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Turning rainy season into Tween Waters rainbows

Greetings weary (or soon-to-be weary) traveler.

If you’ve made it to this portion of the Tween Waters Inn website, there’s a good chance you’ve either arrived here in blissful Southwest Florida or have plunked down non-refundable airfare for a trip.

So now that that’s done, it’s time for your favorite outdoor adventurer to come clean.

Regardless of what they tell you in the brochures or what’s suggested in other places, summertime means far more in our area than simply beaches, sunsets and umbrella-borne drinks.

It rains. Quite a bit.

In fact, from the point our northern friends begin opening swimming pools on Memorial Day to the instant they’re lamenting the prospect of a killer Labor Day frost, we down here experience what the brainy meteorological types have scientifically labeled “rainy season.”

It’s all got to do with air mass thundershowers that build in the tropical heat and drop bursts of heavy afternoon precipitation nearly every day, amounting to an average of 29.27 inches across June, July and August – according to Weather.com – which translates to a daily dose of 0.318 inches.

And while the phenomenon has made celebrities of the TV weather talent at NBC-2 and its alarmist “First Alert” ilk, the application to vacationing TWI guests is a bit more practical.

Once the rains drive you from the sand or the pool deck, you’re going to need to find something to do.

Which, dear friends, is why we’re here.

In conjunction with summer’s official arrival, we’ve assembled a quick list of suggestions that’ll get you through the spates of midday precipitation and perhaps add a little flavor to your respite, too.

Less than a mile from the Tween Waters front desk at 11560 Chapin Lane (that’s a 16-minute walk for the hearty umbrella-toting crowd), the Captiva Memorial Library offers access to the collections of the entire Lee County public library system. Programs have an emphasis on local information and nature sources, and the library sponsors activities for adults, teens and children, including family programs.

The library is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Wednesdays from noon to 8 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It’s closed on Sundays, Mondays and holidays.

Meanwhile, if you can’t get the beach completely out of your system, the nearby Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel – an 8.5-mile car ride to 3075 Sanibel Captiva Road – is the only museum in the U.S. solely devoted to shells and the mollusks that make them.

A world-renowned malacologist and two marine biologists are joined by highly educated docents to offer knowledge, surprising facts and rare insights into the lesser-known complexities of shells, including their cultural, historical and culinary facets of shells. The museum is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., offers loads of free parking and free admission to both active military and children under 5.

Of course, if time away from home brings out the shopper in you, a little rain is no concern.

Toward that end, the Tahitian Gardens shopping mall – just a shade past 10 miles at 1975-2019 Periwinkle Way – offers a “Something for Everyone” retail experience that stretches from the elegant to the whimsical and features designer labels, unique collections, toys and jewelry, not to mention family-style meals from breakfast to dinner.

But hey, let’s face it. If you’re soaked from a dip in the water and/or sporting an outfit that’s not quite ready for public consumption, you might just want to keep your endeavors on familiar resort turf.

To some, that’ll mean it’s time for a massage at The Spa or a quick workout at the Fitness Center.

To others, though, a few rain clouds instantly trigger the instinct to continue revelry under cover.

In that case, you need only park flip flops at TWI’s own Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille, where you’ll find great food, great fun, great times and great entertainment served up nightly.

More than 74 percent of reviewers on TripAdvisor.com gave the place a rating of “excellent” or “very good,” and the 2017 menu of beach tapas, salads, oysters, sandwiches and entrees is supplemented by an entertainment calendar that includes live music on weekends, the not-to-be-missed Captiva Crab Races on Mondays and Thursdays and the always entertaining Wednesday night karaoke.

And who knows, by the time you’ve downed some tuna tostadas or worked your way through a creole grouper, your own version of Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville” might not sound so bad.

Happy drizzling.

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Race In for Fun: Captiva Crab Races

Honestly, my kids are not enthusiastic about many things, but there is ONE thing in particular that gets them excited every time—the Captiva Crab Races.

Every Monday and Thursday at 6 pm at the onsite Crow’s Nest restaurant, you can join the silliness and help raise money for the United Way. (There is also a show at 9pm but it is for adults only.)

No reservations are required but you will need cash to choose a rental crab and you’ll have to give it a name. (Since ‘SpongeBob’ was already taken, my son named his, um, “Stinky Britches.”)

Choosing the right crab from the bowl is tricky! You want one that will leave the other hermits in the dust, so don’t let the sleepers fool you. After all, there are awesome prizes at stake. You can win goodies like a Captiva Crab Races t-shirt, the ever-popular kazoo, and cash.

Once everyone is signed up, the qualifying races begin. Your host, Commissioner Tim, sounds the kazoo, lifts the custom crab starting gate (a wire basket), fires his trusty squirt gun, and they’re off!! You will be on the edge of your seat cheering!

During the crab races, the full menu is not available, but you will find items like pizza, pasta and chicken fingers. There will be something to please most everyone.

The Crab Races at ‘Tween Waters Inn have been a tradition for 25 years and have raised over $180,000 for charity. Commissioner Tim will tell you, “It’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever seen,” but I bet you laugh. And Stinky Britches came in 3rd place –we donated the winnings and kept the t-shirt!

Innsider Tip: Arrive early! During season, get there at 5pm to secure a table and start the crab registration process.

A quick thank you to my friend, Lauren Tjaden and her husband Paul, for the video.

My kids LOVE the Captiva Crab Races. Come early for a seat.
My kids LOVE the Captiva Crab Races. Come early for a seat.
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