When you think of Southwest Florida, you typically think beaches, palm trees, sunny skies.
You don’t think of ice.
Unless maybe it’s ice in a drink to cool it down.
But ice in Southwest Florida is not an oxymoron. There’s more ice to be found here than expected.
Here are a few examples of how this sub-tropical region can be icy.
Feel like channeling your inner Peggy Fleming, Wayne Gretzky or Apolo Ohno? Southwest Florida boasts a couple of skating rinks.
There’s the Fort Myers Skatium ( www.cityftmyers.com/skatium), founded in 1999. It holds an NHL regulation size skating rink (113 feet by 220 feet). According to the city’s Parks and Recreation website, “The Fort Myers Skatium operates Internal Skating Institute (ISI) and United States Figure Skating Association (USFSA) in its figure skating, certified ice and in-line hockey leagues (and) freestyle skating. …Fort Myers Skatium also offers skate rentals for both hockey and figure skating and a hockey pro shop as well as a Learn to Skate USA Skating Academy and public skating lessons.”
Then there’s Hertz Arena (www.hertzarena.com) in Estero, home of minor league hockey team the Florida Everblades. Originally opening in November 1998, it’s undergone a number of name changes, including Everblades Arena, TECO Arena and Germain Arena. The facility, boasting a large hockey rink with over 7,000 seats, is now Hertz Arena. When not being used by the Everblades, the ice is covered over and the arena is used for concerts and other events. (Attendees who have floor seats know it’ll be colder and bring jackets and sweaters.) The venue also has a smaller, recreational ice rink for public skating, figure skating, and youth and adult hockey leagues. (For schedules and events there, see www.skateeverblades.com.)
The Ice House
The Ice House (www.theicehousepub.com), a British-style pub in Punta Gorda, used to be exactly what the name says — an ice plant for the fishing industry. Built in the late 1800s by the founder of Punta Gorda, Isaac Trabue, the structure was the city’s first ice plant. Though it was the Ice Factory Company back then, over the years it’s had various owners and housed different businesses.
Now it’s a British pub, offering games such as snooker, steel-tipped darts and more. On the menu: fish and chips, bangers and mash, and cottage pie, as well as American food, such as burgers. And, of course, ice in your drinks.
Snow in South Florida? Yup!
Hell may never freeze over, but it has snowed in South Florida.
It’s rare, but it’s happened.
On Jan. 19, 1977, it snowed in South Florida — in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach. (Technically, there were snow flurries in the air.)
And before then, newspapers reported that it snowed in Fort Myers in February 1899.
If you don’t want to wait around (and wait and wait) for the real thing, you can enjoy artificial snow and throw fake snowballs at street festivals that provide the white stuff.
Though Fort Myers Beach was the site for an annual sand sculpting competition (a material it had in abundance), there are various ice sculpting businesses in Florida that turn ice into art.
For special events, including weddings, anniversaries and galas, Brenton’s Professionals in Ice Artistry (www.brentonsice.com), based in Cape Coral, Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties with unique and elegant ice sculptures. ¦