When you click through from our site to a retailer and buy a product, we may earn affiliate commissions. This helps support our work, but does not affect what we cover or how, and it does not affect the price you pay.
The Florida Manatee Festival is presented by the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce and has been in running for the past thirty-four years.
According to the Citrus County Chronicle readers, the Florida Manatee Festival was consistently chosen as the Best of Best Festivals in Florida. More than 20,000 people each year flock to Historic downtown Crystal River to be a part of this event.
Celebrated with food, music, entertainment, and frivolity for residents and visitors alike, the Florida Manatee festival is cherished by everyone. It is one of the few places in the world where you can have the amazing experience of swimming with manatees in their natural habitat.
1. Why is the Florida Manatee Festival Celebrated?
Every year the winter period around December end to January, it starts to chill across the country and the dropping temperatures of Florida’s Coastal water triggers the migration of a large population of manatees to the warmer river waters. Florida has been blessed with comfortable temperatures year-round. Therefore the inland waters of the Sunshine State stay warm and attract a variety of species for migration.
Manatees, the adorable creatures are one of them. Manatees are largely aquatic and herbivorous marine animals that are referred to as “Sea cows”. Their natural habitat is in the Tropical Atlantic Coasts and estuaries. One of their distinct features is the rounded tail and paddle-like flippers.
The manatees also migrate to the Sonshine States inland river making Florida the best place to view them.
The Florida Manatee Festival gives the visitors a chance to have a glimpse of these gentle giants resting in their natural habitat in large numbers. This festival is dedicated to these cuties, and a perfect opportunity to check them out!
These giant creatures can be spotted in many inland water locations of Florida but the Crystal River has been the prime destination for more than thirty years. The Crystal River was named so because of its Crystal clear water which is perfect for viewing the wildlife blooming underwater.
Every year, the Florida Manatee Festival takes place for two days on the weekend around mid-January across the city’s entire Downtown. People can celebrate two wonderful days full of music, crafts, spring tours, food, and a lot more.
2. Food at Florida Manatee Festival
The food stalls at the Florida Manatee Festival feature a broad array of international cuisines. Two food courts set at the venue serve you a wide variety of delights starting from fresh seafood, local barbecues, and many more authentic and renowned cuisines.
At the Beer and Wines garden, you can select any type of food you like from a selection of thirty-eight vendors on the count according to 2019’s record. There are food trucks and stations, booths, and trailers, and International Alley featuring Riviera Mexican Cuisine, Old World Creeps, and Bangkok Style Thai foods.
There are several delicious snacks to chose from, like ice creams, honey puffs, candy floss, salty popcorns, sweet kettle corns, pretzels, and donuts. You can relish all the varieties sitting under the sun or roaming around the beautiful venue. The menu list items go on for pizzas, sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, tacos, crepes, fresh seafood, and many more!
All this means that if you are a foodie, you are definitely in luck!
3. Music at Florida Manatee Festival
During the festival, the sound of music fills the surrounding air with fun and frolic. Several different musicians s spread around the whole Downtown. All kinds of musical guests, from DJs, drummers and violinists, and acoustic artists grace the event with their presence.
The musicians performing on the four different stages, namely King’s Bay Park Waterfront Stage, Park Gazebo Stage, Heritage House Hippie Village Stage, and King’s Bay Park Bandshell, will fill you with enthusiasm and happiness.
You’ll find twenty-three live bands and outstanding musicians playing amazing music from different genres for everyone’s appeal, several dance troops performing on the stages, throughout the weekend.
4. Florida Manatee Festival Boat Tours
There are a couple of ways to explore the manatees up close, one of them being the boat rides. Those who want to see the manatees a little closer and explore the beauty of the Three Sisters Spring can opt for boat rides. The Manatee Eco-Tourism, in collaboration with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, has presented the visitors with an amazing opportunity to get out on the water for having a clear view of the manatees.
These organized pontoon boats will let you have a close-up view of these beautiful creatures. These boat rides last for thirty minutes, the pickup point being City Pier at the end of N.E. Third Street to the King’s Bay. These tours are generally available only on weekends, starting from 9:30 am till 4:30 pm on Saturday and starting from 9:30 am till 3:30 pm on Sunday.
The pontoon boat rides cost $10 per adult, and for children in the age group of 6-12 years, it costs $5. These manatees are interactive and curious creatures you are going to enjoy the pontoon ride a lot!
5. Other things to do at the Florida Manatee Festival
Apart from delicious food, relishing music, and amazing pontoon boat rides, swimming with manatees, there are a lot more things to do at the Florida Manatee Festival. If you love manatees and want to have a close look or even touch them, you’ll be surprised to know that you can swim with them.
For this, you have to go for snorkel tours on Crystal rivers and enjoy swimming with these cute manatees. Manatees are big, cute, and very friendly creatures. When you swim with them, you’ll have to hill down to their speed because they swim at a very slow pace. They are so sure that you will soon establish a connection with them.
If you don’t stress them, they will even come up to you for scratching their bellies. They love it! If they like you scratching, a few minutes later you will feel a nudge on your side, and the same manatee will be there wanting more.
Those who want to stay dry and save a little money can opt for free bus tours. Conducted in cooperation with the City of Crystal River and Friends of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, the visitors have been enjoying boarding the free bus tours to Three Sister Springs for the past eight years.
These bus rides take you on a wonderful journey around the springs and to the boardwalk. These tours run throughout the festival weekends allowing the festival-goers to relish the view of manatees swimming in their natural winter habitat.
The visitors can board the tour buses from the corner of N.W. 1st Avenue and N.E. 5th Street. These buses run throughout the festival on both days till 3:30 pm on Saturdays and 2:30 pm Sundays. There is no requirement for tickets, the buses are boarded on a first come first serve basis.
There are many amazing things for kids to enjoy, like face painting, crafts, and various games. All this is included in the Kids Zone. There is an Adventure Zone with thrilling activities like trampolines, bouncy castles, rock climbing, and VR Racing. The festival-goers can appreciate the offerings of fine arts and craft artisans set up in beautiful stalls.
The event features more than one hundred twenty craft vendors offering a variety of creations. These include manatee and aquatic motivated art pieces, home decors and wood creations, jewelry, purse, pottery, and koozies, and a lot more.
The Heritage House Hippie Village Store offers antique pieces and sculptures that have old-school sensations. All those who are looking for some hippies vibes should make a stop here to shop for some wonderful items.
People can also rejoice in the experience of rolling in giant hamster balls. Zorbing in these giant plastic bubbles can be an amazing and hilarious memory and you can see the manatees from different angles.
To know more about the Florida Manatee Festival, read this article: Manatee Fest In Florida.
Suggestion Box: Here is Florida’s Largest beach festival: The Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival. Read the article to know about the fun facts and all the exciting activities that take place during this festival.
There is an amazing array of things to do and enjoy at the Florida Manatee Festival for foodies, craft lovers, music lovers, and a lot more. If you have got the manatee madness and want to be in love with these cute babies, even more, don’t give up the idea of visiting the Florida Manatee Festival if you get a chance!