This is number 15 in my series of articles about places to take your children when you’re parenting alone. You might be divorced. You might be separated. You might just have the kids for the weekend. No matter what you need constructive activities to fill the day. Playing video games indoors is not quality time. I’m not just a lawyer, I’m also a dad.
You don’t have to go too far from downtown Naples to experience the natural beauty that brought so many people down here. Just off of Goodlette-Frank Road and just south of the Naples Zoo is the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center. The Nature Center is the headquarters for the greater organization of the Conservancy of Southwest Florida. The Nature Center is seated on 21 acres of natural Florida preserve that has been developed sustainably to further the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s goals: preservation and conservation of natural habitat and resources in Southwest Florida.
The Nature Center’s hours are 10 AM to 4 PM Monday through Saturday.
Admission to the Nature Center is $14.95 for adults and children over age 11. $ 9.95 for children between the ages of 3 and 11. Children under two are free.
Membership to the Conservancy of Southwest Florida is $ 65 a year and allows free admission for you and your guests
The Dalton Discovery center is where kids and parents can interact and learn about the various ecosystems in Southwest Florida: the Everglades, the beach, the mangroves, the ocean and the uplands.
For very young children, Pre-K, the Little Explorers Learning Lab is open inside the Ferguson Laboratory between 10 AM and 4 PM every day. The Little Explorers Learning lab is less focused on education and more on familiarity and experience like any children’s museum.
There are four organized events for kids on the hour every day.
11:15 AM – Be A Biologist.
12:15 PM – Scales and Tales
1:15 PM – Ocean Discovery
2:15 PM – Wonders of Wildlife
Outside of the buildings at the Nature Center is the Smith Preserve, a natural upland and scrub habitat. The Smith Preserve is home to more than 200 plant species, 70 gopher tortoises and hundreds of other animal species. Pathways abound for you to explore the grounds and see the wildlife.
Beyond the Smith Preserve is the Shotwell Wavering Family Filter Marsh. This marsh may be artificially built but it is a natural filtration system that uses plants to naturally clean the water and create a sustainable environment for local wildlife.
The Nature Center has the Gordon River running through it and the Nature Center offers 45 minute guided boat rides between 10 AM and 3 PM daily. You can also rent kayaks and explore the river on your own (but only if you are a member otherwise you have to hire a guide).
Various family fun days are hosted throughout the year to celebrate special conservancy occasions such as Earth Day or Endangered Species Day.
After a visit to the Nature Center, you can get inside the cool of the Coastland center across the street and enjoy some kid friendly restaurants like Chik-Fil-A.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center is located 6 miles from my Naples, Florida law office. Directions below: