Florida Trip, Things to Do With Kids
While we were visiting family in the Fort Lauderdale area, I thought it might be fun to get out, get the kids some sun and fresh air, and go play in the abundant nature all around. During a surreal trip to Sawgrass Mill Mall (more on that in another post), I saw a display area and a staging area for Billie’s Swamp Safari.
We had looked into airboats, alligators, and all things Florida – but this one was literally in my face. I went to the Willie’s website, checked out the information, and we decided it was the thing for us to do that day.
The website lists the location as being about an hour from Ft. Lauderdale. We are from the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) area. Anything is nearly 45 minutes to an hour away, so this doesn’t feel like a hike to us at all. We packed up our brood and headed off the 45 60 minutes (drive the speed limit folks) to do our swamp safari.
It was a simply gorgeous drive out through the everglades and onto the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation. In some locations on the 17 mile drive out to the location (from the main highway), we could see some alligators hanging out and chilling on the banks of the channel that ran along the roadside. My apologies that I didn’t take any photos of this – I was too busy pointing out the alligators to the kids. Mom blog fail.
Once we got there and paid up, it was off to see the animals and grab lunch at the cafe. Words of advice: TRY THE FRY BREAD. Screw your carb ban. Eat it. EAT IT. With the honey butter. It’s heaven in your mouth. It’s like a pretzel, cake, butter rolls and some other heavenly baked good all played twister and made a new wonder of the world. Seriously. Later, on your airboat or in your swamp buggy, ask your tour guide what the fry bread is made from (Hint: my cousins and I used to call them “ditch hot dogs”).
We chose to do the full day but missed the reptile show due to a later schedule (because we were still eating that delicious fry bread, I would LOVE to learn how to cook it), but we had such a blast at the Critter show! Beans kept interrupting and wanting to be up there with John, the guide, and in the end she ended up on stage anyway. We tried the airboat, the Man, the Boy, and I enjoyed it, but it was too much for the Bean. They did have a set of earmuffs for her, since her ears were a wee bit too small for the earplugs they hand out.
We wandered around, visited and revisited some of the animal exhibits around – namely, the mayan birds – they are so crazy! We saw an arctic wolf, a timber wolf, a grizzly, a black bear, and several bird species. There is an otter enclosure, snakes, and a petting zoo (no snakes in the petting zoo, sorry reptile lovers) with a deer!
As a parent of device addicted children digitally advanced progeny, I strongly suggest doing this. As an outdoor event, it combines enough indoor activities to give even your most couchiest of potatoes a moment to collect themselves, and, for those who MIGHT DIIIIIIIE without internet (no cell signal that we could acquire) there is wifi in the cafe in the event your political Facebook rant might become irrelevant before you can log back in on i-75, or when your teen MUST respond to a snap, tweet, insta IM, or text.
Also – the bathrooms – ridiculously clean. Like – sit on the seat clean. Honestly.
(To be fair, I hovered, but that may be TMI)
In addition to day trips, according to the website you can camp there as well. You can bunk in 2-14 man chickees and experience life on the Everglades. I would love to do that and said as much to my family. The Man just looked at me like, “you’re our of your mothering mind”.
As a day trip (or even an overnight), I feel this was an EXCELLENT choice for our family. Visiting a 2,200-acre preserve that was teeming with a variety of animals that included wild hogs, zebra, ostriches, cracker cattle, nilgai, white-tail deer, eland, Asian water buffalo and bison – all while getting to eat in an air conditioned cafe with wonderful food, ridiculously nice people such as John the Critter guy and our Airboat captain (I didn’t get his name) was a terrific learning opportunity that just felt like playing!
I say go!
To see all the photos, click here: Billie Swamp Safari Photos