Southwest Florida Entertainment

/Southwest Florida Entertainment

Southwest Florida Entertainment

Some of the best of what Southwest Florida has to offer families lies in the great outdoors. The cities and small towns of Southwest Florida are dotted with a wide range of dining options from elegant and pricey to island-style and affordable. Events throughout this region reflect the natural environment and a love of the arts. From seafood festivals (February in Everglades City) and swamp buggy races (January, March and October in Naples) to a profusion of festivals that celebrate art from juried artists, glass and metal sculpture, photography, jewelry, as well as local arts and crafts, diverse annual events are held in towns and cities up and down the coast. Sarasota’s St. Armands Circle hosts the Annual Art Festival in January

Where Do You Want To Explore?

Naples

Naples

Fort Myers

Fort Myers

Sarasota-Bradenton

Longboat Key

Longboat Key

Naples

Naples

The nightlife scene in Naples—particularly downtown and in North Naples—gets continually livelier these days as young couples and families move in. Hit the live theaters around Fifth Avenue South, then stay to party at late-night clubs downtown. Or take in a show at Artis–Naples in North Naples and later head to the clubs and pubs in the Mercato shopping and entertainment district. You can do both dinner and a movie at its Silverspot Cinema or at the Paragon Theaters at The Pavilion across the street. North Naples also has its own comedy club-restaurant complex.

For quirky spectator sport entertainment, you can’t beat the Swamp Buggy Races held three times each winter. It involves big-tired Everglade vehicles, lots of mud, and a festival queen who ends up in the deepest mud hole.

East of town in Immokalee, the Seminole Casino Hotel hosts gaming and big-name entertainment. To the north, Bonita Springs is building a reputation for comedy, live music dining, performing arts and indie films. It is also home to a greyhound racetrack.

In Everglades City, you can find any number of tours and charters to motor you into the wilderness to spot alligators, raccoons, bald eagles and big pink birds with long, round-tipped bills called roseate spoonbills. Everglades National Park conducts ranger- and naturalist-narrated boat and paddling tours throughout the year. Private charters take you back-bay fishing or zip you along the so-called “River of Grass” on noisy, thrilling airboats. At Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours, you can tour by airboat or big-tired swamp buggy and visit hundreds of ’gators and other animals in captivity.

Aboard the Dolphin Explorer out of Marco Island, families can assist with dolphin survey research projects and keep in touch with progress as part of the Dolphin Explorer’s Club. The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center in Naples introduces kids to local ecology with hands-on exhibits and outdoor trails. Other nature interactive experiences await you at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center, Naples Zoo and the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (also known as C’mon).

Paddlers flock to Collier County’s paddling trail, known as the Paradise Coast Blueway, where a network of routes take kayakers and canoeists on an exciting journey through cypress, mangroves and out toward the Gulf of Mexico. Phase 1, the Ten Thousand Islands section, begins in Everglades City and ends at Goodland on Marco Island. Once completed, Phase 2 will include routes into Bonita Springs.

Naples is known, too, for its superlative golfing opportunities. Besides playing lush, natural golf courses, families can get their game on at various golf schools in the area.

Some of the best of what Southwest Florida has to offer families lies in the great outdoors. In Everglades City, you can find any number of tours and charters to motor you into the wilderness to spot alligators, raccoons, bald eagles and big pink birds with long, round-tipped bills called roseate spoonbills. Everglades National Park conducts ranger- and naturalist-narrated boat and paddling tours throughout the year. Private charters take you back-bay fishing or zip you along the so-called “River of Grass” on noisy, thrilling airboats. At Wooten’s Everglades Airboat Tours, you can tour by airboat or big-tired swamp buggy and visit hundreds of ’gators and other animals in captivity.

Aboard the Dolphin Explorer out of Marco Island, families can assist with dolphin survey research projects and keep in touch with progress as part of the Dolphin Explorer’s Club. The Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center introduces kids to local ecology with hands-on exhibits and outdoor trails. Other nature interactive experiences await you at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center, Naples Zoo and the Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples (also known as C’mon).

Naples is also known for its superlative golfing opportunities; USA TODAY readers voted it No. 5 among the top 10 US golfing destinations. Besides playing lush, natural golf courses, families can get their game on at various golf schools in the area.

In Naples, artists from all over the United States participate in the festivals. The Naples National Art Festival, held in February, showcases the talents of more than 250 artists in a competitive, juried event. Additionally, during most months of the year, Naples presents art and crafts at fairs on Fifth Avenue South and at Cambier Park.

