In Southwest Florida, some of us miss winter. You could say that missing winter is what Southwest Florida is all about, but even those who have zero interest in freezing through another interminable February of gray days, black ice and slushy snow occasionally long for the chance to throw a snowball at somebody.If hitting the slopes for a day of Alpine skiing is your idea of winter fun, that will require an airline ticket to someplace with higher altitude, higher latitude and thinner air. But there are opportunities for winter-style recreation right here — including snow — and a number of local businesses and municipalities want to help you reconnect with your inner elf.
STROLL THROUGH THE SNOW
Two celebrations in Naples offer children of all ages the chance to "walk in the snow," as overhead snow-making machines dispense a flurry of white flakes. Just remember, unlike your Currier & Ives childhood in the northland, you probably don't want to catch these snowflakes on your tongue.
Christmas on Third: This week, the lights went up at the Christmas on Third celebration. This annual event, begun 36 years ago in Old Naples, will have the forecast calling for a 100 percent chance of snow every evening (around 7:30 p.m.) during the Christmas season, courtesy of the Fairy Snow Mother.
When: 5 to 9 p.m. today and Saturday, Nov. 24, with snow at 7:30 p.m., up and down Third Street South, Naples. Free. 239-649-6707
Grand Illuminations: Tonight at the Village on Venetian Bay, you can catch the tree-lighting ceremony during Grand Illuminations, plus strolling Dickens carolers, magic tricks, live holiday music, stories from Mrs. Claus and complimentary photos with Santa, plus the white stuff falling from the sky. Make the holiday even brighter by bringing a new, unwrapped gift to share with those less fortunate. The festivities continue every Saturday till Christmas.
When: 5 to 8 p.m. today, Nov. 23, with snow at 7 p.m., Village on Venetian Bay, North Fountain, 4200 Gulf Shore Blvd. N., Naples. Free. 239-261-6100
HIT THE ICE
For more active winter recreation, go ice skating at three different Southwest Florida locations, without having to worry if you're going to break through and fall into the pond.
Celebration of Lights at Ave Maria: The town of Ave Maria will host an "outdoor winter wonderland" from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Dec. 2, including free open air ice skating, with complimentary skates, hot chocolate and a wine bar for the après skate experience. Entertainment will include the Immokalee High School Band and the Barron Collier High Drum Line, as well as the hometown Ave Maria University football, basketball and cheerleading squads.
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, Nov. 30, Ave Maria Town Center, Oil Well and Camp Keais Roads, Ave Maria. Free. 239-353-3903.
Germain Arena: Germain Arena offers public skating for a fee from noon to 1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Skate rentals are available. In addition, many area kids and some old enough to know better participate in amateur ice hockey leagues at the arena.
When: Public skating noon to 1:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 1 to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, $7 and $3 skate rental; Friday night late skate 9 to 10:30 p.m. $5, including skate rental; 8:30 to 10 p.m. Saturdays, $8, includes skates, slice of pizza and soda; Sunday family skate 6:30 to 8 p.m., $5 includes skate rental; 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero. www.germainarena.com. 239-948-7825
The Skatium: The Skatium in downtown Fort Myers also offers the chance to get onto the ice for hockey and recreational skating, and for something completely different, how about "The Nutcracker" on ice? At 4 p.m. Dec. 15, the youngsters in the Skatium's figure skating classes will be performing Tchaikovsky's classic ballet on the skating rink.
When: The Nutcracker on Ice, 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, 2250 Broadway, Fort Myers. Call for freestyle skating and learn to skate schedule. fmskatium.org or 239-321-7510.
GO PLAY IN THE SNOW
If you think it's not really snow unless the kids can frolic in it, you're still in luck, with tons of snow being created in Bonita Springs, Golden Gate, Immokalee, and Marco Island, offering the chance to put those mittens to good use, and maybe even throw a snowball or two.
Snowfest — Golden Gate: The granddaddy of local winter carnivals is the 27th annual Snowfest, held Saturday, Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Golden Gate Community Park. With more than 15,000 visitors expected, parking is at Calusa Park Elementary School with free shuttle service to the park itself. This full-fledged carnival offers tobogganing, snow to revel in, skating, pony rides, traditional midway entertainment, and a host of activities and food choices. Admission is $2 and kids 3 and younger are free.
When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 1, Golden Gate Community Park, 3300 Santa Barbara Blvd., Golden Gate. Free parking and shuttles at Calusa Park Elementary, 4600 Santa Barbara Blvd., and Berkshire Commons at Radio Road and Santa Barbara Boulevard. $2 per person ages 3 and older. 239-252-4000 or www.snowfestnaples.com
Holiday in the Park — Bonita Springs:The city of Bonita Springs kicks off the holiday season on Tuesday, Dec. 4, with Holiday in the Park at Riverside Park in historic downtown Bonita. The party goes from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m., with Santa and Mrs. Claus escorted by first responders as they arrive, the tree lighting at 6 p.m., and of course, snow. Lora Taylor of the Parks & Rec Dept. promises "a flurry of winter activities," with music, a snowfall area for the kids, and freebies including holiday cookies and apple cider, horse and carriage rides and "Polar Express" train rides.
When: 8:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 4, Riverside Park, Old 41 Road and Pennsylvania Avenue, Bonita Springs. Free. 239-949-6262
Christmas Around the World — Immokalee: Collier County's Parks & Recreation Dept. is sponsoring "Christmas Around the World" on Saturday, Dec. 8, at the Immokalee Sports Complex, with 50 tons of snow including a "sled mountain" promised. The event kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with a parade, leading right in to the festival, with $1 admission. In addition to the snow, there will be ice skating, kids' games, festive foods, Santa's workshop, and the man in red himself.
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, Immokalee Sports Complex, 505 Escambia St., Immokalee. $1. 239-657-1951
Snowmania — Marco Island: The new kid on the block for winterfests is Snowmania on Marco Island. They are last on the calendar, perhaps because of being the farthest south, slated for Saturday, Dec. 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Part of the long-standing "Christmas Island Style" series of events, Snowmania will have 30 tons of snow, hot chocolate, hot coffee and hot dogs, and ties in with the local Christmas Island Style parade.
When: Dec. 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Veterans Community Park, 901 Park Ave., Marco Island. www.christmasislandstyle.com