A Family Adventure Awaits: Discover the 14 Best Things to Do with Kids at Blue Spring State Park

Florida’s natural beauty is best experienced through its state parks; Blue Spring State Park stands out among them. 

Immerse yourself in the trails, enjoy a picnic, observe wildlife, and see if the park lives up to all the hype. Blue Spring State Park caters to visitors of all kinds, offering engaging activities for both day trips and extended stays. An added bonus is its accessibility—wheelchair, walker, and stroller-friendly!

Reflecting on my own childhood, I fondly remember visiting Blue Spring State Park with my parents. Its proximity to our home made it a budget-friendly and enjoyable outing. 

As a parent, I continue the tradition of bringing my family to this versatile park. Whether as day visitors, on educational field trips, or enjoying camping experiences—be it in tents or RVs—we have created cherished memories during our numerous visits. 

In this post, I’ll detail all the family-friendly activities you can enjoy at Blue Spring State Park.

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Table of Contents

Where is Blue Spring State Park?

Blue Spring State Park, situated at 2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, is recognized for its temperate 72°F clear waters. In the winter, it transforms into a refuge for Florida manatees, enhancing its natural charm. It is indeed a unique and remarkable destination.

Conveniently positioned just 41 miles north of Orlando and 38 miles southwest of Daytona Beach, locals and tourists frequent and love this park. 

Now, let’s explore the activities awaiting you and your kids!

Photo of the Blue Spring State Park map sign with park information, trails, parking, amenities, etc.
The park is paperless, but they provide a detailed map for visitors to review.

Take the kids on the boardwalk

The beautiful 1.3-mile boardwalk features scenic views of the spring run (from the source of the spring to the St. Johns River). 

The boardwalk is great for strollers and new walkers. It can also accommodate kids (and adults!) with mobility needs who require walkers or wheelchairs. 

The boardwalk also has benches along the way to rest little legs and for nursing moms to feed their babies. 

A man walks with his German Shepherd along the accessible boardwalk at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
My hubby walking our dog on the boardwalk. Up ahead, you can see my daughter and dad.

Get the wiggles out at the playground!

There’s a lovely playground surrounded by picnic tables, close to the restrooms and snack shop. It’s a great way to let the kids burn off a little energy to make some of the quieter activities at the park more manageable. 

The playground has little shade, so sunscreen, water, and breaks in the shady picnic areas are recommended.

Bonus: the playground is not near the water, so you don’t have to worry about the little ones running towards the water. 

A group of kids playing on the playground at Blue Spring State Park. A few of them are running away from the playground.
My kids and their friends running away from the playground.

Spot Wildlife

Blue Spring State Park is home to a lot of Florida wildlife like manatees, gar, alligators, snake birds, and turtles, to name a few. 

The boardwalk offers the best vantage point for seeing a lot of wildlife, but if you keep an eye out, you should be able to see animals everywhere. 

Manatees

In the winter, you can see hundreds of manatees as they shelter from cold ocean waters. It’s a fantastic thing to see! Every winter, the Manatee Festival is held to celebrate the gathering of manatees and raise funds for the community.

A group of manatees (AKA an aggregation) keeping warm in the Blue Spring Run at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
How many manatees can you count?

Alligators

A word on alligators – they are mostly found on the St. Johns River, not the spring run. They are not usually seen outside the water in and around the heavily populated parts of the park. 

However, this is Florida, and alligators can be found anywhere in and around water. There are many park rangers in the park who do their best to notify everyone of wildlife and attempt to keep everyone alert and safe. 

Always supervise your children and do not let them in and around water areas alone. 

Visit Thursby House

Take a step back in time and explore the Thursby House, built in 1872. There are steps in the front of the house, but a ramp at the back. 

Only the first floor is open to visitors. Walk through four rooms with interpretive displays and peek into the historically-accurate kitchen. 

Need a break? Just sit under the shady wrap-around deck complete with rocking chairs and space to spread out. 

Collage of the Thursby House and an informative display about the house at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

Have a Family Picnic

Spending the day at Blue Spring with the kids means stopping often and snacking. There are many picnic tables throughout Blue Spring State Park where you can fill up little tummies. 

If all the tables are taken, you can always bring a blanket and set up your own area. The park has grassy open spaces to do just that. 

Many families picnic all day during the summer, alternating between swimming in the spring, hydrating, and munching on snacks. 

A picnic table on packed sand next to a wooded area at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

Skip the Picnic and visit the Blue Spring Canteen

The concession stand, the Blue Spring Canteen, offers snacks, drinks, and meals for those who don’t do picnics. 

In the summer, everyone can cool down out of the water with ice cream and cold drinks. 

Check out the menu here, but contact Blue Spring Adventure for the most up-to-date information. 

Explore the Trails at Blue Spring State Park

There are several trails in Blue Spring State Park. The boardwalk is one of them and is great for kids of all ages and mobility needs.

The others are a mix of paved and unpaved paths. The Blue Spring Campground Trail is 1.8 miles (paved and unpaved), the Sand Pine Scrub Trail (unpaved) 0.25-mile loop, and the Pine Island Trail (unpaved) weaves through 4.9 miles. 

