Fall means a reprieve from the steamy summer weather, perfect to go outside and enjoy a bit of cooler fun with the kids. From educational outings to costume capers, here’s our round-up of upcoming autumn events that aren’t to be missed if you’ve got a youngster in tow. Halloween festivals aren’t included on this list, but will begin to appear mid-October.
Florida Panther Festival
You don’t have to be a cat person to find something fascinating at the First Annual Florida Panther Festival from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, at North Collier Regional Park.
Designed to give attendees a better understanding of panthers, this free festival will include presentations by biologists, educational walks and other kid-friendly activities. At the “Living with Wildlife Pavilion,” attendees can learn more about how to protect pets and livestock when living near wildlife.
Festival-goers can even follow the Panther Mile around the park. En route, they’ll discover more about panthers and their habitats. The two-hour walk will be held four times during the festival and requires advance registration.
The event will also include face painting, children’s games, food vendors and live bluegrass music from Frontline Bluegrass and BugTussle Ramblers. For more information — including information on additional festival-related field trips held Friday, Oct. 30 — visit www.FloridaPantherFestival.com
Fort Myers Beach Pirate Fest
It’s time to round up your little swashbucklers and set sail for Sixth Annual Fort Myers Beach Pirate Fest, held Oct. 7 to 9 on Fort Myers Beach.
As part of this free festival, hundreds of professional pirate performers descend upon the island for costumes contests, re-enactments and other family-friendly amusements. There are treasure hunts, stage scenes, sea skirmishes, roving musicians, games and gatherings.
If you’re feeling brave, face the waves aboard the 65-foot Spanish galleon replica “Pieces of Eight” pirate cruise ship, where the all-pirate crew promises to deliver an authentic voyage back through the golden age of piracy.
Finally, once the wee ones are tucked in their bunks, knock back a mug of grog and join the Tortuga Pub Crawl or Pirate Ball, both on Oct. 7.
For more information, visit www.FortMyersBeachPirateFest.com
Calusa Nature Center
If you’re a fan of 1986 David Bowie movie “Labyrinth,” be sure not to miss Labyrinth Night at Calusa Nature Center from 6:30 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1.
This second annual fantasy extravaganza invites youngsters to come in costume as figures from the film, either as one of the many characters from Goblin King Jareth’s creature-filled realm or clad in something sparkling, as in the movie’s ballroom scene.
The event is a popular one — center staff affectionately call it “Rocky Horror Lite” — as kids get a chance to enjoy snacks, watch “Labyrinth” and compete for prizes. And there’s no need to read an enchanted book for admission, like in the movie: It’s just $5 for members, $10 for non-members.
Also, Calusa Nature Center will host Calusa Rocks, a family concert day from 4 to 8 p.m. on Sunday. Local bands Stolen Fruit and Let’s Go Exploring! are set to perform, while tasty treats will be provided by event sponsors Buffalo Wild Wings and Racks & Tails. Staff will bring out some of the center’s small animals for children to pet, too. Admission is $8 for non-members and $4 for members; proceeds from the event will help offset the cost of the center’s stolen air-conditioning units.
For more information on either event, visit www.calusanature.com
Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center
Kids can make a splash at National Estuaries Day, thanks to a variety of watery excursions and educational activities.
Held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday at the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center, this event will give visitors an opportunity to learn more about our local ecosystem through interactive activities such as boat rides, kayak trips and guided nature trail walks. There will also be science lab tours, nature films to view and a marine critter touch tank filled with creatures such as crabs and sea cucumbers.
If your kids have a hankering to try paddleboarding, this is their chance. Old Naples Surf Shop will help attendees get aboard one of their 12-feet long paddleboards for a trial demonstration. No weight or size restrictions here, but parents must sign waivers for children under 18.
Admission for National Estuaries Day is $3 for ages 13 and older, $2 for ages 6 to 12 and free for under age 6 and Friends of Rookery Bay members. For more information, visit www.rookerybay.org
Fall Fun Fair on Marco Island
Get the kids to Marco Island’s Veterans Park, 403 Elkcam Circle, and the Fall Fun Fair for a weekend of carousel rides, live entertainment, food and much more. There will even be a 4-H petting zoo.
Hours for this three-day event are 5 to 10 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 7, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 9. Admission is $5 for adults, free for kids 12 and under with a paid adult admission. Or, purchase adult admission for all three days in advance for $10.
Tickets for kiddie rides are $3; larger rides are $4. A block of 26 tickets can be bought in advance for $20.
In addition to rides, this fair has a lengthy local entertainment lineup. Friday’s schedule includes performances by the Marco Island Charter Middle School Jazz Band and STARZ singers, the O’Reagans and Myles Loud. On Saturday, look for Greg Miller, Shane Totten & Friends, the Dazzling DelRays and the Smokin’ Joe and Konnie Band. Finally, on Sunday, the Gary and Kerri Band and Fakahatchee Band will perform. Also, the event will include special appearances by the Island Dance Academy, the Spotlight Dance Studio and Celtic Spirit Irish Dancers.
For tickets and more information, call the Greater Marco Family YMCA, 394-3144, ext. 200.