There’s no better time of year as a child to spend your days outdoors than over Winter Break in South Florida.
Growing up, I remember vividly playing outside my parents’ house with the neighbor kids in our driveway, putting on plays for the littlest ones in our garage and picking fresh oranges to eat off the tree next door. We had a blast making up games and riding the new bikes Santa brought us for Christmas.
Unfortunately, times have changed and our current Boca Raton neighborhood doesn’t have many children in it. So, my family likes to head to our favorite park or museum (with an outdoor space) to take advantage of the cool weather during school break. These are my favorite destinations right now:
James A. Rutherford Park in Boca Raton
If you like to picnic, then this local Boca park is the place to be. The lush trees provide shade for lounging and there are pavilions with multiple grills for residents to use. Not to mention, Rutherford Park has a wonderful playground area for kids and no shortage of space for them to run around freely in.
The best part of Rutherford Park (which is attached to Lake Wyman Park) is the picturesque walk through the mangrove trees on their guided boardwalk paths. Some lead to lookout points with great views of the intracoastal waterways. It doesn’t get much more Florida than that!
James A. Rutherford Park, 600 NE 24th St., Boca Raton; 561/393-7810; website
Fisher Family Science Trail in West Palm Beach
Having visited the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium recently to check out their Dinosaur Invasion exhibit, I was thrilled to also experience their brand-new outdoor Fisher Family Science Trail. It winds through 5 acres of the Science Center’s formerly overgrown grounds which now feature responsive exhibits to encourage fun, interaction and learning. For example, a Physics Forest with a giant pendulum has been integrated into the far end of the trail. And dinosaurs (permanent to the museum), including a huge, long-necked Brachiosaurus, greet guests along their travels on the trail.
Our favorite section is the Gem Panning Station, where you can sift through water and soil to find your very own fossils and gemstones. This is a 5 year-old’s dream activity!
4801 Dreher Trail North, West Palm Beach; 561/832-1988; sfsciencecenter.org; Adults: $16.95, kids (3-12) $12.95, and seniors (60+) $14.95.
Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach
It’s officially manatee season! From Nov. 15 to March 31, these gentle giants will flock to Manatee Lagoon in Riviera Beach, drawn to the warm water from the Florida Power & Light Company’s adjacent Next Generation Clean Energy Center. Not only do visitors have the unique opportunity to see the manatees interact in their watery habitat from the Lagoon’s observation decks, but children and adults alike can learn about these curious creatures and the surrounding Lake Worth Lagoon in the interactive exhibit space. By the way, it’s all free—there’s no paid admission required at Manatee Lagoon.
They have an exciting events calendar lined up for the season including one of our favorites for local kids: Manatee Tales Story Time. Be sure to register in advance to reserve your spot.
Manatee Lagoon, 6000 N. Flagler Drive, West Palm Beach; 561/626-2833; visitmanateelagoon.com