Palm Beach County can be a great place to be a kid. The Rapids Water Park is one crazy good time, Lion Country Safari can create memories that will last a lifetime, and spring training at Roger Dean Stadium gives youngsters some of their first experiences with America’s pastime. To help plan a fun-filled afternoon or weekend with the tots, palmbeachillustrated.com put together a list of Central and South County offerings for kids of all ages. (Watch for a second installment of this article, concentrating on the North County.)
Check out our list of things to do in North County here.
Inner clarity and the eternal wisdom of the yogi is no longer reserved for the hermit on the mountaintop. The South Florida Science Museum’s “Let's Move” program takes children two to six years old on a yoga adventure, where child and caregiver are led through a one-hour class that combines yoga with music, stories and props. The class not only helps develop strong, flexible and healthy bodies but gives children a chance to express their creativity and imagination, bond with caregiver and build self-esteem and confidence, as well as develop interpersonal relationships with peers. Classes meet every Wednesday at noon, and cost $15 per session or $65 for five weeks.
The SFSM also hosts an early learning program geared for children ages 18 months to 4 years. Children, accompanied by parent, grandparent or caregiver, are introduced to the world of science (chemistry, geology, physics and biology) through age-appropriate, hands-on activities that create a foundation for learning. Meeting for seven weeks, at 75-minutes per session, classes include story-time, a science activity geared toward a specific theme, playtime and arts and crafts structured around same theme, as well as music and movement. The class gives parent and child a chance to bond, as well as entertain and challenge the child while instilling a love of learning that will carry on throughout their school years ahead. The program meets for 75 minutes per week for seven consecutive weeks. Cost is $80 for museum members, $95 for nonmembers. South Florida Science Museum, 4801 Dreher Trl. N., West Palm Beach, 33405, 561-832-1988
Parents of young children are all too familiar with the challenges when dining out with youngsters, a scenario Boca Raton residents Beth and Sharon Meirav know all too well. Epicurious at heart, the Meiravs had a vision of a place where foodie parents can enjoy great eats while their children escape into a safe playground, where play is limited only to their imagination. With that, Playtown Café was born.
The 5,100-square-foot family entertainment center is a miniature indoor town, complete with seven fun and educational playtime centers: The Park, Bakery, Garage (ages 3 and older), Fred’s Toy Store, La Boutique, Art Gallery and The Building Zone (ages 3 and under). Suited for kids aged six months to 10 years, Playtown has a play area for every child. The Park is an indoor jungle gym, complete with Astroturf; the Garage is where the ‘big’ kids can find Nintendo Wii’s, air hockey, board games and more; The Bakery is a chip right off the Meirav block, a place where kids can tap into their inner gourmand and make real cookies for “Cookie Time.” The centerpiece of Playtown Café is, of course, the café, designed to be a place where parents and friends can come and enjoy a meal with peace of mind as their kids play in a safe and clean environment. Located at The Shoppes of Boca Greens, Playtown Café, 19575 S. State Rd. 7, 33498, 561-852-2150
A Greenacres stalwart for 36-years, Hoffman’s Chocolate may not be Willie Wonka in terms of hijinks and colorful factory tours, but what it lacks in wonkiness it makes up for with delicious chocolate. What’s more, Hoffman’s makes for the perfect incentive for well-behaved kiddies tagging along on the daily errands. There are over 70 different varieties of confections, all made at the Hoffman’s Chocolate Factory on Lake Worth Road. Can’t make it to Hoffman’s Greenacres factory? Never fear, there are four shops, from as far north as Stuart, all the way down to Boca Raton that carry the full gamut of Hoffman’s treats. Various locations, www.hoffmans.com
Educational and fun, Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds is a blast from the past. The 10-acre site takes visitors back to a simpler time, before air conditioning and the Interstate Highway system transformed the country and Florida. Guided tours take visitors through Yesteryear Village, circa 1895 to 1945, where 20 historic and replica buildings dot the property, creating a tangible history lesson. Explore buildings like the Haile Plantation replica of the Alachua home, the Loxahatchee Groves Schoolhouse, the Yesteryear Village Fire Station and the Corbett Shack, among others, complete with artifacts and volunteers dressed in period garb milling about the village, showing folks how South Florida became the place it is today.
Tours start at 10 a.m. and run for two to two-and-a-half hours; available by appointment. Admission is $6 per adult, $4 per child. Yesteryear Village, 9067 Southern Blvd., West Palm Beach, 33411, 561-790-5232
Gardening can be a rewarding experience, empowering the grower with the sense of self-reliance and teaching children important roles in responsibility. All of this is great, if you have the time. But let's face it, people’s lives are increasingly busier, daylight savings is a bane and, well, a certain tinge of urban modernization has deadened the green thumb. So for those who still want to experience the joys of eating fresh-from-the-vine produce without the tedious aspect of gardening, u-pick farms are just the ticket. And walking the neatly manicured rows of strawberries and tomatoes with child in tow is not only fun but educational as well.
