Take the kids strawberry picking in Delray Beach, Florida

Photo Credit: Erin Franklin
You may have driven past this place a hundred times and you would only think it was a store front in a strip mall!  However, if you walk into the cute little store, you will realize what you have been missing!
Walk through the store (if you can get past all the delectable homemade treats) and out the back door to be greeted with fields of organic hydroponics!
 
The Girls Strawberry U-Pick in Delray Beach, Florida is more than just a strawberry U-pick; it is an experience where children and adults will be thrilled to pick these sweet, juicy organic treats right off the vine.  This tranquil and beautiful farm offers u-pick strawberries in a unique setting.  The strawberries are grown organically and hydroponically.
The hydroponic plants require less bending and kneeling to pick because they are up off the ground.  Those of you who have visited Disney World and seen the hydroponic gardens in Epcot will have a good idea of what to expect.
The experience doesn’t end there.  After you have picked all the strawberries you want, the next activity is to take a walk in Grandma’s Garden.  Here guests have a chance to hang out and relax in a beautiful gazebo, visit with miniature donkeys, tortoise, swans and birds.  I took my parents and there lots of cozy little places to sit and rest, all while being surrounded by bright strawberry artwork.  The Girls also offer Cherry Tomato picking and other vegetables seasonally, and I have got to try it!
Photo Credit: Erin Franklin
Last but not least is the Organic Gourmet Country Store, where you will want to pick up some homemade treats that will make the whole family happy.  You can buy tasty baked goods and of course The Girls perfect hand-dipped and custom decorated strawberries.  This is where my daughter was introduced to chocolate covered strawberries.  She was so happy!

The farm also does walking tours for groups so there is literally something for everyone here.  Don’t miss out on some of the best tasting treats and fun in South Florida.  The Girls Strawberry U-Pick offers barrels of fun for the price of a pound of strawberries.

Photo Credit: Erin Franklin
Photo Credit: Erin Franklin
Photo Credit: Erin Franklin
Photo Credit: David Yates
Photo Credit: Erin Franklin
Photo Credit: Erin Franklin

Palm Beach Zoo Review

Palm Beach Zoo Review
1301 Summit Blvd
West Palm Beach, FL 3333
Palmbeachzoo.org

Child looking at Jaguar at Palm Beach Zoo

Accreditation:   Association of Zoos and Aquariums, World Association of Zoos and Aquariums

Geographic Focus: Tropical Rainforests; Asia, Australia, Central & South American, and Florida
Large Animals:  Jaguars, Malayan tigers, Florida Panther, American Alligator, North American Black Bear, Siamang
Endangered Species: not entire list: Baird’s tapir, Bali mynah, Cotton-top tamarin, Fennec fox, Giant Anteater, Goeldi’s monkey, Golden lion tamarin, Jaguar, Komodo Dragon, Malayan Tiger, Ocelot, Queensland Koala, Red-bellied lemur, Red crowned crane, Red-ruffed lemur, Ring-tailed lemur; Siamang, Spider monkey, Swainson’s toucan, & Yellow-footed rock wallaby
Group of Children looking at Box Turtle
Education Program Photo Provided by Palm Beach Zoo
Total Species: 305 species / 1,404 specimens
Kid Friendly Features:  Interactive Play Water Fountain, Wildlife Carousel, Wings Over Water Bird Show, Wild Things Show
Smoking: Non Smoking Facility
Cleanliness:  Very Clean
Education Programs: Summer Camp, Toddler Workshops, School Field Trips, Outreach Programs, After School Programs, Night Owls Overnight Adventures, Home School Classes, Stroller Safari, Behind the Scenes Tours, Birthday Parties, Teacher Workshops.

Research and Conservation Projects:

Rhino Rearcher from Palm Beach Zoo with Rhino
Rhino Research Photo Provided by Palm Beach Zoo

On Site: Center for Conservation Medicine, Species Survival Plans (SSP), Population Management Plans (PMP), Nutritional Studies in Multiple Species , Avian influenza testing and surveillance,  Goeldi’s monkeys contraception study