Fort Myers

Fort Myers

Downtown Fort Myers has the hottest nightlife and special events scene in town. Fort Myers is also home to two Major League Baseball stadiums that host the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox during spring training. Come summer, the Fort Myers Miracle take to the field. The Tampa Bay Rays train in Port Charlotte to the north, and off-season, the Charlotte Stone Crabs bat the ball around.In Fort Myers, the name of the game is baseball. Two major league teams—the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox—play their spring league games in March and early April at CenturyLink Sports Complex-Hammond Stadium and JetBlue Park, respectively. In summer, the Fort Myers Miracle plays and hosts youth baseball camps.

At local parks, kids can do everything from free-falling down a waterslide (Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral), extreme biking (BMX/Strausser Park in Cape Coral), riding a mini-railroad train (Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers), fishing from a pier (Lynn Hall Memorial Park in Fort Myers Beach) and looking for manatees in the wild (Manatee Park in Fort Myers).

Must-see places to commune with wildlife include J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, which offers complimentary guided tours and programs, and Six Mile Cypress Preserve in Fort Myers, which guides tours along its boardwalk. Learn all about Southwest Florida shells at the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum on Sanibel. To observe animals in captivity, visit the historic Everglades Wonder Gardens in Bonita Springs or the Shell Factory & Nature Park in North Fort Myers, where kids can also play in its fun park. C.R.O.W. (Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife) on Sanibel Island provides families with state-of-the-art, immersive experiences that teach about wildlife and how the clinic helps injured and orphaned animals.

In Fort Myers, the name of the game is baseball. Two major league teams—the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox—play their spring league games in March and early April at Hammond Stadium and JetBlue Park, respectively. In summer, the Fort Myers Miracle plays and hosts youth baseball camps.

At local parks, kids can do everything from free-falling down a waterslide (Sun Splash Family Waterpark in Cape Coral), extreme biking (Strausser BMX Sports Complex in Cape Coral), riding a mini-railroad train (Lakes Regional Park in Fort Myers), fishing from a pier (Lynn Hall Memorial Park in Fort Myers Beach), and looking for manatees in the wild (Manatee Park in Fort Myers).

Must-see wild places to commune with wildlife include J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, which offers free guided tours and programs, and Six Mile Cypress Preserve in Fort Myers, which also conducts guided tours of its boardwalk. To see animals in captivity, visit the Shell Factory & Nature Park in North Fort Myers, where kids can also play in its fun park. C.R.O.W. (Care and Rehabilitation of Wildlife) on Sanibel Island provides families state-of-the-art, interactive experiences that teach about wildlife and the work the clinic does to help injured and orphaned animals.

In Fort Myers, new Southern is in style at historic Veranda and the new Fancy’s Southern Café. Across the river, Cape Coral is known for its Latino cuisine.

Of course, seafood stars on most local menus; try Fresh Catch Bistro on Fort Myers Beach, where fishermen off-load shrimp to yet another working waterfront. On Sanibel Island, locals favor Sweet Melissa’s Café for special occasions and Traders Café and Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille for more casual eats.

Sarasota-Bradenton

The Sarasota-Bradenton area is home to two spring training teams as well—the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles, plus summer’s Bradenton Marauders.

Much of Sarasota’s entertainment and nightlife is of a higher brow ilk, with a reputation for fine theater, symphony and opera. Downtown Sarasota sparks at night with sophisticated clubs, and Siesta Key has a beachy party atmosphere in the village.

Don’t miss the beach clubs of Bradenton Beach for more laid-back entertainment options. Bradenton’s Manatee Performing Arts Center infuses energy into downtown, as does its dynamic Riverwalk, the venue for December’s long-running blues festival.The Sarasota Children’s Garden takes families on an old-fashioned magical fantasy of dress-up, a maze discovery and play gardens where pirate ships, dragons and an octopus lurk. The Circus Arts Conservatory offers the entire family a chance to watch circus artists perform amazing feats in its fabulous and affordable production. In Venice, kids and adults can learn and practice circus arts themselves at Flying Trapeze Academy.

At the Ann Goldstein Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, kids can hike among the treetops and experience what it feels like to live in a tree canopy. Other highlights include a lush tropical conservatory, a towering bamboo garden, banyan groves, the mangrove bay walk, a fern garden and a koi pond.

Nearby, a tropical adventure at Sarasota Jungle Gardens gets you up close to more than 150 native and exotic animals, including giant tortoises, snakes and plenty of birds, many of which were rescued or donated. Daily schedules include educational and entertaining bird and reptile shows, followed by a question and answer period. Visitors can even hand-feed friendly pink flamingos, which sometimes greet guests face to face. In fact, you can watch them online anytime from anywhere in the world thanks to the venue’s new “Flamingo Cam.” During the summer months, ages 6–13 are welcome to sign up for a week of daily interaction with the animals and participate in educational activities at the Summer Zoo Camp.

