By Jim Melican, President Emeritus and GSAC Board Member 
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Many of us will have family visiting during the holidays, both adults and grandchildren of all ages. Other than just enjoying our wonderful weather, sitting on a beach or by a pool, or going fishing or out for a round of golf, we sometimes try to think of ways to entertain them. Fortunately, there are lots of fun things to do and places to visit in Naples and the surrounding area.

The Naples Depot Museum has something for everyone. It is one of the five free museums in the Collier County Museum and contains a great deal of interesting information about the hundred-year history of our area. The Depot was built in 1927 to accommodate the arrival of the railroads; at that point, Naples had only 300 residents.  There is also an expansive Lionel train exhibit which my grandchildren have loved (kids still seem to love trains!), and, for the younger ones, a miniature train that runs around the property.

The Naples Historical Society’s Historic Palm Cottage has done all the holiday decorating you may no longer be inclined to do. Guided tours are offered throughout December; reservations are needed so RSVP online to ensure your spot.

A really fun thing to do is an airboat ride in the Everglades. It is a little bit of a ride to get to Everglades City, but I took two young grandsons there over Thanksgiving and they greatly enjoyed it. There are several tour operators in that immediate area, so you have multiple choices.  Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours has an associated animal sanctuary with over 100 alligators of all sizes and my grandsons enjoyed that as much as the airboat ride.

Another good bet is the 45-minute drive to the Audubon Corkscrew Sanctuary.  The 2.25-mile-long boardwalk traverses several different ecosystems through woods, prairies, and marshes. Particularly impressive is the largest old-growth Bald Cypress forest in North America. Home to a wide variety of animals (including alligators) and birds, winter is a particularly good time to go because of the migrating birds you might get to see. The sanctuary currently requires online tickets to be purchased for timed entry with the last daily entry at 1 p.m. To see the most wildlife try to reserve your time for 8 or 9 a.m.

Closer to home is Christmas on Third, which goes on throughout this month. All of the stores and restaurants will be competing to demonstrate that they have the most holiday spirit on the street. Every Thursday and Friday this month there will be music from 5-8 p.m.

And for audiences of all ages, Artis-Naples continues to host “Art After Hours”  at the Baker Museum on the last Wednesday of the month (December 29), from 6-9 p.m. Live music is performed by local musicians, the cafe concession stands are open and, most importantly, there is free admission to all museum exhibitions.

And for music lovers, on Sunday, December 19, the Naples Jazz Society will hold a Dixieland Jazz Band Concert at Cambier Park, from 2-4 p.m. The Society emphasizes the New Orleans type of jazz that was so popular pre-WWII.  So, if you enjoy a toe-tapping Dixieland tune or a sorrowful blues, this may be for you.

Finally, don’t forget the City’s spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks display. The fireworks are detonated from a barge just past the Naples Pier, commencing at 7 p.m.