August 22, 2014
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Insider's Guide: Attractions

Take your pick from museums, parks, wildlife hot spots and more.

 

“With so much of our environment revolving around technology and urban conveniences, it’s no wonder people yearn for a chance to get back to nature. Our Gulfshore is endowed with an abundance of nature attractions where we can see, smell and touch things that don’t exist in our everyday lives. On any given day, guests at the Conservancy Nature Center might spot an alligator on the riverbank or a gopher tortoise in its natural habitat. Inside our new Dalton Discovery Center, visitors can explore Florida’s ecosystems, including live animals and sea creatures. Thanks to the wonderful stewardship of the Southwest Florida community, nature is accessible to all.”

—ROB MOHER, PRESIDENT AND CEO, CONSERVANCY OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA

 

“Seminole Casino Immokalee may be considered Southwest Florida’s premier gaming destination, but there’s so much more. Besides the authentic Seminole fry bread in our EE-TO-LEET-KE Grill, it may surprise some to know that our 1st Street Deli is one of our region’s truly authentic New York-style delicatessens. Barbecue lovers flock from around the country to our Pigs in Paradise National  Championship BBQ Festival each November. Some call January’s Carnival in the Sky the greatest fireworks show in Florida, and in April comes the spectacular Balloons over Paradise Festival.”

—CATHY BAKER, SEMINOLE CASINO IMMOKALEE

 

CHOKOLOSKEE

HISTORIC SMALLWOOD STORE; OLE INDIAN TRADING POST AND MUSEUM, 360 Mamie St., (239) 695-2989. Established in 1906. $5 admission, children under 12 free. Open daily Dec. 1–May 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; May 2–Nov. 30, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. smallwoodstore.com

 

EVERGLADES CITY

MUSEUM OF THE EVERGLADES, 105 W. Broadway, (239) 695-0008. Tells the story of 2,000 years of human habitation in the southwest Everglades. Admission is free; donations welcome. Open Tuesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. colliermuseums.com, evergladesmuseum.org

WINGS 10,000 ISLANDS AERO-TOURS, 650 E. C. Airpark Road, (239) 695-3296. Fly in an Alaskan bushplane over the Everglades, the Keys or 10,000 Islands. Operates seasonally November through May. wingsaerotours.com/id2.html

 

OCHOPEE

BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE, (239) 695-1201. Fifty miles east of Naples on Tamiami Trail. 729,000-acre preserve of cypress swamp, mangroves, sawgrass prairies and natural freshwater rivers. nps.gov/bicy

WOOTEN’S AIRBOAT AND SWAMP BUGGY TOURS, 32330 Tamiami Trail E., (239) 695-2781. Airboat and swamp-buggy tours through the mangroves, marshlands and grasslands of the Everglades and through the Big Cypress National Preserve. Features alligator shows and an animal sanctuary. wootenseverglades.com

 

IMMOKALEE

IMMOKALEE PIONEER MUSEUM AT ROBERTS RANCH, 1215 Roberts Ave., (239) 658-2466, (239) 272-4856. Fifteen-acre living history museum recollects the history of cattle ranching in the area. Admission is free; donations welcome. Open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. colliermuseums.com

LAKE TRAFFORD MARINA AND AIRBOATS AND ALLIGATORS, 6001 Lake Trafford Road, (239) 657-2214. Airboat rides and boat tours through Corkscrew Swamp. laketrafford.com

SEMINOLE CASINO IMMOKALEE, 506 S. First St., (239) 658-1313. Gaming machines, live-action poker and live table games. Open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. seminoleimmokaleecasino.com

 

MARCO ISLAND

EVERGLADES EXCURSIONS, (800) 592-0848. Departs from Marco Island or Naples for narrated full- or half-day trips aboard a “comfort-controlled” safari wagon. everglades-excursions.com

MARCO ISLAND HISTORICAL MUSEUM, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, (239) 642-1440. Permanent exhibits, such as a life-size diorama of a Calusa Indian village. The museum showcases traveling exhibits. Visit the Historical Society’s website for exhibit details and hours. themihs.org, colliermuseums.com

 

GOLDEN GATE

GOLDEN GATE AQUATICS FACILITY, 3300 Santa Barbara Blvd., (239) 252-6128. Heated pool, children’s activity pool, 110-foot open and tube slides, a pair of 1-meter springboards and a 3-meter springboard. Adult admission $3, children age 3-17 $2.50, children under 3 free. All water facilities managed by Collier County Parks & Recreation close if the air temperature is 59 degrees or below. colliergov.net

