Got your sand pail? You’ll need one in Southwest Florida to collect shells. How many different ones can you find? There are more varieties of shells here than anywhere else in North America. Of course you won’t want to hunt for shells all the time—not when you can jump the waves, kayak, canoe, and see creatures like sea turtles and manatees. Don’t forget your sunscreen! Visit www.paradisecoast.com to find out what else you can do here. DID YOU KNOW: The Gulf Coast of the Everglades is the only place on earth where alligators and crocodiles live together.
DID YOU KNOW: All primates at the Naples Zoo live cage free on islands within Lake Victoria in the zoo. You can take a boat tour to get close to their homes. www.napleszoo.com
DID YOU KNOW: Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the country—home to endangered species, such as the American crocodile, Florida panther, and West Indian manatee. Borrow a Family Fun Pack with binoculars, field guides and story books (available for loan from the Flamingo, Shark Valley and Gulf Coast Visitor Centers). www.nps.gov/ever (American crocodile was just taken off endangered list – still listed as threatened I believe.)
DID YOU KNOW: There are upwards of 10,000 islands that stretch from Naples to the southern tip of Florida. Marco Island is the biggest but most are uninhabited. Check out those Mangroves! Visit the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and see if you spot any dolphin, manatee or sea turtles. Got your kayak ready? www.paradisecoast.com
DID YOU KNOW: You can watch dogs race in southwest Florida. Greyhounds race at the Naples/Fort Myers Greyhound Track. www.naplesfortmyersdogs.com
DID YOU KNOW: Fisherman may only take one large claw from each stone crab. They return the live crab back to the ocean where it grows a new one. The Florida Gulf Coast is a great place to sample your favorite seafood—and some you’ve never tried.
DID YOU KNOW: There are 50 miles of white sand beaches on Southwest Florida’s Gulf Coast—great for hunting shells as well as jumping waves. Just make sure you pick up shells that have washed ashore, not live ones. www.FortMyersSanibel.com
DID YOU KNOW: Spain sold Florida to the U.S. in 1821—for $13 million.
DID YOU KNOW: Thomas Edison lived in Fort Myers in the winter. You can visit his home and lab. Check out the banyan tree that’s 400 feet around! You can take a river cruise on a replica of Edison’s own electric boat. Next door is Henry Ford’s winter getaway where you can see a 1914 Model T. www.edison-ford-estate.com
DID YOU KNOW: There’s a hospital for injured and orphaned wildlife on Sanibel Island. You can visit the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife. www.crowclinic.org
DID YOU KNOW: The world’s largest collection of rare shells—more than 5 million—are at the Shell Factory and Nature Park in North Fort Myers. There are bumper cars, mini golf and a Waltzing Waters light show at night. www.shellfactory.com
1. Which Major League baseball teams have spring training in this area of Florida?
2. What famous inventor spent winters in Fort Myers?
3. Name three sea creatures you might see here
4. True or False: Dogs race in Florida
5. True or False: There are Panthers in Florida
6. Which country sold Florida to the U.S.
(answers: 1.The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins 2.Thomas Edison 2. sea turtles, manatee and dolphins) 4. true. 5. true 6.Spain
KIDS: Tell your parents: This area of Florida is a great place for outdoor adventure that may teach you about the creatures that call this Coast home.
Check out www.paradisecoast.com to find out all you can see and do here. Visit in summer or fall when rates drop by a third to a half and beaches aren’t nearly as crowded. Besides playing in the ocean and building sand castles, you can:
–Fly down giant waterslides at SunSplash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral. www.sunsplashwaterpark.com
–Play golf. There are more than 150 courses in and around Naples and Fort Myers. Ask about kids-golf-free programs and junior golf clinics.
–Learn to sail at the Offshore Sailing School on Captiva Island
–Check out the butterfly house and aviary at the Naples Botanical Garden www.naplesgarden.org
–Take a guided kayak eco tour and paddle through mangrove forests looking for dolphins and other wildlife. www.evergladesareatours.com or www.adventureinparadiseince.com
–See panthers, alligators, even boars on a swamp buggy tour through Telegraph Cypress Swamp. www.babcockwilderness.com
–See 300-pound nesting sea turtles from May to October on the Beaches of Sanibel and Fort Myers. www.turtletime.org
–Canoe in J.N. “Ding” Darling National Refuge, considering a top paddling locale nationally. www.fws.gov/dingdarling
–See the Manatees at Manatee Park (www.leeparks.org and click on regional parks) and Manatee World (www.manateeworld.com). Both are east of Fort Myers.
–Collect shells on the beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel and then learn all about shells at The Children’s Learning Lab at the Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island. www.shellmuseum.org
–Go to a Spring Training game. The Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox play here. www.grapefruitleague.com
–Great for a rainy day is the Imaginarium Hands-On Museum and Aquarium east of downtown Fort Myers www.cityftmyers.com/imaginarium
–Fort Myers Skatium (downtown Fort Myers) with ice and in-line skating along with laser tag, and arcade games. www.fmskatium.com