Wonder Gardens animals find new home
When Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs closed in April after 77 years, we wondered where the animals would go. Turns out that Gatorland in Orlando adopted 70 of them in May. The transfer from the Bonita Springs animal sanctuary includes giant alligators, raccoons, scarlet ibis, bobcats, huge pythons and boa constrictors, rattlesnakes, white-tailed deer, and American Crocodiles including “Bonecrusher,” a 14-foot giant.
Lester Piper opened the Everglades Wonder Gardens in 1936 to teach people about Florida’s vanishing wildlife, and to provide a rescue facility for injured animals. Lester’s grandson, David Piper, grew up in the park and took over the reins when his grandfather passed away in 1992. The historic roadside attraction continued to entertain guests with a collection of giant reptiles and unique attractions until recently when David and his wife, Dawn, announced they would be moving to Georgia for health reasons.
“Our families have known each other for well over 50 years,” said Mark McHugh, Gatorland’s president and CEO. “Two pioneer outdoorsmen, Owen Godwin and Lester Piper, started very similar attractions with similar philosophies of sharing the wonder of Florida’s plants and animals with locals and tourists. So it is truly an honor to bring so many of the Everglades Wonder Garden’s beautiful animals to Gatorland, where they can carry on the Piper family’s dream of entertaining and educating visitors.”
Back in Bonita Springs, photographer John Brady and his family will take over operations of the Everglades Wonder Gardens. The focus there will be on the botanical gardens, which has some of the most unique species of both native and exotic specimens from South America. A collection of Brady’s photographs will be part of the attraction.
For more information about Gatorland, visit www.gatorland.com.
Space Shuttle Atlantis exhibit to open
The wait is almost over for the Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The shuttle exhibit will debut on June 29. The 90,000-square-foot, $100 million home of the historic spacecraft tells the story of NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle Program, including up-close views of the vehicle that retired in 2011 and interactive features that reflect major accomplishments of the Space Shuttle program. For more information, visit www.kennedyspacecenter.com/Atlantis. An online coupon will give you $5 off admission.
ANNA MARIA ISLAND
Toast sunset with complimentary champagne
The Mainsail Beach Inn on Anna Maria Island (between Sarasota and Tampa Bay) has partnered with one of the island’s beloved dining spots – Beach Bistro – to offer exclusive culinary treats to guests of the beachfront escape. The inn offers guests a welcome complimentary glass of champagne during Beach Bistro’s happy hour, “Beaching at the Bistro for Sunset,” as well as a new room service menu, including a “course-by-course” special occasion menu. The menu is ideal for guests who want to dine-in or celebrate in the privacy of their room. For the month of June, hotel guests will also receive an additional 25 percent discount while dining at Beach Bistro Sunday through Thursday. For information or reservations, call 888-849-2642, or email email@example.com.
Boutique hotel offers sizzle for the summer
Summer is a great time to experience Palm Beach, and The Chesterfield makes the plan sweeter by offering a Summer Sizzler package valid through Sept. 30.
The package includes continental breakfast each morning and a drink in the Leopard Lounge each evening. The boutique hotel is two blocks north of Worth Avenue and within easy walking distance to the beach. Rates start at $179 a night. For information and reservations, call 800-243-7871, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.chesterfieldpb.com.
Florida residents fly for free to island resort
Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao is is offering a steal of a deal for Florida residents this summer. To celebrate the non-stop flights from Orlando and Miami on DAE Airlines and American Airlines (Miami only), the resort is offering a $300 airfare credit and a fourth night free when guests stay four nights. Roundtrip flights start at $279 on DAE, which means one traveler can fly for free with this offer, which is valid for travel until Dec. 20, and has to be booked by July 31.
Besides a fourth night free, guests receive complimentary resort activities including beach volleyball, yoga and meditation hikes and discounted golf rates. A minimum four-night stay is required. The airfare credit is applied upon checkout. Valid Florida ID required. For details, call 800-590-2266 or visit www.santabarbararesortcuracao.com/caribbean_deals/.
Mary Thurwachter is a West Palm Beach freelance writer and founder/producer of INNsideFlorida.com. Email: email@example.com.