Families ready to shake off winter and celebrate milder temperatures this spring can head outside and enjoy the wet & wild.
Mermaids and Forest Fun
Wet: Delight in the underwater show of “live mermaids” at Weeki Wachee State Park, a popular roadside attraction, celebra-ting its 70th birthday. The Legendary Sirens show features some of the performers representing each decade since the ’50s. Young visitors love meeting the mermaids, posing for pictures, touching their tails, and even getting letters once they get back home. Nearby are a white sandy beach, flume rides, water slides, kiddie pool, and lazy river.
Wild: You’ll feel like you’ve stepped into the rain forest at Florida’s Butterfly World, in Coconut Creek, just 20 minutes from Fort Lauderdale. Here, up to 80 species of live butterflies from every continent flutter and feed in giant aviaries that authentically mimic their natural habitat, down to the “rain shower” every 15 minutes. Spectacular birds and gardens round out the enclosed destination. Spring’s a particularly good time to see the world’s largest collection of passionflowers in full bloom.
Wet: Much of pristine Jekyll Island’s 20-mile bike path runs alongside expansive beaches. Don’t miss picturesque Driftwood Beach. Get on the water for a dolphin tour, or go shark-tooth hunting or horseback riding on one of island’s scenic shorelines. The Georgia Sea Turtle Center here is dedicated to education and rehabilitation with its interactive gallery and turtle hospital.
Wild: Even before leaving home, youngsters 6-12 can get started on their Georgia State Park certification to become a Junior Ranger. Download an activity book that outlines outdoor scavenger hunts, word-finds, bird watching activities, and more. Would-be Junior Rangers complete a set number of experiences (based on age) at home and within a park, then share their findings with a park ranger to receive a badge, patch or certificate, or they can mail in their completed checklist.
North & South Carolina
Zoofari, Surf Lessons, and Gators
Wet: Don a wetsuit and hit Carolina Beach for a surf lesson at Tony Silvagni Surf School or sign up for his Surf Camps available spring break through September. Rent a paddleboat (and download the iPod tour) for exploring Wilmington’s 250-acre Greenfield Lake where you’ll spot gators, turtles, and shore birds. Or, take a narrated cruise along the Cape Fear River from Wilmington’s award-winning riverwalk, passing by one the state’s top attractions, the Battleship North Carolina.
Wild: Go on safari at the world’s largest natural habitat zoo with nearly 2,000 animals to view. In the North Carolina Zoo’s 37-acre Watani Grasslands Reserve, Zoofari takes you past white rhinos, gazelles, greater kudus, ostriches, and more. Afterward, explore some of the five miles of walking trails and loads more animals, including gorillas, polar bears, and lions. The Air Hike, the zoo’s 23-obstacle ropes course, includes short ziplines and a slide to nowhere.
Wet: For lake and shoreside fun, explore 2,500-acre Santee State Park easily reached off I-95. Explore Lake Marion and Lake Moultrie via canoes, paddleboards, and kayaks for rent or hop on a pontoon cruise. Together the lakes total 170,000 acres. Drop a line to land a state-record-setting largemouth bass from a park pier or your boat. Stay in a roundhouse cabin on a pier overlooking Lake Marion or park the RV/pitch a tent at campsites. Don’t forget the s’mores.
Wild: Myrtle Beach boasts golf, amusement parks, shop-ping, big-stage shows, and the boardwalk. For a walk on the wild side, check out Alligator Adventure for loads-o-gators, reptiles, and bright pink Chilean flamingos. Undiscovered spots south beckon: Huntington Beach State Park with ocean access, hiking, horseback riding, and remains of Atalaya Castle. Nearby is Brookgreen Gardens, an idyllic, 15-square-mile sculpture garden with art museum, butterfly house, zoo, and boat rides. For an adults-only outing, Fat Harold’s Beach Club features and teaches the Carolinas’ signature dance — the shag, a swing-jitterbug danced to “beach music” from musicians like General Johnson and The Chairmen of the Board, Temptations, and Marvin Gaye.
Farm Visit, Fly Fishing, and Fossils
Wet: Virginia Beach is actually three beaches. The resort beach is where building sandcastles, surfing, strolling, or biking the boardwalk are standards. Just south is Sandbridge, where visitors can catch blue crabs, kayak in Back Bay National Refuge, or beachcomb windswept sands. North are the shallow, tranquil shores of the Chesapeake Bay, a waterman’s paradise where oyster-farm and dolphin-watching tours await. The whole area is a metropolis, so attractions, nightlife, and restaurants are plentiful.
Wild: Be a farmer for a day or overnight at Liberty Farm, Paris, Va., about 30 minutes from Winchester. Wake up to crowing roosters and snoring sheep. Chores might be feeding and grooming livestock, tending gardens, and gathering fresh eggs prepared for breakfast. Youngsters can learn where food comes from and experience life on a working farm housing more than 90 sanctuary animals including sheep, goats, alpaca, and llama.
Wet: Wade in at Hickory Tree, Tenn.’s Holston River, just south of Bristol, where the fly fishing’s so good that Brad Pitt’s been known to flick a line here repeatedly. Before exploring this secluded spot — especially good for large brown trout — stop in at Bristol’s South Holston River Fly Shop for tips, gear, or guide services.
Wild: Channel your inner scientist at Tenn.’s Gray Fossil Site and Museum featuring researchers, students, staff, and volunteers from East Tennessee State University’s Center of Excellence in Paleontology. The Miocene-era fossil dig site has unearthed tapirs, a mastodon, short-faced bear, alligator, and saber tooth cat. See fossils that date back 4.5-7 million years. See an archaeologist at work on the outdoor open dig site, accessible from the second floor, or watch scientists work in the lab behind large glass windows as they identify fossils.
Want to craft your own spring break getaway? Stop by your local AAA office, or call 800-398-0379 to speak with a AAA Travel Agent.