 

NAPLES

THE BAKER MUSEUM, 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., (239) 597-1900. The 30,000-square-foot museum at Artis—Naples features 15 galleries. $10 adults, $5 students. artisnaples.org

COLLIER COUNTY MUSEUM, 3331 Tamiami Trail E., (239) 252-8476. Five-acre property featuring the history, archaeology and development of Florida and Collier County. colliermuseums.com

COLLIER-SEMINOLE STATE PARK, 20200 E. Tamiami Trail, (239) 394-3397. Canoe rentals, boat ramp, electric and water hookup for campsites. $5 per car for up to eight people, $24.20 for camping. floridastateparks.org

CONSERVANCY OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, 1495 Smith Preserve Way, (239) 262-0304. Newly expanded environmental organization that educates visitors about Southwest Florida wildlife and habitats. Tours available, Dalton Discovery Center, nature trails, boat tours of the Gordon River included in admission fee. Also available are naturalist-guided boat tours of Rookery Bay and special presentations by topic experts. conservancy.org

CORKSCREW SWAMP SANCTUARY AND BLAIR AUDUBON CENTER, 375 Sanctuary Road W., (239) 348-9151. Award-winning boardwalk meanders through an ancient cypress forest. Tours available. Admission fees apply. corkscrew.audubon.org

CREW (CORKSCREW REGIONAL ECOSYSTEMS WATERSHED), 1295 Shady Hollow Blvd., locations in Immokalee at 4600 C.R. 850 and 3980 C.R.850, (239) 657-2253. Programs by the CREW Land & Water Trust. Encompasses 60,000 acres. More than 30 miles of natural hiking trails through marsh, pine flatwoods and cypress swamps. Primitive campsites available. Free admission. See website for events and hikes. crewtrust.org

DOUBLE R’S FISHING AND TOUR COMPANY, 25000 Tamiami Trail E., (239) 642-9779. Provides two-and-a-half-hour tour of the 10,000 Islands and the Everglades. Specializes in light tackle, inshore and offshore fishing. doublersfishingandtours.com

THE EDGE JOHNNY NOCERA SKATE PARK AT FLEISCHMANN PARK, 1600 Fleischmann Blvd., (239) 213-3020. Forty-thousand-square-foot skateboarding and biking facility. Beginner to advanced levels. Visitor’s pass $10 per day or $30 per week. naplesgov.com

EVERGLADES DAY SAFARI, (239) 472-1559. A comprehensive exploration of the Everglades by airboat, mangrove boat cruise, wildlife drive and nature walk. $150 for adults, $130 for children ages 5 to 11. Lunch included. ecosafari.com

EVERGLADES EXCURSIONS, (800) 592-0848. Departs daily from Naples or Marco Island for narrated full-day or half-day trips aboard a “comfort-controlled” safari wagon. everglades-excursions.com

EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK, entrance located south of the Tamiami Trail/40001 State Road 9336, (305) 242-7700. Largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S. Explore by canoe/kayak or walking trails. Forty-seven wilderness campsites. Other features include visitors’ centers, tram tours, boating and fishing. Entrance fees apply. nps.gov

FAKAHATCHEE STRAND PRESERVE STATE PARK, on Janes Memorial Scenic Drive, just west of Copeland on S.R. 29, (239) 695-4593. A linear swamp 20 miles long and about five miles wide. Home to one of only two bald cypress-royal palm forests in the world. Features a boardwalk, tram tours and guided tours. Admission fees apply. floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand

FLORIDA SPORTS PARK, 8250 Rattlesnake Hammock Road, (239) 774-2701. Host to the Swamp Buggy Races, special events and concerts. thefloridasportspark.com

GOLISANO CHILDREN’S MUSEUM OF NAPLES (C’MON), 15080 Livingston Road, Naples, (239) 514-0084. A spectacularly designed environment that fosters play-filled learning through interactive exhibits teaching children about the Everglades, a farm, outer space and more. cmon.org

THE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM & EDUCATION CENTER OF SOUTHWEST FLORIDA, 4760 Tamiami Trail N., Suite 7, (239) 263-9200. Promotes respect and understanding by teaching the history and lessons of the Holocaust period. Individual stories of Holocaust survivors and liberators help “make history personal” for students and visitors. $10 for adults, $5 for students age 12-18, free for students under 12 and museum members. holocaustmuseumswfl.org

LONDON AVIATION GROUP, 100 Aviation Drive S., (239) 643-4468. Helicopter and airplane tours, charters, flight training, photography, service and sales. londonaviation.com

