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Memorial Day in May ranks among the most important holidays in the US. It was instituted to commemorate America’s fallen veterans, and is celebrated with a wide variety of events. Just like on the 10 other federal holidays, many institutions are closed on that day.

We will tell you all about the history of this holiday, when it takes place, and which celebrations you can attend. In addition, you will learn more about Memorial Day Sales and their many bargains.

Memorial Day – History and Meaning

As the name suggests, Memorial Day is a date of remembrance for all US Military personnel that died while fulfilling their duty. This sets it apart from Veterans Day, which caters to all former US soldiers, dead or alive.

The history behind Memorial Day is complex, as this holiday had many predecessors. Before and during the American Civil War, for instance, it was already a custom to decorate the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers.

Historians have identified 25 predecessors of Memorial Day – many of which took place in former Confederate states like Virginia, Mississippi and South Carolina. Oftentimes, these events were organized by widows and women groups.

Meanwhile, the North had remembrance days of its own, even though they were not institutionalized yet. Decoration Day, for example, was celebrated by 27 states from 1886 onwards.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson tried to end the discussions about the birthplace of Memorial Day. He declared Waterloo, New York as the official place. However, who celebrated the first Memorial Day, and where, is still a matter of debate. In 1967, Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day, and one year later, this holiday received its official date, which is still valid today.

There is also a Confederate Memorial Day that is only celebrated in the Southern states and serves to commemorate the fallen soldiers of the Confederation. This holiday, albeit still officially recognized, has become more and more controversial, and public adherence is on the decline.

Memorial Day – Date

Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer in the USA, and takes place on the last Monday in May each year. This means, it moves between May 25 and 31.

In the next years, Memorial Day falls on the following dates:

  • Memorial Day 2022: May 30
  • Memorial Day 2023: May 29
  • Memorial Day 2024: May 27
  • Memorial Day 2025: May 26

The month of May was not picked randomly, by the way: US general John A. Logan suggested this month so that citizens would be able to pick fresh flowers and lay them on soldiers’ graves.

Not all veterans, however, were happy with the decision to place Memorial Day on a Monday. Many feared that people would use the long weekend for “games, races and revelry” instead of solemn remembrance.

Memorial Day – Celebrations and Ceremonies

Memorial Day is one of the most emotional holidays in the USA and has a special meaning for patriots across the country – just like Veterans Day and Independence Day. This can be seen in the following celebrations and ceremonies:

Cemetery Services

Volunteers and families honor their fallen soldiers by placing flowers and American flags on their graves. On the largest scale, this can be witnessed at the National Military Cemetery of Arlington. Grave Markers, medals with military symbols, also enjoy huge popularity on this day. In additions, there are ceremonies in which speakers thank America’s fallen heroes for their service to the country.

Flag Ceremonies

If you are traveling on Memorial Day, you might see flag ceremonies that follow a strict protocol: At dawn, the US flag is raised quickly before being lowered to half mast. It remains in this position until noon when it is brought to the top again.

National Moment of Remembrance

An integral part of Memorial Day is the National Moment of Remembrance: At 3 pm sharp, all Americans are encouraged to stop their activities and observe a moment of silence to commemorate the fallen soldiers. This way, the original meaning of the holiday is preserved. Major League baseball games are halted at 3 pm, and Amtrak trains all over the country are sounding their horns.


At the center of the festivities are parades that are held in the entire US. Most often, active soldiers march alongside veterans of past wars. If you look closely, you might also see red poppies on the servicemens’ uniforms: Since World War 1, these flowers have been an official symbol of Memorial Day.

The oldest continuous Memorial Day parade is held in Ironton, Ohio. It has taken place there since 1868. As of now, Washington, DC and New York share the title of America’s biggest Memorial Day parade.

Memorial Day – Opening Hours

Memorial Day is a federal holiday celebrated in all states of the USA, so non-essential institutions are closed on that day. This includes post offices, for example, so mail is not delivered on Memorial Day. The stock exchange takes a break, and federal employees receive a day off. Banks are also closed on Memorial Day.

This is not the case for restaurants and shops, which are allowed to stay open. In fact, many businesses use the occasion to attract customers, as we will show in the following section.

A tip for all motorists: Prior to the long Memorial Day weekend, highways in the US get fairly crowded. Most traffic occurs on Thursday and Friday – something you should keep in mind if you want to travel by car.

Memorial Day Sales – Shopping Events with special Offers

Many Americans use the long Memorial Day weekend to go shopping. Stores have reacted to this trend and are offering many bargains at this time. Because Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer, there are many sales on outdoor articles like yard furniture, grills and lawnmowers.

Household appliances, mattresses, clothing, TVs and laptops can also be had for a fraction of their price on Memorial Day – for instance, at shops like Walmart, Best Buy or Home Depot.

If you really want to save money, you should keep an eye out for Memorial Day Coupons. Nowadays, you do not have to cut them out of magazines. Instead, you can simply download them from websites like savings.com, retailmenot.com or groupon.com.

Memorial Day is a popular travel date. Thus, many hotels in the USA offer special deals – for example, in Florida. However, you should book well in advance, as hotels fill up quickly on the Memorial Day weekend. If you like it more spontaneous, though, you can still enjoy plenty of offers at restaurants all across the country.

Less relevant for vacationers, but an integral part of Memorial Day are offers for veterans and active servicemen. In many museums and theme-parks, for example, they receive free entrance for themselves and their families – in addition to discounts at shops and restaurants.

Memorial Day FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day is an official federal holiday that is celebrated by all states of the USA. It serves to commemorate US servicemen who died while fulfilling their duty.

When is Memorial Day?

Memorial Day takes place on the last Monday of May every year. It forms the last day of the long Memorial Day weekend and also marks the unofficial beginning of summer in the US.

How is Memorial Day celebrated?

Among the ceremonies are the decoration of soldiers’ graves, as well as parades, concerts, speeches and a moment of silence at 3 pm. Shopping is another popular activity on Memorial Day, as many shops offer special sales and discounts.

Which institutions are closed on Memorial Day?

On Memorial Day, all federal institutions, post offices and banks are closed. Most shops and restaurants, however, stay open.

Can you guess what pilgrims, turkeys and football have in common? Correct – they all belong to one of the most popular holidays in the USA: Thanksgiving. No other day in the year, with the exception of Christmas, is so important for the family. Festive dinners and football matches on TV are as well a part of this holiday as spectacular parades, and of course, traffic jams on US highway.

In this article, you will learn all about this true American fest and its traditions. We will also cover the opening times on Thanksgiving and give you some idea of what to do on this special date.

Thanksgiving – Meaning and History

The history of Thanksgiving is fairly complex. On the one hand, this celebration resembles European harvest fests that were, and still are, commonly held in autumn. On the other hand, Thanksgiving is a holiday that could only have originated in the USA and goes back to the 17th century when Pilgrims and Puritans were settling North America.

Starting out in the New World, both groups were facing hard times. To thank God for his support during these times, they held a celebration – together with the Native Americans that had helped them in their first year.

As we all now, New England’s colonies later became the founding states of the USA. Who celebrated the first Thanksgiving and where, is still a matter of debate, though. Some historians name Plymouth, others Massachusetts, and others Virginia. To make matters even more complicated, there were Catholic thanksgiving fests that the Spanish settlers had brought with them to America.

Thanksgiving was soon celebrated all over the country – even more so when the USA became independent from Britain. The fact that this was a religious holiday did not bother the founding fathers, by the way. Even George Washington, not an ardent worshipper by any means, urged his countrymen to “give prayers and thanks to God the Almighty”. Thanksgiving turned out to be a holiday that everybody could celebrate – just the right “glue” to hold the young republic together.

In 1863, another famous US President, Abraham Lincoln, set the official date of Thanksgiving to the last Thursday in November – no surprise, as this date had become widespread already. In 1941, it was slightly changed, but more on that later…

Thanksgiving – Traditions and Ceremonies

First and foremost, Thanksgiving is a family holiday that is celebrated at home. Since its start, many customs and traditions have crystallized, and now form an integral part of this day:

Thanksgiving Dinner

A true highlight of Thanksgiving Day is the festive dinner – an occasion for the whole extended family to come together.

At the center of the decorated table sits a roasted turkey filled with stuffing: breadcrumbs, onions, celery, spices… almost every family in the USA has their own recipe, often passed down for generations. Side dishes include potatoes, yams, cranberries and corn – typical ingredients of the first settlers. Another beloved Thanksgiving food is pumpkin, either as soup or sweet cake for dessert.

Fun Fact: Statistics show that Americans consume more food on Thanksgiving than on any other day. Thus, if you are invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, you better skip lunch.

As a guest, you might also be asked to pull on the wishbone of the turkey with another person. If the bone breaks in half and you happen to hold the bigger piece, you can make a wish.

Thanksgiving Turkey Pardoning

Maybe you have seen the US president on TV receiving a turkey for Thanksgiving. Unlike its many brethren, though, this bird is lucky. Since John F. Kennedy, it has been custom for presidents to “pardon” the turkey, who will then spend the rest of its life on a farm or in a petting zoo.

This last happened in 2020, when President Donald Trump granted a 40 pound gobbler named “Corn” the official pardon. Thus, this fortunate turkey was spared the oven.

Thanksgiving – Football

For many Americans, football is as much a part of Thanksgiving as turkey and pumpkin pie – since the 19th century, mind you. Thus, it should come as no surprise that the NFL schedules some of their most important games on Thanksgiving weekend. If you want, you can watch three games live on TV. In addition, many families enjoy throwing the “Pigskin” around in their backyard for a friendly family match.

Thanksgiving – Parades

In addition to family gatherings, Thanksgiving is also celebrated with spectacular public parades. Macy´s Thanksgiving Parade, the biggest of these, takes place in New York and is famous for its festively decorated wagons. There is an over-sized turkey, a marching band and Santa Claus – a reminder that Christmastime is around the corner. You can also watch this parade in Florida as it stops at Orlando’s Universal Studios every year.

Black Friday, the Day after Thanksgiving

The Friday after Thanksgiving marks one of the most important shopping events in the USA: Black Friday. Then, shops make use of the circumstance that not only federal employees, but also students and many other workers get this day off.

Discounts of up to 70 % can be had on that day, and many shopping centers operate with longer opening hours. The typical Black Friday rush, however, is not for the faint of heart, as the following video shows.

Thanksgiving – Date

Since 1941, Thanksgiving has officially been celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Now you might ask: Why did the USA not stick to the last Thursday of this month?

The answer has to do with the Great Depression of the 1930s. In 1933, November had five Thursdays, so Thanksgiving naturally fell on the 30th. Since most Americans were accustomed to doing their Christmas shopping after this holiday, business owners feared for their profit. Choosing the fourth Thursday in November, on the other hand, made sure that Thanksgiving wood take place no later than November 28.

Here are some dates of past and following years:

  • Thanksgiving 2021: November 25
  • Thanksgiving 2022: November 24
  • Thanksgiving 2023: November 23
  • Thanksgiving 2024: November 28
  • Thanksgiving 2025: November 27

Thanksgiving – Opening Hours

Thanksgiving is a federal holiday. This means that it is celebrated in all states of the USA. Federal employees are paid for this day, government institutions like post offices are closed and the stock exchange takes a break – as do banks.

Many businesses give their employees leave, not only on Thursday, but the entire Thanksgiving weekend. The same applies to schools. Thus, it should come as no surprise that highways across the country get fairly crowded around that time.

As a visitor, you should also keep in mind that restaurants and shops are either closed on Thanksgiving or operate with shorter hours – a rarity in the USA. If you want to go shopping, you should therefore wait for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Of course, you can use public transport during this holiday. Most bus and train lines follow their Sunday schedule.

Thanksgiving FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

What is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving originated from religious harvest fests, but is now a mostly secular holiday celebrated by all ethnicities in the USA. In addition to dinners with the whole family, it is also accompanied by football games and parades.

Why do Americans celebrate Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving goes back to the first settlers of New England, who celebrated their survival in America with a religious fest. Still today, many ingredients that were harvested by these settlers are part of the Thanksgiving dinner: for instance, turkey, yams, pumpkin and corn.

When is Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. Depending on the year, it takes place between November 22 und 28. The following day is called Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping events of the year.

What is closed on Thanksgiving?

On Thanksgiving, public life in the USA mostly comes to a halt: Offices, banks, shops and restaurants are closed, while public transport operates with limited timetables.

Do other countries have Thanksgiving, too?

In addition to the USA, there are other countries that celebrate Thanksgiving fests – but in slightly different form and on other days. In Canada, for example, Thanksgiving takes place in October, and Australians celebrate their Thanksgiving on the last Wednesday in November.

Marching bands, parades, and fireworks in the evening – there is hardly a US holiday with more spectacular celebrations than July 4. And you do not have to be a hardcore patriot to have fun on this holiday. Many people simply enjoy being outside for a picnic or barbecue.

In this article, you will learn more about the history of July 4, how it is celebrated, and which shops and public institutions are closed. In addition, we will give you some ideas of what to do (and cook) on this special occasion.

4th of July – History and Meaning

As the name Independence Day suggests, July 4 marks the splitting of the USA from the British Motherland. On this day in 1776, 13 founding colonies proclaimed the Declaration of Independence. Granted, it would take a long, bloody war until the USA became an independent country. Without the 4th of July, however, there would have been no nation. Therefore, many Americans rightfully view this date as the birthday of the US.

Independence Day could have easily fallen on July 2, the day when the colonies voted on splitting from Britain. This event, however, was held behind closed doors, and the public Declaration of Independence took place two days later.

July 4 became the official founding date, and was first celebrated one year later in Philadelphia – at a time, when the USA were still at war with Britain. This did not stop the colonists from holding mock funerals for the king of England, light bonfires, fire musket shots and publicly read the Declaration of Independence. Soldiers received double rations of rum on that day.

