Another great thing about Naples
Another great thing about Naples, Florida is its variety of activities for people of every age. Paddle boarding on the beautiful Gulf or golfing on the many pristine golf courses are a couple of ways for adults to enjoy sunny Florida. But what about the kids? Never fear, Naples has plenty of lions, tigers, bears, and art projects to keep them happy.
The nationally accredited Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens has a long history. Originally started as a botanical garden in 1919, it has spent the last 45 years as a zoo, with conservation as its main focus. It really took off in the 60’s when Jungle Larry and Safari Jane (Col. Lawrence and Nancy Jane Tetzlaff) brought their collection of rare animals to the gardens. The famous Jack Hanna once said of them, “When you think of Jungle Larry, you think of a man and his family who literally dedicated their lives to exotic creatures of the earth."
Today, the zoo is a beloved landmark in Naples. When Hurricane Irma rolled through this past September, many trees and habitats were destroyed. Hundreds of local volunteers donated their time, money, and services to get the park ready to open once again. And the zoo returns the love - on the first Saturday of every month, Collier County residents get to experience the zoo at no charge. When you go, be sure to hop aboard the primate expedition cruise. Take a catamaran ride to view lemurs, spider monkeys, gibbons, and more on their own little islands. Another great stop is meeting the keepers at the giraffe enclosure who allow you to feed the long-necked beauties lettuce right from your hand. The newest guests will be staying until April 15th. They’re four African penguins in paradise, it’s the first time penguins have been featured at the Naples Zoo.
The Golisano Children’s Museum is one big learning experience! From the kid-size market to the fully stocked art room and comfortable diverse library, everything is hands-on. This is especially evident in Mother Nature’s House. The four rooms are each set up as a different season, complete with spring costumes, news reporter station (for those pesky hurricanes), ice-like igloos, and falling leaves.
A massive, very real-looking banyan tree is the museum's centerpiece. Inside, kids can step into a virtual pond and take a Journey through the Everglades. A boardwalk winds up through the tree and overlooks the mangrove maze. At the Beach, kids can fish with poles and magnetic bait, then use the boards to identify which fish they caught. Through all these exhibits, kids are taught about the environment without even realizing it’s educational!
There are rotating exhibits that are fun for older children and parents. In fact, this month a new traveling exhibit is swinging into the museum. Big League Fun is in cooperation with the MLB and teaches kids the science and math behind baseball.
Whether you live in southwest Florida full time, anticipating the arrival of visiting children and families or just here for a time of vacation fun, the Naples Zoo and the Golisano Children’s Museum are two places you don’t want to miss, whether you’re a child or an adult!