Travel Q&A: Nature Excursions in Florida, the Best Time for Machu Picchu

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Q. My 10-year-old son and I are planning a summer adventure (emphasis on "adventure") in central Florida. We want more than the usual Disney-like tourist options. Any advice for off-the-beaten-track things that would appeal to a young boy (and his dad)?

John Paul Parker, Falls Church

A. Who needs Disney? Mother Nature can hold her own quite nicely when it comes to special effects, and for a lot less money. At Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, about 35 miles east of Orlando, you and your son can take a nighttime bioluminescent kayak tour on the Indian River. That's right: You don't have to travel to Puerto Rico to experience this eerie phenomenon, in which organisms in the water emit blue-green lights with each dip of your paddle. A Day Away (321-268-2655, offers 2 1/2 -hour tours at $32 for adults, $24 for children.

As long as you're in the neighborhood, you could always do the whole Space Coast thing (Kennedy Space Center, 866-737-5235, But back to the nature theme: State parks are a great way to experience the real Florida, with all kinds of ways to get wet. At Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon (352-465-8555,, about an hour and a half northwest of Orlando, there's tubing on the Rainbow River, swimming, canoeing, hiking and bird-watching. Camping is available at $19 a night.

Another option: Play cowboy. One idea is the Westgate River Ranch Resort, just over an hour south of Orlando (863-692-1321,, where the two of you can go horseback riding and attend a rodeo; there's also hiking, fishing, boating and swamp buggy rides. Camping is available, or you can stay in an inn room for about $90 a night.

For more ideas, go to or call 888-735-2872.

Is August an okay time to visit Machu Picchu in Peru?

Stephanie Sefcik, Vienna

Yes. High (and dry) season is June through August, with cool, sunny days and cold nights. To beat the crowds, though, many guides recommend visiting just before or after the rush, in April-May or September-October.

Your Turn

Several readers had advice for the couple considering hiking England's Coast to Coast Walk (Travel Q&A, April 12). Clayton and Judy Cochran of Kensington recommend the trekking company Contours (011-44-17684-80451,, which arranges self-guided tours that include luggage transport and B&B reservations. And Woody Rogers of McLean said he and his wife planned and executed their recent trek entirely on their own. "There are some demanding parts in the Lake District, but for a person who is somewhat outdoorsy, it is very doable."

More on tour operators for older women traveling on their own (Travel Q&A, April 5): Dora Pugliese of Silver Spring said she enjoyed several trips she has taken with Vantage Travel (800-322-6677, "I found the groups were wonderful. Couples mingled with singles -- no problem if you are outgoing and easy to please."

Send queries by e-mail ( or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.

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