While we love cruising, visiting theme parks, and exploring the big city, it’s always good to get back in touch with nature. I can’t imagine ever going on a full nature immersion vacation, but it’s always great to experience nature while on our trips. My kids enjoy learning, and my husband and I like to spend some of our vacation time outdoors. Looking to experience nature on your next family vacation? Here are 6 top family vacation destinations to experience nature.
Once a month, the local Audubon in Chandler, Arizona hosts a free bird watching event for families at the Veterans Oasis Park. Kids and adults are loaned binoculars, while the guide brings along a high-quality telescope. The guide points out various birds and helps kids find them in their binoculars or with the telescope. Guests can also walk through the park at their own pace, picking up a bird checklist at the onsite Environmental Education Center.
Although the Kissimmee/Orlando area is known for its fabulous theme parks, it’s also home to Shingle Creek at the headwaters of the Florida Everglades. Guests (and visitors) to the JW Marriott Grande Lakes can take a peaceful kayaking tour of Shingle Creek. Rather not paddle? You can take a scenic lake tour in Kissimmee to see birds, turtles, and alligators. You can also book an airboat tour.
Marco Island, Florida
Visitors to Marco Island, Florida shouldn’t miss the The Dolphin Study Eco-Tour and Cruise, the only Florida attraction featured in National Geographic’s 100 Places That Can Change Your Child’s Life. The three-hour eco-tour and cruise, led by a naturalist, educates families on dolphins as well as the wildlife and habitats of the area (including osprey nests). On our tour, we saw somewhere between 13 and 18 different dolphins, including the playful one pictured above. Kids have the opportunity to identify the different dolphins by comparing their fins to the dolphin photos a book on board the ship. The ship also stops at a small island for shelling.
Home to both Stingray City and the Cayman Turtle Farm Island Wildlife Adventure, Grand Cayman is a great place to experience nature. Start your day with a boat trip to Stingray City, where fisherman used to discard unwanted fish parts. Now, the stingrays congregate in this chest-high water, and tourists can pet them and pose for photos. Then, head to the Cayman Turtle Farm Island Wildlife Adventure where you can learn about breeding sea turtles and even snorkel among them.
The gateway to the Panhandle Section of the Great Birding Trail, Tallahassee offers 68,000 acres along the Gulf Coast, and is also a spot for viewing the monarch butterfly migration in October. With their new website, Trailahassee.com, you can find out more about the the 600 miles of hiking, biking, running, paddling and equestrian trails in the area. The site includes interactive maps, GPS functionality, and can be viewed on mobile devices.
Be sure to visit Wakulla Springs State Park, which offers a 1930s-era lodge and dining call. You can also take a jungle boat cruise on the Wakulla River and spot the local wildlife.
Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana
Visit the 180 miles of the Creole Nature Trail All-American Road, also known as Louisiana’s Outback. There you can see over 400 species of birds, saltwater marshes, and alligators (they outnumber humans 10 to 1). Tourists can call ahead to book private marshland tours with Airboats & Alligators near Grand Chenier, LA or Grosse Savanne Eco-tours in Bell City, LA.