NAPLES BOTANICAL GARDEN, 4820 Bayshore Drive, (239) 643-7275. Featuring 170 acres of preserves, gardens, lakes and trails. Provides a café, retail store and visitors’ center. Including an interactive Smith Children’s Garden plus Asian, Caribbean and Brazilian gardens. naplesgarden.org

NAPLES DEPOT MUSEUM, 1051 Fifth Ave. S., (239) 262-6525. Set in Naples’ first passenger train station and allows visitors to travel back to the period when Naples relied upon the railway for trade and transportation. Admission is free. colliermuseums.com

NAPLES PRESERVE, 1690 Tamiami Trail N., (239) 261-4290. A .4-mile self-guided tour on an elevated boardwalk. Home to plant and animal species associated with Florida ecology. County nature/historical destination information and talks provided at on-site Hedges Family Eco-Center. naplesgov.com

NAPLES TROLLEY TOURS, 1010 Sixth Ave. S., (800) 592-0848 or (239) 262-1914. Fully narrated trolley tour covering more than 100 points of interest. naplestrolleytours.com

NAPLES ZOO AT CARIBBEAN GARDENS, 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, (239) 262-5409. New cheetah exhibit. Daily activities include Meet the Keeper, alligator feedings, primate expedition cruises and other presentations. $19.95 per adult, $12.95 per child age 3 to 12. caribbeangardens.com

NORTH COLLIER REGIONAL PARK, 15000 Livingston Road, (239) 252-4000. Calusa fossil dig play area for children, interactive playground and a 90-acre preserve area. colliergov.net

PALM COTTAGE, 137 12th Ave. S., (239) 261-8164. Built in 1895. The oldest home in Naples restored to its original condition. Tours $10 per person. napleshistoricalsociety.org

ROOKERY BAY NATIONAL ESTUARINE RESEARCH RESERVE ENVIRONMENTAL LEARNING CENTER, 300 Tower Road, (239) 417-6310. View an aquarium, interactive exhibits and an art gallery. Participate in field programs; guided tours available. rookerybay.org

SUN-N-FUN LAGOON, 15000 Livingston Road, (239) 252-4021. Water slides, lazy river, water playgrounds and pools. Under 48 inches tall, $5.50; 48 inches or taller, $12; 3 and younger, free. napleswaterpark.com

 

BONITA SPRINGS

EVERGLADES WONDER GARDENS, 27180 Old 41 Road, (239) 992-2591. Former roadside zoo and animal rescue now reopened as a botanical garden and art gallery. evergladeswondergardens.net

NAPLES-FORT MYERS GREYHOUND TRACK, 10601 Bonita Beach Road, (239) 992-2411. Dog racing, adopt-a-greyhound program, live poker and dining room. naplesfortmyersdogs.com

 

CAPE CORAL

CAPE CORAL HISTORICAL MUSEUM, 544 Cultural Park Blvd., (239) 772-7037. Dedicated to historical preservation, offers exhibits and special programs throughout the year. capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org

FOUR MILE COVE ECOLOGICAL PRESERVE, north of Midpoint Memorial Bridge, (239) 549-4606. Includes 365 acres of mangroves and 6,600 feet of nature trail. Kayak rentals available seasonally. capecoral.net

MIKE GREENWELL’S FAMILY FUN PARK, 35 NE Pine Island Road, (239) 574-4386. Paintball, 19-hole miniature golf, arcade, go-kart tracks, fish-feeding dock and batting cages. greenwellsfamilyfunpark.com

SUN SPLASH FAMILY WATERPARK, 400 Santa Barbara Blvd., (239) 574-0558. The 12-acre water park features three high-speed slides, river ride, Tot Spot and 457-foot Electric Slide. See website for operating schedule. sunsplashwaterpark.com

 

ESTERO

COLLEGE OF LIFE FOUNDATION, 8661 Corkscrew Road, (239) 992-2184. Dedicated to preserving the historic Koreshan communal heritage. Provides hiking and kayaking tours by appointment. collegeoflifefoundation.org

ESTERO COMMUNITY PARK, 9200 Corkscrew Palms Blvd., (239) 498-0415. A 55-acre park featuring an amphitheatre, lighted playground, dog park, golf course, pavilions, outdoor activities and two recently transplanted historic structures. leeparks.org

FLORIDA EVERBLADES AT GERMAIN ARENA, 11000 Everblades Parkway, (239) 948-7825. Florida Everblades hockey October to April. Germain Arena offers public skating, concerts and special events. Restaurant and sports bar on premises. floridaeverblades.com, germainarena.com