Off Site:  Carnivore Conservation Work in South America,  Research and Conservation of Endangered Sea Turtles in Venezuela, Mexico Pronghorn Project,  Wild Howler Monkey Health Evaluation Project, Black Rhino Translocation and Anesthetic Evaluation ( Namibia), White rhino translocation, anesthetic eval. & comparative blood value study ( South Africa and USA ),  Nutritional analyses and comparisons in free-ranging and captive elephants  ( South Africa and USA), Perdido Key Beach Mouse Captive Breeding and Reintroduction Program , Hawksbill Sea Turtle Program, Native Wildlife Rehabilitation Program, Jaquar Species Survival Plan, Development & Validation of Multi-species Field Test for Screening for TB in Wildlife ( Mexico & Brazil).  A Full list and details are listed at http://palmbeachzoo.org/conservation.html

Size: 23 Acres
Green Status and Recognition1st Gold LEED certified zoo animal hospital in the country, Green Non-Profit Certified , Named “Sustainability Leader” by the Community Foundation of Palm Beach/Martin Counties two years in a row
Price:  $16.95 Adult, Seniors (60+) $12.95, Children (3-12) $11.95, 2 and under are free. Group Rates are Available
Easter Bunny with Children at the Palm Beach Zoo
Breakfast with Bunny Photo Provided by PBZ
Review: 
The Palm Beach Zoo is a quick 40 minute drive from Fort Lauderdale.  This 23 acre park has the magical quality of making you feel like you are walking through a lush tropical wonderland.
The Zoo has several sections focusing on geographic areas; each area brings together the exhibits and the pathway landscaping to create the feeling of walking through a nature park in South America, Florida, Asia and Australia.
The Florida section brings you up-close and personal with everglade species like alligators, turtles and all manner of things that slither through the watershed.  A walk through wetlands provides the visitor with the opportunity to watch otters play on water and on land.  Guests can also view a Florida Panther through the windows of an authentic pioneer house, followed by watching flamingos from a rocker on the porch.  This section of the Zoo will transport visitors to life in Florida before cars were rocketing down the I95.
Image of Skittles the ConureThe Asian and Australian sections allows guest to view rock wallaby from inside the exhibit.  Guests will come eye to eye with Kookaburra, Rhea and Tawny Frogmouth Birds.  The crown and glory of this section of the Zoo are the Malayan Tigers.  These endangered species inhabit a beautiful exhibit complete with waterfall and pool and can be seen frolicking in the water on a hot day.  The guest is treated to a misty walk through bamboo pathways once again being transported into another world.
Finally guests are beckoned to walk through the South American section, a tropical Mayan paradise where endangered jaguars sleep in the shade of the overhanging pillars of a scaled down replica of the Temple of 1000 Columns in Chitzen Itza.  This section of the Zoo is home to exotic animals like tapirs, giant anteaters and the rare bush dogs.  Not to mention the beautiful and colorful parrots found throughout the area.
The Palm Beach Zoo is a fun family friendly facility that offers a snack bar, sit down dining, a carousel, animal shows and demonstrations.  The education department offers reasonably priced special programs for kids of all ages including Summer Camp, Stroller Day Tours and Toddler Workshops.  Don’t forget to bring bathing suits for the kids!  The Zoo has a musical interactive water fountain that no child will want to walk by without taking a splash and a dance. 
Children playing in Giant Eagles Nest
Children in Life Sized Eagles Nest
Zoo Keeper presenting a Dingo
Cynthia Buckley Presenting Mick the Dingo
Wood Storks Feeding at Palm Beach Zoo
Photo by Cynthia Buckley
Crowd at Wings Over Water Show
Wings over Water Show
Spider Monkey Island
Trainer Melissa and Wilbur the Sloth
 

Florida Renaissance Festivals Review

Photo Credit: Florida Renaissance Festivals

Take a walk back in time at the Florida Renaissance Festivals.  A day at this festival offers guests the sights, sounds and smells of a long ago time. There is truly something for everyone; Ladies, Gentlemen, and children attending the festival can watch authentic jousting with the King, take out your frustrations by throwing rotten tomatoes at someone, play a giant game of chess or take a ride on the World’s Biggest Rocking Horse.  There are so many activities, demonstrations and shows that it is difficult even to list them all.

Worlds biggest Rocking Horse -Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Children will be thrilled to take a ride on mechanical amusement rides, chat with a fairy, watch a circus perform, sword fights or even chat with an authentic Privy Cleaning Woman complete with suspicious looking mud on her face. Everywhere guests look there are fascinating and awe inspiring shows and surprises. All the show are entertaining and several of them are created specifically for the kids like Olde Tale of Robin Hood & St. George and the Dragon, Dragon Scales and Fairy Tales, and the Knighting Ceremony.  The festival even offers fun and educational tours for Scout Troops to earn patches.

