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.
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 $5 for adults; children 12 and under free.
Features of the Crystal River Manatee Festival
- There are three stages with live entertainment each day and a Kid Zone.
- 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. on Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Whereas admission is normally, $15, admission is free during the festival. The shuttles will leave from the visitor center at 123 NW US Hwy 19.
- 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 $10, ages 6 to 12 $5; 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, which are $10 for a standup paddle board or a kayak (tandem kayaks are $20) can be purchased in advance on the manatee festival’s website.
- A variety of vendors, food and music will be featured throughout the festival.
- To park for the festival, go to the southeast corner of the Kings Bay Shopping Plaza parking lot at US 19 and Kings Bay Drive. There are frequent shuttles to the festival grounds.
- 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. The event benefits the Friends of Blue Spring State Park, scholarships and other Orange City organizations.
Saturday entertainment (This is 2023 schedule; it will be updated when information is availale
Disconnected K9’s Frisbee Show: 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
Karegan Wodz Solo Artist: 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Caerbanog – Live Band: 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Disconnected K9’s Frisbee Show: 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.
Jeff Howell Band From “Monsters in the Morning” 104.1
Real Radio: 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Family ManateeFest in West Palm Beach
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.
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 featuring a beach cleanup and Recycling Relay Race, a Conservation Pledge station, 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.
More about Florida manatees
- Where to see manatees in Florida, a Florida Rambler guide.
- Watch live manatees in real time via the webcam at Blue Spring from Save the Manatee.
- Save the Manatee organization
- Manatee FAQ
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.