KORESHAN STATE HISTORIC SITE, 3800 Corkscrew Road, (239) 992-0311. Historic site, campground, canoe rental, picnic area, playground, boat landing and nature trails. $5 per vehicle (up to eight people); $26 camping fee per night. Administrative office for the Estero Bay Preserve at Koreshan State Historic Site. floridastateparks.org/koreshan

MOUND KEY ARCHAEOLOGICAL STATE PARK, in Estero Bay at the mouth of the Estero River, (239) 992-0311. Accessible only by boat. No facilities. Canoe rental available at Koreshan State Historic Site. floridastateparks.org/moundkey

 

FORT MYERS

BABCOCK WILDERNESS ADVENTURES, 8000 S.R. 31, Punta Gorda, (800) 500-5583. View wildlife on a 90-minute buggy tour around Babcock Ranch, which is set within a 90,000-acre “working” ranch. Reservations suggested. babcockwilderness.com

BAMBOOZLES SKATING AND EVENT CENTER, 2095 Andrea Lane, (239) 482-7199. Includes snack bar, game area and novelty center. gobamboozles.com

CALUSA NATURE CENTER AND PLANETARIUM, 3450 Ortiz Ave., (239) 275-3435. Butterfly aviary, nature trails, a natural history museum, Audubon aviary and planetarium. calusanature.org

CENTENNIAL PARK, 2000 W. First St., (239) 321-7530. A 10-acre park along the Caloosahatchee River with a handicap-accessible playground, fishing pier and dock facilities. cityftmyers.com

CHARLENE’S CLASSIC CARRIAGES, (239) 543-2290. Downtown carriage tours in the River District of Fort Myers and in Old Naples; specializing in special events like weddings. Features the only Cinderella carriage of its kind in Florida. charlenesclassiccarriages.com

ECHO (EDUCATIONAL CONCERNS FOR HUNGER ORGANIZATION), 17391 Durrance Road, North Fort Myers, (239) 543-3246. Global Farm tours the edible landscape nursery and demonstration areas. Adults $10, children 6 and older $5, children under 6 free. echonet.org

EDISON & FORD WINTER ESTATES, 2350 McGregor Blvd., (239) 334-7419. Tour the historic homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, a research laboratory and a museum. Admission fees apply. edisonfordwinterestates.org

FORT MYERS SKATIUM, 2250 Broadway, (239) 321-7510. Provides in-line and ice-skating for all ages. $10 public skating. fmskatium.org

FOSSIL EXPEDITIONS, (239) 368-3252. Walking or kayaking expeditions that search for prehistoric bones and teeth of ancient mammoths, mastodons, tortoises, horses, saber-toothed cats, whales, dolphins and sharks. fossilexpeditions.com

GAEA GUIDES—GUIDED KAYAK NATURE TOURS, (239) 694-5513. Kayak clinics, plus bird, manatee, full-moon, sunset and bat kayak tours. Paddles all waterways of Southwest Florida. All guides are certified Florida Master Naturalists. gaeaguides.com

HAMMOND STADIUM, 14100 Six Mile Cypress Parkway, (239) 533-7695. Hosts Minnesota Twins spring training games, plus the minor league Fort Myers Miracle. Open April through August. $8.50 advance box seats, $6.50 advance general admission. miraclebaseball.com

IMAGINARIUM SCIENCE CENTER, 2000 Cranford Ave., (239) 321-7420. Handson exhibits on weather, water, animals and more. $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $8 for children and students, free for children under two. imaginariumfortmyers.com

JETBLUE PARK, 11500 Fenway South Drive, (239) 334-4700. “Fenway South” is the spring training ballpark and player development complex for the Boston Red Sox. Major and minor league facilities. Games, tours and events. leeparks.org

LAKES REGIONAL PARK, 7330 Gladiolus Drive, (239) 533-7580. Water playground, nature trails, mini-train rides, bike and boat rentals, picnic sites, concession stand and Wi-Fi. Pavilion rentals available. leeparks.org

LEE CIVIC CENTER, 11831 Bayshore Road, (239) 543-7469. Concerts, trade shows, expos, rodeos, company picnics, a fair and more. leeciviccenter.com

MANATEE PARK, 10901 S.R. 80, (239) 690-5030. Picnic areas, kayak/canoe launch, fishing deck on the Orange River and native plant habitats. Parking $1 per hour, $5 per vehicle per day. leeparks.org