Interesting fact: Two of the founding fathers, namely John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, died 50 years later on July 4. This remarkable coincidence served to make the date even more prominent in the minds of US citizens.

4th of July – Festivities and Ceremonies

In 1776, founding father John Adams prophesized that following generations would celebrate the 4th of July with „pomp and parades, games, canon shots and firework“. With the exception of canons, this visionary should be correct. Still today, Independence Day is by far the most spectacular holiday in the US.


The morning of July 4 traditionally starts with Independence Day Parades, and almost every major city in the USA has one. Marching bands, historical costumes, decorated wagons and a myriad of American flags are a part of these events. Oftentimes, active servicemen march alongside veterans, and many politicians use the occasion to give a patriotic speech. The oldest parade takes place in Bristol, New England, and goes as far back as 1785.


Fireworks have been an integral part of July 4 for over 200 years. They take place across the country, with New York City still holding the record for the biggest display. Here, more than 20 tons of firework light up the sky every year. In addition, these events are often accompanied by patriotic songs like „Star-Spangled Banner“, the national anthem of the USA.

Many Americans light their own firework on the 4th of July, so in the weeks before, shops start to sell rockets and firecrackers. American military bases get in on the action, too, and fire 13 salute shots – one for each founding state of the USA.

If you are traveling to Florida, Miami is a perfect spot. There, fireworks are held in multiple locations – for example, during the Fire on the Fourth Festival at the North Beach Bandshell. Disney World is another place where the sky is lit with spectacular colors on July 4


Historically, US citizens did not only celebrate July 4, but also the night before. Then, pyramids of wood were lit on fire, and cities would compete with each other over the largest bonfire. Today, these festivities are not widespread anymore, which has a lot to do with security issues. The famous bonfires of Waldon County, Florida, for instance, rarely get a green light by authorities, and in New England, most cities have also switched to fireworks.

Family Celebrations

Many US citizens use the 4th of July to spend time with their families – predominantly outside. If the weather allows it, picnics and barbecues enjoy huge popularity. For these festivities, houses and yards are decorated with American flags and the colors red, white and blue. In addition, many people like to wear patriotic T-shirts on July 4.

4th of July – Food and Drinks

Typical 4th of July food includes American classics like barbecue meat, hot dogs, burgers, grilled corn and potato salad. Many hosts serve refreshing melon juice, and a popular dessert is S´Mores: fire-grilled marshmallows and chocolate between two biscuits.

If you are looking for 4th of July recipes, you will also come across a variety of cocktails: for example, margaritas in the colors of the American flag: Grenadine, Blue Curacao and a white layer of lime juice are the ingredients for this patriotic drink.

4th of July – Films and Music

July 4 is the birthday of the USA. What better way, then, to pass the waiting time for the firework with a patriotic movie?

Most popular, of course, is “Independence Day” from the year 1996. Do you prefer serious topics over space aliens? Then, we can recommend the movie “Born on the Fourth of July” with Tom Cruise. If you want to learn more about the early days of the USA, salted with a lot of bias, of course, Mel Gibson´s “The Patriot” is perfect. Superhero fans should watch “Captain America”, and in “National Treasure”, Nicolas Cage steals the Declaration of Independence to find a legendary treasure – a true 4th of July movie for the whole family.

The 4th of July has also inspired music – most prominently, of course, Amy MacDonald´s famous song “Fourth of July”. More tunes that should grace every patriotic playlist include Neil Diamond’s “America”, “Born in the USA”, and “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” by Toby Keith.

4th of July – Opening Hours

4th of July is one of 11 federal holidays in the USA. This means that it is celebrated in every state. Federal institutions like post offices are closed on that day, and federal employees get the day off. Banks also close their doors on this special holiday.

Please note: If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, many offices and banks let their employees take the following Monday off.

In the USA, shops can decide for themselves whether they want to open on Independence Day. Thus, you should check the opening hours before. Large chains like Walmart, Publix, Target, Ikea, Home Depot and Bass Pro are mostly open for business but may close early that day.

Of course, you are able to use public transport on the 4th of July. Busses and trains are less frequent, but can nonetheless be a good alternative to cars. Especially if July 4 is part of a long weekend, the highways get fairly overcrowded.

4th of July – Shopping and Sales

Unlike Memorial Day and Black Friday, the 4th of July is not a classical shopping holiday. However, many shops hold 4th of July Sales in the weeks before. Home Depot, for example, offers everything customers need for their barbecue party: for example, grills and yard furniture. In addition, indoor furniture and mattresses can be had for a bargain, as can sportswear and household goods like TVs. Puma even fashioned a pair of sneakers for this holiday: the “Palace Guard 4th of July”.

For many Americans, firework at home is an integral part of the celebration. Uncle Sam, however, has grown increasingly weary of this trend, and many states now impose bans on the sale of fireworks. In Florida, it is legal to light fireworks on the 4th of July. You should, however, read the fine-print, as not every item is allowed. In addition, there are regulations by counties and cities. If you want to be on the safe – and cheaper – side, you are better-off watching a public firework.

Juli FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

When is the 4th of July?

In 2022, the 4th of July falls on a Monday. Thus, US citizens can look forward to a long weekend – just as in 2025 when Independence Day will be a Friday.

Why do we celebrate 4th July?

July 4 marks the public Declaration of Independence by the 13 founding colonies of the USA. This event in 1776 is regarded as the birth of the nation and has been celebrated since its first anniversary.

What is closed on the 4th of July?

On July 4, all federal institutions, post offices and banks are closed. Restaurants and stores are allowed to receive customers, but mostly operate with shorter hours. If the 4th of July falls on a weekend, the following Monday serves as a substitute day-off.

Is the 4th of July celebrated in Canada?

Canadians do not have an Independence Day in the strict sense of the word. However, they celebrate Canada Day on July 1. This date in 1867 marks the time when Canada became an official state of the Commonwealth.

“Happy Birthday, Mr. President”: Every year in February, Americans commemorate their most popular Commanders-in-Chief – first and foremost, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. All other presidents, however, can also feel honored on this special occasion.

Presidents Day is accompanied by many events like parades, historical reenactments and festivities that serve to keep the memory of past presidents alive. In addition, shops all over the country offer amazing bargains during their Presidents Day Sales.

In this article, you will learn more about the origins of Presidents Day, which places are perfect for a family trip, and what you should know about opening hours on this holiday.

Presidents Day – History and Meaning

The history of this holiday goes back to the first US President George Washington, who was born on February 22 1732. Even during his lifetime, this American leader enjoyed almost religious veneration. Thus, it came as no surprise when his birthday was declared a federal holiday in the year 1879, making George Washington the first historical person with his own day of remembrance.

It should, however, take almost 100 years until this event turned into Presidents Day as we know it today. The date, in particular, was a matter of debate: On February 12, another famous US President, Abraham Lincoln, was born, and there were initiatives to combine both birthdays to one holiday.

This happened through the Uniform Monday Holiday Bill of 1968, which moved a number of holidays to a Monday. Under Richard Nixon, Washington’s Birthday was renamed Presidents Day – a reminder that not only Washington and Lincoln, but all US Presidents were to be honored on this day. The name soon caught on, especially when business owners started using it to advertise their special sales and offers.

However, not all Americans were happy about the “new” Presidents Day. Some did not like the idea of honoring larger-than-life figures like Washington and Lincoln alongside less popular presidents. At the moment, though, there are no plans in the USA to change this holiday.

Presidents Day – Festivities

Just like Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, Presidents Day is accompanied by a number of patriotic festivities – among them:

Parades and Reenactments

Festive parades are a main element of Presidents Day. The oldest parade takes place in Alexandra, Virginia – the birthplace of George Washington. At this event, you can even see the famous US President as he rides by on a horse carriage. Another worthwhile-spot is Washington’s Birthplace in Mount Vernon, where visitors can see historical uniforms and learn more about this famous figure on Presidents Day.

Washington’s birthday is also celebrated in Eustis, Florida. Here, you can enjoy concerts, parades, a funfair and firework at the famous GeorgeFest. Of course, the long weekend lends itself to outdoor activities in the Sunshine State: among them, football games, the Miami International Boat Show, and the Coconut Grove Arts Festival.

Family Celebrations

Even though Presidents Day is not observed as broadly as Thanksgiving and Christmas, many Americans use the day-off to spend time with their families. Trips to historical sites like the Washington Monument or Mount Rushmore are popular on this day, and patriotic families might read “Washington’s Farewell Address”, the President’s final speech to his countrymen. Others send family letters, for example, in the form of Presidents Day E-Cards. There is even a typical Presidents Day dish: cherry pie, the favorite dessert of George Washington

Presidents Day Sales

Most stores are open on Presidents Day. And not only that: They also attract customers with a variety of special offers. Mattresses, for example, can be had for a fraction of the price – just like household wares and kitchen appliances. Depending on the store, you can enjoy discounts of up to 60 %. Are you looking for clothes, shoes or toys? Then, we recommend Kohl´s Presidents Day Sales, one of the most famous shopping events of its kind. At the retail giant Walmart, customers get 30 % off selected items, and Best Buy is the ideal place for fairly-priced electronics. By the way: You can take your time, as most stores operate with longer hours on this holiday. Or just shop from the comfort of your home and choose the best offers online.

In addition, Presidents Day is a popular day for car sales. Many dealerships offer discounts on automobiles to boost sales at the beginning of the year – and no: A “Lincoln” is not the only brand you can purchase on Presidents Day…

Presidents Day – Date

Presidents Day takes place on the third Monday in February. This date was set by the US government and is valid in all states. Depending on the year, the holiday falls between February 15 und February 21.

Here are some Presidents Day dates for past and future years:

  • Presidents Day 2020: February 17
  • Presidents Day 2021: February 15
  • Presidents Day 2022: February 21
  • Presidents Day 2023: February 20
  • Presidents Day 2024: February 19.

Fun Fact: As we said, Presidents Day is dedicated to all Presidents – which can even be seen in the date. Even though it is a movable holiday, Presidents Day never falls on the birthday of a particular Commander-in-Chief. George Washington, for example, was born on February 22 – one day too late – while Abraham Lincoln’s birthday is four days too early.

Presidents Day – Opening Hours

Presidents Day is a federal holiday, which means that government employees get this day off and government offices are closed. The same applies to post offices, banks and the stock exchange. Many schools do not have lessons on that day– or replace them with American history projects. Shops and restaurants can decide for themselves whether they want to open. Most of them, however, celebrate the fact that customers have a day-off with special sales and offers.

Of course, you can use public transport on Presidents Day. Most bus and train lines follow their Saturday schedule and operate more frequently than on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Motorists should note that many Americans visit their families on the long Presidents Day weekend. This often leads to traffic jams on the highways.

Presidents Day – best Movies

Not all states feature outdoor-weather in February – so what better way to celebrate Presidents Day than with a patriotic movie night at home?

Luckily, there are a lot of flicks for you to choose from. If you want to learn more about the life of Abraham Lincoln, we can recommend the Spielberg movie “Lincoln” released in 2012. Patriotic action fans cannot go wrong with “Air Force One”, and if you want to laugh and be scared at the same time, you should watch the horror comedy “Presidents Day”. The thriller “The Ides of March” shows the dark side of the US presidency, while “Jackie” pays tribute to the wife of John F. Kennedy – one of the most beloved First Ladies in history.

Presidents Day FAQ – Frequently asked Questions

What is Presidents Day?

Originally, Presidents Day dates back to George Washington’s birthday. Today, however, it is celebrated in honor of all Presidents. As a federal holiday, it is observed in all states of the US.

When is Presidents Day?

The official date of Presidents Day is the third Monday in February. This means that, depending on the year, it takes place between the 15th and 21st day of this month.

What is closed on Presidents Day?

On Presidents Day, all non-essential government buildings, banks, post offices and many schools are closed. Most restaurants and stores stay open, though.

What can I do on Presidents Day?

Traditionally, Presidents Day is celebrated with parades and historical customers. Other festivities include fireworks and events at memorial sites and museums.

When do Presidents Day Sales start?

On Presidents Day and the days leading up to it, many stores in the USA offer special sales. Some of these start as early as 2 weeks before the holiday and are also available online.

Disney World Florida – Theme Parks and Attractions

Mickey Mouse, Cinderella’s Castle and colorful parades – these things come to mind when visitors think of Disney World. And they will not be disappointed. At Magic Kingdom, the oldest and most popular park, everything revolves around famous Disney movies and cartoons: from the heroes of Mouseton to Aladdin, Toy Story and Pirates of the Caribbean. A trip to the early years of the USA and Wild West adventures make the experience at Magic Kingdom complete.

But this is not all. In total, Disney World features three additional theme parks, each with their unique design.

Take Epcot, for example – a futuristic city that showcases the innovations of tomorrow; or the Hollywood Studios: Here, you can immerse yourself in the golden era of films, visit a Star Wars set and watch brave stuntmen at work. A true marvel of diversity is the Animal Kingdom with its African savanna, tall Himalaya peaks and a true-to-life replica of the Avatar moon Pandora. Last but not least, there are two exciting water parks, an authentically designed boardwalk and the shopping complex Disney Springs.

As you can see, Disney World is much more than just one theme park. Each area offers enough activities for a whole day. Thus, it is important to choose wisely. In the following paragraphs, we will cover every park in detail and tell you which attractions are particularly suited for different audiences.

Magic Kingdom

Magic Kingdom is the centerpiece of Disney World. For more than 50 years, this park has taken visitors on trips to enchanted lands, the Wild West, jungle adventures and the cities of tomorrow. Rollercoasters, merry-go-rounds, flight simulators and haunted houses are an
integral part of this world – as are famous Disney characters that walk the park and hold meet and greets with their fans. Of course, visitors can also expect to see colorful shows and parades.

