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Cold snap has tourists avoiding beaches, seeking alternate attractions

Posted at 6:38 PM, Jan 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-04 08:25:21-05

If you decided to hit the beach in Southwest Florida on Wednesday, you probably didn't have much company. The unusual cold snap the area is experiencing means the beaches are empty.

"We got a couple of days (at the beach) in," said Kristen Scoon, who is visiting with her family from Chicago. "But now that it's a little overcast and cold, we're finding other things to do, keeping the kids busy."

With temperatures in the fifties, the beach is out - so the Scoons decided to check out the Everglades Wonder Gardens, the decades-old roadside attraction in Bonita Springs.

"It's better than Chicago weather right now, so we can't complain at all," Scoon said.

"A lot of people are flocking here to see the flamingos and alligators," said Thomas Hecker, executive director of the Wonder Gardens. "Even on a coldish, cloudy day like today, we're getting lots and lots of visitors."

He said the increase in attendance is a blessing, after being shut down for a couple of months due to damage from Hurricane Irma.

"We've added a lot more exhibits and more plantings, so the combination of everything is probably why we're getting record numbers."

The cold weather is also great news for the Naples Zoo.

"Once the weather gets a little bit colder, people come out to the zoo instead of the beach," said Dr. Lizzy Arnett-Chinn, staff veterinarian for Naples Zoo.

She said that some of their animals deal with the cold better than others, so some exhibits, such as the giraffes, get heat lamps and hay added. 

Some animals, like the sloth and tortoises are brought inside. But Arnett-Chinn said that the pythons are handing the chill just fine.

"They don't get brought in, but we have a heated swimming pool for them, so they can be out where everyone can see them," she said.

"They are staying nice and warm, while we freeze," she added with a laugh.