There is no lack of delectable delights for those attending;guests can pick up a giant turkey leg, a 1 pound cookie, or traditional fish and chips among a multitude of other fares. Don’t forget to get a cup of mead to really put you in the mood.

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Last but not least is the shopping. Rows of vender shops give the feel of a true renaissance village and offer unique artwork, wooden toys, jewelery, blown glass, weaving demonstrations,
swords and armor, authentic renaissance garb and fun fairy wings for the kids.

The festival is held every year at Quiet Waters Park in Deerfield Beach in March and then again at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park in Key Biscayne in January. This year the Key Biscayne event will be held January 15-23, 2011. and the Deerfield Beach Show will be February 12th- March 13, 2011.

Children 5 and under are free, Children ages six to 11 are $7 and Adults are $20.

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Photo Credit: Cynthia Buckley

Christmas by the Sea Review

Wow, this was a crazy busy event!  The place was packed which made it difficult to let my 2 year old walk around for fear that she would get run over.  That being said, she was out of her mind excited to see Santa in the parade on top of the fire truck!

All and all it turned out be a lovely night.  It was cool for Florida and it felt wonderful!  There were pony rides, the steal drum band, and of course an Elvis Karaoke band that was quit fun to watch.

I know, I know I promised a video blog and I am working on it!  Apparently I am not as talented at movie making as I had assumed.  I will try to salvage something of the video to post ASAP!

I think we are going to check out the lights at Tradwinds park this weekend so I will get back to you on that very soon too.

Happy Holidays!

Best local playground: Flamingo Gardens

Flamingo Gardens in Davie brings together a lush tropical
garden with a historic plantation and a wildlife sanctuary.  It is an easy drive of about 25 minutes from
Fort Lauderdale, and is well worth the trip.
The courtyard area is chock full of shopping things to do.  What is even better is that this area is
outside the actual park so it is free and could easily be a great morning trip
for families.
As guests enter the courtyard the eyes are drawn immediately
to the large aviary exhibits in the center.  Children and their parents will love to watch the Military Macaws, Cockatoos, and Blue and Gold Macaws play, some of them even talk a little.
The courtyard area has a great playground with mulch flooring a large climbing structure with a bridge and lots of slides.  This quiet playground is rarely busy allowing the kids to play while parents watch on from nearby benches.  The playground is fairly well shaded and located conveniently next to the restrooms.
When the children are good and tired from playing on the
playground head on over to the Tropical Marketplace snack bar for a cold drink,
a fruit smoothie or a hotdog.  There is lots of outdoor shaded seating next to the snack bar where guests can enjoy a fresh cold cup of  juice while listening to the
parrots.  Watch out though you may have to walk around one of the beautiful wild peacocks who like to hang out in the area.  Guests can also shop for gourmet
gifts and have fruit shipped to friends and family. The next shopping opportunity is the Garden Shop and Secret Garden, where guests can shop for fantastic garden items and browse through tropical plants that will perk up any South Florida back yard.
Flamingo Gardens is a great local destination inside and out
and is a must see Special Events and Exhibits for any family with kids.

Best local playground: Bayview Park

This hidden gem of a playground is located on Bayview Drive in Fort Lauderdale.  It is immaculate and
offers something for just about everyone.
The playground has several different partially shaded climbing and
sliding structures. Each structure is designed for different age levels and
abilities, there is one for toddlers and the others are for varying
abilities.  This playground is
particularly nice because it has rubber flooring which can give a nice cushion
to the inevitability of tumbling children.
The playground is partially fenced in along Bayview Drive and is blocked
only by bushes on the side street so children must be supervised carefully on
the parking lot side.
Bayview Park has one sheltered picnic area that is available
for parties; however it must be reserved well in advance and it is very popular.  There are additional picnic tables, benches,
basketball court, restrooms and tennis courts.
The park and playground are so well maintained that even the bathrooms
are clean.
The baseball fields are a fabulous place for kids to run off
some extra energy when they are not in use in use for organized games.   Parking can be difficult on peak hours like
weekends or when school is out.  All in
all this is a quiet, clean and beautiful park that is sure to be a favorite
place to get a little fresh air, exercise and sunshine.
Bayview Park
4401 Bayview Drive
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
Tel: 954-828-PARK
Hours: 8 am to 9 pm