The park consists of six areas that are all connected by a railroad. In total, there are more than 50 attractions for every audience – whether you visit the Magic Kingdom with children, teenagers or adults.

Main Street, USA

A true highlight awaits visitors as soon as they enter the Magic Kingdom. Thanks to sophisticated architecture and optical illusions, this replica of an American small town seems to be larger than it really is.

But Main Street, USA is more than just eye-candy. Like in a real town, you can go shopping, grab some food and even get a haircut. A Barbershop quartet plays catchy tunes, and the mayor can often be seen on his round.

Mickey Mouse and friends hold exciting parades, and in the afternoon, the flag is lowered in a grand ceremony at the Town Square. In short: There is always something to see and do on Main Street, USA, making it the perfect starting point for your Disney adventure.

Festival of Fantasy Parade

Every day at 3 pm straight, Main Street, USA is home to a remarkable spectacle: Then, Disney heroes and heroines like Cinderella, Rapunzel and the Beast parade this street on authentic wagons. Mickey Mouse, the “Frozen” princesses and a fiery dragon are also present, while a marching band provides the perfect background music.

For children in particular, this parade is a true highlight. If you want to have good view, you should book the Festival of Fantasy Parade Dining Package. This will not only get you a place in the front row, but also lunch at Tony’s Town Square Restaurant.

Main Street Vehicles

You do not feel like walking from Cinderella’s Castle to Town Square? Then, the Main Street Vehicles parade is perfect for you. This way, you can mount a beautifully decorated horse carriage to get to your destination. Or do you prefer a classic automobile? No problem. These cars also pass the Main Street and offer enough space for your whole family.

The Main Street Vehicles are one of the lesser-known attractions. Therefore, you rarely have to wait long before you can enter a car. The best time for a ride is in the early morning hours before the Main Street is over-crowded with visitors.

Meet Mickey Mouse

If you want to meet the world’s most famous mouse in person, you can do so at the Town Square Theater. Here, Mickey Mouse waits in his magician costume to enchant little fans, shake hands, goof around, sign autographs and of course, take pictures. The meet and greet takes place in a separate room, so children have their favorite Disney character all to themselves. Due to the popularity of this attraction, you should account for long waiting times.

Meet Tinkerbell

Right next to Mickey Mouse, another Disney character is waiting for fans. The fairy Tinkerbell resides in an authentically designed replica of Pixie Hollow. After a relatively short waiting time, the little blabbermouth takes her time to chat with fans and take photos. The fairy tale surroundings full of pixie dust make this encounter even more worthwhile for little guests.

Walt Disney World Railroad

When it is time to leave Main Street, USA, you can take this iconic mode of transport. The Walt Disney World Railroad circles the Magic Kingdom every 20 minutes and offers a top view of its attractions. In addition, this locomotive fascinates visitors with its nostalgic flair – no wonder, as it has been in operation for nearly 100 years.

World Disney World Railroad offers a relaxing, slow-paced ride, making it perfect for visitors of every age. You can leave the train at the stations Frontierland and Fantasyland to continue your day of exploration.


How about a trip around the world? Adventureland offers exactly that. Here, you can fly with Aladdin’s magic carpet, go on a boat tour through the jungle and visit the authentic set of “Pirates of the Caribbean”.

As soon as you walk through the entrance, you will be greeted by tropical plants and the sound of drums. Afterwards, it is time to browse an Oriental market before visiting a Mexican church in the Colonial style. Captain Jack Sparrow, Aladdin and princess Jasmine take pictures with their fans, and if you are hungry, the Crystal Palace restaurant is your top choice.

Liberty Square

The Colonial brick houses make it more than clear: At Liberty Square, everything revolves around the founding era of the USA. In the beginning, the architecture resembles New England, Boston and Philadelphia, before turning ever more “Western” the closer you get to Frontierland.

At every corner, visitors breathe American history – for example, when they visit the Liberty Bell, relax under the 150-year-old Liberty Tree, take a trip on the steam boat or watch a show featuring all US presidents. Even the flowers at Liberty Square bloom in the colors red, white and blue.

Haunted Mansion

If you love being scared, the park’s Haunted Mansion is a must. This becomes clear as soon as you enter the queue and are greeted by ominous organ sounds. Once you have boarded your car, there is no turning back: The ride leads through the mansion’s dimly lit corridors. Coffins magically open, ghosts are dancing through the halls, and from afar, you can hear otherworldly screams. For the smallest of children, the Haunted House will probably be too scary. All others, however, can expect 10 minutes of spook-tastic entertainment.

Liberty Square Riverboat

This attraction will take you back to a time when steam paddlers crossed the American rivers and lakes. Granted, the Liberty Square Riverboat is transported by rails. Other than that, however, you can expect the perfect replica of a steam boat that can even huff like a real one. The 15-minute ride is perfect if you want to relax and take in the sight of Tom Sawyer Island. In addition, the boat passes Frontierland: Many attractions are only visible from the water, making the boat ride even more worthwhile.

Hall of Presidents

The Hall of Presidents is by far the most popular attraction at Liberty Square. Here, all 45 US presidents are represented by life-like animatronics. The show takes place in a theater with space for 700 visitors. Some presidents give a little speech, and in addition, you will learn a lot about American history – salted with a healthy dose of patriotism. The Hall of Presidents is mainly an attraction for grownups. Nonetheless, interested children and teenagers will also enjoy this 25 minute show.


Frontierland is situated west of Liberty Square – no wonder, as America was once settled in the same direction. Here, you will enter the Wild West with its wooden saloons, Cowboys, Indians and gold diggers. Two rollercoasters provide scream-tastic fun, Tom Sawyer Island is a perfect place to relax, and in addition to the Country Bears, cute Chipmunks entertain the guests. Think you have got what it takes to be a Western hero? Then, demonstrate your aim at the shooting gallery. Of course, you are also welcome to buy hats, sheriff’s stars and leather accessories at the parks’ shops.

Country Bear Jamboree

Since 1971, this attraction has amazed children and adults with 20 animatronic bears – each with their unique design and animations. Even before the show begins, hosts light up the mood with funny one-liners. Then, it is time for the bears to sing famous country songs and play their instruments.

Life-like gestures and facial expressions make this show a true highlight for little spectators – although children might not get every joke and word play. The Country Bear Jamboree lasts about 15 minutes, and waiting times are generally short.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad

With its tall boulders, this attraction is easily visible from afar. When you come closer, you will see that it is a rollercoaster set in the era of gold diggers. On a huffing locomotive, passengers make their way through the mine of Tumblewood – a setting that amazes with its details: from waterfalls and fog to steep canyons and dark tunnels. Animatronic goats are grazing on the cliffs, and there is even an explosion in the depths of the mine.

Although this ride can get quite shaky, you do not have to worry about strong G forces or rollovers. Thus, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad is suited for all visitors aged 3 and older.

Splash Mountain

Do you want to cool off? Then, the white-water ride Splash Mountain is perfect for you. This attraction will take you to the setting of the movie “Song of the South” – a Disney classic that combined cartoon animals and real actors. First, guests are elevated on rafts, and a relaxing ride through the canyon begins. Soon, however, you will take on speed as your raft comes splashing down a waterfall.

In a tunnel, you will witness scenes from the movie, before it is time for the final descent. Butterflies in your tummy are guaranteed – as are wet clothes. Therefore, this attraction is mainly suited for hot days. In addition, cheerful music and life-like puppets make Splash Mountain a true highlight for children.

Tom Sawyer Island

If you are looking for a break from the hustle and bustle of the park, this island on the Rivers of America is perfect for you. Tom Sawyer Island features no rides or shows. Instead, visitors immerse themselves in the world of Mark Twain’s famous novel. Here, you can explore dark caves and mines, walk through lush vegetation, see a watermill in action and visit an old fort.

Every aspect has been created in painstaking details, so you will truly feel like a visitor to the 19 th century. Tom Sawyer Island can only be reached with special rafts, and you should take at least 20 minutes if you want to see everything this attraction has to offer.


Fantasyland is home to the most famous landmark of all Disney parks: Cinderella’s Castle. This magic attraction even graces the Disney logo and today harbors a restaurant. Around the castle, other attractions take you back to your childhood memories: among them, the enchanted world of „Beauty and the Beast“, Arielle’s cove and a circus where Goofy performs his tricks. Little visitors can enjoy themselves on a merry-go-round, cool off at the water playground or shake hands with famous Disney characters.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant

Dumbo the flying Elephant is one of the oldest attractions at Disney World. Since 1971, this merry-go-round has taken little guests on a journey to the big-eared darling. With its slow speed, carnival music and cute carriages, Dumbo is particularly suited for kindergarten and preschool children. In addition, the merry-go-round offers a nice view of other rides at Fantasyland. Because of its popularity, you should account for long waiting times – if you do not have a Fast Pass, that is.


This park is a true haven for Science-Fiction fans who want to take a trip to faraway galaxies and dimensions: The AstroOrbiter simulates real rocket rides, the rollercoaster Space Mountain rushes through dark tunnels, and Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin lets you hunt aliens with your laser pistol. Little guests can take the wheel at the Tomorrowland Speedway, while characters like Buzz Lightyear are roaming the park – always happy to take photos with their fans.


This park can look back on a particularly interesting history: Originally, Walt Disney had designed Epcot as a real city where up to 20,000 people were supposed to live. The plan, however, turned out to be too ambitious. Thus, in the 1980s, Epcot was transformed into a theme park that showcases human innovations. The number of cartoon characters and rides is lower than in other areas, which makes Epcot especially suited for older children, teenagers and adults.

Epcot - Disneyland Florida


At Futureworld, everything revolves around technology and inventions. The most visible attraction is found in the center of the park: Spaceship Earth, a giant dome that now harbors an animatronic ride. On it, you will discover the history of human communication: from stone tablets to the age of computers. Yet Futureworld offers even more attractions: You can, for example, cross the Earth on a flight simulator, design your own car, and discover the underwater world of “Finding Nemo” at an aquarium.

The World Showcase

Do you want to take a trip across the world without ever leaving Florida? The World Showcase offers exactly that. At this permanent world’s fair, you will get to know 11 countries, each of which are presented in their own pavilion. Here, you can try culinary treats, shop for traditional souvenirs and watch shows to learn more about exotic cultures. Most members of the staff come from the respective countries, which adds to the realism. The same realism can be seen in the architecture: Whether you visit a German town, Chinese temples or an Aztec pyramid – all settings have been designed with astonishing levels of detail.

Hollywood Studios

At the third Disney World theme park, everything revolves around movies – ranging from cartoon classics like Mickey Mouse, Snow White and the Lion King to Toy Story, Frozen and, of course, Star Wars. In the old days, films were even produced here, and visitors had the chance to look behind the scenes. Today, the Hollywood Studios are home to a variety of shows, parades, rides, restaurants and shops selling movie-themed souvenirs.

Hollywood Studios - Disneyland Florida

Hollywood Boulevard

Just as Main Street, USA serves as the entrance to the Magic Kingdom, this boulevard is your starting point when entering the Hollywood Studios. Here, you will venture into the golden era of films and marvel at architecture reminiscent of the 1930s. Hollywood Boulevard features a faithful replica of Grauman´s Chinese Theater, and every evening, scenes from famous Disney movies are projected onto its front. At this time, you can also witness the First Order hold a spectacular Star Wars parade on the boulevard. Another attraction awaits inside Grauman´s Chinese Theater: “Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway” takes guests on a colorful journey to the heroes of Mouseton – a definite highlight for the young ones.

Echo Lake

Around this idyllic lake in the heart of the park, you can experience Hollywood as it looked in the 1950s. Take a relaxing stroll under palm trees, or enjoy some ice-cream from the dinosaur “Gertie”. Alternatively, you can visit the ABC Studio and watch iconic scenes from the Star Wars movies. Located next to Echo Lake is a definite highlight for little princesses: At the show “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-Along Celebration”, Elsa and Anna perform catchy tunes, while Snowman Olaf is holding meets and greets with his fans. Another popular attraction is the Indiana Jones stunt show where young movie lovers are encouraged to participate.

Galaxy´s Edge

Do you want to venture into the faraway galaxy of Star Wars? Then, this area is must. Here, guests visit the planet Batu: home to smugglers, soldiers of fortune and rebels. High-rising towers, beeping consoles and a replica of the Millennium Falcon make the illusion perfect. And there is a lot to do: You can, for example, design your own light-saber, build a droid for your home or go on smuggling missions with the flight simulator. Another highlight is “Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance”: a ride that catapults you in the middle of a battle between Empire and Rebels. Blaster fire, storm troopers and dogfights outside the window create a cinematic atmosphere like no other.

At Galaxy’s Edge, you can try famous dishes from the Star Wars universe: among them Yob Shrimps, Kaadu Rips and Oi-Oi Berries. Or how about the green Thala Milk that Luke Skywalker likes to drink? This specialty is also available at the area’s food stalls.

Commissary Lane

This area between Grand Avenue and the Chinese Theater is a hidden gem far away from the hustle and bustle of the boulevard. Here, you can meet two iconic cartoon heroes: Mickey and Minnie Mouse are more than happy to give autographs, goof around with their fans and take pictures. The area is most well-known for the “Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant”: At this drive-in-cinema, you can sit down in a car to enjoy your meal – while watching a movie, of course. Or do you want to see where the stars of the Hollywood Studios are having their lunch? No problem: The cafeteria “ABC Commissary” is open for visitors.

Grand Avenue

Welcome to the Muppet Show! This area has got them all: Miss Piggy, Kermit the Frog, Fozzy Bear and many other beloved characters. They all can be seen performing in a 3D show that lasts about 20 minutes. Apart from the Muppets, there are no other shows or attractions here. Grand Avenue is, however, a perfect place to grab something to eat: specifically, to dine at the Italian restaurant owned by Rizzo the Rat. If you want to buy Christmas souvenirs all year round, you should head for “It’s a Wonderful Shop”, and Muppet fans can buy stuffed animals and T-shirts at the “Stage 1 Company Store”.

