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10 Best Nights Out

DEBI PITTMAN WILKEYLet’s cut right to the chase: almost nothing interesting happens at your house. Sure, that’s where your TV is, but if you sit through another marathon of Ice Road Truckers, there is a very real possibility your muscles will atrophy and you’ll fall off the couch while reaching for a bowl of popcorn. It’s a sad existence that we don’t want for you. Our advice: stay active and get out of the house. To that end we’ve taken it upon ourselves to plan 10 of the best nights out you can hope to have in Southwest Florida. Almost none will require the eventual use of a bail bondsman.*


Fort Myers Drink1


*OK, we were wrong about not needing a bail bondsman. Sometimes life gives you second chances, and if you think back to your college spring break experiences and can’t actually piece any of it together, you need to get yourself up to Fort Myers Beach to relive it (without the alcohol poisoning and pregnancy scares). Start at the Junkanoo (pronounced John-Canoe) for some tiki-style liquid refreshments in plastic cups—recognizing that mispronouncing the establishment name is more or less the theme of the evening. Then move north to the Lani Kai to hear some reggae before wrapping up the night bathed in the warmth of the neon lights at the bars in Time Square. Get your hair beaded and a faux tattoo, then feel free to make some bad decisions. Junkanoo, 3040 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, 463-6139, fortmyersbeachrestaurants.com; Lani Kai Resort, 1400 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, 463-3111, lanikaiislandresort.com



The city of Fort Myers doesn’t get the credit it deserves. Truth be told, it has all the same amenities of Naples, but with the added specter of history. (Seriously, you feel like the ghost of Edison might tap you on the shoulder at any moment.) Start things off with dinner at the Veranda (finish it off with their warm pecan praline tart) followed by a stroll through Music Walk, left, on the third Friday of every month. Local bands and music fans take over the downtown area starting at 7 p.m. Wrap things up with drinks at Space 39, an art gallery with a liquor license. The Veranda, 2122 Second St., Fort Myers, 332-2065, verandarestaurant.com; Fort Myers Music Walk, fortmyersmusicwalk.com; Space 39, 39 Patio de Leon, Fort Myers, 690-0004, spacethirtynine.com

Cocktails and cigars at Burn in Mercato3


We’ve tried to make these nights out as convenient as possible so that you can get as much bang for the buck without wasting a lot of time traveling from location to location. And things don’t get much more convenient than a night at Mercato. (You could, literally, live there if you wanted.) Start early with some window shopping along the avenue. (Consider purchasing a large white lacquer deer head from Z Gallerie and carrying it around for the rest of the evening.) Then wander over to The Capital Grille for a Delmonico before hitting Silverspot for the best movie-going experience you’re likely to have. (Did we mention there is a full bar in the lobby?) From there take a stroll over to Burn for a banana nut bread martini and a mild cigar. Mercato, Strada Place, Naples, mercatoshops.com; The Capital Grille, 9005 Mercato Drive, Naples, 254-0640, thecapitalgrille.com; Silverspot Cinema, 9118 Strada Place, Naples, 592-0300, silverspotcinema.com; Burn, 9110 Strada Place, Naples, 653-9013, burnbyrockypatel.com

Downtown doings: Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South both offer a wealth of nightlife options from dining to dancing to the arts.4


Did you honestly think we were going to have a list of the best nights out without having you take in a sunset at the Naples Pier on 12th Avenue South? Umm, no. Waiting for the elusive “green flash” is as productive as a snipe hunt, but it does give you a chance to people watch. From there, work your way to Campiello for appetizers (fried calamari and Sicilian meatballs do a body good—but ask if you can sit in the private courtyard behind the restaurant), dinner at Sea Salt (get served at the bar for the ultimate in see/be seen convenience) and after-dinner wine at Tony’s Off Third patio bar. This is one of the few “best nights” where you can mix and match to your liking once you’ve piered, as Third Street has myriad bar/restaurant/live music options. Campiello, 1177 Third St. S., Naples, 435-1166, campiello.damico.com/locations/fl_naples.asp; Sea Salt, 1186 Third St. S., Naples, 434-7258, seasaltnaples.com; Tony’s Off Third, 1300 Third St. S., Naples, 262-7999, tonysoffthird.com

