You know that feeling when you’ve been on the computer for hours? Your kid is staring at you, your body is buzzing, and coffee just won’t do it? In short, you just don’t feel like your best self. I’ve found the best antidote is a good nature walk. Here are 8 kid-friendly nature walks to restore your body and mind.
Eureka Springs Park
This 31 acre park is perfect for exploring with kids of any age. Every step and turn revealed a new wonder to me and my babe. What I really appreciated was the lovely path that alternates between shell and boardwalk as you criss-cross the tiny spring.
I loved watching my daughter gaze up at the towering cypress trees. All of the paths were mostly shaded and were a very smooth ride for my stroller. The park is immaculately maintained, and my only regret is not bringing a picnic to enjoy.
The park was chock-full of native Florida plants, but also some neat exotic plants that I’ve never laid eyes on before. Many of the plants are labeled, so there are some great opportunities to expand your child’s nature IQ. This is the best $2 you’ll ever spend.
Weedon Island Preserve
This Pinellas County park is notorious for its great bird watching. Don’t know anything about birds? That’s okay! There is a Cultural & Natural History Center open Thursday-Saturday where you can get your learn on. I’m sorry to say I didn’t find the center to be the most kid-friendly. It’s heavy on the text and light on the hands-on activities.
You can skip the center and hit the trails. The preserve itself is super kid-friendly. The hubs wore the baby on our trek, but a stroller would do well on the board walk and paths. For your mobile children, I would feel completely safe letting them run ahead of you. You’ll find yourself in tunnels of thick, healthy mangroves that spit you out into some nice sunny coves. We met some newlywed friends there and enjoyed the easy stroll, conversation, and a picnic. A great way to spend a morning or afternoon.
Lithia Springs County Park
You could spend all day at Lithia Springs. We really enjoyed wading in the cool water on an unusually warm winter’s day. The big spring is completely fenced in with lifeguards, so you can feel good about relaxing while your family cuts loose. It’s $2 for one vehicle, and then $2 for each person who wants to get in the spring. Tip: use the restroom before schlepping your stuff to the spring, as the restroom is a bit of a walk. There’s also a great playground to break up the day and plenty of picnic tables to choose from.
If you’re a Tampa mom, you know the joy that is Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, but have you really ventured out onto the Riverwalk? If not, let me share with you my secret routine. First, I park the car up near Waterworks Park, which is just steps away from the Riverwalk. Then, we like to explore the restored spring near Ulele and stroll through the lush grass. At Waterworks Park, there’s a nice playground, splash pad, and dog park. After that, we head south along the Riverwalk and enjoy the various art installations and historic monuments. Don’t forget to keep your eyes open for manatees and dolphins!
Just south of the Laurel St. bridge, I recently discovered that there are three swing chairs! We need more swinging chairs around the bay, amirite? After we’ve had our fill of swinging, I like to savor a gelato or coffee while we people watch from the Sono Cafe at the Tampa Museum of Art. This is the life, Tampa moms.
Alafia River State Park
Did you know Tampa is one of the best places in the nation for mountain biking? It turns out that our old phosphate mines make great mountain biking. So if you have a daring kid, I recommend grabbing your mountain bike, or renting one, and exploring the many trails at the Alafia River State Park.
For those of you who don’t want to mountain bike, there are still 20 miles of hiking paths shared with horseback riders. If you really want to give your young ones a thrill, visit the ranger office to see about becoming a Junior Ranger. Complete a set of activities, take a pledge to protect the park, and receive a badge. https://www.floridastateparks.org/things-to-do/junior-ranger
Bayshore Boulevard is the world’s longest continuous sidewalk (4.5 mi long). You may not automatically think nature walk when you think of Bayshore, but hear me out! If you can go during the early morning or late evening, you will likely spot a dolphin, manatee, or sting ray.
Fort De Soto
This is one of my favorite places on earth. Hopefully you have already had the pleasure of spending the day at this beach. If not, you must! This beach has been preserved in its natural beauty with tons of mangroves and lots of wildlife. Fort De Soto obviously has a fort, which is pretty fascinating to explore. Plus, there are boats for rent and fishing piers (with ice cream at the end). Check out the Arrowhead Nature Trail at the north end of park, or walk along the beach and keep an eye out for shark teeth!
Create Your Own
Okay friends, can we please get over the idea that you have to go to a park in order to experience nature? Nature is all around us. We are part of it. So when you are walking with your kid, take the opportunity to help them appreciate they are part of nature. Be curious with them and learn together. Here’s a kid-friendly website about plants and animals you may see in Tampa Bay.
I hope you check out these parks and let me know what you think. As for me, it’s time to step away from the computer, grab a picnic, and enjoy a walk with my little one. What’s your favorite nature walk in Tampa Bay?