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Swimming with dolphins in Marineland - YouTube

In all my travels across Florida, there is nothing more fascinating than encountering a dolphin — it’s most likely one you would not soon forget. In case you didn’t know, there are risks of swimming with dolphins in the wild. That said, there are plenty of places where you can safely swim with them! Here’s a list of my favorites.

Marineland Dolphin Adventure (just south of St. Augustine)

Here you can have an incredible, intimate in-water experience as you rub down a dolphin, splash and play with their favorite toys and learn how to build positive relationships with these amazing animals. An informative and educational pre-encounter session will prepare you for your program, and offer the opportunity to learn more about these amazing marine mammals.  

Hawks Key Resort in Marathon

Their Dolphin Connection program is in an ocean-fed saltwater lagoon and is home to a pod of friendly dolphins that visitors can interact with while learning the importance of protecting Florida’s marine ecosystem. Hawks Cay Resort is the only hotel or resort in the mainland United States that offers their guests the opportunity of dolphin viewing on site, in their natural habitat.

Miami Seaquarium

Check out their Dolphin Odyssey, where you can get kisses, handshakes, rubs, training techniques, feed, and a dorsal fin tow that will showcase their true power!

Orlando Discovery Cove in Orlando

Get a nose-to-bottlenose encounter in shallow or deep water while learning all about dolphin habits and their amazing ability to communicate.

Theater of the Sea in Islamorada

Swim with dolphins in the Florida Keys! Here you can touch and interact with a dolphin while swimming and snorkeling around a lagoon. This iconic place that’s been around since 1946 is also home to sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, alligators, and a variety of exotic birds. 

Dolphin Research Center in Marathon

One of my favorite places to swim with dolphins. There are many other programs they offer, including painting with a dolphin and being an ultimate trainer for a day.

Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City, Florida

For 30 minutes, you get you a belly ride, kiss, handshake, hug and caresses, and free time with a dolphin!

So venture over to one of these places and check “swimming with dolphins” off your to-Do list.

Do florida,

Chad

Love Florida? Tag your pics with @howtodoflorida on Instagram and Facebook and don’t forget to hashtag #howtodoflorida.

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Swimming with dolphins in Marineland - YouTube

In all my travels across Florida, there is nothing more fascinating than encountering a dolphin — it’s most likely one you would not soon forget. In case you didn’t know, there are risks of swimming with dolphins in the wild. That said, there are plenty of places where you can safely swim with them! Here’s a list of my favorites.

Marineland Dolphin Adventure (just south of St. Augustine)

Here you can have an incredible, intimate in-water experience as you rub down a dolphin, splash and play with their favorite toys and learn how to build positive relationships with these amazing animals. An informative and educational pre-encounter session will prepare you for your program, and offer the opportunity to learn more about these amazing marine mammals.  

Hawks Key Resort in Marathon

Their Dolphin Connection program is in an ocean-fed saltwater lagoon and is home to a pod of friendly dolphins that visitors can interact with while learning the importance of protecting Florida’s marine ecosystem. Hawks Cay Resort is the only hotel or resort in the mainland United States that offers their guests the opportunity of dolphin viewing on site, in their natural habitat.

Miami Seaquarium

Check out their Dolphin Odyssey, where you can get kisses, handshakes, rubs, training techniques, feed, and a dorsal fin tow that will showcase their true power!

Orlando Discovery Cove in Orlando

Get a nose-to-bottlenose encounter in shallow or deep water while learning all about dolphin habits and their amazing ability to communicate.

Theater of the Sea in Islamorada

Swim with dolphins in the Florida Keys! Here you can touch and interact with a dolphin while swimming and snorkeling around a lagoon. This iconic place that’s been around since 1946 is also home to sea lions, sea turtles, sharks, stingrays, alligators, and a variety of exotic birds. 

Dolphin Research Center in Marathon

One of my favorite places to swim with dolphins. There are many other programs they offer, including painting with a dolphin and being an ultimate trainer for a day.

Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City, Florida

For 30 minutes, you get you a belly ride, kiss, handshake, hug and caresses, and free time with a dolphin!

So venture over to one of these places and check “swimming with dolphins” off your to-Do list.

Do florida,

Chad

Love Florida? Tag your pics with @howtodoflorida on Instagram and Facebook and don’t forget to hashtag #howtodoflorida.

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Swimming with Manatees - YouTube
Day-trip Snapshot:

Head out first thing in the morning to Crystal River, Florida (approximately 90 minutes north of Tampa and west of Orlando) and check into the manatee tour center. There you’ll watch a video on how to snorkel and interact with manatees, then you’ll be fitted with a swimsuit, snorkel, mask, and fins. Follow your guide and hop on a pontoon boat that will take you to a designated area. You’ll quietly enter cool, spring-fed waters that are so clear that you’ll be able to spot manatees in no time. If you’re lucky, these friendly and curious creatures will swim right up to you! After your tour, head to downtown Inverness to enjoy a hearty lunch and maybe do a little shopping, then spend the rest of the afternoon at Fort Island Gulf Beach Pier and watch the sunset.

