If you could even imagine leaving the many beautiful shades of gray that are a Cincinnati winter, get on the first thing moving faster than you to the nearest beach. For us, that meant hopping a plane directly to Ft. Myers, Florida, do not pass go. That is unless you forget your diaper bag with your id in at home. You will FOR SURE miss your flight then. Rookie move! Therefore, after a short detour through Detroit, the plane touched down where the palm trees sway and the retirees abound. While you need to do the all typical beach things (sunsets, walk the beach, etc) here are few hidden gems that we stumbled upon.
Squeeze in Sun Harvest Citrus
What is the one thing Florida is known for other than beaches and Disney?! ORANGES!! So make it only makes sense to visit a place where they make some of the freshest OJ in town! Sun Harvest is conveniently located on the way to and from the airport so it makes easy, must-see attraction. Check out the packinghouse to see how oranges are distributed, unfortunately, we were there on an off day so we didn’t get to see any orange action. The highlight of the visit is tasting all the wonderful citrus and freshly squeezed juices! There is no charge for the tasting and it was some of the best citruses we ever had the pleasure of shoving in our mouth holes. The only thing concentrate in this place is the folks concentrating on how much citrus they are going to take home. Since we rented a condo we opted to get a half gallon of juice to take with us and enjoy all week and plenty of fresh citrus! The one other thing you must do is get an orange twist ice cream. Trust me, you won’t regret it. Learn more here.
ORANGE YOU GLAD YOU FOUND OUT ABOUT THIS PLACE?!
If you have ever wanted to see one of these gentle giants come to Manatee Park during the winter months. Manatees escape to these warmer waters during periods when the gulf dips below 68 degrees. While you won’t get to see them in the clean and clear tank like at the zoo, you get to see them in the wild. You can even rent kayaks to get up close and personal with all the marine visitors to Manatee Park. Admission to the park is free, but you will have to pay for parking which is very nominal. After gorging myself on lunch I felt like a huge manatee waddling its way through the park, then I learned just how much we really do have in common. Yup, actual footage of me looking in the mirror.
Oh the Humanatee!
Grab the Catch of the Day at Dixie Fish Co.
Are you with a group of people who can never make up their mind about where to go and what to eat? End the hour-long back and forth and get yourself to Dixie Fish Co. By the time you have scanned yelp and read endless reviews, you could already be sitting down with a cold rum punch and some of the best food we had in Ft. Myers. They have a bacon crusted grouper sandwich…yes fish….coated in bacon….what else do you need. Be sure to try the whole fish of the day as well. Not a seafood lover? They have you covered or just sample all of the rum drinks. In the event I still don’t have you persuaded, we ate here more than once during this trip. Parking is kinda a nightmare and you will likely have to park in the Doc Fords Rum bar lot.
Go Shelling on Sanibel Island
The Island of Sanibel and Captiva make for a great day trip if you are not already staying on the island. I have never in my entire life seen a beach with so many shells. Literally SHELLS 4 DAYZ!!! A walk on the beach will leave you with your hands so full of shells that you fear you may drop one of your treasures walking to your car. The entire beach is a shell bonanza, but if you watch the locals and those who visit frequently they know the secret to a good shell is to get in the water to look or comb the beach super early. I even had the joy of watching dolphins swim within a few feet of where I was wading. Check out the lighthouse and the walking trail around it.
Motor Tour at the J.N “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
While you are visiting Sanibel island I recommend checking out the Wildlife Refuge. I instantly think of Dingdongs by Hostess when I hear the name of this place, which is likely why I didn’t rent a kayak or a bike and explore the park in further depth. Nope, I sat my lazy ass in the car and took the scenic drive, making the necessary stops to see some spectacular wildlife and scenery. There were times when the people watching was far better than the bird watching and let me tell you, there are some interesting specimens to be had. The park is gorgeous and should not be missed. I wish we had more time to spend and came prepared to go hiking. Read more about their trails here. Note: It is cash only so if you can’t scrape up five bucks you best be finding an ATM (for those interested there are a few on the island, speaking from experience).
