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Visiting De Leon Springs State Park With Kids

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The spring at De Leon Spring State Park was once dubbed the “Fountain of Youth” for its purported healing powers, and is today Florida’s very own fountain of joy! The 625 acres of blissful subtropical vegetation that cradles the serene spring pool at its center has been a haven for vacationing families in Florida for centuries, and it’s no wonder. It’s such a relaxing oasis, it’s hard to leave! Take your kids to the spring pool at the heart of this park, and spend some quality time together as you enjoy the beauty of nature in the Sunshine State. A cool respite from the Floridian heat, the blue-green Springs are one of the best ways for kids to have fun within nature and one of the many things to do for kids in the Orlando area.

De Leon Springs State Park
De Leon Spring State Park

Where is De Leon Spring State Park?

De Leon Springs State Park is located just off County Road 3 in Volusia County, Florida. On the International Speedway Drive on US-17 N, you’ll find it situated about 30 miles west of Daytona Beach. To make the drive, ride east on Pittsburgh Road and merge with Retreat Road. From there, it’s smooth sailing on US-27 N and US-17 for a couple of hours, after which you will take the Ponce de Leon Boulevard to your right to arrive at your destination just a mile ahead.

You could also choose to cut yourself some slack, ditch the wheel, and hop on the county’s bus service, Votran, that runs every 2 hours on the US-17 N. The shuttle drops you at Ponce De Leon Blvd, so be ready to course a mile from there to reach the park. Alternatively, you might also want to carry bicycles with you on the bus, get down at the boulevard, and ride the extra mile to the springs.  

If you want a break from the traffic and the kids fancy a rail ride, catch the Amtrak Silver train service that connects Florida and Orlando to DeLand, twice daily. This hour-long ride by country rail can be a good way to relax before all the fun in the springs. On reaching DeLand, hire a taxi to take you right to your destination in under 20 minutes. 

Tip: To make the best of your money, book tickets way in advance if you plan to visit during the summer. In winters you’ll get them at half the price.

What is De Leon Springs State Park?

De Leon Springs State Park preserves an amazing natural second magnitude spring that releases 20 million gallons of crystal clear water per day. With waters running as deep as 30 feet at the spring boil, the spring has an astonishing 6000 year old history too. In fact, people have been flocking to it for its cool waters and mesmerizing scenic beauty from as far back as the 16th century!

What was once the healing spring of the Mayacans, soon became the source of power that churned a Spanish sugar mill, became a popular summer retreat for the country elite, before finally being designated a protected treasure. Today, it’s the place to go if you’re looking for a family-friendly getaway. De Leon Springs State Park has something for everyone!

What Are The Opening Times of De Leon Springs State Park?

De Leon Springs State Park is open from 8 a.m. till sundown, 365 days year round. The park reaches capacity at around 10:30 a.m. in the morning on weekends and holidays, and vehicles are permitted according to the availability of parking space. You can cut through the hassle and save some valuable time by buying a “Single-day Use Pass” on their official website.  

How Busy Is De Leon Springs State Park?

While De Leon Springs State Park does not get as crowded as some of the other parks in Florida, it does get its fair share of visitors on the weekends, especially during the Summer months. The spring forms a giant pool that is big enough to pack a large swimming crowd, so June is the month to watch out for if you are heading there for a dip. 

In winter, most people prefer to stay dry and explore the trails and tours that the park offers instead. This leaves the pool relatively empty compared to summertime. October is the best time to visit the park, if a winter family vacation is what you have in mind!

How Much Does It Cost To Visit De Leon Springs State Park?

De Leon Springs State Park welcomes vehicles with two to eight people at $6 per vehicle and $4 if it’s just one person inside. $4 will also allow you entry with a motorcycle, while pedestrians and bicycles enter at just $2 per head. 

Float rentals are available inside the park at $5, but bringing your own floats always works out cheaper, of course. Kayaks are $18 for the first hour and $2 for every hour after, and canoes and paddles can be rented for $12. All rentals are provided on a first come first serve basis, and have to be returned to the dock by 4:45 p.m. Boating costs a little over $14 but children under 4 are allowed to ride for free. Note that scuba diving is a premium and only instructional diving is allowed here. The dive permit for instructors costs an upward of $200, while students must pay the park’s entry fee.

Pavilions that overlook the spring run are available for rent starting at $45. The two smaller pavilions of the four can accommodate 40 to 50 people, and include large grills and water, but no electricity. The other two larger pavilions are rented out at $75 and upwards, have a larger seating capacity of 40 to 60 people with large grills, and come with water and electricity.

All things considered, a modest family day-vacation at the park that involves a swim and hike will not require more than $6. But, you can always choose to save even more by cycling or walking in, or decide to spend more based on the experience you’re after. It’s all up to you! 

What Is the Water Temperature at De Leon Springs State Park?

De Leon Springs maintains a constant temperature of 72°F all throughout the year, making it the perfect antidote for the Florida heat. Although the water might be a slight bit chilly during the winter months for very young children, swimmers here swear by its healing touch all throughout the year! 

Can You Tube At De Leon Springs State Park? 

While swimming and kayaking are arguably more popular, tubing is a fun, inexpensive activity for families and is great for all ages. Whether you’re reading a book or taking in the views at De Leon Springs, the gentle waters will relax you in no time. And the children will enjoy having their own tubes while you relax in your own! Rent your tubes at $5 from the park concession or inflate yours for just $1.

Younger kids will enjoy tubing safely in the cordoned off swimming area that is separated from wildlife, while adults and older kids can have fun tubing to the center where the water runs as deep as 30 feet. Just be sure to keep an eye on your little ones at all times, even when they are playing in the shallow regions.

Are There Alligators At De Leon Springs State Park?

