MINI


Best Family Communities in Southwest Florida

BY March 31, 2022
Family Communities in Southwest Florida - Kalea Bay
Poolside mini chaise lounges are just some of the stylish indicators that tell us Kalea Bay in Naples is built with tykes in mind. (Courtesy Kalea Bay)

Whether you’re new to town or looking to upgrade to a private community where little ones have the run of the place, consider these neighborhoods with whimsical play areas, access to great schools and plenty of amenities for kids to explore and grow.   

Babcock Ranch, Charlotte County

Five years ago, Babcock Ranch was fields of grass and trees. Now it’s home to more than 1,400 homes with residents who live across 18,000 acres in comfortable homes designed to
meet green-building standards. The solar-powered community is modeled after the ideals of the developer Syd Kitson’s childhood hometown. “My mom used to kick us out in the morning and tell us to be home for dinner,” Kitson says. “We had no phones, no computers and no Gameboys. It was fantastic. We would just get on our bikes and explore.”

That’s what Kitson created at Babcock—a place where children ride their bikes to school (the community has its own A-rated K-8 charter school, and a high school is expected to open this fall), the town center, Cub Scout meetings and to go fishing at the lake.

On weekends, children enjoy the splash pad and two playgrounds, swim programs, family movie nights and events like Chalk the Walk. It’s no wonder families have flocked here.

Grey Oaks, Naples

Grey Oaks reinvented itself as a child-friendly community when it added a resort pool with a shallow splash area four years ago. There’s also a playground, holiday events and sports.

Little ones love the drive-in movies and the pancakes in pajamas gatherings. They also get into the family bingo, trivia nights and the fall and spring festivals with carnival rides. Parents appreciate the holiday and summer camps that keep kids busy with sports like golf, tennis and swimming.

In addition to the stately homes, coveted country club membership and restaurants helmed by award-winning chefs, many people move to Grey Oaks for its three championship golf courses and stellar tennis program. That applies to little ones, too. The community conditions young players through its golf and tennis classes and events, like the glow-golf nights when neon targets are set up on the course.

Families—who often move to the community for its proximity to Community School of Naples—love the coaching, led by Bob Usher, a top 50 coach with youth sports nonprofit U.S. Kids Golf.

The Place, Estero

The Place seems as though it was built for kids, with what may be the area’s largest menu of attractions and activities for the under-18 set, including a stellar outdoor area. “We always set out to cater to a multi-generational community,” developer Nick Cameratta says. Now, about 65% of the occupied homes are filled with families.

A giant waterslide meanders through a rock wall in the pool area before dropping into a resort pool.Nearby, tykes play in the fountains in the splash pad and on the sandy beach. The party room has more than 100 retro games, including Pac-Man. There is also a Kids’ Club, where parents can drop off children for free childcare while they workout at the fitness center (and during Parents’ Nights Out, when children are treated to an evening of games and pizza, while mom and dad can sneak away for a solo dinner).

A variety of year-round activities keep kids engaged (including weekly dance, acrobatics and tumbling classes), and there’s an abundance of sidewalks, which allows kids to roam safely throughout the neighborhood.

Kalea Bay, Naples

You might think of high-rises as being solely for retired snowbirds, but this is not the case at Naples’ Kalea Bay. As they build, the team keeps the influx of young families moving to Naples—not just visiting grandkids—in mind. 

The style factor at Kalea is in play for the kiddos, too. The two game rooms—one for tiny tots and another for teens—share the community’s coastal contemporary design, with no clunky toys or technicolor decor. The room for ages 3 to 9 fosters creativity, with books, an oversized chalkboard and building toys; while the teens’ quarters has all the frills to entice even the moodiest adolescent. Retro arcade games stand next to a foosball table, and virtual reality games are enhanced by the mod, cocoon-like chairs with surround sound.

For outdoor recreation, the kids’ pool has a sandy beach and mini chaises for tiny sunbathers. There are also year-round tennis clinics. And, in the spring, Kalea hosts a tournament in which adults pair up with juniors, ages 6 to 15, for matches.

The cherry on top: sundae socials with Bonita Springs’ Royal Scoop Homemade Ice Cream and kids’ menus at both on-site restaurants. With every perk, the team thinks about creating “not just a vacation home, but a forever home” for families, Kalea’s Inga Lodge says.