Toy Story Land

“To infinity, and beyond!” Since 2008, this attraction has been taking guests to the world of Buzz Lightyear and Cowboy Woody. These heroes roam the area to take pictures with their fans, and thanks to huge blocks and dominoes, you might feel like a miniature-sized toy yourself.

The youngest of visitors will enjoy themselves on the merry-go-round “Alien Swirling Saucers” with its Toy Story-themed decoration. A more exciting option is the rollercoaster “Slinky Dog Dash”. Or do you want to test your aim at entertaining mini-games? Then, “Toy Story Mania” is perfect for you. The park also hosts a parade of green toy soldiers, while “Woody’s Lunchbox” offers a variety of delicious meals.

Animation Courtyard

In the old days, Disney movies were drawn at the Animation Courtyard, and visitors could take a look behind the scenes. Today, this park has received a significant make-over. “Star Wars Launch Bay” will take you to faithfully reproduced settings where you can meet heroes of the franchise. In addition, a 10-minute movie sheds light on the production of Star Wars. Right next door, Arielle is hosting a music show, and “Disney Junior – Live on Stage” lets kids sing and dance with their favorite characters from the children’s program.

The Animation Courtyard is also home to a remarkable attraction that was created in memory of Disney World’s founder: At the museum “Walt Disney: One Man’s Dream”, you will learn more about the life and work of this genius.

Sunset Boulevard

When entering this park, you will be transported back to the Hollywood of the 1940s – as can be seen by many theaters and cinema based on real-life counterparts. A bit less glamorous, but full of fresh products, is the Farmer’s Market. And of course, Sunset Boulevard offers more than relaxing walks and shopping:

Magical entertainment is guaranteed at the musical “Beauty and the Beast”, “Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster” combines the music of Aerosmith with exciting G-forces, and Disney heroes like Peter Pan, Aladdin and Snow White perform at the evening show “Fantasmic!”. Of course, there is also the ominous “Hollywood Tower Hotel” at the end of the boulevard. Even from the outside, this building looks spooky and menacing. To uncover the hotel’s secret, however, you have to enter the elevator. Without saying too much, expect to have butterflies in your stomach!

Animal Kingdom

In Disney World’s newest addition, everything revolves around animals. Here, a whopping 250 species populate an area of 568 acres, making Animal Kingdom the largest theme park in the world.

Guests who “only” expect a zoo are in for a surprise, though: Animal Kingdom consists of 7 parks, each with their individual design: from the African savanna to the temples of Asia and research centers in the middle of the jungle. Long-extinct reptiles come to life at DinoLand, USA, and “Pandora” lets you venture outside our solar system. Of course, rollercoasters, flight simulators, playgrounds, and shows are an integral part of this world. In short:

Animal Kingdom provides enough activities for a full day of exploration.


The entrance to the Animal Kingdom is aptly named. Here, you will start your journey amidst lush, tropical surroundings, where streams and waterfalls babble along. The buildings are all eco-friendly and blend in perfectly with the environment. Caves and hanging bridges make the exploration even more fun, and of course, there are animals, too: Water birds cool off in the ponds, while the Oasis Exhibits are home to anteaters and wild boars.

To the north, the footpath rises, so you can enjoy beautiful views of the next area, Discovery Island. However, before it is time to go, why not dine at the Rainforest Café or enjoy a refreshing cocktail at the Safari bar?

Discovery Island

This island is surrounded by the Discovery River and can only be reached via bridges. The architecture reminds guests of exotic places like Bali, Java, and the Caribbean – with one unifying element: Everywhere you go, you will see animals. The best example is the Tree of Life, a 144 feet-tall landmark of the park. The pictures of 300 animals were carved into its bark, and inside the tree, you can watch a 3D movie inspired by “A Bug’s Life”.

Of course, there are also real animals: among them, flamingos, vultures, cute otters, lemurs from Madagascar, crocodiles and kangaroos. At the flight show “Winged Encounters”, you will witness the acrobatics of colorful parrots, the Viva Gaia Street Band plays Caribbean rhythms, and in the evening, the Tree of Life comes to life in a spectacular light show. Four restaurants fulfill every culinary wish – whether you are looking for fast food or fine dining.

Pandora – the World of Avatar

In this area, everything revolves around the Science-Fiction world of Pandora. The moon from the movie Avatar has been painstakingly reconstructed, as can be seen by its alien plants, waterfalls, and giant tree houses. But this is only the beginning:

The attraction “Avatar – Flight of Passage” lets you operate a Banshee and fly over the moon’s 3D surface. Ranking among the most sophisticated Disney flight simulators ever, even the queue area is a sight to behold: Here, you will walk through a dimly lit cave before entering the research lab full of mind-blowing special effects. Afterwards, it is time to hop on your Banshee and start the flight: A giant 3D screen, moving seats, wind, water, and even odors create an experience for all senses. “Flight of Passage” is suited for guests over 3.6 feet.

If you are looking for a more relaxed ride, the second attraction “Na’vi River Journey” is perfect: Here, guests ride their boat on an underground river flowing through a rainforest – full of luminescent plants, ominous sounds and realistically animated aliens. The level of detail leaves nothing to be desired, and thanks to the slow pace, this ride is suited for passengers of every age.


The experience starts in Harambe – a typical African town full of Colonial architecture. Here, spectacular dance and drum performances are held on the market square, while the Tusker House restaurant serves specialties from the continent. First and foremost, Harambe is the starting point for safari adventures: whether you want to walk through the rainforest, ride the safari train or observe iconic animals from the comfort of your tour bus.

Festival of the Lion King: Musical Show

“The Lion King” ranks among the most beloved Disney classics of all time – no wonder, then, that visitors flock to this musical in droves. Here, 30 minutes of unforgettable atmosphere await you: Costumed actors dance across the stage, perform acrobatic feats and sing famous songs from the movie – including “Hakuna Matata”, of course. There is even an interactive element: In every seating area, guests are encouraged to imitate an animal. The loudest group is declared winner at the end.

“Festival of the Lion King” is an attraction for every age group – and also a popular one. Despite 1,500 seats at the Harambe Theater, you should account for long waiting times if you do not own a Fast Pass.

Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail

This area is covered by a tropical jungle that you can explore at your own leisure. On the trail, you will see many iconic species of Africa: among them, okapis, black and white colobus monkeys, bee-eaters and mole rats. Playful meerkats peek out of their burrows, fish are swimming in an aquarium, and behind glass walls, you can see a fully grown hippo.

The gorillas are the main attractions of this area: More specifically, there are two gorilla families than can be observed from various points. The enclosures resemble their natural habitat and even feature a small waterfall for the gorillas to cool off.

Kilimanjaro Safaris

In the eastern part of the park, you will come face to face with lions, giraffes, antelopes, hippos and many other animals. Like on a real safari, guests take an all-terrain bus that brings them to 34 African species. Of course, a tour guide is present, so you will learn many interesting things about the animals.

The safari leads through areas that are not only big, but also authentically designed – with landscapes ranging from grassland and hills to water holes and forests. The animals are free to roam their habitats: Curious giraffes, for example, love to come close to the passengers, lions can be seen relaxing in the sun, and elephants use every chance to cool off in the water. Some of the inhabitants are only active after dark and can be observed on a nighttime safari.

The Kilimanjaro Safari takes about 20 minutes and is suited for guests of every age. Pregnant women and people with back pain, however, might be a bit overwhelmed by the bumpy ride. In this case, the Wildlife Express Train is a safer option.

Wildlife Express Train

Just like a real Colonial town, Harambe also features a train station. From here, you can start your relaxing trip on the Wildlife Express Train that takes 10 minutes to reach Rafiki’s Planet Watch. This is a perfect way to experience the park’s hidden secrets, as the tracks do not lead through the main areas. Instead, you will pass the enclosures of lions, elephants, rhinos, gazelles and other species – and learn how the animals are taken care off at the park. If you are lucky, you might even see animal attendants at work. The return trip from Rafiki’s Planet Watch passes through the tropical jungles of Asia before reaching Harambe’s train station. Thanks to its slow pace, this railroad is suited for passengers of all ages.

Rafiki´s Planet Watch

Would you like to take a look behind the scenes of the Animal Kingdom? Then, Rafiki’s Planet Watch is perfect for you. This lesser-known attraction resembles a research station in the jungle and can only be reached by the Wildlife Express Train. Consequently, it is rarely overcrowded by people.

Located at the center is the Conservation Station, where everything revolves around animal protection and medical care. The information is presented with many multimedia elements, making it perfectly suited for children. Speaking of children: Right next door, little guests can pet sheep and goats. The “Habit Habit” trail is home to cute tamarin monkeys, and of course, there are also traces of true Disney magic: At the “Animation Experience”, animators will show you how photos of animals are transformed into cartoon versions for movies.


Africa is not the only continent that has been painstakingly recreated at the Animal Kingdom. This becomes apparent when you enter the kingdom of Anandapur at the foot of the Himalaya. Tall-rising pagodas, wood carvings, colorful banners and tropical trees create the perfect ambience for your Asian-themed adventure.

Gibbons populate an old temple, but can also be seen climbing on ropes above your head. At the flight show “Up!“, you can admire the feats of parrots and birds of prey, and the characters from the Jungle Book invite little guests to a meet and greet at the Upcountry Landing pier.

This is not all, however: In „Asia“, you can start your hiking adventure through the rainforest, ride a rollercoaster to the peak of Mount Everest, or enjoy a boat ride on the Chakranadi River. In the evening, you should head back to the shores of the Discovery River to see a spectacular show with boats, atmospheric lights and music.

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain

Asia is home to one of the most popular rollercoasters at Disney World. Your mission becomes clear as soon as you enter the beautifully designed queue area: climb the peak of Mount Everest and look for the mysterious Yeti. The journey begins at the foot of the mountain and takes you higher and higher. Before long, you will get a glimpse of the snow- covered peak. But what is this? Somebody has sabotaged the tracks. Now, the rollercoaster plunges you backwards through absolute darkness.

Without spoiling too much: You are not alone, as the giant Yeti is already waiting for you. If you love to scream, Expedition Everest is the perfect ride for you: Strong G-forces and speeds of up to 50 mph provide an exciting experience like no other. For small children and passengers with health problems, however, the ride might not be suited. In addition, you should account for long waiting times if you do not own a Fast Pass.

Kali River Rapids

A large portion of Asia is taken up by the Chakranadi River. And what better way to explore this river then by boat? As you can expect from Disney, even the waiting area with its tropical trees and overgrown ruins is a true eye-catcher. Afterwards, it is time to man one of the boats that can accommodate up to 12 people.

The beginning is relatively harmless as you ride along the densely wooded shores. Soon, however, the river picks up speed. Fountains of water appear, rapids are shaking the boat, and at the end, you will come plunging down a waterfall. If you want to cool off on hot days, Kali River Rapids is the right attraction for you. Be advised, however, that you will get wet. Therefore, it is best to store your electronic devices in a locker. The ride is suited for guests above 3.18 feet.

Maharajah Jungle Trek

Do you want to explore the Asian rain forest and see many iconic animals of this continent? Then, you should head for the Maharajah Jungle Trek. Here, you can observe Komodo Dragons, the primeval giants of Indonesia. Afterwards, the trek will take you to bats, monkeys, deer, and the park’s main attraction: tigers. These kings of the jungle reside in temple ruins that provide ample space for the cats to roam around.

Animals are not the only highlight of the Maharajah Jungle Trek, though. The whole area has been designed in painstaking details and reminds visitors of an ancient temple city – complete with mural paintings and carvings reminiscent of Angkor Wat. You can explore the trail in your own pace, and of course, the Cast Members are always happy to tell you more about the animals.

DinoLand, USA

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you cannot only see contemporary animals. This becomes obvious when you enter DinoLand, USA. Here, everything revolves around the prehistoric giants – no wonder, with so many bones being excavated by the Dino Institute. The biggest exhibit is displayed outside, though: Here, you can marvel at the true-to-scale replica of a Tyrannosaurus skeleton. At the Boneyeard, little paleontologists have the chance to go fossil hunting, and of course, DinoLand also features rides: “Dinosaur” will take you back to a land before time, guests above 4 feet can enjoy themselves on the rollercoaster “Primeval Whirl”, and “TriceraTop Spin” features cute dinosaurs for children to ride.

Hungry visitors should head for the RestaurantoSaurus that serves American classics like burgers and hot dogs. If you are looking for souvenirs, you have also come to the right place: The five shops at DinoLand sell everything from T-shirts to stuffed dinosaurs.


Have you always wanted to travel back to the time of dinosaurs? Then, this mix between dark ride and motion simulator is perfect for you. The ride starts at a research lab inspired by movies like “Jurassic Park”. Soon, however, you will find yourself in a prehistoric world. Here, passengers come face to face with dinosaurs that look absolutely life-like – no surprise, as Disney has created them with the help of real paleontologists.

Your mission: rescue a specific dinosaur species before a giant comet wipes out all life. On this ride through the darkness, many dangers await, and your car will be thoroughly shaken. Small children might be a bit overwhelmed by this experience. All others, however, can expect 4 minutes of thrilling fun.

Fossil Fun Games

This attraction for younger children creates the perfect carnival atmosphere. In total, there are 6 different mini-games where guests can test their skills: among them, basketball, water pistols and Dinosaur-themed Whac-A-Mole. Of course, you can also win prizes. The more people participate in a game, the higher the chances of hitting the jackpot. Thus, the Fossil Fun Games are particularly suited for families and groups. Note, however, that this attraction is not included in the regular park entrance. Instead, you have to buy separate vouchers for each game.

