Welcome to this week’s edition of the Tuesday Travelers series where it’s all about Southwest Florida! Today’s guest host, Shannon from Lifes Little Surprises is a fellow special needs mom. Her daughter, Fiona is precious and her big brothers are super cute too! Check out Shannon’s amazing pictures that come along with this post – it will make you want to move to the beach! (psst…wanna be a featured traveler? Here’s the scoop!)
I live in a small, but growing town along the southwest coast of Florida. I wake up to sunshine 300 and some days a year and open my curtains to palm trees, a golf course and the alligator that lives in the lake behind our house. Okay, so the alligator kinda takes the charm out of it, but I find him fascinating from a distance. He does, however, ruin a lot of outdoor fun. I grew up in the Midwest, and from June to September was never inside. I crave to be able to just open the back door and let my kids run wild all day long. Especially, since weather-wise, this is something we could do every month of the year. But between red ants and alligators, that just is never going to happen here. Our outdoor fun takes some work. We head out to playgrounds, parks , pools, beaches and long walks , on sidewalks a safe distance from the gators in the nearby lakes.
To be honest, I didn’t love it here when I first moved down. Vacationing down here as a kid was a completely different experience then actually living here. As a kid, we would stay right on the beach, search for sand dollars and conch shells all day, go out to eat every night, and I would see a dolphin every day on those week-long vacations. There was a crazy amount of people… everywhere. Thats because we came down during “season”. Season is to Floridians, what northerns may refer to as winter- we don’t have that this far south. Those months, our towns quadruple in size, taken over by spring breakers, snow birds/gray-hairs and all their kids and grandkids.
Having three kids under three, I struggled to find tot-friendly things in this area. We definitely cater to the old and the older. But there is tons of stuff for young ones if you look. The beaches are amazing, and always a great time with the family. When you are not staying right on the beach, its not quiet as relaxing. However, when we take the time to load up the minivan for a beach day, its always worth it and we question ourselves why we don’t do it more often. Man, do the kids sleep well after those days. We have a beach for every type of beach person- we have a party beach, a dog beach, a “lovers-key” beach, shelling beaches, silky smooth pure sand beaches, lots of expensive resort area beaches, and a nature preserve beach (my personal favorite, very kid friendly with nature walks and is hotel-aka- spring breaker- free.) Our waters are just as amazing, with big open boating spaces, lots of sand bars that attract dolphins, and endless canals for kayaking and fishing.
In-land you can find numerous parks and nature preserves, lots of shopping and even more dining. Shopping and dining we don’t enjoy as much now with kids as we did before. Almost all of our malls are out doors, and are hosts of weekly local band concerts during season. I actually spend most of my time with my kids at the malls- not shopping, but playing at their amazing closed in play areas. This mommas heaven- an outdoor, shaded, secure area where the kids can run like mad and I can sit and relax. Our favorite city park has a ginormous train playground ( my twins personal heaven) and an actual, little, 15 min train ride, which they decorate to theme for all holidays. It looks more like a roller coaster on a flat track then a train, but there is still a conductor and it still “choo choos”. We went this past year for their spooky Halloween ride and I am planning doing the boys 3rd birthday here. The park also has two sprinkler parks, a nature walk, an ice cream shop and kayaks, canoes, paddle boats and 2 to 4 people bikes for rent.
Another great park is Sun-N-Fun Lagoon. Its nothing compared to big water parks, but its the perfect size and price for a good time. With areas that cater to every age group, newborn to adult, everyone can enjoy this place. My personal favorite spot to beat Florida’s humid and hot summers.
I am falling in love with our town a little more each year. Its growing rapidly and becoming more and more family friendly. Fiona’s diagnosis and birth has opened us up to some amazing people in this area. The schools are great, everything is relatively close and the weather is pretty amazing most of the year. Not to mention we are just a car ride away from places people save all year to visit such as Disney, Busch Gardens, South Beach, the Keys and 663 miles of beaches. Great place to visit, decent place to live- I can say, because I’ve done both.
Other fun things to check out:
EDISON AND FORD WINTER ESTATES