Don’t miss the Mote Marine Laboratory on Lido Key, where you can meet Hugh and Buffett, the resident manatees, and see tanks full of sharks, rays, loggerhead sea turtles and a host of other marine creatures. Visit another locally famous manatee, 67-year-old Snooty, at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton. He is the oldest manatee in captivity, according to Guinness.

Bradenton’s Cortez community retains its feel of an Old Florida fishing village with a working waterfront and maritime museum. A number of charter boats depart from the docks to take you deep-sea or back-bay fishing. Plan on dining at the Star Fish Company before or after your excursion.

The Sarasota Children’s Garden takes families on an old-fashioned magical fantasy of dress-up, maze discovery, and play gardens where pirate ships, dragons and an octopus lurk. The Circus Arts Conservatory offers the entire family a chance to watch circus artists perform amazing feats in this fabulous and affordable production. Don’t miss Mote Marine Laboratory on Lido Key, where you can meet Hugh and Buffett, the resident manatees, and see tanks full of sharks, striped burr fish, loggerhead sea turtles and a host of other marine creatures. Visit another locally famous manatee, 66-year-old Snooty, at the South Florida Museum in Bradenton.

Don’t miss the new Children’s Rainforest Garden at Marie Selby Botanical Gardens, where kids can hike among the treetops. Sarasota Jungle Gardens gets them up close to giant tortoises, snakes and lots of birds. They can even hand-feed pink flamingoes.

Bradenton’s Cortez community retains its feel of an Old Florida fishing village with a working waterfront and maritime museum. A number of charter boats depart from the docks to take you deep sea or back-bay fishing. Plan on dining at the Star Fish Company before or after your excursion.

The Bradenton-Sarasota area feeds you in the best ways. It claims more Zagat-rated restaurants than anywhere else in Florida and a preponderance of owner-operated eateries. They range from affordable Amish-Mennonite restaurants in the community of Pinecraft and rustic fish houses such as New Pass Grill & Bait Shop or Casey Key Fish House to upscale originals, Derek’s Culinary Casual and Libby’s Café

A celebration of films and filmmaking takes place at film festivals in April in Sarasota and November in Naples. Film lovers can view independent films from around the world and meet filmmakers in an educational and creative setting.

Longboat Key

Longboat Key

On Longboat Key, hidden in a tangle of tropical plants and palm trees is Euphemia Haye Restaurant where award-winning cuisine includes fresh fish, excellent steaks and luscious desserts. Upstairs in the Haye Loft, have a drink as you enjoy music, appetizers, selected entrees, specialty coffees and desserts.

Downtown Naples offers an abundance of restaurants, such as Trulucks, Sea Salt, Chops City Grill and Cafe Lurcat. Many restaurants feature entertainment during dining hours and for late-night dancing. For fresh fish served with an Asian flair in a nautical setting, try USS Nemo on Tamiami Trail. Its signature dish of miso-broiled sea bass is exceptional and you can also enjoy sake, tempura and prime tuna.

The Blue Martini at Mercado in North Naples features live entertainment nightly. A selection of 42 martinis, fine wines, spirits and tapas will excite your senses. Enjoy the casual outdoor patio, the stage room or the VIP section.

The Columbia Restaurant located on St. Armands Circle in Sarasota has an indoor dining room and expansive covered patio. The Spanish cuisine includes seafood dishes, such as its Paella “A la Valenciana,” as well as sangria and crusty Cuban bread. Its legendary “1905 Salad” is a wonderful meal containing the freshest ingredients. Tapas, chorizo sausage, shrimp, steaks and fish round out the innovative menu.

In downtown Sarasota, Pastry Art Bakery Cafe has the aroma of craft-roasted coffees and espresso and a creative menu of soups, salads and sandwiches. You can satisfy your sweet tooth with pastries and sweets baked fresh daily.

The cozy dining room at The Cottage on Siesta Key offers tapas, fresh seafood and steaks in a casual setting. Live music entertains diners on the lush back patio.

Chock-full of exciting and fun-filled activities, Southwest Florida is the place to be.

Now it’s your turn! Which places have you been? Where do you want to go? Please share your thoughts and experiences with us all!

By |2018-10-27T07:21:12+00:00August 2nd, 2018|Southwest Florida|0 Comments

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