The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, located in Naples right next to the Naples Zoo, will be celebrating it’s Grand Reopening Weekend Festival on April 20th & 21st. The 20 million dollar 3 year renovation project to create a sustainable Nature Center was funded by private citizens concerned with the conservation of all of our natural treasures.
We had the opportunity to visit the Conservancy of Southwest Florida’s newly renovated Nature Center, located right next to the Naples Zoo, and where truly amazed by the beautiful exhibits and the wonderful experience. The first phase of the Nature Center, which opened it’s doors with a soft opening a few months ago, includes a wide array of exhibits, trails, tours and animal interaction opportunities. The second phase, opening on April 20th will add two new buildings to the existing ones: the Eaton Conservation Hall & Meg Smith Theater and the Ferguson Learning Lab .
365 Things to do in Southwest Florida is giving you the opportunity to attend the Grand Reopening Weekend Festival for free. You can win 2 four packs of tickets but before I tell you about the Festival and about the giveaway I want to share with you our experience at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center, which was really amazing.
About the New Nature Center
At the new Dalton Discovery Center we followed the path of a drop of water through the 5 unique ecosystems that can be found in Southwest Florida. Each of these showcases some of the unique wildlife that can be found there.
As you enter the building you are greeted by a video displayed on a map of Florida that explains how the Everglades, marshlands and seashores have been affected by pollution and expanding population throughout the years.
The virtual trip through the Southwest Florida ecosystems starts in the uplands where we observed snakes and learn about the Florida panther, then we moved on to the Everglades where the kids where trilled to interact with a baby alligator and take a close look at the relationship between the different animals that inhabit the Everglades.
At the sandy beach ecosystem my children loved the touch tank where they interacted with horseshoe crabs, hermit crabs, sea urchins and sea stars.
The exhibit ends with the ocean ecosystem, where a 5,000 gallon aquarium houses a juvenile loggerhead turtle, fish and lots of other sea creatures. This was one of my kid’s favorite areas and they spent a lot of time looking at the turtle swim around.
We then visited the Nursery at the Von Arx Wildlife Hospital where you can take a peek at some of the animals that are being cared for there, most of which are released back into the wild once they are fully recovered.
We explored the trails where my children chased butterflies, we visited the the Shotwell Wavering Family filter marsh and learned how it acts as a natural filter for pollutants found in the water and walked along the Christopher B. Smith Preserve that houses more than 70 gopher tortoises where we spotted a baby tortoise and an adult coming out of his burrow. We then returned to the Dalton Discovery center where we heard a talk about reptiles and the kids got to touch a snake.
We ended the day with a one hour tour aboard an electric boat. We started from the Lew & Dawn Allyn Family Lagoon & Dock and sailed along the mangrove lined Gordon river where we saw a manatee and a many wading birds. The captain of the boat shared with us a wealth of information about the mangroves, the area and the wildlife. It was really amazing to me to think that we where right in the middle Naples, between Goodlette-Frank Rd. and Airport Pulling Rd and yet here we where completely surrounded by mangroves and feeling like we where miles and miles away from civilization.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center is open Monday through Saturday, tickets are $12.95 for adults and $8.95 for children 3 to 12. Children under 3 are free. You can find out more about the Conservancy and the amazing work they are doing both in the Nature Center and in the area as well as the opportunities they have for you to join them in supporting their efforts to save Southwest Florida by visiting their website HERE and you can follow the Conservancy on Facebook to keep up with conservation news in Southwest Florida.
Gran Reopening Weekend Festival
The public is invited to experience the new 21-acre Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center during a two-day Grand Reopening Weekend Festival April 20-21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The weekend festivities include special exhibits, educational programs and speakers, among then the renowned oceanographer and Saturday’s keynote speaker Dr. Sylvia Earle from National Geographic. There will also be music, games, arts and crafts, live entertainment and special activities for children and adults. Food, beverage and additional vendors will be on-site throughout the weekend as well.
Special grand reopening admission for the weekend festival is just $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 3-12. The event is free for children under 3. You can also join as a Conservancy member before or at the event and enjoy special benefits during the festival. Free parking is available at Colonial Square on Goodlette-Frank Road just south of 14th Avenue, and at The Commons on Goodlette-Frank Rd. south of 14th Avenue with complimentary trolley service to and from the main festival entrance. The first 50 attendees each day receive a free Grand Reopening Weekend Festival commemorative t-shirt.
You can also learn about the Grand Reopening Weekend Festival in Spanish HERE.
For your chance to win one of two four packs of tickets to the Conservancy’s Grand Reopening Weekend Festival you can enter by following the instructions in the Rafflecopter entry form below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
For more information about the Conservancy’s Festival you can visit the Conservancy’s website HERE www.conservancy.org/grandreopening or call the Grand Reopening Hotline at 239-430-2466.
Disclosure: I received no monetary compensation for this article. My family and I received a guided tour of the Conservancy’s facilities so I could write this article and I received 8 tickets to give away to my readers. However, my opinions are honest and sincere and may differ from your opinions.
Follow 365 Things to Do In Southwest Florida on Facebook for more great ideas, events and activities for the whole family.
What a neat place!
My favorite Southwest Florida would have to be the wolfs I see around once in a while!
We love to see any aquatic animals, our family obsession
Would love to win this!!
Fun learning experience!
My ecosystem geek kid would love to go. Hope we win
We are new to the area so I’m not sure which one would be my favorite
This looks like so much fun!
Alligators are my favorites!
I love what the conservancy is doing!! Thankful for all that are involved and work so hard! I love all the animals in southwest FL!
Sounds cool! My favorite would be dolphins.
Looks like fun!
Manatees are my favorite! This sounds just wonderful
Looks like a great place to visit!
This looks like a lot of fun and it’s local!!! Hotel costs and other complications have prevented us from seeing some parts of Florida, but this is local and if admission were free there would just be lots of fun things to do. Something new too that my kids would love B-).
My favorite SW Florida animal is the mantee…I love to watch them and I would love to win this contest and take my grand kids to the Conservancy’ Grand Reopening !
I’m new to the area and would love to bring the kids somewhere fun!
we’d love this for a special family day!
My favorite Southwest Florida animal is the Florida Panther.
we love the florida alligator
I love Manatees! I think they are super sweet!