1st Stop: Swim with Manatee Tour

Locations: Crystal River and Homosassa (tour centers vary by location)

Cost: Varies, but usually around $60 per person

What to Bring: Just your swimsuit! Tours usually provide wetsuit, snorkel, mask, and fins

Length of Activity: 3 – 4 hours

Best Time to Go: Manatee tours operate all year round, but you’ll spot more manatees in the cooler months when they hang out in the warm 72º spring temps.

2nd Stop: Stumpknockers on the Square

Location: 110 W. Main Street in Downtown Inverness

Grab a seat outside and enjoy a cool drink with catfish, fries, corn-on-the-cob, slaw, and hush puppies. They also have plenty of seafood, steak, and good ole southern cuisine like fried green tomatoes, frog legs, and gator bites. Check out their menu here.

3rd Stop: Fort Island Gulf Beach Pier

Location: 16000 W. Fort Island Trail, Crystal River, FL 34429

Enjoy an afternoon stroll along the beach and watch the sunset on the pier.

Other resource links:

Crystal River Florida Map

Discover Crystal River Florida

Plantation on Crystal River Manatee Tours

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  • Day Trip: Crabs, Chachkies & A Sunset

    Your day begins as a “mate” on a working commercial crab boat on beautiful Tampa Bay. This is a hands-on old Florida adventure that ends with a seafood lunch that you’ll talk about for decades....

  • Day Trip: Catch, Cook and Chill

    Your day begins at 7:00 AM as you meet your fishing captain for a day on the water fishing the area around Anna Maria Island....

  • Day Trip: Bass, Burgers & Beer

    This will be a day of reeling in FL legendary bass and lifting glasses of hand crafted beer up and down. This is a great day for old friends to catch up or replace the beer with root beer and take the kiddos. No matter who you bring this is promised to be a full day soaked in old FL charm....

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how to Do Paddleboard Fishing - YouTube

Even though paddleboarding has been around since ancient times, it is a relatively new and very popular sport today. Apparently, you don’t have to just paddle around either. I’ve seen paddleboarders racing, spearfishing, snorkeling, lobstering, wake surfing — even doing Yoga. I’ve done all kinds of paddleboarding, but I definitely enjoy the advantages of paddleboard fishing. Here are some reasons why:

Accessibility: You can Do paddleboard fishing in pretty much any body of water — lake, ocean, bay, river, pond. You also can get to places that are hard to access via boat (ie: mangroves, tall reeds, etc.)

The Height Advantage: It’s easier to cast your line standing up. Plus, the higher you are, the better you can see potholes, mud boils, grass beds, and fish moving around. Best thing: you can sneak right up on them or cast your line right at them. Sight casting is like fishing and hunting — it’s the best of both worlds. Bam!

Mobility: Paddleboards are easy to transport and load/unload. Just plop the board in the water and you’re good to go.

Exercise: With paddleboarding, I get a full-body workout and I get to catch fish — it’s a win-win!

What Kind of Paddleboard is Best for Fishing?: Get a paddleboard that is big, wide, thick, and long for better stability (and a place to put your cooler and rod holders).

Rent or Buy?: If you’ve never been on a paddleboard, I highly recommend you rent one first. If you plan on buying one, the good news is paddleboards have become more affordable due to their popularity over the years, and used ones are a lot more available than ever before.

Important Tip: Hit the waters early or late in the day. And make sure to check the weather because strong winds make getting back to shore a real issue (see above video). Also, stay away from heavily boat-trafficked areas.

Best Time of Year to Do Paddleboard Fishing: Any time of year in Florida, baby!

Love to fish? Tag your pics with @howtodoflorida on Instagram and Facebook and don’t forget to hashtag #howtodoflorida.

Do florida,

Chad

Paddleboarding in Sarasota


Paddleboarding with my dog


Paddleboard Yoga

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Black Hammock - Do Orlando North social media - Vimeo

If you know anything about me, you know I’m all about getting folks to get out and Do florida, and there’s no better time than during the cooler months from October through May to set a course on adventure right around my neck of the woods — just north of Orlando in Seminole County!

Black Hammock Adventures

If you’re never been on an airboat ride, then you really haven’t seen authentic Florida. Cruise along Lake Jesup — home to over 9,000 alligators (one of the most populated in the U.S.). You’re also guaranteed to see a variety of wildlife here, including wild boars, bobcats, and bald eagles. While you’re there, grab a bite to eat at their restaurant and try some Florida favorites like Gator Bites, frog legs, corn fritters, and catfish nuggets. Enjoy one of their drink specials while hanging out at their dock with panoramic views of Lake Jesup with live music on most weekends.

