Show Hometown Love This Summer

Are you eager to try some new activities? Pretend you’re a tourist!

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It’s easy to fall into a recreational rut; we find certain local interests we enjoy, and eventually we may stop noticing all the available options for fun and interesting ways to spend our time. We, the editors of Vero Beach Magazine, who have each lived in Vero for well over 40 years, do the same thing. So we decided to sit down and look at our hometown with fresh eyes, the eyes of a visitor open to new experiences. So come along for the ride with us and have some fun!

There’s something for all levels of adventurers at Brevard Zoo, from feeding baby kangaroos to taking a stroll above the habitats with a canopy walk.
There’s something for all levels of adventurers at Brevard Zoo, from feeding baby kangaroos to taking a stroll above the habitats with a canopy walk.

This Place is a Zoo!

How about a good old-fashioned (or not) day at the zoo? Our neighboring county to the north has a zoo, and, if you haven’t been to one in a while, it may surprise you. In addition to the homey, open-air habitats housing more than 900 animals representing 195 species, Brevard Zoo offers many exciting activities, informative talks, and encounter experiences. Check out Bear Necessities, Monkeying Around, Rainforest Revealed, Gator Chat, and Breakfast with Bigfoot; or try your hand at feeding the gentle giraffes and kangaroos (don’t be intimidated by the fact that a group of kangaroos is called a “mob”!). Maybe you’ll also want to hop onto a zip line, canopy walk, kayak tour, or the Cape to Cairo Express. Several new babies have been born over the past few months, and a major renovation of Expedition Africa is underway.

Catch a sunrise at the beach as if you don’t have the opportunity to do it every day. Photo by Kelly Rogers
Catch a sunrise at the beach as if you don’t have the opportunity to do it every day. Photo by Kelly Rogers

Here Comes the Sun

We’re aware that the sun pops up over the Atlantic horizon every morning sometime between 6:30 and 7:30, depending on the time of year, but some of us rarely make time to enjoy this majestic spectacle. If you haven’t done it in a while, catch a sunrise at the beach as if you don’t have the opportunity to do it every day. Pack a picnic breakfast; bring your camera or sketch pad; do some exercises, yoga, or tai-chi; spend some time in prayer, meditation, or reflection; or just sit and watch the colors unfold.

Riverside Theatre hosts a variety of bands for its free concert series, Live in the Loop
Riverside Theatre hosts a variety of bands for its free concert series, Live in the Loop.

Outside the Box

There’s something rejuvenating about live music, especially if it is experienced outdoors. Riverside Theatre offers its Live in the Loop concerts most Friday and Saturday nights year-round. Each month from September to April, the Friends of Sebastian Inlet State Park present Night Sounds concerts at the park’s pavilions. Once a month from November to April, the Vero Beach Chamber of Commerce hosts a band for Sunset Saturdays at Humiston Park. These events all feature Florida-based bands. Around February and March, Vero Beach Museum of Art hosts two concerts, usually jazz, in its sculpture park. If an outdoor concert isn’t adventurous enough for you, how about trying a performance that is outside your usual tastes? Operas, symphonies, ballets, choral presentations, rock concerts, and musicals are all here to sprinkle the spice of variety into our lives.

Princess Fergie stops for a rest after greeting visitors at LaPorte
Princess Fergie stops for a rest after greeting visitors at LaPorte.

Animal Magnetism

There’s nothing like the quirky innocence of animals to bring a smile to your face. LaPorte Farms in Sebastian is a 5-acre petting farm where guests can meet dozens of critters of all kinds, such as Elmo the emu, Skippy the kangaroo, Moondance the llama, assorted horses, lemurs, colorful birds, and, the newest addition to the family, Princess Fergie the baby camel. Purchase species-appropriate treats and feed them to the animals, watch your little ones take pony rides, enjoy the antics of the goats, or sit on a shaded bench and listen to the sounds of the farm. All ages are welcome, and admission is by donation.

Osprey Acres Stormwater Park and Nature Preserve is home to dozens of bird species. Photo by Kelly Rogers
Osprey Acres Stormwater Park and Nature Preserve is home to dozens of bird species. Photo by Kelly Rogers

Hide & Beak

The Florida scrub jay can be an elusive bird to spot, but the North Sebastian Conservation Area can be a good place to start looking. Photo by Kelly Rogers
The Florida scrub jay can be an elusive bird to spot, but the North Sebastian Conservation Area can be a good place to start looking. Photo by Kelly Rogers

Birding can seem like an arcane hobby requiring lots of study, travel, and endless hours in the woods with binoculars. But a major commitment is not required for an engaging experience. The Pelican Island Audubon Society, based in Vero Beach, leads field trips. Or you might strike out on your own in search of a Florida scrub jay, the only bird species that makes its home in Florida exclusively. Despite their endangered status, scrub jays are fairly plentiful in parts of Sebastian. The North Sebastian Conservation Area, just off Main Street, is an excellent place to spot them. Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s free Merlin app is a fantastic tool. Just download it to your smartphone and start identifying birds by taking photos or letting the app “listen” as the birds sing or call. Even if multiple birds are vocalizing simultaneously, Merlin will identify them in real time, indicating each time a different species chimes in. Instead of merely enjoying birds’ songs, you’ll learn to name the singers, even if you can’t see them—now there’s a feather in your cap!