SEMINOLE GULF RAILWAY, 2805 Colonial Blvd, (239) 275-8487. Murder-mystery dinner train and holiday-themed excursions. Reservations required. semgulf.com

SHELL FACTORY AND NATURE PARK, 2787 N. Tamiami Trail, (239) 995-2141. Fun park with shell-themed shopping, dining, nature park and botanical garden. shellfactory.com

SIX MILE CYPRESS SLOUGH PRESERVE, Six Mile Cypress Parkway (1.5 miles north of Daniels Parkway), (239) 533- 7550. Boardwalk trail, picnic areas and interpretive center. Parking $1 per hour, $5 per day. leeparks.org/sixmile

 

FORT MYERS BEACH

BIG “M” CASINO, 450 Harbor Court, (239) 765-7529. Gaming aboard a 162-foot yacht. All-you-can-eat buffet, bingo and live entertainment. Ages 21 and up. bigmcasino.com

ESTERO ISLAND HISTORIC COTTAGE AND NATURE CENTER, 161 Bay Road, (239) 463-0435. The center celebrates the history of Fort Myers Beach with artifacts and photos. Cottage open Wednesday and Saturday mornings 10 a.m. to noon. esteroislandhistoricsociety.org

MATANZAS PASS PRESERVE, 199 Bay Road, (239) 765-6794. A nearly 60-acre sanctuary for native plants and animals. Open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to dusk. leeparks.org

OSTEGO BAY FOUNDATION MARINE SCIENCE CENTER, 718 Fisherman’s Wharf, (239) 765-8101. Touch tanks and interactive exhibits. Requested donation for admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children older than 6. ostegobay.org

 

ALVA

EDEN VINEYARDS AND WINERY, 19709 Little Lane, (239) 728-9463. Vineyard producing six grape wines from hybrid grapes as well as wines from tropical fruits. edenwinery.com

HICKEY’S CREEK MITIGATION PARK, 17980 Palm Beach Blvd., (239) 694-0398. An 862-acre wildlife preserve with five miles of trails, fishing deck and picnic areas. Parking is $1 per hour or $5 per day. leeparks.org

 

GASPARILLA ISLAND

GASPARILLA ISLAND STATE PARK, 880 Belcher Road, Boca Grande, (941) 964-0375. Featuring the Boca Grande lighthouse built in 1890. $3 entrance fee per vehicle is collected via honor collection box. floridastateparks.org/gasparillaisland

 

PINE ISLAND

MUSEUM OF THE ISLANDS, 5728 Sesame Drive, Bokeelia, (239) 283-1525. Features island culture, past and present, through artifacts and artwork. $2 for adults, $1 for children. museumoftheislands.com

RANDELL RESEARCH CENTER, 13810 Waterfront Drive, Pineland, (239) 283-2062. Tour the internationally significant Pineland archaeological site and learn about Calusa culture and their environment. flmnh.ufl.edu/rrc

 

SANIBEL ISLAND

BAILEY-MATTHEWS SHELL MUSEUM, 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road, (239) 395-2233. Exhibits displaying shells from Southwest Florida and around the world. $9 for adults, $5 for children ages 5 to 16, free for children ages 4 and under. shellmuseum.org

CABBAGE KEY, at channel marker 60 on the Intracoastal Waterway. A tiny island built on a Calusa Indian shell mound, accessible by boat. Restaurant, bar and inn. cabbagekey.com

J.N. “DING” DARLING NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, 1 Wildlife Drive, (239) 472-1100. Mangrove forest, cordgrass marshes and West Indian hardwood hammocks. Education center. Bicycles, canoes and kayaks for rent. Tours available. $5 per car, $1 per adult bicyclist or hiker. dingdarling.fws.gov

SANIBEL-CAPTIVA CONSERVATION FOUNDATION NATURE CENTER, 3333 Sanibel-Captiva Road, (239) 472-2329. Four miles of trails (with an observation tower), exhibits, touch tank, nature shop and bookstore. $5 for adults, free for children under 17. sccf.org

SANIBEL HISTORICAL MUSEUM & VILLAGE, 950 Dunlop Road, (239) 472-4648. Tour eight restored buildings, including a 1925 Sears & Roebuck kit house. $5 for adults, free for children. sanibelmuseum.org

SANIBEL LIGHTHOUSE, eastern end of Periwinkle Way, (239) 472-1080. The lighthouse on the eastern tip of Sanibel was first lit in 1884. The park features beach access and a fishing pier. mysanibel.com

 

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