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Revitalized Shell Factory invigorates SW Florida site

March 26, 2010
By MEGHAN McCOY, mmccoy@breezenewspapers.com

The 18-acre Shell Factory & Nature Park, a family destination in North Fort Myers that has attracted and entertained people for more than 70 years, offers a slice of Florida lifestyle viewed through an entertaining and educational experience.

Owners Thomas and Pam Cronin dedicated themselves 13 tears ago into remaking the park a great experience for the entire family with various activities, exhibits and shopping.

Parents are guaranteed children will have a jam-packed afternoon at the Shell Factory full of multiple interactive activities bound to grab their attention, including an 18-hole miniature golf course that runs halfway around the lagoon, bumper boats, water wars featuring a water balloon toss into baskets, paddle boats that let you feed the animals and the Groovy Stop Video Arcade.

Article Photos

Families can stroll through two aviaries at the Shell Factory, which houses iguanas, too.

Last year the McShell and Company Mining Rig was added, which the Cronins said is known to inspire parents to grab a bag and dig for goodies of their own. The Mining Rig teaches how to to pan for gemstones, shells or fossils using an authentic hand sluice technique.

Another learning exhibit at the Johnson, Jones & Masters Natural History Museum has hundreds of donated animals from five continents displayed for children to see what certain animals looked and acted like.

Another stop is the new Coin and Money Museum - a learning experience for those interested in the wide array of currency ranging from the Roman Empire to bills from each of the original 13 American colonies, Confederate bills and specially minted World War II notes and coins recovered from a sunken Spanish brig of war. The Shell Factory offers authentic specimens for purchase so individuals can begin their own collection.

Fact Box

The Shell Factory history

The Shell Factory and Nature Park traces its origins to when Harold and Mildred Crant began selling shells in Bonita Springs in 1937. The Shell Factory moved to its North Fort Myers location in 1951. In 1983, Interstate 75's opening left U.S. 41 with much less traffic, which dealt the Shell Factory a devastating blow. Thomas R. Cronin purchased the property in 1997 with his then-fiancee, Pam, and began a huge reconstruction of the property.

The Shell Factory & Nature Park

Location: 2787 North Tamiami Trail, North Fort Myers

Contact : (239) 995-2141 or (800) 282-5805 or

www.shellfactory.com

Hours: Shell Factory and Fun Park, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., daily; Nature Park, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily; Capt'N Fishbones, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday and 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday; The Swamp Bar, noon-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; and Dogbones Cafe, 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday.

The newest exhibit is the Pirate's Grotto Exhibit, which also has a retail store nearby with pirate memorabilia.

Other eye-catching outside the Shell Factory include the EcoLab, with its bugs, snakes, bunnies, lizards, ducks, geese and chickens. Children can ask staff questions if they have any.

The new Touch and Feel exhibit allows children to pet sea stars, leopard geckos and hermit crabs.

The nearby Dinosaur Park showcases 12 life-sized replicas in a jungle setting. Families can also enjoy strolling through two aviaries with peacocks, giant turtles, iguanas and colorful lorikeets.

As you leave the park you will stroll inside the enormous retail store that includes a year-round Christmas shop. The Shell Factory staff specializes in items not found anywhere else in Southwest Florida.

This park recently began a 501(c)3 organization for Lee County schools to help teachers financially so they can continue to take field trips with their students. Shell Factory holds events to raise money for the costs of busing the children to the park for an outing out of the classroom.

 
 

 

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