If you are traveling with kids in strollers, I recommend sticking to the boardwalk unless it’s an off-roading model. Families with wheelchair users and other mobility needs can reserve an all-terrain tracked chair. Find out more here

We have done the Blue Spring Campground Trail with the kids many times, even when they were little, but they were already walking on their own. 

Hiking is a great way to immerse yourself and your family in the park’s wild beauty. 

An unpaved portion of the Blue Spring Campground Trail at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
A section of the Blue Spring Campground Trail.

Go Camping

Nothing creates family bonding like camping! Blue Spring State Park offers 51 campsites with picnic tables, fire pits, water, and electricity.

Although s’mores and campfires are fun, make sure you know if there is a fire ban!

Two comfort stations (bathroom, shower, and some with washers and dryers) are available in the camping area.

A railroad track runs to the east of the park, and you’ll hear trains all night. The noise kept me awake when we were tent-camping, but we didn’t hear it in the RV.

There is a maximum stay of 14 days, and reservations can easily be made online or by phone.

There is a gate that is locked at night, but you are given a code to enter after hours.

2016 Grey Wolf travel trailer parked at a campsite at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
Our travel trailer from our full-time RVing days!

Rent a Cabin

If camping (in a tent or RV) sounds like a nightmare, Blue Spring State Park has six 2-bedroom cabins! 

Cabins feature heating, air conditioning, a bathroom, a fully-equipped kitchen, a screened porch, an outdoor grill, and picnic tables for a cozy and convenient stay.

They book up quickly, so plan accordingly.

Swim in Blue Spring Run – CLOSED

Blue Spring Run is closed to swimming in 2024 and potentially 2025. Please check the Blue Spring State Park website for updates. 

When it is open, there really is nothing more refreshing than a summer swim at Blue Spring State Park. Florida summers are notoriously hot, and a swim in the spring is one of the more popular things to do, especially for the locals.

There are two places where you can access the swim areas:

  • Upper swim entrance near the spring source
  • Lower swim entrance near concessions
Zoomed in photo of Blue Spring State Park map with the swim entrances circled in yellow.

The depth of the water varies throughout the swimming areas. Your kids need to know how to swim or have a flotation device on. Be prepared to tread water when not actively swimming. There is a current as well.

NOTE: You cannot swim with manatees at this Florida State Park. 

Go Tubing on the Spring Run – CLOSED

Blue Spring Run is closed to tubing in 2024 and potentially 2025. Please check the Blue Spring State Park website for updates. 

When it is open, tubing at Blue Spring State Park is a lot of fun and doesn’t require much effort – just hang onto those tubes and your kiddos! 

Launch the tubes at the upper swim area and float down the spring run for an eighth of a mile. 

You can bring your own tubes or rent them from Blue Spring Adventures, near the concessions stand. 

Keep in mind that this is a spring-fed body of water. The water will be very refreshing (72°F)!

Paddle with the Kids

Blue Spring Run is closed to paddling in 2024 and potentially 2025. Please check the Blue Spring State Park website for updates. However, there are other paddle routes in the area. You can find out more about these routes in my Discover the Magic of Paddleboarding at Blue Spring State Park post.

Blue Spring Rentals has kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards for rent, and they offer tours.

You can also bring your own vessels. We rented a canoe years ago and had a blast. Fast forward to the 2020s, we’ve been bringing our paddleboards to the spring. 

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, and her son sit on a paddleboard on the spring run at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

Enjoy a Boat Tour

In addition to paddling, Blue Spring Adventures offers a daily St. Johns River Nature Cruise. 

Please note that reservations and an additional fee are required for this narrated tour. 

They offer 1-hour and 2-hour tours, so choose the one that best fits your family’s needs (and attention spans). 

Like the boardwalk, the boats are fully accessible to accommodate strollers, walkers, wheelchairs, and other mobility needs.

Scuba Dive or Snorkel – CLOSED

The Blue Spring Run and spring source are closed to scuba and snorkeling for 2024 and potentially into 2025. Please check the Blue Spring State Park website for updates. 

Snorkel

A snorkeling adventure is a great way to experience the crystal clear waters at Blue Spring. Florida Dive Company offers snorkel tours, or you can go alone. All snorkelers must be able to swim.

Scuba

You can dive 60 feet down into the Blue Spring source. There are designated areas for diving, and capacity is limited to 32 divers at a time. All divers must have scuba certification.

Florida Dive Company offers a guided Scuba Discovery Tour for ages 15 and up. Certification is not required. 

Important Notes!!

Blue Spring State Park is very popular. Park rangers close the park when it reaches capacity (get there early). 

Campers must make reservations well ahead of time. Some folks make reservations up to 11 months in advance to ensure a spot.

Plan your visit during a special event! From guided hikes to guided historical tours, you can get details here.

NOTE: As of April 1, 2024, the spring run is closed to all in-water activities. During the winter (usually between November and March), the spring and the spring run are closed. There is no swimming, snorkeling, diving, or paddling during that time. 

A four-photo collage of Blue Spring Run, and Walk and Paddle's owner's kids throughout Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
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