Florida Manatee Festival
Crystal River, Florida
2nd weekend in January
Founded in 1988
The spring-fed Crystal River, with its nearly constant temperature all year round, is the winter home to the largest number of West Indian Manatees on the planet. So it's not surprising that the Florida Manatee Festival is held in the town of Crystal River smack in the middle of winter. This north-central Florida town has weather and crystal-clear waters that are perfect for festival goers as well as the gentle aquatic mammals the event commemorates.

Manatees congregate around many of the springs in the area. But Three-Sisters Spring is probably the most famous for manatee viewing. During the event, buses run continuously to transport attendees to and from the spring. A boardwalk provides close-up access to see manatees. Many people also kayak to the spring. The transportation to-and-from the springs is a free service provided by the City of Crystal River and with support from the Friends of the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

The Florida Manatee Festival is held in the streets of downtown Crystal River, spanning U.S. highway 19, and adjacent to Kings Bay. Two entertainment stages provide live music both days. One stage is next to the courthouse and Three Sisters Springs Center. The other is at Kings Bay Park, where there is also a wine & beer garden and food courts. Kings Bay boat tours depart from the park, and are available each day on a first-come first-served basis.

Families with children will enjoy the huge "Kid's Zone" that offers a wide variety of activities including bounce houses, rock wall, pony rides, etc. As with any event of this size, a large number of art and craft vendors have booths set up in the streets, many of which are closed to traffic during the festival. Shoppers will also enjoy Heritage Village ... a collection of shops in the historical area of Crystal River that is close to all the action.
Getting there ...
Additional resources
Note: The dates of annual events and festivals are subject to change from year to year. Before planning your trip, be sure to check the links above for the actual dates, times, and schedule of activities.