By Jennifer O'Brien

My fellow Venetians, if it hasn’t already started, you can be certain that winter houseguests will soon be descending on us en masse. But what to do with all of this company? After you’ve exhausted the usual haunts, and your guests’ sunburn is starting to take on the hue of those pesky red fire ants who refuse to vacate the backyard, you may want to read on to glean some additional ideas about what to do with them (your guests I mean, not the ants).

Now, Don't Get Me Wrong

I dearly love visits from family and old friends, and entertaining for me is usually, well, pretty entertaining. And while I certainly don’t mind a little sand in my bathtub drain or even the occasional “wall-as-canvas” crayon mural in my living room, by day nine of visitors en residence, I am a desperate woman. I’m realizing I need a better action plan concerning houseguest food and recreation. After all, there must be a limit to the number of cheese balls one can serve at home in the space of a month, agreed?

In my recent turn as Venice newbie-cum-bed-and-breakfast owner, I have come to rely on the following inimitable local venues located—read carefully here folks—outside the home. They are amusing places in which to kill time, or shall we say, “entertain your guests.”

Ducky, Not Daffy

I discovered Just Ducky Amphibious Tours one morning shortly after awakening to a hair-raising yowl from my tomcat, Barnaby. Apparently, my visiting three-year-old nephew wanted to determine whether kitty’s whiskers were in fact, removable. (They are, but that’s another story.) My point is that Just Ducky, while offering a 90-minute land-and-water tour of Venice and Casey Key aboard their very cool Vietnam-era Larc 5 amphibious vehicle, is also a boatload of fun for all ages. I learned a tremendous amount about our island’s history and its waterways, and my nephew could not have been more elated by the appearance of not one, but two dolphins. This is something you’ll not want to miss, even if you live here year round.

Everyone Need to Eat, Right?

Make an excursion of it and catch the water taxi from Placida over to Palm Island Resort for a casual lunch at Rum Bay Restaurant. Located nine miles south of Englewood near Cape Haze, Palm Island (aka, “Little Gasparilla”) bills itself as a splendid naturalistic escape. You may not be able to escape your role as dutiful host, but in addition to delectable fare, the resort’s restaurant serves a wide array of wine and cocktails.

The King and I

My former coworker Carol’s impending visit had me a bit unsettled. The last time I had seen Carol was in a Pennsylvania office park, circa 2006. We were both frazzled, pasty cubicle dwellers burning the midnight oil under a haze of fluorescent lighting. Since she still toils in the North, I estimated Carol’s tolerance to our tropical rays would last approximately 12 minutes tops. Then I recalled her reverence for “The King.” No, not our boss from back then—although come to think of it, he was kind of a royal pain. I’m talking about Carol’s affinity for all things Elvis. And what better way to entertain an Elvis enthusiast than to take in a tribute show at Visani Comedy Club & Dinner Theater in Port Charlotte? Attending a performance starring well-known Elvis impersonator/singer Dwight Icenhower, Carol had the time of her life kicking up her heels to the sights and sounds of her Hillbilly Cat hero.

Abandon the Chlorine

Go au naturale like the Europeans! Now, I know you’ve driven by North Port’s Warm Mineral Springs at least a thousand times in the past and thought to yourself, What the heck goes on in there? Well, it turns out plenty. The springs are pretty darn hip and guess what? Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon really did find that fountain of youth right here in Southwest Florida! Infused with the highest concentration of healing minerals in America (51), the 87-degree spring is perfect for swimming, soaking and relaxing. Plus, you may even get credit for helping your guest lessen the effects of skin conditions like eczema, burns and acne, sore throats, arthritis and more. Make a day of it and sign up for a spa treatment or exercise class, and enjoy a healthy organic lunch at Café Evergreen.

So, there you have it. Hopefully, I’ve supplied some much-needed reinforcements to your guest entertainment arsenal. Oh, and about those ants—do yourself a favor—call pest control.

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