By: Susan Finch
There may have been a time you couldn’t wait to usher your little ones out the door and savor the silence and uninterrupted thoughts (hello, parents of toddlers!) but the reality is kindergarten sneaks up on you before you know it. Fortunately, the Kindermoon is here to embrace those sacred moments before school opens up its doors.
Not sure what to see and do? Here are five places in Southwest Florida calling your family’s name.
See Dolphins on a Wildlife Tour
Southwest Florida has dozens of opportunities to see dolphins whether from your beachfront balcony or on a tour. Introduce your rising kindergartener to the dolphins surrounding Naples and Marco Island with The Dolphin Explorer where guides can show you mothers and calves playing in the water. Your little ones will be delighted, and might even learn something about aquatic life along the way. Your family can also island hop and look for dolphins with Captiva Cruises along Captiva Island for dazzling views along the Gulf of Mexico.
Kids and grown-ups alike love finding jewels along the beach and turning them into vacation keepsakes. But you don’t have to tell your kids their broken shells aren’t real treasure. Instead, take them out on a shelling and dolphin watch eco-tour cruise with Marco Island Water Sports. Over at Everglades City, Everglades Area Tours takes visitors out for a variety of tours including a shelling tour and plenty of chances to see dolphins. Or take your kids in search of buried treasure by hunting for sharks teeth at Venice or Caspersen Beach in Sarasota County–its the “Shark Tooth Capital of the World!”
Visit a Children’s Museum
Get the kids inspired with a trip to a museum designed with kids in mind. The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples is a brain-building powerhouse and the region’s first museum devoted to kids. Hands-on exhibits, an interactive journey through the Everglades, water play station, and chance to become an architect, veterinarian, and more prep your kids to tackle their dreams head on.
Circus lovers should check-out the Ringling Circus Museum with the world’s largest miniature circus display including over 44,000 pieces. If you can tear your kids away from that, you’ll also learn how the Ringling Bros. started and become the greatest entertainers on earth.
Explore Exotic Gardens
There are more gardens and outdoor wonders than you’ll likely have time for in Southwest Florida. Start by getting up close and personal to the wildlife and the at the tropical gardens at Sarasota Jungle Gardens. Kids can feed the flamingos right out of their hands and learn more about the life of alligators and primates. Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs also offers kids the opportunity to explore acres of tropical gardens and feed flamingos and alligators. Little ones who love all things magic and whimsy will adore the Sarasota Children’s Garden with a kid-sized Black Pearl ship and Caterpillar Cottage with fluttering butterflies. And over in Bradenton, Mixon Fruit Farms teaches families how animals are rehabilitated before being released into nature. There’s also a fantastic outdoor play space and tram ride of the citrus grove and a chance for an ice cream cone to complete the visit.
Cozy Up to The Wildlife
Stingrays, urchins, and starfish are fair game in Fort Myers at the IMAG History and Science Center with its aquarium and touch tank. There are also plenty of interactive exhibits from dinosaur fossils to a close-up look at alligators, pythons, and tree frogs. Kids can learn more about exotic animals among the more than 150 animals at Big Cat Habitat & Gulf Coast Sanctuary in Sarasota. There are daily free live animal encounters where families learn more about animal issues and habitat preservation.
Of course, the real point to a kindermoon is togetherness and savoring the memories before the rite of passage of “big kid” school officially starts. Wherever you decide to explore, make sure it’s full of memory-making fun where everyone slows down enough to enjoy each other’s company.
Visit Must Do Visitor Guides at www.MustDo.com for additional Southwest Florida tourism tips and family fun things to do.