'Twas two days before Christmas, when all through the house, the children and grandchildren were stirring up mischief, with no end in sight. With great care, St. Nicholas has granted an early Christmas wish for all parents and grandparents there.
The wish came to light as the children were snuggled in their beds, with visions of Christmas morning playing in their heads. It was mom and grandma who searched for ways to eliminate the children's clatter, and soon found a list to resolve the matter.
Away to the Showcase they flew like a flash, to read a list of activities that were sure to last. The list, full of child-friendly outings and more, will light a child's eyes with cheer — all the way to New Year's.
With several days to fill, from Christmas to the new year, this six-day list won't have you sitting still. You'll be so lively and so quick, thank you, St. Nick for granting my holiday wish.
Spend Boxing Day at the beach. Any access point will get you there, but Barefoot Beach on the county's northern edge has a wide range of attractive outdoor activities. On the Lee County side, there are picnic tables with grills, and a company that rents Jet Ski and stand-up paddleboard equipment and conducts parasailing trips. Parking is $8.
On the Collier County side, tucked back into a luxury neighborhood on Barefoot Beach Boulevard, is Barefoot Beach Preserve, where explorers can trek the 1 mile Saylor Nature Trail or just hang on the beach. The preserve has restroom facilities. Collier beach stickers are honored, or pay $8.
Want to avoid the heat and enjoy the cold? Go ice-skating at Germain Arena. Open skate times are held only on Tuesday (Dec. 26) this week, beginning at 12:15 p.m. Cost: $10 for an hour of skating. Information: 239-948-7825 ext. 1306
Foster your youngsters' creative side with a trip to the Naples Museum of Art. The 30,000-square-foot facility is filled with paintings, sculptures and drawings as well as offers docent tours every day. Cost: $8 for adults, students $4. Information: 239-597-1900
Further a child's creativity at the Naples Headquarters Library on Orange Blossom Road. Children of all ages can attend a two-hour Crafter's Choice program from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Dec. 27 and Wednesday, Dec. 28. Head Children's Librarian Pamela Moore developed an array of crafting activities from gluing characters to crafting a decorative door ornament. Hang out in the Children's Area and enjoy the kids' computers loaded with special games as well. Cost: free. Information: 239-593-3511
Spend Wednesday, Dec. 28 exploring Old Naples. Take a historic Walking Tour with a Naples Historical Society volunteer, who will lead explorers through the downtown streets. Meet at Palm Cottage at 10 a.m. Reservations required. Cost: $16; free, children 10 and under. Information: 239-261-8164
Christmas may be over, but you can still enjoy the holiday decorations by attending Christmas at Palm Cottage. One of the oldest homes in Collier County, the two-story Palm Cottage is decorated in twinkling lights and charming decorations. Tours are 1 to 4 p.m. Wednesday. (You can also tour Palm Cottage from 1 to 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday.) Cost: $6, children 10 and under are free. Information: 239-261-8164
If walking isn't your cup of tea, try a Segway tour with Segway of Naples, which offers guided tours of historic downtown Naples aboard the two-wheel self-balancing device. Tours meet daily at 9 a.m., noon and 2:30 p.m. Look for a $5 off coupon at tourist centers. Riders must be 14 or older and at least 100 lbs and no more than 260 lbs. Cost: $78.95. 239-262-7300
Locals and visitors both will enjoy a visit to the Everglades. The Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk, about seven miles west of State route 29 in the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, is where visitors can walk the 1.2-mile boardwalk seeing nature undisturbed. The pathway is wide enough for strollers and wheelchairs. Unfortunately, the observation platform and Indian Village are under construction right now, but it's still worth exploring. Cost: free.
There also is another Collier County Everglades access point about five miles east of Collier Boulevard on U.S. 41, with a one-mile trail and an observation tower to climb. Cost: free.
A true Florida experience is saved for Day Five — an airboat ride on Lake Trafford. During the hourlong tour, which departs from the Lake Trafford Marina, participants will skim across the 1,500-acre lake to see wildlife in its natural habitat. Up close, you will see mommy alligators with her babies, wading birds frolicking about, as well as the lake's unique flora and fauna, all aboard a metal boat that only needs about two-inches of water to operate. Tours run 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, but reservations are required. Cost: $34.95 adults, $19.95 12 and under, free under 3. Information: 239-657-2214
Fill up the remainder of your day at West Coast Ranch, located about four miles east of Collier Boulevard off Smith Road. The nonprofit ranch offers Shetland pony rides for $20 a child ($40 adults) for a 20-minute ride, and more intensive trail rides for older children for $40 per hour. Information: 239-289-3837 or visit westcoastranch.org
Round out your week with a trip to the Imaginarium in Fort Myers. The hands-on museum and aquarium features activities and attractions, suitable for preschoolers to middle-schoolers.
In Tiny Town, wee ones can play with trains, host a puppet show and visit the grocery store. In Science of Motion, elementary-age kids can see the law of gravity at work, or they can visit the Hurricane Center and feel hurricane-force winds inside the wind tunnel. Older kids will enjoy the "Sea-to-See" touch tank encounters and stingray feedings. All will love the 3-D movie, "SOS Planet." Cost: $12 adults, $10 seniors, $8 students, free 3 and under. Information: 239-321-7420
With six days to fill, this list should surely fit the bill. But if fun is what you crave, here are other options for which to rave:
n King Richard's Family Fun Park, where kids can spend the day playing laser tag, riding go-carts and other assorted amusement park rides. Tickets start at $5, with VIP all-access pass for $36. There is a twilight option where VIP passes are half-price after 4 p.m. Sunday-Friday. Information: 239-598-2042
n Sailing, shelling, dolphin watch and sunset cruises are offered daily aboard the Sweet Liberty catamaran and depart from Tin City. Information: 239-793-3525
n Want a water tour but not at sailboat speeds, Cruise Naples offers sightseeing, dolphin watch and sunset cruises daily. Information: 239-263-4949
n Naples Trolley Tours will take you on a two-hour tour of Naples. Information: 239-262-7300