Treat yo self to some cake at the Bubble Room
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The fatty in us all rejoiced once we gazed upon the tray of homemade cake that came from the heavens – all willpower will immediately fly out the window. The real question is not what piece to get, but how many pieces you should get. I mean, it is somebody’s birthday somewhere and you should celebrate. My photo did not do the cake justice so therefore I will not post it, but you need to google that cake this minute! The restaurant, in general, is a very unique and bizarre place to eat. It is a museum of old toys, paired with Christmas and topped with old Hollywood and they just so happen to serve food! We opted to only do drinks and cake, which is what I would recommend. Especially for those on a budget. Be sure to check out the Bubble Room on your next visit.
The Shell Factory
Speaking of things that are unique and bizarre the Shell Factory by far takes the cake! No, seriously though, go get yourself that cake from the Bubble Room. There are truly no words to describe the eclectic collections of randomness that makes up this oddly yet curious place. You literally leave thinking…what the f*ck did I just visit! Upon arrival, you are under the impression you are visiting a place with shells and a shell museum, but my friend you are in for so much more. Whether you want it or not. There is an Eco-park, fun park, many restaurants and if you are lucky you may even catch a car show or flea market. That is all on top of the massive mega gift shop that comes complete with the worlds largest collection of taxidermy animals (or so they claim). No lie, one minute you are looking at shells and then
BAM!! YOU SEE THIS!
Think you will browse by the Christmas Store….one minute you are looking at Jolly Old Saint Nick then you turn around to see THAT!!!!
To add to all the confusion and weirdness there is a massive arcade with some of the most bizarre and wild things to spend money on. Coin-Operated Camel Ride?!?! YES, PLEASE! Baby Soph thoroughly enjoyed this place mainly because there was something crazy to see around every corner. That’s why I think this a place you need to visit at least once! We did do the Eco Park while we visited and doubt we will do it again, mainly because it was too expensive for what you got. The park reminded me of a mix of R.L Stine’s Horrorland mixed with Disney’s Goofy Movie Lester’s Possum Park. TO BE FAIR, MY DAUGHTER LOVE IT. It is very much nostalgic, old school 1980’s Florida fun park, complete with their “vintage” Dinosaur Park. In my opinion, kids will love it and parents will be left scratching their heads.
Visit Lakes Park
Enjoy the Florida sunshine and walk off your five pieces of cake by visiting Lakes Park. This beautiful park has something for all ages and costs hardly anything. Admission to the park is free, you just have to pay to park. There are tons of water areas and playgrounds for the kids, beautiful lakes and walking trails. The park even houses a train museum, complete with a huge train play area for the little ones. Rent kayaks, bikes or go fishing. It is easy to spend a whole day here and take in the wildlife and relax. This is where the locals hang out so be sure to check out community events. Rumor has it they host an amazing Farmer’s Market.
Beach with Baby
Baby Soph adventured to the sea for the first time at the ripe old age of 7 months. It was a lot to take in for such a tiny person, but she enjoyed it. We loved nothing more than to play in the sand and find little treasures to attempt to stick in our mouth. It only took eating sand once to realize that it is not good eats. The ocean itself was scary at first, but over time we would kick our feet in low tide with little waves. I only have a few little tips for taking the baby to the beach that may help you during your travels.
- Don’t forget baby sunscreen and sun hats. Babies do burn in a minute so don’t forget to have them covered and bring it with you in the event you will be out more than 45 minutes and need to reapply.
- Pick up your supplies at the local store instead of dragging it all with you. There was a Target nearby so we place a pickup order for baby food, diapers, formula, and wipes. We walked into Target picked up our order and was on our way! EASIEST THING EVER! That way we didn’t load the suitcases down and we were able to pack our travel pack in play in one of the suitcases! LIKE HELL I’m paying extra for them to fly my pack in play down!
- Have layers available for baby in the event it gets chilly or windy.
Enjoy every moment with your little one as they experience the beauty of the beach and ocean.
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