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Winter 2024 manatee festivals in Crystal River & Orange City

Two large manatee festivals celebrate Florida’s beloved manatee every January – one in Orange City and one in Crystal River.  A smaller event takes place in West Palm Beach in March.

All are good best places in the state to see manatees in clear water and in great numbers.

The two January manatee festivals draws thousands of people. The West Palm Beach event is smaller.

Manatee
Florida Manatee Festivals take place in locations where manatee congregate in clear spring waters.

2024 Crystal River Manatee Festival

  • When: Jan. 13-14, 2024
  • Where: Downtown Crystal River, at the intersection of Citrus Avenue and U.S. 19, stretching up through the shops and restaurants of Heritage Village and surrounding areas, down to the waterside area along King’s Bay.
  • Admission: Donations are $10 for adults; children 12 and under free. (Look for a coupon good for $5 admission on Sunday in the Citrus County Chronicle.)
Three Sisters Spring (Photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service)
Three Sisters Spring filled with manatees (Photo courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Features of the Crystal River Manatee Festival

  • The 2024 festival brings with it a series of programs offered by the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge staff and volunteers at Three Sisters Spring each day. These include a bird tour at 9:30 a.m., a wetland tour at 11 a.m., a manatee program at 12:30 p.m. and “Beyond the Boardwalk” at 2 p.m.
  • There are also events at the Crystal River NWR Visitor Center, including talks at 10:30 a.m. by wildlife experts both days and on Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m.
  • There are two stages with live entertainment each day plus an art fair, kids zone and food, wine and beer gardens.
  • The key event is visiting nearby Three Sisters Spring, where manatees are easy to see and watch in the clear spring water. The last bus departs for Three Sisters Springs at ​3:30 p.m. Whereas admission to the boardwalk at Three Sisters is normally, $15, it is free during the festival. The shuttles pickup and drop off near the festival entry gate on 5th Street.
  • Manatee Boat Tours will be available from the City Pier at the end of Third Street. The half-hour tours will take you out into Kings Bay and other favorite hangouts of the manatees. There is a separate ticket: Adults $15, ages 6 to 12 $10; 5 and under free.
  • Guided kayak tours are offered both days. On the one-hour tours, you’ll paddle through King’s Bay to see manatees at their own level. Tickets are $15 per kayaker and can be purchased in advance on the manatee festival’s website.
  • Here is parking information for the festival.
  • Festival’s official site
  • Find a Hotel in Crystal River

2024 Orange City Blue Spring Manatee Festival 

  • When: Jan. 27-28, 2024
  • Where:  Valentine Park, West French Avenue off of Highway 17-92.
  • Admission: $10 for adults and $2 for children 4 to 10. Children 3 and under are free. (Dogs: $10)
  • The main attraction at the Orange City Manatee Festival are free shuttle buses to the Blue Spring State Park for manatee viewing.
  • Other activities include arts and crafts booths,  face-painting, dancing and rides. Games include a rock climbing wall, bungee jumping and a balloon man shooting gallery.
  • The event benefits the Friends of Blue Spring State Park, scholarships and other Orange City organizations.

Sunday Entertainment
World Famous Disconnected K9’s Frisbee Show: 11, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Karegan Wodz Solo Artist: Noon to 1 p.m.
Caerbanog – Live Band: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Sunday Entertainment
World Famous Disconnected K9’s Frisbee Show: 11:30, 1:30 and 3:30
Jeff Howell Band From “Monsters in the Morning” 104.1 Real Radio: 12:30 to 4:30

Manatee fesivals: FPL's Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach offers an educational festival at its Manatee-oriented Eco-Discovery Center.
Manatee fesivals: FPL’s Manatee Lagoon in West Palm Beach offers an educational festival at its manatee-oriented Eco-Discovery Center.(Photo: Bonnie Gross)

2024 Family ManateeFest in West Palm Beach

When: Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024

Where: The FPL Eco-Discovery Center, 6000 N. Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach, an environmental education center located at a major gathering point for manatees, where warm water flows from an FPL power plant. Located near an ocean inlet, the location features clear ocean water and a pavilion that gives you a good view into the water.

Admission: Free.

ManateeFest is a free, family-friendly event with hands-on educational activities. The event will offer conservation-themed vendors, environmental booths and live music. Attendees will enjoy a KidsFunZone, photo opportunities with Mia the Manatee, marine life face painting, arts and craft vendors and environmental exhibitors.

Manatee Lagoon is open daily through manatee season (Nov. 15 – March 31); closed Mondays during remainder of the year (April 1 – Nov. 14). Hours of operation: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Details at Manatee Lagoon website

 More about Florida manatees

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