By Brian Biggane
You know the feeling. You’ve just polished off Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings — including a thick slice of pumpkin pie — and it’s time to sit back on the couch and watch some football.
Or is it? When you think about the mega-calories your body just consumed and the weight gain that’s almost sure to follow, you might have other ideas. A walk sounds like a pretty good plan.
So, pull on those walking shoes, grab a bottle of water and dress appropriately. If your favorite park allows dogs, grab a leash and bring Fido — and make sure to bring water for him, too.
Here are five suggestions for places to walk off your turkey dinner:
Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge
It’s a drive of 20-30 minutes from the barrier island out to the western expanses of Boynton Beach Boulevard, but for a taste of the Everglades you can’t do much better.
Once you reach State Road 7 (U.S. Route 441), turn left, travel a mile or two and you’ll see the sign just before Bedner’s Market on the right. Drive down to the large parking lot and get ready to hike.
Most of the walks are rated easy, some on boardwalks, and can be done in less than an hour. There’s a lot to see: alligators, bobcats and white-tailed deer, plus a variety of birds such as sandhill cranes, pileated woodpeckers, herons, egrets, wood storks and the federally endangered snail kite. Pet walking is allowed only on the perimeter levee.
The refuge opens daily at 9 a.m., 10216 Lee Road, Boynton Beach. www.fws.gov/refuge/arthur-r-marshall-loxahatchee.
Lantana Nature Preserve
The preserve sits at 440 E. Ocean Blvd., just west of the Carlisle Palm Beach senior residences and a few hundred yards from State Road A1A.
The shady park was reopened by town officials on Feb. 3, 2021, with a new 6-foot-wide concrete trail.
Hurricane Irma left both the 61/2-acre nature preserve and the old pathway in shambles in 2017, and after years of debate on what material to use, the Town Council agreed to replace the washed-away surface with concrete.
The tree canopy is lush enough to provide shade almost throughout the walkway, which cuts through the vegetation for more than a half-mile. The western edge of the path is only yards from a waterway, bringing the possibility of turtles and many migratory birds into view.
There's an attractive gazebo is near the front. The land has only six or seven free parking spots, but the lot rarely fills up.
Open: Sunrise to sunset/www.lantana.org/maps/location/NaturePreserve.
Palm Beach Lake Trail
For people seeking a waterside stroll, this trail offers a 51/2-mile stretch alongside some of the prettiest homes in Palm Beach.
Running from South Lake Drive near Peruvian Avenue to just north of the Sailfish Club, the trail accommodates hundreds of walkers and cyclists every day.
Tall hedges obscure some of the opulent homes and cottages from view, but the Intracoastal Waterway lapping up a few feet away and the yachts tied up at docks keep the views interesting.
Although parking in Palm Beach can be a hassle, streets around the Royal Poinciana Plaza and Flagler Museum — both of which abut the path — have plenty of free spots.
The park, less than a 10-minute drive from the Woolbright Road bridge at 1300 SW 35th Ave. in Boynton Beach, is a 64-acre gem run by Palm Beach County. It features something for everyone — from walking paths to tennis and pickleball courts to playgrounds and shaded barbecue spots.
Living a few blocks away, I walked my dog here almost daily for more than 15 years and jogged and biked around the multiuse trails that crisscross the park for miles.
A stocked lake nearly 2,000 feet long offers fishing. An exercise course features 20 stations. The park also has 16 handball/racquetball courts and a lighted roller hockey rink.
Gumbo Limbo Nature Center
While the nature walks are only a small part of all that happens at Gumbo Limbo — the aquariums, sea turtle rehabilitation programs and monitoring of sea turtle nests keep the staff busy daily — the two relatively small trails offer plenty to see in their own right.
Gumbo Limbo is at 1801 N. Ocean Blvd. in Boca Raton, along the west side of A1A between Spanish River Boulevard and Palmetto Park Road.
The half-mile Coastal Hammock trail runs next to the Intracoastal Waterway and a Nature Center spokesman recommended it as a quiet, undeveloped tract that features native plants and mangroves as well as animal life such as raccoons and a variety of crabs.
The quarter-mile Ashley trail includes the Butterfly Garden and a chickee hut.
The trails close at dusk. The Nature Center building is closed Thanksgiving but otherwise is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (It opens at noon Mondays.) Parking is free. Pets are not permitted, but service animals are allowed.