Yes, but the good news is that De Leon Springs has a gigantic spring head that forms a huge circular pool ideal for swimming and gentle tubing. This area is demarcated and situated away from the deeper portion of the spring run towards the center. You’ll find hardly any wildlife in this region, even fish, creating the most worry-free swimming experience of any state park in Florida. BUT, as always in Florida, keep an eye out.

Furthermore, lifeguards are stationed in the area throughout the week during the summers right up until school reopens. After that, they are there only on summer weekends when the swimming area draws in more people, but as long as families stick together and stay where the crowds are, alligators and other wildlife pose little to no threat. Just make sure to always keep your young ones and pets close by when exploring the wilderness.

De Leon Springs Campground Information

De Leon Springs State Park does not have a designated campground. However, there’s no need to fret just yet if you cannot do without camping on your family vacation, because there are plenty of RV parks within a 3 to 8 mile radius around the De Leon Springs town area. Highland Park Fish Camp and Astor Landing Campground & Marina, located near the Hontoon Island State Park, are the nearest ones. 

Things To Do At De Leon Springs State Park With Kids

Swimming

The large sealed off swimming area that is safe from alligators and other wild visitors makes De Leon Springs one of the best natural pools to teach little ones swimming for the first time. Take a swim in the crystal clear spring waters yourself, and for what it’s worth, you might just be soaking in the fountain of youth after all – at least that’s what it will feel like! 

Kayaking, Canoeing and Paddling

Rent a kayak, canoe or paddle boat and explore the beautiful springscape 15 minutes into the spring run. It’s an extra special adventure unlike any other that leads you to Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge, which has no road trails that lead to it. 

Large bright red flowers, drooping spring fauna, alligators sunning on the surface, turtles and wading birds fishing on the banks are some of the spectacular sights you will behold on your journey. In the winter, you might even be able to spot some manatees on the falls side of the spring head. 

Snorkeling

Dial up the spring fun with snorkeling! It’s a great way to get kids involved in nature and have lots of fun at the same time. Look down at the spring a few feet from the swimming bay and see the thriving aquatic kingdom down below.

Picnic and Play

Rent a beach lounge chair or bring your own and set it up near the pool area. There are several other picnic spots scattered around the park that you can identify from where the picnic tables are located. The park concession rents standard charcoal grills for a decent price.

Make Your Own Pancakes! 

Head to the on-site Sugar Mill Restaurant to grill your own pancakes! Each table is provided with a pancake batter in a ceramic pitcher, a spatula, a pan and a girdle fixed at the center of your table. The kids can play chef with syrups, berries, molasses and other add-ins provided by the restaurant at $1 each. The restaurant stays open from morning 8 till 5 in the evening on weekends and holidays except Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Tip: For some extra family fun, enlist your kids’ names at the restaurant reception when you make your reservation, and see their faces light up with surprise and excitement when their names are called on the speaker! 

Historical Pontoon Tour or the Fountain of Youth Eco/Heritage Boat Tour

Embark on a 50 minute narrated heritage pontoon tour that docks a little ways away from the De Leon springs and sails through the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge. As you cruise on the U.S Navy inspected pontoon boat, Acuera, De Leon springs unfolds before you a tale that’s old as time, full of mysteries and myths, one that is animated by the wildlife in and around the springs. 

The tour operates hourly from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on a daily basis at $14 and upwards, but children under 4 ride free. You will need a minimum of 8 passengers to start the tour. The boat is well equipped with life jackets and is also wheelchair accessible. For more information on the schedule, rates and group reservation check out the “tours” link on the website.

Nature Trails and Birding

The De Leon Springs State Park is on the Great Florida Wildlife and Bird Trail. Wading birds like Ospreys and bald eagles are a common sight at Lake Woodruff and the Spring Garden run, making the locations perfect for avid and novice bird watchers alike! Kids will enjoy keeping tabs on the birds they spot and crossing them off the bird list provided by the park.

The 4 mile Wild Persimmon hiking trail loop is another great way to discover the park’s wonderfully strange species that live around the spring habitat. They include wild hogs, turkeys and sometimes Florida Black Bears. Just remember to pack appropriate hiking gear and register at the ranger station. 

Fishing

Fishing is the one classic American family activity that is forbidden in most protected Parks in Florida, but not De Leon springs! So, head over to the Spring Garden Run and the fishing pier at De Leon Springs State Park to set up your hooks and have a fun time. Note that snatch hooks, cast nets and bow fishing are not permitted. Be sure to check the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s page for more information on fishing licenses and other rules to be followed. 

Family Tips For De Leon Springs State Park

Carry water shoes with you because the spring bed tends to get quite rocky in some places. 

Pack first aids, anti-allergens, insect repellents, and a broad spectrum sunscreen. 

Carry tons of diapers, toilet paper, napkins, extra towels and hand sanitizers for any unprecedented bathroom emergencies. 

The items you need for your outdoor family adventure should be packed in waterproof bags that can be accessed easily. A map, a GPS, snacks and a drinking water bottle are all essentials you should have with you.

The table-top pancakes at the Sugar Mill Restaurant are always in high demand, no matter the season. That usually means a wait time of 1-2 hours after making your reservation, but don’t worry, because that is the perfect amount of time to squeeze in a boat tour! Just make sure your day is planned out to ensure the two coincide.

Visiting Springs Near Orlando With Kids

Planning on visiting one or several of the beautiful natural Springs Florida has to offer? Many of the spectacular state parks have fun activities for all the family to enjoy. From watersports; kayaking, canoeing, tubing, snorkelling; to geocaching, pancake making and camping on site. Our guides below detail what is on offer for kids of all ages at the springs closest to Orlando.

 

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