Finding Nemo – the Musical

Situated between DinoLand and Asia is an attraction that amazes guests of every age. “Finding Nemo” will take you to the colorful underwater world of the movie. In telling the story of clownfish Nemo and his friends, Disney has spared no expenses. Everything at this show creates the perfect ocean atmosphere: from the life-like movement of the puppets to the background animations and actors that seem to glide through the water. Of course, “Finding Nemo” also features songs, many of which were exclusively composed for this musical.

The show’s venue, “Theater in the Wild”, can seat a whopping 1,500 guests. Nonetheless, you should account for long waiting times, as “Finding Nemo” is one of the most popular shows in the whole of Disney World.

Typhoon Lagoon

Since 1989, this Disney Park has provided the perfect opportunity to cool off. Here, you will not only find a wide selection of slides, but also one of the biggest surf pools in the world with waves of up to 6 feet.

Of course, there is a back-story, too: The park is situated in a lagoon that has been ravaged by a tropical storm – as can be seen by the stranded fishing boat on top of Mount Mayday. This mountain at the center of the park is much more than mere decoration, though. Instead, it serves as the starting point for exciting slides: The “Humunga Kowabunga”, for example, will plunge you down a whopping 213 feet through absolute darkness. Other slides allow groups of 4 people to master the rapids on inflatable rafts, while the “Crush ’n’ Gusher” will accelerate your boat with powerful water jets.

Do you need a break from all this excitement? Then, just dip your toes in the soft sand, relax on a sun chair or float on the lazy river. Hungry guests can dine at two restaurants, and there is also a playground for little tadpoles to splash around.

Blizzard Beach

Disney’s second water park was opened in 1995. Instead of palm trees and white sand, however, you will find a slightly different setting. According to the lore, Blizzard Beach was originally planned as a ski resort. When the weather normalized after the blizzard, though, the area was transformed into a water park. Nonetheless, artificial snow still covers the landscape, and you can ride a cable car to the top of Mount Gushmore.

There, the “Summit Plummit” starts: a water slide with an almost vertical drop and mind- blowing 60 mph. Equally thrilling are the “Runoff Rapids” that lead through a dark tunnel. Alternatively, you can board an inflatable raft with your family and ride down the meandering curves of “Teamboat Springs”. For visitors who want to relax, the 0.6-mile long lazy river is perfect. Authentically designed ski lodges harbor restaurants for every taste, and refreshing cocktails await you at the Polar Pub beach bar.

Disney Springs

Shopping, dining, entertainment – if these things are on your mind, Disney Springs is THE place to go. A whopping 50 restaurants fulfill every culinary wish, whether you are looking for Latin, Italian, Asian or American cuisine. All who have been to a Disney restaurant before know that the ambience is as important as the food: Enzos' Hideaway resembles a prohibition- themed speakeasy, at the Paddlefish, you can dine aboard an elegant steam boat, and the Rainforest Café pleases the eye with lush, tropical surroundings.

Thus replenished, it is time for some entertainment – and the choices are manifold: You can, for example, watch movies at a cinema, enjoy Virtual Reality adventures, go bowling, play basketball, take a boat trip on the Buena Vista lake, and even fly over the park on a hot-air balloon. For little guests, there is a merry-go-round and a miniature railroad.

Of course, shopping is also part of the experience at Disney Springs. More than 100 stores offer souvenirs of every variety: from Disney-themed household wares to stuffed animals, toys and beautiful paintings. In addition, there are shops that you would not naturally expect at a Disney Park: among them, a store for left-handers, a shaving shop and a store selling Hawaiian jewelry.

Disney Springs is open every day from 10 am to midnight. In order to get there, you can take Disney’s transport system, and thanks to a huge parking lot, arriving by car is no problem, either. Most visitors come here in the evening. During the day, however, you will hardly ever see big crowds.

Disney’s Boardwalk

This hotel and entertainment complex will take you to Atlantic City – a glamorous setting that you might know from TV shows like “Boardwalk Empire”. Granted, there are no casinos here. Apart from that, however, this coastal city has been authentically recreated.

Disney’s Boardwalk is not only suited for guests of the adjacent Boardwalk Inn hotel. An even bigger reason to come here are the restaurants: At Bon Voyage Breakfast, children can dine with their favorite Disney heroes, the Big River Grille serves home-brewed bear, and the Flying Fish is known for their excellent steaks and seafood. In addition, the boardwalk’s restaurants also offer Italian specialties, sandwiches, salads and ice-cream.

We recommend a visit in the evening, when the lights are beautifully reflected in the water. It is also at this time that the bars come to life: Take the AbracadaBar, for example, where everything revolves around illusions, and even cocktails are served with magic tricks. At the ESPN Club, you can watch your favorite team on the flat-screen, and fans of piano sounds should head for the Jellyrolls bar.

Blockbusters like „Jaws“, „Deep Blue Sea“ and „Open Water“ show: There is hardly an animal we admire and fear more than sharks. For some people, they are the epitome of terror. Others, however, are intrigued by the hunting skills these predators honed during Millions of years of evolution.

Whether you like them or fear them: Scientists now believe that their image as bloodthirsty killers is far from the truth. At the same time, the role that sharks play for the eco-system ocean becomes more and more clear.

If you are interested in sharks, Florida is THE place to be. Here, multiple species populate the coastal waters where they can be observed during dives. If you want to keep your distance, you can also learn more about sharks at Florida’s zoos and aquariums. And of course, there are also the remains of these predators in the form of shark teeth.

In this article, we will shed light on sharks in general, and specifically on sharks in Florida: Which species are found near the coast, where can they be observed and what are the best trips you can take to see sharks up-close and personal?

In addition, you will learn more about shark attacks in Florida and how to avoid unwanted trouble with these animals.

Shark Facts

Sharks are among the most fascinating animals in our oceans – especially, because we are far from knowing everything about them. What we do know, however, paints the picture of a highly complex and diverse group of sea creatures.

Origin and Evolution

Sharks have been living in our oceans for a whopping 400 Million years – long before the first dinosaurs were around. This can still be seen in fossilized shark teeth. By far the most fearsome species was Megalodon: a giant shark that went extinct 2 Million years go. This monster is estimated to have reached up to 65 feet – four times the size of a great white shark.

Species and Distribution

Worldwide, there are about 500 species of sharks, with vast differences in sizes and shapes. They populate every body of saltwater: from coastal shallows and the open ocean to the deep sea. Some species like river and bull shark are even found in fresh water.


Sharks are perfectly adapted to their lives as oceanic predators – as can be seen by the following characteristics:

  • Luckily for them, sharks do not need a dentist. The animals are able to regrow up to 30.000 teeth in the course of their lives. This is made possible by so-called revolver dentition with multiple rows.
  • Sharks possess rippled skin that allows them to glide through the water without major friction. This design is so energy-efficient that scientists are trying to copy it for ships and airplanes.
  • Shark eyes are able to detect ten times more light than human eyes. In addition, the animals have an excellent sense of smell, with which they can find pray from miles away.
  • This is not all, however: Sharks are also equipped with a lateral line organ that detects even the slightest ripples in the water. What is more, they can use the earth’s magnetic field in order to navigate.

Social Behavior

Many people still think of sharks as cold-blooded killers. In reality, though, many shark species are highly social, with individuals regularly pairing up and hunting together – true shark friendships, if you will. Scientists now believe that these animals have a social structure as complex as that of dolphins. There is a difference, however. Because sharks are unable to produce sounds, they mainly communicate with a number of swimming motions.

Sharks in Florida - Social Behavior


So far, not much has been known about the reproductive behavior of sharks. We do know, however, that the eggs of all sharks are fertilized inside the female’s body. During mating, scientists could observe male sharks using their teeth to hold on to the female’s pectoral fin and avoid getting drifted away.

Baby Sharks

While some shark species lay eggs, others bear live offspring. An example for the latter is the great white shark. Their young are able to survive on their own right after birth. However, little shark prefer to spend their first years in coral reefs that offer protection from bigger predators.

Baby Sharks - Skarks by Florida

Endangerment and Protection

Right now, 70 shark species are threatened with extinction – especially in the Mediterranean Sea. The animals get trapped in fishing nets or are hunted for their meat. A particularly brutal practice is called “Finning”: cutting of a shark’s fins and throwing the animal back into the ocean. In addition, sharks are also threatened by water pollution.

Organizations like the WWF and Greenpeace have made the protection of sharks their task. Important issues include stricter fishing quotas and a ban of finning, as well as legislation that prohibits the sale of shark meat.

Sharks by Florida

The Sunshine State’s coastal waters are a perfect refuge for many aquatic creatures. Thus, it should come as no surprise that sharks are a common sight in Florida.

Shark Species in Florida

Florida’s waters are home to more than 30 species of shark that come in all shapes and sizes – from small angel sharks that resemble flounders to reef sharks, tiger sharks, hammerheads and gigantic whale sharks. The iconic great white shark, known from movies and TV shows, is also found in Florida.

Here are some facts about Florida’s different shark species:

  • The most common species are lemon sharks with their characteristic green-yellowish skin. These sharks can be observed off the coast the whole year round.
  • 6,5–10 feet long silk sharks are another common sight. Unlike more solitary species, these sharks assemble in groups that can contain up to 1,000 individuals.
  • Whale sharks are the biggest fish found in Florida’s waters. Despite their giant size, they do not pose a threat to humans as they only feed on small crustaceans.
  • Mako sharks are record-holders when it comes to speed. This species is mostly spotted in the open sea and can reach up to 40 mph when swimming.
  • Great white sharks used to be a rare sight in Florida. In the last years, however, scientists have been able to observe an increase in their population.

Shark Attacks in Florida

Even though the chance of getting bitten by these predators is extremely small, shark attacks can and do occur in Florida.

Oftentimes, the culprits are black-tipped reef sharks. These specimen measure 5,2–6,6 feet in length and are known to venture into shallow waters where they come in contact with swimmers. Luckily, attacks are rarely ever fatal.

A bigger threat are 7,2–13 feet long bull sharks. These predators are regarded as unpredictable and aggressive towards divers. Not surprisingly, bull sharks are responsible for the majority of all shark attacks world-wide.

This is not to say that you have to watch out for sharks at every stretch of coast in Florida. By now, many beaches have been equipped with early warning systems and shark nets, which have reduced the attacks.

Shark Attacks - Sharks by Florida

This is evident by the official numbers for the state of Florida:

Shark attacks 2020: 16
Shark attacks 2019: 21
Shark attacks 2018: 16

In addition, shark attacks are not evenly distributed across the state. This map shows that most incidents occur in the counties Volusia, Brevard and Palm Beach on Florida’s east coast – followed by Jacksonville, Miami, Miami Beach and the Florida Keys.

Florida’s west coast at the Gulf of Mexico and the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area in particular are much less affected.

Tips to avoid Shark Attacks

If you are swimming at an unguarded beach in Florida, you should heed the following safety rules:

  • Sharks can smell blood from a large distance. Therefore, you should never step into the water with an open wound.
  • For the same reason, do not swim at spots where diving seabirds suggest the presence of bait.
  • Reflecting jewelry is known to attract sharks, so you best take it off before swimming.
  • Groups offer a certain level of safety as sharks are more prone to attacking single individuals.
  • Many shark species are nocturnal. Therefore, you should avoid swimming at night.
  • In case of a shark attack, fight back. Hitting the animals’ eyes, snouts and gills is a good way to scare away sharks.
  • If you are bitten by a shark, you have to seek medical treatment immediately. Even small wounds can lead to life-threatening infections if left untreated.

The best Places to observe Sharks in Florida

If you want to obverse Sharks in the wild, Florida is the perfect place for you. These predators populate the entire coast of the state and can be seen on boat or diving trips.

Which sharks you will see depends largely on the time of year:

Species like lemon sharks, nurse sharks and bull sharks can be found the whole year round. The same is true for whale sharks, although you will need a considerable amount of luck to spot these giants.

In the summer, Caribbean reef sharks, sandbank sharks, black sharks and hammerheads populate the coast, and if you want to observe tiger sharks, the months of December to July are perfect.

Sharks Swim Snorkel Watch - Skarks by Florida

Sharks in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys harbor more sharks than any other place in the world, making this island chain an ideal spot for shark watching.

Companies like Keys Shark Diving allow you to observe sharks from the comfort of a boat while also offering shark encounters in open water. A diving license is not needed, as you will be put into a special cage.

Another worth-while spot is Dry Tortugas National Park situated 70 miles away from Key West. Here, scientists were able to observe the mating of nurse sharks. The only way to reach this remote park is by boat. You also need a license that you can obtain on Garden Key.

Sharks in Palm Beach

Off the coast of Palm Beach, multiple shark species can be found – among them, tiger sharks, hammerheads and bull sharks that populate the coral reefs.

If you do not own a boat, we recommend the company Shark Tours Florida in Riviera Beach. On the three hour long “Swimming with Sharks” tour, the team will take you to the best places to observe more than 10 shark species. Excellent visibility levels add to the enjoyment. If you do not want to step into the water despite all the safety measures, you can also observe the predators from the boat.

Another provider is Florida Shark Diving in Jupiter. This company lets you choose between free dives and cage diving. Thanks to the sharks being baited with food, sightings are guaranteed.

Sharks in Miami

Florida’s most trending city is another hot-spot to go shark watching. For example, how about a trip with Miami Shark Tours? This company offers boat tours where you can see the animals from a safe distance – perfect for families. Alternatively, guests are able to do free and cage diving. Thanks to 10 years of experience, the tour guides know exactly where sharks can be spotted in great numbers.

