As a parent of two, I know how expensive it can be to keep the kids happy and entertained these days. And getting them out of the house and off the video games, well that’s another article. I have scouted around Southwest Florida, my home town, in search of great places to take the whole family and do it without busting the budget. I have found a few, but our favorite, is Franklin Locks.
Franklin Locks is a Lock System run by the Army Corps of Engineers and helps boats get through the shallow water of the Calloosahatchee River when going to and from Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico. Because the boats have to slow down to go through this tiny version of the Panama Canal, it is an ideal place for the kids to be able to swim without fear of motorboats zipping by.
It is located in beautiful Alva, Florida and is just a stone’s throw from Ft. Myers, which makes it feel like a nice little day trip without having to use too much gas. From Fort Myers you travel East down Sate Road 80 or Palm Beach Boulevard and look for the brown marker signs. You wind your way past the hustle and bustle of the busy roads to a more peaceful and tree lined spectacle of what old Florida must have looked like, before snow birds and high rises became the norm.
Once there, you will find the mature trees offer wonderful shade, but for sun lovers, they have created a small beach on which you can bronze yourself. Kids frolic in the brackish water and you can see many a fish jump out of the water right before your eyes. There are plenty of picnic tables, all covered, and you will see many a birthday celebration on weekends. There is a huge playground for kids to play on with a white sand bottom floor. The park is very clean and people keep to themselves, but kids can always find someone to run around with. It feels extremely safe here and there are army corps patrols in golf carts that go around and keep an eye on things.
Also, do yourself a favor and walk along the locks themselves. It’s great fun to see the boats and wave to the people in them. Everyone is always friendlier out on the water it seems. You may even see small Marlin, Tarpon and Manatees trying to make their way through the ebb and flow of the locks’ system.
It’s a great way to reconnect with nature and your kids. And, as I’ve found with my own two, not much has changed since we were little. Everyone loves to be outside enjoying the sunshine and fresh air and making new friends. You may just have to convince them a little harder these days, but after a day at the Locks, they’ll have a smile on their faces. And maybe even a little tan.