One of my favorite things to do during our wonderful spring is to explore Everglades National Park.
April 21 is the first day of National Park Week and the perfect opportunity to go on a day trip since the park’s $25 entry fee is waived in honor of the holiday. The National Park Service also will offer fee-free day son Sept. 22 and Nov. 11.
This weekend, there are many fun and free things to do in and around America’s largest subtropical wilderness. Cool weather during the dry season is the best time to explore South Florida’s River of Grass. There is much to learn and appreciate about this delicate ecosystem, which is the source of our drinking water. Reservations are not required unless noted. For more information, visit NPS.gov/ever or call 305-242-7700.
Anhinga Amble: Rangers give a terrific, free, 50-minute tour at 10:30 a.m. daily down the Anhinga Trail to see alligators, wading birds and other wildlife. Enter at the Homestead entrance and meet at Royal Palm Visitor Center benches. Also, just a few steps away, wander through a junglelike hardwood hammock.
Shark Valley: This area of the park is named because its water flows southwest toward Shark River, is the heartland of the Everglades. Take a tram or bike the 15-mile loop and see migratory birds and countless alligators sunning themselves on the road. Climb the observation tower to get an expansive view of the sawgrass prairie. Call 305-221-8455 or visit the SharkValleyTramTours.com for bike rental, tram prices and times.
In August, the park service increased the price from $10 to $80 for Lifetime Senior Passes, which grants unlimited free entry to all parks for those 62 or older. A new 12-month Senior Pass is now available for $20. For everyone else, annual passes are $40. Purchase them at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center at the Homestead entrance or go to Store.USGS.gov/senior-pass.
Here’s sweet deal: Hop on the Homestead National Park Trolley and get free entry to Everglades and Biscayne National parks on weekends through April 29. Get on at Losner Park at 104 N. Krome Ave. in Homestead.
After going to the park, I usually squeeze in visits to other attractions in Homestead.
Fruit & Spice Park’s tram tour is a fun and informative way to learn about the 35-acre park’s horticulture, and sample some of the more than 500 varieties of exotic fruits, herbs, spices and nuts from around the world. The park is at 24801 SW 187th Ave., Homestead, RedlandFruitandSpice.com, 305.247.5727.
Napa schnapa. We have our own winery in the Redlands. Take a tour and enjoy tastings of unique mango, lychee and avocado wines at Schnebly Redland's Winery & Brewery. There also is a restaurant, which serves Sunday brunch. The winery is at 30205 SW 217th Ave., Homestead, SchneblyWinery.com, 305-242-1224.
Go strawberry picking at Knaus Berry Farm and slurp fresh strawberry shakes and gorge on homemade cinnamon buns in the bakery at 15980 SW 248th St., Homestead, KnausBerryFarm.com, 305-247-0668. It closes for the season on April 21.