That being said, as we contemplated bringing family to our favorite beach, we cringed at the thought of spending hours at one of the many theme parks in Florida and finally decided that we would find alternatives that were fun for both a small child and our adult tastes and what we found made for a fun and educational vacation for all of us!
So here they are……
Our top five recommendations for entertaining kids and adults alike while never entering a theme park.
The dock area is filled with restaurants, shops and museums, and let me tell you, you can find the some of the most delicious authentic Greek cuisine at Tarpon Springs including my personal weakness, Baklava. The usual assortment of shops line the streets, filled with fun tourist stuff, but my favorite shops are the ones filled with sponges of every size and shape imaginable.
There is also a small aquarium where you can see a living reef, live sponges, coral, interesting fish, and sharks which you can feed, and even an alligator. You can also catch sightseeing, fishing and dolphin viewing, boat tours from the docks.
The aquarium’s mission is commendable “Working closely with US Fish and Wildlife and critical care hospitals for manatees, the Museum's Parker Manatee Aquarium is a second stage rehabilitation facility. A second stage facility provides a temporary home for manatees that will be released back into the wild after having received treatment from an acute care hospital. The Aquarium has housed 27 manatees as part of the rehabilitation program.”
The museum is actually a conglomerate of three museums, the aquarium, a natural history and archeology museum, and a planetarium. The history museum tells the story of the natural history and culture of the gulf coast of Florida, and the planetarium has a fun children’s show, but you should check the musuem’s calendar for particular, demonstrations, tours, and planetarium show times and dates.
We never miss an opportunity to drive out to Fort Desoto park to walk the pier and watch the fishermen (and women) throw out their lures to catch small silver fish which they put into buckets. I still don’t know if these fish are for eating or bait! But I must say, it’s fun to watch them and kids are tempted to chase the small flopping fish as they are released from the hook and left free for a minute on the deck. There are also dozens of egrets, pelicans and cormorants busy diving for the same silver fish.
The pier is also a fantastic place to watch for dolphin. Depending upon the season, they often come right up to the pier to feast upon the schools of fish that swarm there and we love watching them leap and play and shoot like torpedoes through the water.
Fort Desoto Park is a place you can spend a whole day and even camp overnight at their secluded campground tucked in among the mangroves and palms.