A night of pucks and fisticuffs with the Everblades at Germain Arena, there’s plenty of options for a guys’ night out. (ALLARSONPHOTO.COM, DEBI PITTMAN WILKEY)5


Ladies, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and do a little something for your guy. Tonight’s the night. In an effort to embrace his inner (and outer) guyness, head to Estero for an afternoon of exploring Bass Pro Shop at Gulf Coast Town Center (no, we are not kidding). Check out the 19,000-gallon freshwater aquarium (with two-story waterfall) and test drive a kayak on the adjacent 22-acre lake. Grab a bite to eat at the Islamorada Fish Co. Restaurant (which is conveniently located inside the massive Bass Pro) and then head to Germain Arena to catch an Everblades game. Hang out before the game between sections 113 and 114 to high-five the players as they head to the ice, but get seats 2 through 7 in section 101 to heckle the opposing team. Call the front office ahead of time to check on an opportunity to ride the Zamboni. You can also meet the team after the game upstairs in the Breakaway Sport Pub. Bass Pro Shop, 10040 Gulf Center Drive, Fort Myers, 461-7800, basspro.com; Germain Arena, 11000 Everblades Parkway, Estero, 948-7825, floridaeverblades.com



If you’re a little bit country, we recommend you do things in the daylight—because once the sun goes down, you need to be a whole lotta rock ’n’ roll. And if you’re looking for a restaurant that makes you think Ziggy Stardust might be in the kitchen, you need to visit Lush in Fort Myers. Chef Shannon Yates has created a space so cool that even grandpa could walk in wearing eyeliner. (Ask about the “Tantric Tapas,” Sting’s favorite.) And though there is a decent music scene in Fort Myers, check the schedule at the Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall for upcoming performances of Rock of Ages, featuring music from the ’80s best hair bands. Bring earplugs, as the volume will surely be turned up to 11. Lush, 13451 McGregor Blvd., Fort Myers, 791-8554, lushfortmyers.com; Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall, 8099 College Parkway, Fort Myers, 481-4849, bbmannpah.com



In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this is only fun if you don’t already own your own boat and don’t suffer from moderate to unmitigated seasickness. With that said, head down to City Dock (at the end of 12th Avenue South in Naples) to board the Naples Bay Water Shuttle. For just $5, you can ride to nine of Naples’ wettest locations including Tin City and Bayfront. In fact, head to Bayfront and hop off for dinner at Roy’s (Hawaiian fusion cuisine). Every 45 minutes, the shuttle reappears (between 5 and 9:30 p.m.), so schedule accordingly. After your third Mai Tai, take the water taxi back to City Dock and stroll through the Crayton Cove galleries. Wrap things up with a snack at The Dock at Crayton Cove, being sure to grab a seat along the rail where schools of fish will perform various tricks for French fries. (And by “various tricks” we mean “splash.”) In case you’re wondering, the water taxi does serve beer and wine, so you don’t even have to get off if you don’t want to. Naples Bay Water Shuttle, 880 12th Ave. S., Naples, 206-0160, naplesbaywatershuttle.com; Roy’s, 475 Bayfront Place, Naples, 261-1416, roysrestaurant.com; The Dock, 845 12th Ave. S., Naples, 263-9940, dockcraytoncove.com

Between your visits to the Naples Museum of Art and a Naples Philharmonic Orchestra concert, head over to Waterside Shops for a quick bite at Brio Tuscan Grille.8


Here’s an easy one for those of you who don’t want to rack up the numbers on your pedometer: Find yourself a parking spot along Fifth Avenue South (or, if parallel parking frightens you, use the free parking garages on Eighth Street South) and head to Truluck’s for the miso-glazed sea bass (although this is America, so order whatever you want). After dinner, take in a performance by The Naples Players at the Sugden Community Theatre (even though people believe the center seats in row C are the best in the house, the truth is that the center of row F on the center aisle are the director’s seats during rehearsals—you want those, trust us). Post performance, stretch your legs with a walk to Adelheidi’s Organics for its chocolate linzer gelato, then stroll the area to work off those calories. Truluck’s, 698 Fourth Ave. S., Naples, 530-3131, trulucks.com; Sugden Community Theatre, 701 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, 263-7990, naplesplayers.org; