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Discover This Family Beach Town
Looking for a super laid-back Florida beach with white-sugar sands and a vibe that's as kid-friendly as can be? In southwest Florida, with Sanibel and Captiva islands to the northwest and upscale Naples to the south, you'll find down-to-earth Fort Myers Beach on a skinny barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. Read on for a roundup of the most fun attractions for families in this beach lover's paradise.
With more than 30 beach access points to family-friendly Fort Myers Beach, it's easy to find a great spot. Got young kids? Featuring a baby-changing station, playground, picnic areas and fishing pier, Lynn Hall Memorial Park, in the heart of Fort Myers Beach, makes a fabulous choice.Continue to 2 of 11 below.
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Catch Fish Off the Pier
If you and the kids would like to try a little fishing without much planning or even a fishing license then the pier at Fort Myers Beach is the place to go. Everything you need is right there on the pier, and no license is required.
Right on the pier, you can rent a rod and reel from Pelican's Pitstop, which also sells snacks and drinks and posts the tide schedule and catch limits. (Fort Myers Beach Pier; 239/462-0671)Continue to 3 of 11 below.
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Hang Out in Times Square
A far cry from its neon-lit namesake in New York City, this palm-studded pedestrian area known as Times Square is considered the epicenter of Fort Myers Beach. You'll find open-air restaurants, cute shops, and street performers here, and it's a great place to grab a meal and hang out. (1000 Estero Blvd.; 239/765-0202)Continue to 4 of 11 below.
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See Gators and Pet Stingrays
At the Imaginarium Hands-On Museum and Aquarium, families can get their science fix, thanks to an array of interactive exhibits that offer hands-on opportunities to dig for dinosaur fossils or feel what it's like to be caught in a hurricane. The Animal Lab gives you an up-close look at critters such as alligators, iguanas, pythons, prairie dogs, and tree frogs, while the aquarium includes not only tanks of fish and eels but a Sea-to-See Touch Tank that lets kids pet stingrays, urchins, and starfish. (2000 Cranford Ave.; 239/321-7420)Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Scream for Ice Cream
Located on Fort Myers Beach's main drag between Mango Street and Fairweather Lane, Royal Scoop offers dozens of flavors of creamy ice cream made in nearby Bonita Springs. With sundaes, banana splits, and milkshakes, there is something for everyone craving a sweet, cool treat. (2307 Estero Blvd.; 239/314-5379)Continue to 6 of 11 below.
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Become a Savvy Seashell Collector
Fort Myers Beach offers terrific shelling, particularly on the southern half of the island. Start on the beach side of Strandview Avenue (across from the Publix grocery store) and begin walking south along the beach. This Southwest Florida Shell Guide can help you learn to identify the many different kinds of shells you'll see.
Note that Florida state laws prohibit collecting live creatures, which include live shells, sand dollars, and starfish.Continue to 7 of 11 below.
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Play the Royal Mini Golf Course
Billed as the best mini golf course in Southwest Florida, the medieval-themed Castle Golf course is lushly landscaped and complete with dragons, knights in shining armor, rope bridges, fog machines, gallows, and water features. Located on the mainland in Fort Myers, this course is challenging and very fun. (7400 Gladiolus Dr., Fort Myers; 239/489-1999)Continue to 8 of 11 below.
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Learn About Manatees and More
Fascinated by the local sea life? The non-profit Ostego Bay Marine Science Center teaches families about the unique ecology of the barrier islands and estuary ecosystem. You'll learn about dolphins, manatees, and sharks, and there are touch tanks and exhibits for smaller creatures. (718 Fisherman's Wharf; 239/765-8101)Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Catch a Ball Game at "Fenway South"
During Florida's Cactus League spring training season, head to JetBlue Park (a.k.a. "Fenway South"), the spring home of the Boston Red Sox, where you can see the boys of summer play pre-season ball. A number of the characteristics of the ballpark are taken from Fenway Park, including a "Green Monster" and a manual scoreboard. (11500 Fenway South Dr., Fort Myers; 239/334-4700)Continue to 10 of 11 below.
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Ride a Mini Train
Love trains? The Lakes Park & Gulf Railroad is an 8th scale railroad that travels through the north end of the Lakes Park past villages, towns, bridges, and tunnels. Afterward, take time to explore the 3,200-square-foot Railroad Museum of South Florida, which features model railroads, old photographs, and artifacts from Florida's railroads. (7330 Gladiolus Dr., Fort Myers; 239/267-1905)Continue to 11 of 11 below.
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Explore on Two Wheels
Want to ditch the car and get around on two wheels? You can rent scooters, electric bikes, and good old traditional beach cruiser bikes at Quicky Scooters. (Times Square; 239/463-8000)