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Gulf & Main Magazine

Summer Musts! Five fun things to do before it’s back to school

Jul 14, 2021 05:19PM ● By ANN MARIE O’PHELAN

Head to Lakes Park, Fort Myers

Lakes Park offers year-round activities and amenities on some 279 acres. There are 158 acres of freshwater lakes where fish, turtles, birds and wildlife abound. “Families can enjoy picnic shelters, playgrounds, running and cycling trails, outdoor fitness equipment, splash-pad water features, bicycle and boat rentals, a children’s garden, a fragrance garden, a community garden and much more,” says Tim Engstrom, Lee County Government communications specialist. The park is open 7 am to dusk seven days a week. Enjoy food and treats at the Whistle Stop Ice Cream Shoppe. The Lakes Regional Park Railroad Museum and train rides remain closed because of Covid-19. Metered parking. 

Lakes Park, 7330 Gladiolus Dr, Fort Myers. 239-533-7575;


Take a Pirate Cruise, Fort Myers Beach

Aboard the deck of the 65-foot Spanish galleon replica, Pieces of Eight, an interactive comedy adventure awaits guests who take Salty Sam’s pirate cruise into the Gulf of Mexico. The 90-minute “All-Ages Pirate Adventure” features an interactive pirate show, face painting, games, cannon fire and stories of piracy from long ago. “Plus, some might get to walk the plank,” marketing director David Kastan warns with a wink. Children (ages 2-13) get half off meals at the on-site Parrot Key Caribbean Grill with the purchase of a cruise ticket. (Those one year and under are free.) Check out the Ship Store for pirate memorabilia. Salty Sam’s also offers adults-only cruises and private charters for parties, weddings and celebrations.

Salty Sam's Pirate Cruise, 2500 Main Street, Fort Myers Beach. 239-765-7272;

Slide into Sun Splash, Cape Coral

Children of all ages find something to like at Sun Splash Family Waterpark. Pirate’s Cove is perfect for the youngest. There’s also a water-play structure with slides, a hydro storm, blasters and more. “Thrill seekers love the 264-foot-long Thunder Bump, with several steep bumps that give riders a chance to feel airborne,” says general manager Sandra Greiner. “The X-celerator is the steepest, fastest and most extreme attraction. This speed slide drops guests down five stories of open chute at speeds up to 40 feet per second and 30 mph.” The 14-acre park has extended weekend hours (10 am-5 pm) through October 10.  On select Saturday Slide Nights, families can slide into the sunset. Thankful Thursdays offer first responders, police, firefighters, EMTs, nurses, doctors, frontline workers and teachers a $5 discount per ticket for families up to four. Fun Fridays allow a parent or grandparent admission at half off with a child’s regular admission. Active or retired military, disabled veterans and military reservists with ID or contract get free one-day admission on July 4 and September 6; there is a $3 discount for up to four family members accompanying military personnel. Senior discounts and season passes are available. Parking is $5 per car.

Sun Splash Family Waterpark, 400 Santa Barbara Blvd., Cape Coral. 239-574-0558;

Swing into the Zoo, Naples

Walk along the paved paths of the 43-acre Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens and you will discover animals from around the world: lions, giraffes, monkeys and anteaters, all residing in a historic tropical garden filled with exotic plants. The zoo offers demonstrations, animal encounters and opportunities to feed the animals. Discounts are available for military (with ID) and AAA members, as well as entry after 3 pm. Two cafes and a gift shop are on-site. This summer the zoo’s Camp WILD is back. “Campers will have adventures meeting new animals, visiting behind-the-scenes areas, playing games and activities and doing creative art while having a blast with new friends,” says Courtney Jolly Goff, director of marketing and public relations. Programs are available for ages 5 to 12 years old.

Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens, 1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, Naples. 239-262-5409;

Make your Way to the Museum, Sanibel

The Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum is the only accredited museum in the United States devoted solely to shells and mollusks (the animals that create shells). Guests can explore the aquarium gallery filled with living mollusks and learn about specimens from around the world. “Our two touch pools allow guests to learn even more from our educational staff,” says spokesperson Stephanie Muddell. The museum has daily programs, more than 30 permanent exhibits, an exquisite variety of shells, and offers the chance to identify shells that can be found on Sanibel and Captiva. Children under 5 get free admission, as do active military members and their families (with ID); discounts are available for seniors and AAA and AARP members. Free on-site parking.

Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, 3075 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel. 239-395-2233;

Ann Marie O’Phelan is a Southwest Florida resident and regular contributor to TOTI Media.