Sharks in the Everglades

The coastal waters of Everglades National Park are home to a great number of bull sharks. These 7–10 feet long predators often swim up-river where they can be seen on a boat trip. Diving with bull sharks, however, is not advisable as they are known to be volatile and aggressive.

Near the coast, you can also spot other species that partially live in saltwater: black-tipped reef sharks and lemon sharks.

Sharks at Florida’s Zoos and Aquariums

You do not have the time for a boat trip but want to see sharks up-close? Then, we can recommend the following zoos and aquariums in Florida:

Sharks Zoo Aquarium - Sharks by Florida

Florida Aquarium

At Tampa’s Florida Aquarium, you can swim with sharks, even if you do not own a diving license. The activity “Swim with the Fishes” makes it possible. Equipped with snorkel and mask, you will step into the pool and get up close with these predators. Sharks, however, are not the only animals there. The pool is also teeming with barracudas, stingrays and turtles.


This aquarium in Orlando is home to the biggest artificial shark pool in the world. Shark Bay has been designed as a tropical reef with two levels, so you can observe the sharks above and below water. Alternatively, grab a snorkel and get within touching distance to (harmless) reef sharks. Or step into a glass cage to feed sharks, stingrays and turtles.

Miami Seaquarium

At the Miami Seaquarium, you can give handshakes, or rather “fin-shakes”, to cute nurse sharks and sting rays. The “Shark and Stingray Interaction” in a shallow pool makes it possible. Additionally, you can watch the 200 pound giants in the Shark Cannel getting fed by divers.

Theater of the Sea

The aquarium Theater of the Sea in Islamorada also offers animal encounters in shallow water. Here, you can go toe to toe with harmless nurse sharks to pet and even feed them. In addition, you have the opportunity to snorkel with sharks in a deeper saltwater lagoon.

Disney World

The “happiest place on earth” features sharks at the aquarium The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot. Here, tiger sharks, blacknose sharks and other species live in a pool filled with 5.7 million gallons of water. At the 30 minute snorkeling trip, you can get even closer to these predators – and to the turtles that are also swimming in the pool.

Tarpon Springs Aquarium

A true hidden gem for shark fans is located north-west of Tampa: The Tarpon Springs Aquarium features lemon sharks, nurse sharks and cat sharks. Children are allowed to feed these little specimens, and in addition, you can watch the bigger sharks being fed by divers.

Collecting Shark Teeth in Florida

Even if you do not see a real shark – these fish leave their marks in the form of teeth that get washed up on the state’s beaches. With a bit of luck, you can even find the dentals of long- extinct species.

Finding grounds are scattered across the entire coast of Florida. If you want to increase your chances, though, you should visit the following places:

The city of Venice is widely regarded the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. Here, no barrier islands block the coast, so thousands of prehistoric teeth can be collected.

Other worth-while spots on Florida’s west coast include Captiva and Sanibel Island. And do you remember the extinct shark species Megalodon? It is particularly after storms that the 4–8 inch teeth of this giant are washed up on the shores of Manasota Key.

Jacksonville on the northern east coast is another hot-spot, as the migration routes of sharks run alongside the shore. The same is true for beaches in St Augustine, Jupiter and Palm Beach.

Sharks by Florida FAQ – frequently asked Questions

How old do Sharks get?

This depends largely on the species. Small cat sharks, for example, mostly live up to 8 years, while great white sharks can reach 70 years. The record, however, is held by the Atlantic Greenland shark. Some of these fish have been alive for more than 200 years, making them the oldest vertebrates in the world.

What do sharks eat?

Depending on their age and size, sharks feed on fish, mollusks, crabs, but also dolphins, turtles, seals, penguins, and other sharks. The giant whale shark exclusively feeds on plankton, while great white sharks are also known to scavenge. Humans, however, are not on a shark’s menu. If the animals do attack, it is mostly because they feel threatened or mistake humans for prey.

Do sharks lay eggs?

Roughly half of all shark species lay eggs that the males fertilize inside the female’s body. The eggs are protected by a special layer and contain yolk for the shark embryos to feed on. Long strings allow the eggs to anchor themselves on algae and avoid getting drifted away.

Are sharks mammals?

Some shark species give birth to live young. Despite this, they are not mammals, but fish – cartilaginous fish, to be precise. Scientists believe that the last common ancestor of humans and sharks lived about 440 Million years ago.

Do sharks sleep?

Even apex predators of the ocean have to rest from time to time. However, scientists still do not know if they sleep like humans do. In any case, most sharks have to stay on the move constantly. Otherwise, they would drown as they rely on the constant stream of water into their gills. Some species like reef and nurse sharks, though, are able to remain motionless on the seabed.

Are sharks dangerous?

Of the 500 shark species world-wide, only 7 are considered dangerous for humans: among them, great white sharks, tiger sharks, blue sharks, black-tipped reef sharks and bull sharks. The latter two are responsible for most attacks in Florida. The number of incidents, however, is vanishingly low: In the years 2018–2020, only 16–21 attacks occurred every year.

How many sharks are there in the world?

The exact number of all sharks can only be estimated. If one counts all 500 species, the number could well be 1 billion or more. Many of these predators are endangered, though. Every year, more than 100 million sharks are killed, and scientists believe that the global shark population has dropped by 70 % in the last 50 years.

Manatees are as much a part of Florida as alligators, Miami Vice and Key Lime Pie. Nowhere else in the USA can you come as close to these animals as here. But what are the best spots to observe manatees? When can you see them, and which places let you swim with manatees? We will tell you in this article

Manatees of Florida Facts

Manatees are Florida’s biggest marine mammals and possess some remarkable features. Here are the most important manatee facts:

The Name „Manatee“

The name “manatee” denotes a particular kind of “Sirenia”, commonly known as Sea Cows. More precisely, when speaking about manatees, we mean the Caribbean Manatee, a subspecies that lives in the Southern USA, the Caribbean and as far south as Brazil and Venezuela.

The name stems from the pre-Columbian Taino word “maniti”, meaning “breast”. This name choice can be explained by the milk glands manatees have near their armpits.

Size and Weight

Grown manatees can reach 8.2–13 ft in size. Their weight normally ranges around 440–992 lbs. However, there have been reports of manatees that weighed up to 1323 lbs.


Manatees living in the wild have no natural predators. Thus, the animals can live up to 60 years. In captivity, their lifespan is even longer. A good example is Snooty, a 69 year old male manatee that lived at Parker Manatee Aquarium.


Manatees are strict herbivores that feed on seaweed, grasses and leaves. In the past, they were suspected to eat fish, but this turned out to be false. In order to feed their enormous appetite, manatees have to consume 4–10 % of their bodyweight in food every day.

Fun Fact: “Did you know that manatees spend up to 50 % of their days sleeping? The animals have to come to the surface to breathe every 20 minutes. However, they are able to do so without waking up.”


Manatees usually lead a solitary life and only sporadically gather in groups – for example, at the warm springs in Florida’s interior. An exception is the mating season when multiple males are competing for one female. Manatees communicate with their peers via squeaking and whistling sounds. The animals have an excellent sense of hearing.

Manatee Babies

After a gestation period of 12 to 14 months, manatee cows mostly give birth to one calf that they feed up to 2 years. Twins also occur, but they are rare. Manatee babies can weigh up to 66 lbs and measure 3.3 ft in length. They are able to swim right after birth, but are often carried on their mother’s back.

Manatees in Florida - Manatees Babies

Manatees of Florida – Threats and Conservation

Manatees in Florida are one of the biggest tourist attractions. However, the species remains endangered. There are a number of threats to these animals, prompting the state to react with strict conservation efforts


Florida’s native inhabitants used to hunt manatees for their meat and fat. Even though hunting the animals is illegal now, the human impact on manatees is significant. Sea cows are facing numerous threats, among them:

  • Boats and boat propellers that injure the animals
  • Waste water in rivers and coastal areas that causes diseases in manatees
  • Manmade structures like nets and floodgates where manatees get trapped.

Conservation Efforts

As an endangered species, manatees are protected in Florida. To save them from extinction, the state created special zones that are off-limits for boats. Hunting, disturbing or feeding manatees is illegal in Florida and can result in hefty fines or even jail time.

Manatees in Florida - Conservation Efforts

These conservation efforts have already proved effective: In the last 25 years, Florida’s manatee population has increased by 400 %.

Manatees of Florida – the best Time to watch them

Even though you can always see manatees in Florida, the best time to go manatee watching are the winter months from December to March. Then, many manatees from northern parts of the US come to Florida for the warm water. They do not only swim along the coast, but also make their way upstream to warm springs. In summer, the animals are only rarely found in fresh water. An exception is the Wakulla River.

Tip: “The best time for manatee watching are the early morning hours when the animals are particularly active.”

Swimming with Manatees

Many visitors to the Sunshine State are not content with watching the manatees on land. Swimming with manatees is a popular activity that is offered on the Crystal River. There, the animals are known to gather around warm springs.


First, your guide will take you to the river by boat and scan the water for ripples that indicate the presence of manatees. Then, you put on your snorkel and dive right in. Manatees are curious creatures that often swim close to humans – especially if they are not moving. Getting kissed by a manatee is definitely an unforgettable experience.


However, there are some important rules when interacting with manatees:

Manatees in Florida - swimming with Manatees
  • Feeding the animals is forbidden.
  • There are designated safety zones where you are not allowed to swim.
  • You should not make hasty movements or chase the animals.
  • Hurting or molesting manatees is punishable by law in Florida.

If you want to swim with manatees, you should choose a legitimate and experienced company, e.g. Florida Manatee Tours, Gulf Coast Expeditions or Nature Coast Manatee Tours.

Short Video Preview of swimming with Manatees in Florida

Manatees of Florida – the Habitat

In addition to manatees in zoos and aquariums, there are about 6.000 animals living in the wild in Florida. Their habitat includes the whole state. However, in the following places chances of seeing manatees are especially high:

Manatees in Miami

If you want to see manatees in Miami, you have come to the right place. Nowhere else in the state are there more spots for manatee watching. The following places are particularly worthwhile:

  • Black Point Park & Marina: This marina features a protected area for manatees where many sick and injured animals are brought for medical care.
  • Manatee Lagoon: In addition to an observation platform, you will find an interesting exhibition about manatees. Chances of seeing manatees are especially good when temperatures are cool and the sky is slightly overcast.
  • Manatee Observation and Education Center: Here, you can watch manatees from an observation tower. Alternatively, you can book a kayak tour on the Indian River Lagoon.
  • Crystal River, especially King’s Bay: This place is perfect if you want to swim with manatees.
  • Three Sisters Springs: There are often groups of up to 100 manatees that gather at these warm springs.
Manatees in Florida - Manatees in Miami

Manatees in the Everglades

The “River of Grass” offers ample opportunities to watch wild animals – among them the iconic sea cows. Especially in the winter months, manatees in the Everglades are a common sight. You have the choice: Do you want to watch the animals on an airboat tour or on a hiking trip?

Guests in Everglades City should try their luck at the canals near the Gulf. A well-kept secret among manatee fans is the Port of the Islands Resort. The port of Flamingo is another perfect spot to see manatees in the water.

Manatees in Ft Myers

There is no better place to see manatees in Ft Myers than the Lee County Manatee Park. There, the animals frolic in the warm waters of a power plant. Multiple observation platforms, picnic tables and canoe rentals are available at the Manatee Park Fort Myers.

If you want to see manatees in Fort Myers Beach, you should head for the secluded Lovers Key State Park. There, you can rent a kayak and observe the animals on the water.

Manatees in Naples

Like in other cities on the Gulf of Mexico, you might see manatees in the canals of Naples if you are lucky. The animals come here mostly in the summer and autumn months.

However, if you want to increase your chances of spotting manatees in Naples, you should book a tour with Manatee Sightseeing Eco-Tourism Adventure. This company knows the perfect spot for manatee watching, and will even give you your money back if you do not see any manatees on the tour.

Manatees in Tampa

If you want to see manatees in Tampa, you should take a trip to the Apollo Beach Power Plant. Granted, a power plant might be the last spot where you would expect manatees; however, the animals love swimming in the warm water and can be seen from the Manatee Observation Tower.

And you do not have to drive far: Even when taking a stroll on the Tampa Riverwalk, you should keep your eyes open. It is not rare for manatees to stick their snouts out of the water of the Hillsborough River.

Do you want to combine manatee watching with a boat trip in the Tampa Bay? Then, Anna Maria Island is the perfect place for you. This barrier island is one of the state’s best spots to observe the animals. It is no coincidence that the area where Anna Maria is located is called Manatee County.

Speaking of which: Visitors in the town of Bradenton can see manatees in the Parker Manatee Rehabilitation Habitat. Here, the sea cows live in 60.000 gallons of fresh water. The Habitat focuses on treating and studying the animals. In addition, guests can watch manatees above water and through glass walls.

Manatees in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

This nature reserve with the difficult name is a hotspot for kayaking. The crystal-clear water makes it easy to see manatees in Weeki Wachi. Especially in winter, the animals seek refuge around the park’s warm springs, so that is where you should steer your boat.

Manatees in Florida - Manatees in Weeki Wachee Springs State Park

Manatees in Wakulla Springs

In general, fresh water springs are a favorite winter refuge for manatees. In addition, this State Park has a remarkable characteristic: Manatees in Wakulla Springs stay for the whole year. What is more, females use this place to give birth to their young.

Manatees im Blue Springs State Park

Blue Springs State Park is a popular recreational area north of Orlando. Big groups of manatees are a common sight in the shallow, crystal-clear waters of these springs. The winter months in particular are a perfect time to see manatees in Blue Springs State Park. Oftentimes, injured manatees are brought here for rehabilitation. From the wooden boardwalk, you will enjoy amazing views, and if you are lucky, you might see females with their calves.

