By Mary Thurwachter
The grandkids are visiting and how you love them. But they can only hang out at the beach or in the pool so long before becoming restless and sunburned. Send them off on their own, if they’re old enough, or tag along and have some fun yourself. Here are 10 ways to entertain your Spring Breakers.
1. Pedal around Palm Beach: Oil baron Henry Flagler built the Lake Trail so his hotel guests would have a place for strolling. It’s still a fine place for walking, skating or pushing a baby buggy, but it’s also a great place to ride bikes. Park your car near Publix (265 Sunset Ave.) and walk a block west to the Intracoastal. You can start pedaling around the 5-mile trail there (or 8 and a half miles if you add on two shorter trails). Expect to see Flagler’s first house, the 1886 Sea Gull Cottage, Whitehall (also known as the Flagler Museum), Royal Poinciana Chapel, plenty of gorgeous mansions and lush gardens.
Don’t have bikes or in-line skates? You can rent them at Palm Beach Bicycle Trail Shop at 233 Sunrise Ave.; call 659-4583.
2. Go on a strawberry-picking expedition: Here’s a good old-fashioned field trip with yummy benefits. Stroll around a strawberry patch, pick some, buy some, bring them home and eat them. Strawberry shortcake, anyone? At The Girls Strawberry U-pick, you don’t even have to bend or kneel if you don’t want to. That’s because the fruit is grown in hydroponic containers and the paths are easy to negotiate. Besides the strawberries, you and the kids will find swans, fishponds, exotic birds, goats and a miniature donkey. Yee haw! Before you leave, do a little shopping in the gourmet country store. The fresh baked goods and homemade ice cream and jams are hard to resist. The store and garden is at 14466 S. Military Trail, Delray Beach. Call 496-0188. (Picking season runs through April).
3. Make a splash on Diva Duck: This funny-looking 48-passenger bus swims and, in the process, gives riders a fun and entertaining tour of West Palm Beach, Palm Beach and the Intracoastal Waterway. The 75-minute excursion begins at CityPlace and highlights historic neighborhoods, gorgeous mansions, Centennial Fountain, Clematis Street shops, and the subtropical wildlife around Peanut Island. It splashes into the Lake Worth Lagoon at Currie Park as unwitting onlookers gasp. Don’t be surprised to see manatees, herons or pelicans. Be prepared to be pummeled with puns, because the jokes are as corny as they’re quacked up to be! The Duck gets the Diva name in honor of its opera-singing owner and guide, Judy Davis. She frequently breaks out in song along with Captain Eric Shalloway. Tourists are encouraged to sing along as well as make use of quacking noisemakers. Tickets are $25 for adult, $22 for seniors, $15 for kids 4 to 10 and $5 for those under 3. See the Duck’s Web site, www.divaduck.com, for a $3. coupon. Call 844-4188.
4. Find out what’s new at the Palm Beach Zoo: What’s new is a 10-year-old Komodo dragon named Hannah. She’s 7 feet long and tips the scales at 83 pounds. But even if the kids aren’t big fans of big lizards, there’s so much to see and do at the 23-acre attraction. They’re more than 1,500 animals including Malayan tigers, Jamaican fruit bats, river otters and monkeys; and a colorful carousel, an interactive water fountain, a good restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating, and daily bird shows. Kids under 12 must be accompanied by an adult, and pets need to stay at home. The zoo is at 1301 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach. Admission is $12.95 for adults, $9.95 for seniors, $8.95 for kids 3 to 12 and free for ankle biters under 3. Call 547-9453.
5. Explore the Kennedy Bunker on Peanut Island. Built in case of nuclear attack while JFK was visiting his family home in Palm Beach in the 1960s, the Kennedy bunker is open for weekend tours. In shambles when the Palm Beach Maritime Museum acquired it in 1995, the bunker had turned into a hangout for homeless people. But that’s all changed since. In an attempt to dramatize the tensions of the Cold War era, the museum installed a red hotline telephone on a executive desk and painted the presidential seal on the floor. It’s worth a visit and the water taxi ride to and from is entertaining, too. The captain points out mansions of the rich and famous. Take the water taxi from the Riviera Beach Marina (339-2504) or from Currie Park in West Palm Beach (346-9389). Reservations are a good idea. Call for dates and times. Tickets for the bunker tour are $10. Water taxi rates range from $10 to $30, depending on departure point. For more information, call the Palm Beach Maritime Museum, 540-5147.
6. Surround yourself with butterflies, tropical plants and hummingbirds at Butterfly World. Thousands of butterflies fly around you as you walk through the tropical rain forest or outdoor gardens at Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, the first and largest butterfly house in the country. Kids especially love it when they discover a butterfly landing on their shoulders or on top of their heads. Bring your camera because the Kodak moments are many. Besides 10,000-plus butterflies, Butterfly World has hundreds of hummingbirds, a bug zoo, a gorgeous English rose garden and a café. Admission is $24.95 for adults, $19.95 for kids ages 3-11, and free for those 2 and under. Butterfly World is in Tradewinds Park, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek. Call 954-977-4400.
7. Take a hike at Gumbo Limbo. This environmental complex with the name that sounds like a Cajun dish or a party dance actually takes its moniker from its dominant tree. Sometimes called the tourist tree because the bark resembles a peeling sunburn, the gumbo limbo is just one reason to hang out here. A sturdy boardwalk provides easy-to-navigate hiking and the 40-foot tower gives visitors a great view over a canopy of trees. Kids will enjoy the aquariums, insect tanks and butterfly garden. In spring or early summer, staffers lead nighttime turtle walks and if you’re lucky enough to go on one of them, you can see nesting females come ashore to lay their eggs. Admission is free, although there is a charge for turtle walks. Gumbo Limbo is at 1801 N. Ocean Blvd., Boca Raton. Call 338-1473.
8. See what the birds are up to at the Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge. The Everglades is a national treasure right here in our back yard, and many people don’t even realize it exists. What remains of the northern Everglades, known for its tree islands — a key habitat for deer — can be found here. You may see deer when you visit, but it’s more likely you’ll get to watch some of the 257 species of birds that hang out here. The 0.8-mile Marsh Trail, an earthen dike around a freshwater impoundment, is perfect for bird watching. Another good route is the quarter-mile Cypress Swamp Boardwalk, which begins and ends at the visitor center. The refuge is on U.S. 441 about two miles south of Boynton Beach Boulevard. Admission is $5 per carload. Call 734-8303.
9. Learn about local sea life at the Sandoway House Nature Center. Find out what Atlantic reef fish, nurse sharks and Florida spiny lobster eat for breakfast at this historic beach home in Delray Beach. Guided tours and coral reef shark feedings are held every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10:30 a.m. But you can go anytime to see displays of sea creatures, exotic birds, turtles and shells. Learn about local history in the Old Florida Room and get a magnified look on sea life in the microscope lab. Admission is $4. The center, open Tuesday through Saturday, is at 142 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach. Call 274-7263.
10. Go bar hopping on the water taxi: College-age and older grandkids may want to try Liquid Launch, a water taxi owned by Rick Vanneck. The boat ferries guests to the Banana Boat and Two Georges and Prime Catch in Boynton and Busch’s Seafood and Old Calypso in Delray and, sometimes, The Old Key Lime House in Lantana. Call 436-9696.