August 21, 2017

Best Family Boat Trips: Puffins, Whales & Manatees (No Water Slides)

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There’s been a lot of talk lately about family cruises, like Nickelodeon at Sea and the new Disney Dream cruise ship, but what about boat excursions that last just a few hours. These short trips can offer your kids amazing experiences with whales, puffins and even historical architecture that they’ll be talking about for days to come. Here are eight boat trips worth checking out with your family.

  • Bar Harbor Whale Watch Co. (Bar Harbor, ME): Spend 3-4 hours on a Puffin and Whale Watch Tour that your kids won’t soon forget. On this fully narrated trip through the gulf of Maine, you’ll see a variety of whales, as well as seals and porpoises. Plus you’ll visit Petit Manan National Wildlife Refuge, which hosts a large breeding colony of North Atlantic Puffins.
  • Chicago River Architecture Tour (Chicago, IL): Enjoy this 75-minute boat ride around the Chicago River as you and your family gain unique insights into Chicago’s architecture. You’ll learn about the city’s first skyscraper, the Great Chicago Fire in 1871 and about various building styles, like art-deco and post-modern.
  • Circle Line-Seaport Liberty Cruise (New York, NY): My kids and I hopped on this one-hour cruise past classic landmarks, like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and the Brooklyn Bridge last summer. Get there early to sit on top of the boat for the best views.
  • Dolphin Watch (Key West, FL): At four hours, this trip is longer than the average boat excursion, but well-worth it to be able to observe and learn first-hand about wild bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat. The boat takes out just six people so you’ll get personalized attention from Captain John who also points out sea turtles and reefs for snorkeling.
  • Malibu Pier Whale Watching (Malibu, CA): Led by California State Park Rangers, these 2.5 hour boat excursions are a great opportunity to see whales, dolphins, sea lions and brown pelicans. These trips depart Thursday through Sunday year-round, but the annual California grey whale migration is best seen from late-December through March. Call ahead and make a reservation, but you can also show up and try to get on standby too.
  • Manatee Sightseeing Eco-Adventure (Naples, FL): Enjoy a private boat trip into a remote Everglades manatee hideout on this 1.5 hour boat trip. Just six passengers per trip gives you and your kids a unique opportunity to get up close and personal with gentle manatees.
  • Mississippi Explorer Cruises (La Crosse, WI): Enjoy a scenic 1.5 hour Wildlife Eco-Tour May through October and your kids will have the chance to see beaver lodges, lotus fields and eagle habitats, including eagle nests. All cruises are guided by wildlife naturalists. Take the evening tour for majestic scenery as well as an amazing sunset.
  • Steamboat Natchez (New Orleans, LA): Enjoy the two-hour Harbor Jazz Cruise down the Mississippi River aboard New Orleans’ only authentic steamboat. You’ll hear historical facts and Dixieland music as you take in this lunchtime or mid-afternoon cruise. Or try the Dinner Cruise for beautiful sunsets. Kids under six ride free with a paid adult.

Have you and your family gone on a short boat cruise on a recent vacation? I’d love to hear about your experience or if you have other cruises that you can recommend.

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