On our way down to Cedar Key, we made a stop at Wakulla Springs, a nostalgic and worthwhile laid-back tourist attraction. The riverboat tour at Wakulla Springs State Park is the perfect introduction to the wild flora and fauna of north Florida.
It couldn’t have been better. Our tour guide entertained us with a song and dance routine about alligators before we took off from the dock. Sure enough, we saw plenty of alligators. As the weather has warmed up, the gators have emerged from dormancy and their mud holes. The cruise also served as desensitization therapy for our real-life alligator adventures later in the week.
Culture In Gainesville
As much as we love nature, we also enjoy art, music, and other cultural events. We got a good infusion of culture in Gainesville, including museums and gourmet dining.
On a very stormy day, we went to brunch at The Paramount Grille (delicious crab cakes Benedict made with local blue crab) followed by an afternoon at the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Harn Museum of Art. We especially loved the natural history museum—it’s well worth a visit, even on a sunny day. Located near the University of Florida in Gainesville, both of the museums are in the Cultural Plaza. Admission to both is free.
We spent the afternoon exploring the museums, and barely scratched the surface of all that’s offered. A magnificent butterfly and moth collection is beautifully displayed in the natural history museum. There’s also a butterfly rainforest, which we didn’t visit because of the inclement weather. Odd as it seems, it was too stormy for a rainforest visit.
In the art museum, one of the most spectacular pieces was an enormous wall hanging by El Anatsui, an artist from Ghana. The stunningly beautiful piece is crafted entirely from discarded liquor bottle caps.
The Ichetucknee River
On a gorgeous day, we kayaked the Ichetucknee River. It’s one of our favorite rivers in north central Florida. This time, in addition to plentiful herons, egrets, and turtles, we were fortunate to encounter a mama and baby manatee, which lazily swam under and around our kayaks.
We ended the day in the pretty town of High Springs (just a few miles from Ichetucknee State Park) where we enjoyed a delicious meal at The Great Outdoors Restaurant, accompanied by terrific live music. Florida has surprised us with the abundance of live music—and good musicians. It seems that just about everywhere we go we’re finding plenty of venues to enjoy great music.
You are giving us many more ideas for places to visit in Florida. We love nature but having opportunities to take in cultural events is a plus. We are adding this area to the list. Thanks!
There’s so much more here to explore — we can’t wait to return! We both enjoy exploring both nature and culture wherever we travel. It seems to round out the experience for us.
More great pictures of places we’ve been bringing back wonderful memories and the desire to go again. We too were very impressed with Gainesville. Did you do the bike trail there? Very nice. LOVE the Ichetucknee!! In fact with all the development on the beautiful Rainbow River I prefer the Ichetucknee. Terrific Manatee shots. Sure wish we were traveling around with you guys. Love every place you went! And Marjorie Rawlings home in Cross Creek is an absolute favorite. Can’t wait to see your pictures which will put mine to shame AGAIN! :-)
Yes, Sherry, we did do the bike trail, but not until the following week. You are doing a much better job of keeping up with your blog in “real time” than I am with ours. It’s interesting to know that you prefer the Ichetucknee — it’s our favorite so far, too, but you’ve kayaked far more rivers in Florida than we have. Your blog posts about your manatee experiences have been making me want to cross the state and come hang out with you!
It is so great to see you four having so much fun!
Time for you to join us! We miss you guys!
You had me at crab benedict…and then El Anatsui and live local music….but whoa…you had to add manatee mama and baby….Oh you lucky lucky ones! I am there thanks to your pics and fine commentary!
We do feel so fortunate in our travels and adventures. Somehow I knew you would appreciate the work of El Anatsui, and to find out yesterday that you’ve seen two of his exhibitions! Lucky you — I would love to see more of his work. Maybe somewhere in our travels. And maybe with you!
It’s always fun to have options when the weather is less than agreeable for outdoor activities and taking in some culture is the perfect venue. Looks like some interesting sites to see in FL :-)
You’re right, Ingrid, it’s good to have options—especially when we’re in a 21 foot trailer! It can get really small when the weather is bad.
Manatees! What a bonus sighting. I like your travel style, thanks for sharing.
It was delightful seeing the manatees — maybe you could join us for some adventures in Florida next year?
Yeah, we enjoyed our Wakulla Springs River cruise. As a matter of fact we saw mating manatees.
We tend to forget the cultural side of our adventure for we focused too much on nature. But glad you are able to do it and share with us. Thank you.
So happy you enjoyed Wakulla Springs. And wow, mating manatees! Never seen that.
Let’s say this is ONE of the many Grand Tours… and you guys are definitely the best tour guides ever!!! I’m wondering if you’re on the Ichetucknee today? That’s one amazing slice of the trip I loved! Being in the presence of the Mama & Baby manatees is an experience I’ll always remember. Whenever I want to feel peace in my heart I think of them.
Wish we were with you…enjoy the day!
Oh, I wish so much you were with us, too! We’re heading out onto the river this afternoon. xo