Ed­u­ca­tional Places for Young­sters

Sum­mer fun in­cludes learn­ing, the won­der­ment of Southwest Florida

Cape Coral Living - - Front Page - ANN MARIE O’PHELAN

Florida’s beaches are beau­ti­ful, our theme parks spe­cial. But there are so many other won­der­ful places to check out dur­ing sum­mer that are a wealth of fam­ily fun, a trea­sure trove of learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties (don’t for­get to pack lunches).

Edi­son & Ford Win­ter Es­tates, Fort Myers

A top at­trac­tion with some 20 acres of botan­i­cal gar­dens/ re­search lab, his­toric build­ings and the Edi­son Ford Mu­seum of ex­hibits, ar­ti­facts and col­lec­tions, the Ford Win­ter Es­tate (The Man­goes), and the Edi­son Win­ter Es­tate (Semi­nole Lodge), Edi­son’s guest house, a care­taker’s house, one of the coun­try’s first swim­ming pools, a book­store and a plant nurs­ery, au­dio and do­cent-guided tours. Out­door re­fresh­ment area with light lunches, snacks and drinks, fees ap­ply. The at­trac­tion will bring some 250,000 an­nual vis­i­tors. Sum­mer camps and other pro­grams are avail­able.

Calusa Na­ture Cen­ter & Plan­e­tar­ium, Fort Myers

Non­profit en­vi­ron­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tion’s in­ter­est­ing and

ed­u­ca­tional ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude a 105-acre site of­fer­ing a mu­seum, na­ture trails, but­ter­fly and bird aviaries and a gift shop. There's also a plan­e­tar­ium, the only such place in Southwest Florida― chil­dren are thrilled to see these shows, as well as other events and ac­tiv­i­ties. The site is also home to some 100 wild an­i­mals that spon­sor­ships help house and feed. Out­door pic­nic ar­eas, fees ap­ply. Sum­mer camps and other pro­grams are avail­able.

Imag­i­nar­ium Sci­ence Cen­ter, Fort Myers

Touch-tank sea crit­ters, build things, run through a rain­storm, lots of hands-on sci­ence ex­hibits. The lit­tle ones love the Dino Dis­cov­ery Dig Area. There’s a 3-D movie the­ater, an out­door pond where fish and wildlife can be fed, and much more. Lunch is avail­able un­til 3 p.m. at the on-site snack bar with piz­zas, hot dogs and more. Fees ap­ply. Sum­mer camps and other pro­grams are avail­able.

Na­ture Park at the Shell Fac­tory, North Fort Myers

A 4.5-acre park with domestic and wild crit­ters in­cludes a two-toed sloth. There’s also an aviary with birds, tor­toises and tur­tles in­side the screened en­clo­sure. “Many of the an­i­mals are res­cues and have found a safe home [here],” says mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor Rick Tup­per. There’s also a pond of al­li­ga­tors that guests can watch be­ing fed on Satur­days at 1:30 p.m. (weather per­mit­ting). Ad­di­tion­ally, there’s an eco-lab of ex­otic snakes and rep­tiles, a farm an­i­mal pet­ting/feed­ing area, zip-lin­ing, minia­ture golf, bumper/pad­dle boats, a dog park, other fun stuff. Pic­nic ta­bles are avail­able near the tur­tle and duck pond,

places to dine such as Capt’n Fish­bone’s and the Dog Bones Café. There is also the nearby Aqua Dog Sports train­ing site. You’re en­cour­aged to prac­tice dock-div­ing with your dog. Fees ap­ply. Shell Fac­tory also has an ar­cade and space for birth­day par­ties. There are out­door flea/farm­ers mar­ket events in the park­ing area off the en­try. Check the web­site for days/times.

Ro­tary Park En­vi­ron­men­tal Cen­ter, Cape Co­ral

Some 97 acres of trails and stroller paths, a salt marsh, a dog park, an en­vi­ron­men­tal cen­ter for events, a gar­den area, the Liam J. Perk Play­ground, the Glover Bight Board­walk & Ob­ser­va­tion Tower and the Tom Allen Memo­rial But­ter­fly House, a screen en­clo­sure do­nated and cared for by the Cape Co­ral Friends of Wildlife. Free tours Mon­days, Fri­days and Satur­days start­ing at 10:30 a.m., vol­un­teer guides pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion about but­ter­fly species, host and nec­tar plants for gar­dens, and the life­cy­cle of but­ter­flies, cater­pil­lars and chrysalises of the dif­fer­ent species ― on lo­ca­tion for about an hour. Do­na­tions can be made to Cape Co­ral Friends of Wildlife. “The but­ter­fly house has na­tive but­ter­fly species, in­clud­ing the monarch, ze­bra long­wing, gulf frit­il­lary, poly­damus but­ter­fly, gi­ant swal­low­tail, black swal­low­tail, pipevine swal­low­tail and atala but­ter­fly,” says Honey Phillips, se­nior re­cre­ation spe­cial­ist with Cape Parks and Re­cre­ation. Pic­nic ta­bles un­der pavil­ions, avail­able re­strooms. The Eco Ad­ven­ture Na­ture Camp is avail­able in sum­mer months.

Southwest Florida of­fers a trove of sum­mer ac­tiv­i­ties and learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties (don’t for­get to pack lunches).

Ex­otic banyans, the in­dus­tri­al­ist and the in­ven­tor (left) are part of the Edi­son & Ford Win­ter Es­tates' ex­pe­ri­ence in Fort Myers.

Shell Fac­tory's Na­ture Park (above) and the Tom Allen Memo­rial But­ter­fly House in Cape Co­ral are great for kids.

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