies to commemorate your visit and help spread the work of keeping manatees safe in the water.