Zoom Air Adventure Park

This park offers nature lovers a thrilling opportunity to view forest canopies in a whole new light! Young and old alike can immerse themselves in a variety of easy or challenging zip lines — and for those who are truly daring — they even have Night Adventures.

Central Florida Paddleboarding

It’s a florida must Do. They offer trips through scenic waterways including the Wekiva River, Lake Fairview, the Intercoastal and Mangrove Islands in New Smyrna, and some of the most beautiful lakes in Florida. This is a great way to meet new people while doing something active and fun. They also offer lessons and can even bring the boards to you.  

Looking for more things to Do? Check out Do Orlando North! Whether it’s kayaking, fishing, hiking, biking — Seminole County has got you covered with all kinds of outdoor activities!

Do florida,

Chad

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I’m sure you’ve heard real estate pros say it again and again and again, but they are absolutely correct — it’s all about location, location, location. To me, that is exactly the reason why I have never left Seminole County. Small town atmosphere near Orlando, yet close to lakes, beaches, and the great outdoors.

If you’re planning on visiting Orlando, I highly recommend staying in the Orlando North area. It’s a lot less crowded, less traffic, closer to nature, and there are great dining options at a fraction of the price compared to the tourist areas (with little or no wait times). Even if you hit Orlando’s main attractions, it’s always nice to come back to a little peace and quiet.

Here are some of the attractions you’ll find near me….

Black Hammock Adventures

Step back in time to Old Florida with airboat rides along Lake Jesup, plenty of alligators, and good southern food (with gator on the menu, of course).

St. Johns Rivership Company

See the real Florida with lunch and dinner cruises along the St. Johns River in an authentic, climate-controlled, five-story Rivership.

Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

Get up close and personal with animals from around the world and discover native florida plants, wildflowers, and butterfly gardens. Special events include Sunset at the Zoo — a wild, happy-hour alternative for the 21+ crowd!

Zoom Air Adventure Park

Enjoy nature from a new perspective! They have a variety of ziplines for little kids to the adventurous.

Katie’s Wekiva River Landing 

This is a great place to rent a kayak or canoe on the wild and scenic, crystal-clear Wekiva River.

The Tennessee Truffle

Hey, foodies! Here you’ll find a fresh spin on farm-to-table southern cuisine in eclectic downtown Sanford. For a great list of homegrown, culinary restaurants like this one, click here.

Where to stay:

Embassy Suites by Hilton Orlando North

Situated on the scenic Cranes Roost Lake, this all-suite hotel is only eight miles from downtown Orlando, walking distance from the Altamonte Mall, and includes complimentary made-to-order breakfast and happy hour in the tropical garden atrium.

The Westin Lake Mary

Beautiful rooms, a tranquil swimming pool, and just minutes from hiking, biking, fishing, shopping, and fine dining (Shula’s 347 Grill is on site!).

For more information about my neck of the woods, go to DoOrlandoNorth.com

Do florida,

Chad

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How to Do Florida: Visit Downtown Sanford, Florida - YouTube

As I travel throughout florida, as I always Do, people often ask me where I’m from in florida. When I say I’m from Seminole County and grew up in Sanford, I am so thrilled to hear that they have visited my hometown — even from Floridians who live as far away as Key West, Naples, and Destin!

If you haven’t been to Historic Downtown Sanford, you really need to stop on by some weekend. From the restaurants to the craft brews and vibrant arts scene — this little town has a cool vibe and energy all on its own with all kinds of events happening every month.

There are also so many ways to get around! You can Do your own walking tour, hop on a Sanford Trolley, or take a Limo Cycle Tour.

The Limo Cycle Tour is pretty unique because it gives folks a way to bar-hop while touring downtown Sanford restaurants, shops, historical sites, architecture, and scenic Lake Monroe. Plus, you can burn a few calories pedaling while enjoying a cold one. Their Brews & Bites Tour takes you to local breweries like Wop’s Hops Brewing Company and Kitchen — Sanford’s first microbrewery. Other craft breweries to explore include Celery City Craft and Sanford Brewing Company.

So, if you’re anywhere near Orlando, check out where I was born and raised. Sanford is my go-to town when I’m not venturing other parts of florida.

Do florida,

Chad

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I’ve been approached by so many people lately asking me how they can help Florida with the terrible water crisis in South Florida. The answer isn’t a simple one, but a really good place to start is in our own yard.

All of us need to change our habits about fertilizer and water usage. I’m so passionate about this conservation effort that I created a television series about it called Flip My Florida Yard. The idea for the series was to inspire Floridians to be stewards of their own land, their yard. I wanted viewers to understand that we are all connected to our waterways (even the Everglades), and if everyone used reduced our consumption and put less chemicals in our water, it would make a huge impact. So, if you want to help your neighbors in South Florida, you should start with your own yard.