U-pick farms let children see where food actually comes from versus the florescent-lighted aisles of Publix. Kids not only get a kick out of filling their pails with freshly picked strawberries, but also parent/caregiver gets the chance to load up on fresh produce for the week while supporting local growers and producers. Here are a few places that take the cake when it comes to produce picking.
- Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market in Boynton Beach has been a family tradition since 1960. The family-run farm grows a plethora of produce, including: lettuces, peppers, cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, white corn, green beans, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, onions, strawberries and tomatoes. U-pick is mainly a strawberry and tomato excursion, depending on season (currently both strawberry and tomato fields are open). Operating six days a week (closed Tuesday), Bedner’s also has hayrides for the kiddies, and operates a fresh market where all their farm fresh produce is offered. Bedner’s Farm Fresh Market, 10066 Lee Rd., Boynton Beach, 33473, 561-733-5490
- An extension of the acclaimed Boys Farmers Market in Delray Beach, The Girls Strawberry U-Pick is letting patrons do the picking. Since berries are grown hydroponically, visitors do not have to worry about getting their pants dirty—there is no kneeling. The hydroponic growing technique does not use soil and grows in a vertically integrated system, conserving space and water. After filling containers with ripe berries, sit back and enjoy Grandma’s Garden, where two miniature donkeys, goats, swans and tortoises roam. The Girls Strawberry U-Pick, 14466 S. Military Trl., Delray Beach, 33484, 561-496-0188
Where the wild things are
For many of us, the wilds of Florida have come to represent many things. The screech of an osprey while spying on fish from a solitary branch, the ‘hoot’ of a great horned owl echoing through a pine forest, or the iridescent shimmering eyes of a raccoon at night each evoke their own powerful images. But for many, natural Florida has been relegated to pests knocking over garbage cans, scurrying roaches the size of chickens and the insistent whir of mosquitoes. Luckily, Palm Beach County has a handful of organizations aimed to protect and educate about the last few vestiges of wilderness, all with a mission of conservation for the future.
Visiting a zoo as a child can be an incredible experience. Wonder is first kindled as toddlers press their face against the fence, peering in at a bears lumbering in their exhibitory, or at the petting zoo as they waddle after ducklings; memories cherished by parents and grandparents worldwide. So a trip to the Palm Beach Zoo at Dreher Park is an excellent way to entertain the youngsters while giving them an opportunity to explore and learn about the wonders of the natural world.
The Palm Beach Zoo has long been the standard for Palm Beach County day trips. The sprawling 23-acre zoo has over 1,400 animals representing their wild kindred the world over, enlightening visitors about the animals, while giving them insight into the plight and perils the animals face in the wild. Species including reptiles, amphibians, mammals, avian, even insects, populate the Palm Beach Zoo, which is an active member of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association’s Species Survival Plan. Recently the zoo introduced three new Malayan tiger cubs born from resident big cats Berapi and Rimba, and the most recent exhibit addition, the Harriet W. and George D. Cornel Tropics of the Americas, shines a light on our South and Central American neighbors with jaguars, bush dogs, giant anteaters, capybaras and tapirs, among others.
When the kids have had their fill of the animals, the carousel and fountain are popular spots to let the kids burn off some energy—just remember to bring a bathing suit.
Palm Beach Zoo, 1301 Summit Blvd., West Palm Beach, 561-547-9453
It's not everyone who can explore the wilderness of Africa, go on safari as Hemingway once did, stalking big game with binocs and telephoto lens, and experience the hot breath of the primeval continent. But this does not mean one cannot experience the thrill of being on safari without the Transatlantic flight. Lion Country Safari in Loxahatchee has been giving visitors the safari experience from the plush confines from their own car since 1967.
The drive-through safari attraction is broken into seven sections, each depicting a distinct wilderness from around the world. The Las Pampas section depicts the grasslands of South America, where fallow deer, tapirs, llamas and rheas roam; as visitors drive through the Ruaha National Park section, cars inch by herds of impala, greater kudu and aoudads; the Kalahari Bushveldt depicts the dry plateau in southwest Africa with both Nile lechwe and gemsbok antelopes; safari goers then make their way into India’s Gir Forest where Asiatic water buffalo wallow, kulan sprint and nilgali and blackbuck antelope graze; as the safari makes its way from India back to Africa, the roar of the lion can be heard on the Gorongosa Reserve, where a pride reigns supreme; the Serengeti Plains open up for ostrich, ankole cattle, wildebesst and other antelope species; while Zimbabwe’s famous Hwange National Park is represented with white rhinos, zebra, chimpanzees, white-handed gibbons and giraffes.
On foot, visitors have a range of attractions and animals to observe—a great time for kids of all ages. Animal encounters and the petting zoo let kids enjoy the wild residents up close and personal, while rides entertain children. Tickets cost $27.50 per person ($20.50 for kids ages three to nine). Lion Country Safari, 2003 Lion Country Safari Rd., Loxahatchee, 33470, 561-793-1084
Check out our list of things to do in North County here.