Manatees in Homosassa Springs

At the moment, Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park houses two manatees that live there permanently. The park also serves as a rehabilitation center for injured animals that are released back into the wild after treatment. In winter, you can observe even more manatees in Homosassa Springs.

Manatees in the Florida Keys

Thanks to their warm, tropical waters, the Florida Keys are an ideal place for manatees – at the beach as well as in marinas. In winter, you can even see them in the canals of Key West. Generally, the best thing is to go where water temperatures are the highest. Manatees in the Florida Keys prefer these spots. For example, you could try your luck in the following places:

  • Key Largo: especially Manatee Bay and the beach of the Hampton Inn
  • Vaca Key, near West Sister Rock
  • Little Palm Island, especially the East Docks
  • Marco Island, e.g. South Marco Beach
  • Hurricane Hole on Stock Island.

Manatees in Florida Zoos and Aquariums

Of course, you cannot only observe the marine mammals in the wild. If you want to have a hundred percent chance of seeing manatees, you should visit Florida’s zoos and aquariums. Places that feature manatees are:

  • ZooTampa at Lowry Park
  • Miami Seaquarium
  • SeaWorld, Orlando
  • Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens
  • Epcot, Walt Disney World
  • Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, Sarasota

Manatees of Florida FAQ – Frequently asked Questions

How old do manatees get?

Manatees in the wild can live for up to 60 years. However, the oldest manatee in captivity reached the age of 69.

Where can I see manatees in Florida?

The short answer: everywhere on the coast, even in marinas, canals and the basins of power plants. As a rule of thumb: Bodies of water that are warmer than the nearby coast provide a good chance of seeing manatees.

Which time is best to see manatees in Florida?

It depends where you are staying. On the coast, you can theoretically see the animals the whole year round. However, keep in mind that only 6.000 manatees remain in the wild, and that they spread across a large area. In winter, manatees tend to concentrate in Florida’s warmer waters where they can easily be observed.

Where can I swim with manatees?

If you want to swim or snorkel with manatees, you can take a trip to the Crystal River. King’s Bay is the only place in Florida where you can legally swim with the animals, and there are many tour providers.

Are manatees dangerous?

No. As herbivores, manatees do not harm humans. Should a manatee swim close to you, just remain calm. The animals are very curious and like to feel foreign objects with their snouts. Nonetheless, you should not swim towards manatees, but keep your distance in order to not disturb them.

In Florida, dolphins can be seen off the coast, on boat trips and in aquariums where they perform spectacular tricks. They are even used for child therapy. In short, the Sunshine State would not be the same without its dolphins, and there are many ways to encounter these playful animals.

In this article, you will learn where you can see dolphins in Florida – whether in zoos or in the open ocean. We also present the best places to swim with dolphins in Florida.

Dolphin Facts

There is a lot to learn about the playful mammals. Here are the most important dolphin facts in a nutshell:

Classification and Species

Dolphins are marine mammals that spend their entire lives in the water. They are part of the family of toothed whales. Unlike baleen whales, they have teeth, which can be clearly seen in pictures of dolphins. Among the 40 dolphin species, common and bottlenose dolphins are the most widely known. You might not guess it from their stocky built, but pilot whales are also part of this family.

Did you know? “Despite their name, killer whales are also dolphins – just like the bottlenose dolphins that sometimes fall victim to these predators.”

Weight and Size

Most bottlenose dolphins reach a weight of 330–660 lbs. However, there have been reports of dolphins that weighed up to 1430 lbs.

The animals usually measure 6.5–13 ft. in length. Despite their huge size, dolphins can jump up to 20 ft. high.


Dolphins can be found in different habitats all over the world – from arctic waters in the Atlantic to the tropical coasts of the Pacific. In addition to sea dolphins, there are also freshwater dolphins: for example, the Indian Ganges river dolphin and the very rare “Boto” that lives in the Amazon River.

The most common dolphin species in Florida are bottlenose dolphins. They populate all oceans and have even starred in films and series like “Flipper” and “Dolphin Tale”.

Dolphins in Florida - Habitat

Food and Behavior

Dolphins have an enormous appetite: A grownup specimen can eat up to 20 lbs of muscles and fish a day. The animals are not picky, and their food includes squid, seals and even other smaller dolphins.

Dolphins are known for their social behavior. They mostly live in schools that can include up to 1.000 individuals. For underwater navigation, dolphins use echolocation and sound

More Dolphin Facts:

  • Dolphins are highly social animals that care for each other when they are injured or sick.
  • While dolphins can see and hear very well, they have no sense of smell.
  • Each dolphin of a pod produces a unique whistling sound that serves as a personal signature.
  • The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) lets people adopt dolphins. With these monthly contributions, the conservationists fund programs that help ensure the well-being of the species.


Even though the animals have been studied extensively, there is no specific information about the lifespan of dolphins. On average, bottlenose dolphins are estimated to reach 25 years. In captivity, however, the animals can get more than twice as old.

Mating and Dolphin Babies

For dolphins, mating season is all year round. After birth, dolphin babies are usually 25–41 inches long and weigh 33–66 lbs. Females mostly give birth to single babies that they feed for about one year. Three years can pass before the young become independent from their mothers.

Dolphin Watching in Florida

Silvery silhouettes gliding through the water are a common sight on boat tours in Florida. With its tropical climate and long coastline, the state is a perfect place for dolphin watching. The following spots are particularly worthwhile:

Dolphins in Florida - Dolphin watching in Florida


Dolphins are among the most popular animals in Miami – as can be seen by the name of the city’s football team. You can observe the animals at the Miami Aquarium, where dolphins entertain the crowd; or you could book a whale watching tour: Located only 20 minutes south of Miami Beach is Biscayne Bay – a refuge for dolphins and other whale species.

Key West

With their warm, tropical waters, Florida’s barrier islands are a prime spot for dolphins. If you want to see them, you should take a dolphin tour in Key West. On the three hour trip, you can observe dolphins in their natural habitat before going snorkeling in a coral reef. There are plenty of companies for you to choose from.

Fort Myers Beach

Estero Bay, which separates Fort Myers Beach from the mainland, is known for its huge population of wild dolphins. For this reason, the company GAEA Guides organizes kayak trips along the coast. These tours are perfect for seeing not only dolphins, but also alligators, otters and manatees. If you are looking for an eco-friendly and authentic way to discover Estero Bay, you should book this 3 hour tour for 50 USD.

Marco Island

The company Dolphin Explorer Tour on Marco Island promises guaranteed dolphin sightings. Guests take a 3 hour boat trip through the marine sanctuaries off-shore. Although the dolphins swim freely in the wild, they were all identified and named by conservationists. Each of the animals has a unique personality that visitors learn more about on the tour. Included in the price of 64 USD is a stopover at a small barrier island where you can look for beautiful sea shells.

Sanibel Island

For guests based in Cape Coral, Sanibel Island is always worth a trip – especially because the surrounding waters are teeming with dolphins. If you are lucky, you can spot schools of up to 1.000 individuals here, although 10-30 are the norm. Sanibel Dolphin Tours takes small groups of up to 6 people on boat trips to watch playful dolphins. These intimate and exclusive tours last 2 hours and cost 250 USD.

More Places to see Dolphins in Florida

Fort Pierce: The company Dolphin Watch offers boat tours on the Indian River, which is home to hundreds of dolphins.

Destin: A boat ride with the Southern Star provides ample opportunities to watch wild dolphins following in the boat’s wake. Little guests are even allowed to steer the vessel for a while.

Clearwater: Warm water temperatures all year round make this city a perfect place for dolphins. The animals love to swim in the Intercoastal Highways, but can also be seen from Sand Key Park.

Dolphins in Florida’s Zoos and Aquariums

Of course, you cannot only see the marine animals in the wild. If you are looking for a hundred percent chance of spotting dolphins, you should visit the following zoos and aquariums in Florida:

  • SeaWorld (Orlando): At Dolphin Cove, the largest dolphin pool in the world, you can observe the animals above and below water.
  • Clearwater Marine Aquarium (Clearwater): This aquarium is home to the stars of the movie “Dolphin Tale”.
  • Gulf World Marine Park (Panama City Beach): This marine park is a top choice for dolphin shows in the north of Florida.

Swimming with Dolphins in Florida

Swimming with dolphins is an unforgettable experience for visitors in Florida. Thanks to their natural curiosity, dolphins are rarely afraid of humans, greeting them with friendly fin shakes, kisses and joyful chatter. Swimming with dolphins in the open ocean is forbidden. Luckily, there are many places that offer dolphin swimming in Florida

Dolphins in Florida - swimming with Dolphins in Florida

Dolphin Swimming in Miami

If you want to swim with dolphins in Miami, you can choose between two companies:

Miami Seaquarium

The Miami Seaquarium is known for its entertaining and educational activities. One of them is the Dolphin Encounter for 159 USD. Here, little guests learn more about the behavior of dolphins before plunging into the water with them. Dolphin swimming in deeper water is available for 220–240 USD and offers a chance to also feed the animals.

Miami Swim with Dolphins Tours

WA less well-known company is “Miami Swim with Dolphins”. They offer dolphin swimming for different age groups. You can choose between encounters in shallow or deep water, or combine both. Dolphin swimming starts at 220 USD, while shallow water encounters are available for 118 USD.

Dolphin Swimming in Marathon, Grassy Key

The Dolphin Research Center in Marathon treats injured sea creatures and is Florida’s most popular place for swimming with dolphins. Thanks to a wide range of options, you are guaranteed to find the right experience for you. The prices vary according to the activity and start at 25 USD for the “Meet the Dolphin” program. Here, children aged 1 year or older have the chance to pet a dolphin. For 60 USD, visitors get to play with the animals for 25 minutes. Dolphin swimming in Marathon costs 199 USD and allows you to splash around with a dolphin for half an hour. Grabbing on to their fin and letting them drag you through the water is a highlight of the program.

You can even paint with dolphins at the Research Center: The aquatic mammals are skilled artists and will spice up any shirt with colorful brush strokes – the perfect souvenir to bring back home from Florida. All the activities at the Dolphin Research Center are highly popular, so you should reserve well in advance.

Dolphin Swimming in Orlando

Orlando is not only known for its theme parks. The city also provides ample opportunities to swim with dolphins.

Dolphin Lagoon

The Dolphin Lagoon at the Aquapark Discovery Cove is a perfect place for groups:
First, a trainer will give you entertaining lessons about the animals; then, everybody gets to pet a dolphin. Do you want to know what it is like to be a professional dolphin trainer? Then, you should book the activity “Trainer for a Day” that also includes dolphin encounters in deep water.

SeaWorld Orlando

When visiting Florida’s most popular aquarium, you cannot only see dolphin shows, but also interact with these animals. Granted, there is no real dolphin swimming at SeaWorld Orlando. However, at the Dolphin Encounter you can pet dolphins on land, take a selfie with them and hear interesting dolphin facts from a trainer. The regular price is 49 USD for 15 minutes.

Dolphin Swimming in the Florida Keys

There is hardly a better place for dolphin swimming than the Florida Keys. The following spots are particularly popular:

Theater of the Sea

Your first choice should be the Theater of the Sea. Here, dolphin encounters take place in a natural saltwater lagoon. You can either play with dolphins in waist-high water or swim and snorkel with bottlenose dolphins in deep water. Painting with dolphins is also available at the Theater of the Sea.

Dolphin Plus

If you are traveling with children aged 7 or upwards, you should visit the aquarium Dolphin Plus on Key Largo. Here guests are not limited to shallow waters, but can swim with dolphins in the ocean. The animals are free to dive down and swim away, so they can decide how close they want to get to people. The activity costs 210 USD. If you want to study the animals´ behavior underwater, you should book the snorkeling with dolphins.

Dolphin Swimming in Fort Lauderdale

When it comes to dolphin swimming in Fort Lauderdale, Dolphin World is a top choice. Transportation is included if you book your dolphin encounter through this company – perfect for guests without a car. In addition to dolphin swimming, they also offer encounters for children and non-swimmers.

Delfinschwimmen in St. Augustine

Are you visiting the north of Florida? Then, dolphin swimming in St. Augustine is a great activity for your whole family. Less known then the big aquariums in the south, the Marineland St. Augustine offers amazing bargains: For example, dolphin swimming only costs 211 USD for adults. If you want to encounter dolphins in shallow water, you will only pay 111 USD.

Delfine in Florida FAQ – frequently asked Questions

How old do dolphins get?

In the wild, dolphins usually reach an age of 25 years and rarely get older than 50. The oldest dolphin ever studied in the wild was 40 years old. In captivity, however, dolphins can reach an age of up to 55 years.

Where do dolphins live in Florida?

Dolphins populate Florida’s entire coast, where they can be seen the whole year round. The fishing grounds in the Gulf of Mexico are particularly attractive to dolphins. Other ideal spots are Marco Island, Naples and the Florida Keys.

What are the best places to swim with dolphins?

There are many places in Florida that offer dolphin swimming. Although the activities are very similar, the target audience varies: For example, at the Miami Seaquarium, the focus lies on learning more about dolphins; Marineland St. Augustine is known for its reasonable price policy, and Dolphin Plus on Key Largo lets you swim with dolphins in the open ocean.

How much does it cost to swim with dolphins in Florida?

If you want to swim with dolphins, you can expect to pay at least 210 USD per person. Encounters in shallow water are cheaper and better suited for small children and non-swimmers. These dolphin encounters usually start at 35 USD.

They are found in Florida’s rivers and swamps, sometimes even in swimming pools and on golf courses: Alligators and crocodiles are the Sunshine State’s most iconic animals. Nowhere else in the USA do you have such ample opportunity to see these giants – in Gator Parks, zoos and in the wild. But what are the best places to watch them? How can you tell alligators and crocodiles apart? And what should you do in case of an encounter? Find out more in this article.

