Where: Crystal River is located about an hour north of Tampa Airport on the west coast of Florida. It is also about 1 1/2 hours west from Orlando airport.
What: It is one of 2 places that you can legally interact with manatees, as long as the manatee initiates the contact.
When: Manatees need warm water. So most of the year they are out feeding in the oceans, bays and rivers, but in the winter when the water temperature drops they come into King spring and Three sisters spring were the water is a few dergrees warmer and more comfortable. There are a few year round resisdents to this area but in the winter there can be up to 200 manatees huddled around the springs like a campfire.
Who: This is a great trip for people from ages 5 and up. For people with a sense of adventure and a love of animals. Great family side trip from Disney world.
Times: Most operators leave between 7am-8am and are back by lunch.
What you need to bring: Just a bath suit and a towel (Jacket in winter) . There are a few tour operators that provide the boat, captain, guide, wetsuit, mask and snorkel. You can bring your own gear but it is not nessesary. I also recommend a Camera and/or and underwater camera such as a gopro. You will have plenty of topside and underwater photo ops. You can also rent a boat and do some exploring on your own.
Bonus: Make sure to stop and visit crystal clear Rainbow Springs State Park less then 30 mins away. You can kayak, snorkel or scuba dive the river. You will see turtles, bass and plenty of birds. If you are luck you can see a river otter.