We took an impromptu day trip!
It was a gorgeous weekend here in Florida. We didn't get any rain, and it wasn't terribly hot outside. Sunday morning, we were yearning for a change of scenery, and just one Google search later, B suggested we drive to Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, which is a couple of hours away. We packed a backpack with all the essential toddler things, some snacks for the road, and water, and we were out the door by 9:00 AM.
We drove down a sandy road before reaching the park, which already had a few families and locals ready to go right into the spring or gearing up to kayak. We walked down to the main spring, which was absolutely beautiful. This crystal clear blue spring with surrounding trees also had a hiking trail to other springs.
We contemplated taking a hike but then read in our little info sheet (#tourists) that we could rent a paddleboard, kayak, or canoe and decided to try one of those instead. Since paddle boarding and kayaking (max. 2 people per kayak) weren't options, we went with the canoe. This location didn't have canoes, but we were informed that the main canoe outpost was only a 10-minute drive away. So we got back in the car and drove down the road to the canoe outpost. The staff recommended we take a two-hour canoe trip down the river to a big spring. Then we'd have to call them to pick us up via truck, so we wouldn't have to canoe back to the outpost against the current. Keep in mind that this was not a guided canoe tour; no one would be accompanying us on this trip. It would just be me, B, and Mason paddling in a canoe.
We got our lifejackets, paddles (yup, even Mason got a paddle!), and our canoe. When we got in the canoe, Mason went from standing in the middle to sitting on my lap and back to the middle. He was rocking the shallow canoe way too much for me to handle him for the next two hours. I'd say B got about five full paddles in the water before I calmly and sternly said, "Turn around." Mason had no idea, but I was full-on (internally) panicking. And, of course, this is Florida, so there's plenty of wildlife in that water that I definitely did not want us coming in any form of contact with during our journey. Naturally, B read my face behind my sunglasses and immediately brought us back to the launch bank. And that was our first family canoe experience. Mason was happy to just be in a boat and was fine getting out of the boat, too. Maybe next year...or rather, two years from now, we'll try it again with him. The canoe outpost gave us a voucher for the next time we visit, so we will be back eventually.
After our short-lived canoe adventure, we looked up more activities to do nearby and decided to go to Florida's Museum of Natural History. Everything at this museum was super clean, and the exhibits were so well done. This place also has the most beautiful butterfly garden I've ever seen. We saw so many different butterflies, big and small, with vibrant colors. Mason had so much fun looking at the dinosaur fossils, walking through a limestone cave, and doing activities in the Discovery Zone for kids. At the end of our museum trip, we stopped by the gift shop, and he picked out a little boat to take home.
To finish up our day, we had an early dinner in Gainesville. Mason had a massive grilled cheese sandwich with fries. He fell asleep shortly afterward on the drive home. Before Mason was born, B and I often went on little weekend adventures. We loved taking a day to explore a city or town outside of our own and bounce around different activities. We love that we continue to do these things with Mason and enjoy bringing him to new experiences.