There are a lot of reasons why Florida is one of the most popular vacation destinations for American families: kid-friendly beaches, mild weather and, of course, theme parks. But kids who love nature and marine life — and most children do — can get their fill of both at a variety of wildlife adventure programs on land and sea in Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach, located halfway between Sarasota and Fort Myers.
The Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, for example, provides family-friendly environmental education and sustainable recreation opportunities for everyone, whether you’re a visitor or a local. There are more than 20 educational programs on tap, which vary monthly based on what’s going on in the surrounding ecosystem. Staple programs include volunteer-based water monitoring, boat tours and guided educational walks. Families especially enjoy the wading tours, which allow small fry to step into shallow water in search of marine life.
Charlotte County Blueway Trails, a collection of mapped-out aquatic pathways, offer more opportunities for marine exploration while searching for Florida wildlife. The colored trail markers stretch along hundreds of miles of undeveloped shorelines and into the water among the mangroves. To help families plan which of the 57 trails are right for them, the Blueway Trails Guide offers data on ease of access, difficulty of terrain and scenic value.
Sharp-eyed families are likely to see manatees, dolphins and fish jumping out of the water, and paddlers are encouraged to watch the skies in search the white pelican, one of the largest birds — with a wingspan of up to 9.5 feet — in North America. From October through April, as many as 2,000 white pelicans make their way to the islands off the coast of Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach to roost.
On land, families can enjoy a traditional Old Florida wildlife adventure with Babcock Ranch Eco Tours, which whisk visitors through the working Babcock Ranch in a refurbished school bus. The ranch is surrounded by indigenous wildlife, citrus groves, prairies and undeveloped expanses of wet pine flatwoods. Plenty of wildlife can be seen from the safety of a swamp buggy, including alligators, the resident Florida panther and snakes.
For a slighter tamer experience, visitors can check out Peace River Wildlife Center, which treats ailing or injured native birds and small mammals. Animals who cannot be returned to their native habitat become permanent residents of the center, a menagerie that currently features nearly 200 residents visitors can view. Some favorite residents include bald eagles, raccoons and a white Eastern Screech-Owl named Luna, uniquely colored because of its rare condition called leucism, caused by a partial loss of pigmentation.
While urban wine country might sound like an oxymoron, it’s actually a reality at the stunning City Vineyard in New York City’s Tribeca neighborhood. The water-side venue is the perfect host for your next event — whatever that may be, from 20 to 200 guests and from cocktail party to plated dinner.
The zoo is the perfect place for children to see and potentially interact with wildlife. Whether your family is filled with animal lovers or you just need a good excuse to get out and about, here are some of the country’s best zoos for your next family adventure:
The mad bobbing of sunny yellow toy ducks vying for the finish line has become a popular community event and fun family activity around the world — with many events staged to benefit local or national charities. Event-goers “adopt” a brightly colored, numbered rubber duck, pop it into a water source (usually a river or a stream) and wait to see which duck crosses the finish line first. Winners typically are awarded a prize donated by a race sponsor, while proceeds from the duck adoptions go to benefit a specific cause.
By Hainan Airlines