Experiencing the Florida Everglades with family
January to April in Boca Raton is what I have affectionately dubbed “houseguest season” for my family. My friends and in-laws travel down south in droves to escape the cold and enjoy Boca’s enviable winter weather. I’ve discovered that having houseguests kind of forces me to be a tourist and do what I call, the “Florida things” while they are visiting.
Growing up in South Florida, heading to Cape Canaveral, the Miami Zoo or a theme park was totally standard for school field trips and summer camp. But for our guests visiting from places like Maine and New York, that’s all 100 percent original stuff.
My sister-in-law’s boyfriend made his first ever trip to Florida in January, and I decided the one thing he had to do while he was here was see an alligator. And the best place to see a gator in its natural habitat? The Florida Everglades.
My family and I drove down to Everglades Holiday Park in west Broward County (about a 40 minute drive from Boca Raton) and purchased tickets for a 1-hour airboat ride and gator show. Children under 3 are free, by the way. I slathered my daughter with SPF 50 and mosquito repellant and we boarded the airboat—after taking our complimentary souvenir photo, of course.
The Everglades Holiday Park fleet of airboats is unique because each has a covered passenger compartment so you can enjoy your ride across the “River of Grass” in pretty much any weather. I guess my sunscreen precaution was a little overkill. The boat starts off slow but grows into an all out thrill ride zipping across the Everglades at top speeds while your guide searches for gators. My 3-year-old absolutely LOVED IT.
We chose a cool day for our Everglades adventure which meant that the alligators were hiding out. Finally, during the last 20 minutes of our tour, we got lucky and came face to face with three different American alligators! It was amazing and, I could tell, really impressive for our visitors.
After your airboat ride, you can choose to eat lunch at one of the food vendors on site (think bar food), enjoy an exotic animal encounter or see a live Gator Show. My family chose the latter and were not disappointed.
The Gator Boys Alligator Rescue of Animal Planet fame performs stunts and tricks for visitors while offering information about the conservation and preservation efforts surrounding the American alligator and the wetlands it calls home. You will leave the park knowing more facts about alligators than anyone you know, which I’m sure will come in very handy for our Maine guests someday.
Everglades Holiday Park is open 7 days a week (rain or shine) starting at 9 a.m. with the last airboat departing at 5 p.m. Be sure to add this to your family’s adventure to do list, Boca moms! It’s major Florida fun!