Murals on the back of the Firestone building include Carol Makras’s. Photo by Kelly Rogers
Murals on the back of the Firestone building include Carol Makras’s. Photo by Kelly Rogers

Wall-to-Wall Art

Quite a few local buildings boast murals. It would be difficult to see them all in one day, so we designed a one-block walking route in downtown Vero Beach that will show you about a dozen murals. Park by the Masonic lodge at the corner of 14th Avenue and 19th Place. On the north wall of the Highwaymen gallery, you will see the first mural of your little excursion. Walk south to the intersection of 14th Avenue and 19th Street and look across the street at the mural on the north side of the Nordic Comfort store at 1875 14th Ave. Turn left, cross 14th Avenue, and proceed to the rear of the yellow Town Plaza building, where you will find some otherworldly artwork on your left. As you head back in a northerly direction, you can’t miss the bright brushwork on the back wall of the Kilted Mermaid on your right. Take a spin around to the front of the building for another mural. Walk back westward, toward your car, and check out the five murals on the back of the Firestone building on your right. There—you are now in the early stages of mural-mania!

Turtle digs hosted by Coastal Connections are a great way to learn more about sea turtles. Photo by Joe Rimkus 2
Turtle digs hosted by Coastal Connections are a great way to learn more about sea turtles. Photo by Joe Rimkus

Come Out of Your Shell

We live in one of the world’s loggerhead and green sea turtle nesting hotspots. While strict laws forbid interfering with these endangered creatures, professionals such as the rangers of Sebastian Inlet State Park and the conservationists of Coastal Connections may, by permit, lead unobtrusive nighttime “turtle walks” that allow small groups to observe a nesting female. Three days after a nest hatches, the Coastal Connections folks conduct a “turtle dig” to examine the shells and collect data on the success of the nest. We are privileged to have the chance to accompany these experts and get a glimpse into the fascinating world of sea turtles. Turtle walks take place several nights a week in June and July, and digs can be accessed in July and August.

Local boys and girls high school sports teams deserve support from their community. Photo by JPR Images
Local boys and girls high school sports teams deserve support from their community. Photo by JPR Images

Be a Good Sport

Attending athletic events is a classic American pastime. Whether you’re new to the area or a longtime resident who has never quite gotten over the Dodgers’ minor- and major-league decampments years ago, you may miss watching professional sports in person. How about becoming a Fighting Indian, Shark, Pirate, or Patriot fan for a day? There’s no shortage of vibrant high school athletic programs in Indian River County. Even if you don’t have children or grandchildren at one of these schools, why not check their websites for team schedules, put on the colors, and get in on the excitement? Of course, we’re making this suggestion in June—not the best time for attending high school sporting events, but at least now you have a couple months to decide which of the many sports you prefer! mastersvb.org, steds.org

Fishing, surfing, boating, hiking, swimming, and relaxing are just a few of the activities worth checking out at Sebastian Inlet State Park. Photo by Kelly Rogers
Fishing, surfing, boating, hiking, swimming, and relaxing are just a few of the activities worth checking out at Sebastian Inlet State Park. Photo by Kelly Rogers

A Day at the Park

State parks are popular destinations for vacationers. Florida has 175 state parks, and one of the favorites is right in our own backyard. Sebastian Inlet State Park is a thousand acres of what the state bills as “A True Beach Lover’s Paradise” straddling Indian River and Brevard Counties. With 3 miles of beach (complete with beach wheelchairs), boat ramps, canoe/ kayak launch areas, fishing piers, hiking/ biking trails, picnic facilities, two museums, a swimming cove, and an ocean floor contour conducive to great surfing waves, this park is sure to provide an amazing adventure. And, at the end of the day, instead of retiring to a tent or RV, you can return to your cool, comfortable home.

Paddling through the mangrove tunnels at the Environmental Learning Center is an escape from the hustle and bustle. Photo by Kelly Rogers
Paddling through the mangrove tunnels at the Environmental Learning Center is an escape from the hustle and bustle. Photo by Kelly Rogers

The Right to Float

Kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards are perfect for exploring our picturesque lagoon, and the Environmental Learning Center has them! Set out on your own or engage a guide; either way, you’ll glide across the calm waters and through secluded mangrove tunnels. Dolphins and manatees might swim past, and ospreys and pelicans will be diving for the catch of the day. Don’t be surprised if you see a dozen different bird species. Can you recognize the three different types of mangroves? By the way, it’s also okay if you want to admire the lovely homes and boats you may coast by in your travels.

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