Looking for a great place to take the kids this summer in Naples, Florida? Consider the Naples Zoo! The summer of 2010 is especially delightful as it brings the characters of Dr. Suess for a visit! The “first ever traveling exhibition brings you face to face” with the bronze sculptures of the infamous Lorax, The Grinch, and Sam I Am from the beloved children’s books! And what could be more fun than mixing the world of Dr. Seuss with real live animals? Enjoy the benefit of a world class zoo coupled with the loveable storybook characters!
This lovely tropical paradise reflects a long and illustrious history. The land was purchased by conservationist and botanist Dr. Henry Nehrling in 1919 to preserve and expand his tropical plant collection. Within six years his collection included nearly 3,000 plant species. The garden didn’t become a zoo though until the late 1960’s, after it was purchased by Col. Lawrence and Nancy Jane Tetzlaff. They housed their collection of exotic animals on the land and eventually the park came to be known by its trademark name of Jungle Larry’s and Safari Jane’s. Long time locals still refer to the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens as Jungle Larry’s, but more recent history makes this amazing park more than a place with amazing and exotic zoo animals.
In 2004 Collier County voters elected to save the zoo from extinction by purchasing the approximately 70 acres of wild lands. Major benefits are available to Collier County residents as a result of this purchase. The Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens became a nonprofit 501(c)(3) charitable organization and to demonstrate appreciation, the first Saturday of every month Collier County residents are allowed free access to the zoo. Additionally,Family and Grandparent Membershipsare half-price for county residents. Proof of residency is required, of course.
I love the zoo and take advantage of every opportunity to go. I have the added bonus of hearing some of the animals, particularly the spider monkeys from “monkey island,” in the early morning hours when I’m walking my dogs. The shows are fantastic and the zoo keepers and handlers are friendly and knowledgeable. And in our ever growing green-conscious society it’s the perfect place to introduce children to the concept of the sustainable ecological balance between exotic plant and animal life. Sure, summertime is hot and humid. But there are plenty of places to catch some shade and everything you need to eat or drink is available right at the zoo. You can even rent wagons and wheelchairs. Enjoy the cruise, the shows, and catch the exhibits! Photo opportunities abound.
For a full day, inclusive of shows, cruise, and exhibits, prices are $11.95 for children 3 through 12; $19.95 for adults 13 through 64; $18.95 for those 65 and up; and children under two are free. Or purchase one of their annual memberships and go again and again! The zoo is located at1590 Goodlette-Frank Road in Naples, Florida 34102. Phone number (239) 262-5409.