Alligator Facts

You want to increase your knowledge about Florida’s iconic reptiles before visiting the zoo or going on an air boat trip? Then, you should check out these alligator facts:

Alligator Species

In total, the Alligatoridae family is comprised of eight species that split into alligators and caimans. Florida is home to the American alligator. In addition, there are Chinese alligators that are much smaller than their brethren in the New World. All six known caiman species live in South and Latin America.

Alligator Size and Weight

On average, American alligators reach a size of 10 ft and a weight of 500 lbs. However, the biggest individual ever caught weighed a whopping 992 lbs and measured 16 ft in length.

Alligator Habitat

Alligators predominantly live in fresh water habitats such as rivers, lakes and swamps. However, due to the population growth in Florida, alligators are sometimes found on golf courses and in swimming pools. Alligators in the sewer, however, are an urban myth. Down there, the conditions would be too dark and cold for these animals.

Alligator Food and Behavior

Being true omnivores, alligators devour almost everything unlucky enough to get trapped in their jaws: Their food includes fish and small mammals, but also tortoises and birds. On land, the reptiles might seem slow; in the water, however, they can reach top speeds of 20 mph. At the same time, they hardly make a sound and can detect even the slightest vibrations in the water.

Most of the time, alligators show a solitary behavior. However, smaller alligators sometimes band together to hunt. The animals also share sunny places that they use to regulate their body temperature.

Babies and young Alligators

Despite their fierce and menacing appearance, female alligators are actually caring mothers. They lay up to 70 eggs on riverbanks where they protect their nest from predators. Alligator babies measure around 8 inches. For the first few weeks after birth, the young are under the protection of Mama Alligator. Alligator mating season in Florida runs from April to June.

Did you know: “The temperature determines whether an alligator becomes a boy or a girl. If temperatures in the nest exceed 31 degrees Celsius, a male alligator will hatch; otherwise, it will be a female.”

Alligators and Humans

Alligators and Crocodiles do not prey on humans and usually keep their distance. However, due to population growth, encounters with the animals have become more frequent. Although statistically speaking, it is more likely to be killed by a cow than by an alligator, tragic incidents happen every year.

Alligators and Crocodiles in Florida - Alligators and Humans

When dealing with alligators and crocodiles, you should follow these guidelines:

  • Only swim in designated areas, and only in the daytime.
  • Do not walk too close to river banks. Breeding females, in particular, do not take kindly to intruders.
  • Put your dog on the leash when walking next to a river, so it does not stir up an alligator.
  • Should an alligator chase you, run away. The animals are good sprinters, but lack the stamina for a long pursuit.
  • If you are being attacked by an alligator: Fight back with everything you have and aim for its eyes and snout.
  • Due to risk of infection, even baby alligator bites have to be treated immediately.
  • If you see an alligator on the road, keep your distance. Call the police or the alligator hotline (866-392-4286). Feeding or harassing the animals is punishable by law.

Alligator Watching in Florida – the best Places

Fans of the primeval reptiles will love the Sunshine State. There is hardly a better place in the USA to go alligator watching than Florida.

Alligators in Zoos and Aquariums

If you want to see many alligators in one spot and learn more about these animals, you should visit the following places. There, you can observe Florida’s alligators in zoos and aquariums:


This theme park near Orlando has been in operation since 1950. The slogan “Gator Capital of the World” is appropriate: 2.000 alligators and crocodiles live here – among them two rare albino alligators. At the Baby Gator Marsh area you can see cute hatchlings. And Gatorland is not just home to American species. Nile crocodiles and Caribbean specimen live here as well. You are not happy just watching the animals from the ground? Then take the zip line for a high-speed ride over the crocodile enclosure.

GatorWorld Parks

GatorWorld Parks near Orlando is another prime spot for alligator fans. Here, you can drive your car past artificial lakes with more than 400 animals. A real celebrity is “Big Al”, a 13 feet giant that you can even take a selfie with. In addition, you can also hold a less-threatening baby gator. Their older brethren are kept in a special enclosure, where visitors feed them pieces of meat.

St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park has dedicated a whole section to the primeval reptiles: “Land of Crocodiles”. Here, you cannot only see rare albino crocodiles. Their smaller Chinese cousins live here, too – just like Nile crocodiles and thin-snouted gharials. In addition, the area houses the taxidermied remains of Gomek, a 16 feet behemoth. Behind glass walls, you can watch Maximo, a saltwater crocodile measuring 13 feet. Thrill-seekers should try the obstacle course “Crocodile Crossing” above the crocodile enclosure – while wearing a safety harness, of course.

Alligator Attraction

At the Alligator Attraction in Madeira Beach, visitors get close to wild animals. Here, children can feed alligators with rods, hold the reptiles and even kiss a baby gator. Luckily, the young one has its snout taped shut, so it cannot kiss back.

Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf

Another popular destination for families is Smugglers Cove Adventure Golf in Fort Myers Beach – perfect if you cannot choose between minigolf and alligators. Located at the centre of the course is a lake with 20–30 adolescent animals. Here, you can feed the alligators with bamboo poles after completing the golf course.

Everglades Alligator Farm

Hunting wild alligators is illegal in Florida. Therefore, around 45.000 alligators are bred in captivity for their leather and meat. 2.000 of them live on the Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead. Here, you can watch the hungry reptiles getting fed, and also witness an ancient sport: Alligator Wrestling. During the show, trainers perform daredevil stunts like sticking their head in the animal’s mouth. In the end, however, it is the alligator that gets eaten. Fried Gator Bites with hot sauce are a popular dish in the Southern Cuisine.

Other places where you can see alligators

More places with alligators include:

  • Florida Aquarium (Tampa)
  • ZooTampa at Lowry Park (Tampa)
  • Everglades Holiday Park (Fort Lauderdale)
  • Naples Zoo (Naples)
  • Conservancy of Southwest Florida (Naples)
  • Shell Factory and Nature Park (Fort Myers)
  • ZooMiami (Miami)
  • Gator Beach (Pensacola)
  • Panama City Beach Zoo (Panama City Beach)

Alligators in the Wild

If you want to see Florida´s alligators in the wild, you should try your luck at the following places:

Alligators and Crocodiles in Florida - Alligators in the wild

Everglades National Park

Florida’s River of Grass is by far the best place to see alligators in the wild. It is also the only place where the reptiles share their habitat with crocodiles. There are many possibilities to explore the National Park:

While hiking on the Tamiami Trail in Shark Valley, or the short, beginner-friendly Anhinga-Trail, you are almost guaranteed to spot alligators sunbathing in the water. Alternatively, watch the reptiles on the trails starting at the National Park entrance in Homestead. Of course, you can also launch your kayak at the Nine Mile Pond and observe alligators in the brackish water. Legend has it that a 15 feet monster called “Croczilla” still lives there. Gators are a main attraction on the popular airboat tours. Here, you can even have your photo taken with a (harmless) baby alligator.

Oasis Visitor Center im Big Cypress Preserve

Around 1.500 alligators live in this reserve north of Everglades National Park. Some of them can already be spotted from the parking lot. If you want to see more, take the 5 minute loop trail beginning at the Oasis Visitor Center. Here, you can comfortably watch the reptiles from wooden boardwalks. If you are lucky, you might even catch them hunting. Alternatively, drive your car through the preserve, or go alligator watching on a kayak ride.

Myakka River State Park

This gator refuge is located in Sarasota County. Particularly large groups can be seen around the “Deep Hole” pond that you reach on a 4 mile loop trail. Only 30 visitors are allowed in the State Park every day, so you should get there early. It also pays to visit on a day with no wind, as the alligators like to hide when it is breezy.

Wakulla Springs State Park

This park south of Tallahassee is not just popular with swimmers who want to cool off in its springs. On an airboat tour you can watch alligators sunbathing. The most remarkable specimen, however, is kept at the Wakulla Springs Lodge: “Old Joe”, a 10 feet long alligator that was killed in 1966.

Hillsborough River State Park

Visitors to the Tampa Bay area can see alligators at this nature reserve – no matter if they want to go hiking, cycling or kayaking. The gators are often spotted tanning on driftwood or relaxing on the shore.

Other places

You can also see Alligators in the following places:

  • Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples
  • Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg
  • Merritt Island State Wildlife Refuge near Kennedy Space Center
  • Ocala National Forest north of Orlando
  • Everglades & Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Preserve west of Fort Lauderdale
  • J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island

Crocodile Facts

Not every huge reptile in the Sunshine State is an alligator. We will present you the most important crocodile facts:

Alligators and Crocodiles in Florida - Crocodile Facts

Crocodile Species

The family of the so called true crocodiles includes 15 to 19 species: among them Australian saltwater crocodiles and species in Africa, South Asia, North America and South America. Florida is home to the American crocodile.

Did you know? “There are also white crocodiles. It is estimated that one in 20.000 crocodiles is affected by albinism.”

Crocodile Habitat

Crocodiles are not picky when it comes to their habitat: They live in freshwater bodies like rivers, lakes and swamps, but also in brackish water. You can even see crocodiles in the ocean. In Florida, the reptiles concentrate in the warm south: particularly in the Everglades, the Florida Keys and south of Tampa and Miami.

Crocodile Size and Weight

As one of the largest crocodile species in the world, the American Crocodile can reach a length of 23 feet and a weight of 880 lbs. The females can be distinguished from the males by their smaller size.

Crocodile Diet and Behavior

Crocodiles have a varied diet. Their food includes snails and crabs, as well as fish, tortoises and birds. Even grown cattle sometimes fall victim to the reptiles.

Crocodiles are solitary animals that fiercely protect their territory. In the daytime, they display a largely inactive behavior. The animals usually hunt at night.

Crocodile Babies

Crocodile babies hatch after an incubation period of 75 to 80 days. They usually measure 9.4–10.6 inches in length and know how to hunt right after birth. Despite this, young crocodiles spend several weeks with their mother.

Alligators and Crocodiles – the Differences

Alligators and Crocodiles share some similarities. However, you can tell them apart if you look at the following differences:

  • Compared to alligators, crocodiles have a longer, thinner snout – as can be clearly seen in crocodile pictures. Their mouths are shaped like a “V”, whereas alligators have a “U” shaped snout.
  • If you can see the animal’s upper and lower teeth, you are looking at a crocodile. In contrast, alligators have dominant upper jaws that cover their lower jaws.
  • While both reptiles have green skin, crocodiles sport a fairer skin tone than alligators.
  • If you encounter a large reptile in the ocean, it is most likely a crocodile. Alligators, on the other hand, are not well adapted to saltwater.

In the wild, you hardly ever have to ask the question: crocodile or alligator? While the Sunshine State is populated by a whopping 1.3 million alligators, only 2.000 crocodiles are estimated to remain in the wild.

Seeing Crocodiles in Florida – the best Places

Whether in the wild or in zoos – the following places are perfect if you want to see crocodiles in Florida:

Alligators and Crocodiles in Florida -Seeing Crocodiles in Florida – the best Places

Crocodiles in Zoos and Aquariums

If you want to see Florida’s crocodiles in captivity, we can recommend the following zoos and aquariums:

  • Gatorland (Orlando)
  • Croc Encounters (Tampa)
  • Everglades Holiday Park (Fort Lauderdale)
  • Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens (Sanford)
  • Brevard Zoo (Melbourne)
  • ZooMiami (Miami)

Crocodiles In the Wild

Crocodiles are not a common sight in Florida. However, if you want to see these animals in the wild, you should try your luck in the following places:

  • Everglades National Park: Here, crocodiles share their habitat with the more common alligators.
  • Marina of Flamingo in the southern Everglades
  • southern Biscayne Bay
  • northeastern Florida Bay
  • Shark River to Sanibel Island and the coastal waters around Cape Coral
  • Broward County
  • Florida Keys, especially Key Largo

Alligators and Crocodiles in Florida FAQ – frequently asked Question

Where do alligators live in Florida?

Florida’s alligators can be found in all freshwater habitats, from the north of the state to the Florida Keys in the South. In saltwater, however, the reptiles are a rare sight.

How old do alligators get?

In the wild, most alligators reach an age of 30–50 years. In captivity, however, their lifespan can be much longer. The best example is 83 year old Muja, the oldest alligator in the world.

What do alligators eat?

Alligators predominantly feed on fish, small mammals, tortoises and birds. Young animals mostly eat larvae, snails and mollusks.

Do alligators eat people?

Under normal circumstances, alligators do not attack people, and humans are not part of their diet. However, alligators have attacked in the past when they were provoked or mistook humans in the water for prey.

How many alligators live in Florida?

With a population of 1.25 million animals, Alligators are a common species in Florida. They are not endangered or threatened anymore.

Where do crocodiles live?

American crocodiles populate the tropical south of Florida, the Everglades and coastal areas as far north as Miami and Tampa. In addition, the species is found in the Caribbean, Latin America and northern parts of South America.

What is a crocodile’s favorite food?

Crocodiles are omnivores that feed on fish, mammals, birds, snakes and tortoises. They have even been observed to attack sharks. Crocodiles are also cannibals that eat smaller crocodiles.

How big are crocodiles?

American crocodiles can reach a length of up to 23 feet. However, 9.8–13 feet are the norm for male specimen.

How old do crocodiles get?

In the wild, crocodiles usually live for 30–70 years – if they do not fall to predators at a young age, that is.

How long have crocodiles lived on earth?

Crocodiles are living fossils that have populated our planet for the last 200 Million years. This means that the first Crocodiles coexisted with dinosaurs.

Do crocodiles eat people?

Due to their small population, encounters between humans and crocodiles are exceedingly rare – as are deaths by crocodile. Although American crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators, the species is not known for deliberately attacking or eating humans.

How many crocodiles live in Florida?

Only about 2.000 crocodiles remain in the wild in Florida. However, strict protection measures have prompted an increase in crocodile numbers.