My county is a perfect example on how we can make small (but significant) changes to lessen the impact on our environment. Last year, Seminole County enacted some of the toughest fertilizer regulations in Florida, including a summertime ban, which is typically the rainiest time of the year. Water restrictions for Seminole County have been in place for some time, but county officials realized that excess nitrogen and phosphorus from homeowner yards could end up down storm drains and into our lakes, rivers, and aquifers — creating terrible algae growth and polluting our waterways. Seminole County even created a calculator to measure your fertilizer use (or overuse).

Here are some tips to creating a Florida-friendly yard (and lowering your water bill!):

  • Fertilize only in the spring and fall, and make sure it’s a slow-release nitrogen. Click here for a list of Florida-friendly fertilizers.
  • Replace large, grassy areas that are directly in the sun with drought-tolerant native plants or alternative ground cover like slow growing ivy or mulch.
  • Make sure your sprinkler timer working properly and set to the water restrictions in your area. Also, check sprinkler heads to make sure you’re not watering the street instead of your sod.
  • Take it easy with pesticides, or use non-toxic horticultural sprays to keep the bad bugs at bay and the good bugs (like ladybugs, spiders, and butterflies) around.

Brevard, Volusia, Pinellas, St. Lucie, Martin, and other counties have had similar restrictions on fertilizer use, but, not every county in Florida is participating. That’s where you can get involved. Encourage your local county commissioner to follow in Seminole County’s footsteps in limiting fertilizer use and support conservation groups like Captains for Clean Water. And, please, educate yourself with groups like Be Floridian Now and 1000 Friends of Florida. It’s time for all of us to protect our waters.

Thank you for loving Florida,

Chad Crawford

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Seminole County Fertilizer Ordinance - YouTube
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I’ve spent a lot of time outdoors, so I’ve certainly seen my fair share of ospreys, herons, pelicans, and sandhill cranes, but I’ve never really considered myself to be much of a bird watcher. In fact, you probably never considered yourself to be one, either. But, I bet you got pretty excited the first time you saw a bald eagle. Guess what? Bam! Turns out you’re a bird watcher just like me.

Osprey

Since my recent visit to Audubon Center Birds of Prey, I’ve realized that maybe we should pay more attention to birds. There are over 800 different species of birds in North America — and many of them migrate or are native to Florida. They’re also major part of our ecosystem and play a vital role in keeping with the balance of nature; they pollinate flowers, spread seeds around, and control the overpopulation of insects and rodents, for starters.

Peregrine falcon

I also found out that bird watching, or birding, is the fastest-growing outdoor activity in America, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. What a great hobby! It gets you out into nature, you can do it alone or with friends or family, and pretty much anybody at any age can do it. Plus, it’s affordable — all you really need is a good pair of binoculars.  

So, the next time you’re hiking, fishing, or just going outside to get the mail — open your eyes and your ears. You’ll be surprised what you may find.

How to start birdwatching: https://www.audubon.org/birding

Check out some great birdwatching trails near me in Seminole County:

Other great links to check out about Florida birds:

http://floridabirdingtrail.com/bird-sort-page

http://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/profiles/birds

http://fl.audubon.org

https://ebird.org

http://auduboncenterforbirdsofprey.org

Do florida,

Chad

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If you know anything about me, I am all about getting out and Doing florida — even if it’s in my own backyard. After all, we live where others vacation, so options for day-trip getaways and staycations often leave us with plenty of time to soak up the florida sun without ever having to leave our property. And, for those of us with pools, there’s the added benefit of going for a cool dip after a long day of hiking, biking, or whatever else you’ve been Doing in this great state.

There are over 10 million swimming pools in the U.S., and a majority of them are right here in florida — and for good reason! Other than never having to have to “winterize” our pools, swimming is an ideal workout because it keeps the body cool and is low-impact. It’s also a great way to hang out and spend quality time with family and friends.

Also, there’s nothing better than having your kids beg for permission to go outside and splash around instead of being glued to their phones. Water activities mean sneaking in exercise without them hardly noticing (added bonus: kids will tire out and go to bed without argument).

Studies have also shown that being in (or even around) a body of water is relaxing. So, if you can’t make the ocean, lake, river, or stream, there’s always a pool to keep you zen.

Be sure to check out our facebook videos we’ve been putting together with Pinch A Penny. There’s some great information and tips on basic care and maintenance, how to enjoy your pool all year round, keeping your pool pristine during the rainy season,and prepping your pool during storms.

And, make sure to post a pic of you with your pool for your chance to win a $50 gift card and float!

Do florida,

Chad

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