The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center in Naples recently opened the fun and educational “Little Explorer Play Zone” designed for children age 18 months to 5-years-old with animal stories, crafts and activities. However, we soon found out there was lots more to enjoy there beyond the play area.
Right next to the Naples Zoo, the 21-acre experience is dedicated to protecting Southwest Florida's unique natural environment and quality of life. The nature center also has hands-on exhibits in their Dalton Discovery Center including a touch tank where kids can touch a sea star and other critters. We also saw different reptiles on display and even watched as a snake was handled and shown to a group of kids.
We then went on a 45-minute cruise along the Gordon River among the mangroves. The electric boat ride is included with admission. I feared the boys wouldn't last the entire trip, but they enjoyed looking out and seeing the fish and ducks that we passed. The captain said during the winter months you can even see manatees. Expert Tip: when you first arrive, after buying your tickets, be sure and make your reservation for the boat ride, then check out the different areas while you wait for your trip.
There are also nature trails known for its bird watching, but we only made it a few yards to their newly planted butterfly garden. We brought our double stroller, but we kept parking it, so we were probably better off not bringing it.
Admission is $12.95 for adults, $8.95 for children 3 to 12 and free for children under 3.
On Saturday, April 18 starting at 10 a.m., check out the Conservancy's annual Earth Day Festival featuring live animal shows, special programs, live music, local vendors and exhibits.
For more fun ideas in Naples for toddlers read Surprisingly Family-Friendly Destinations in Florida.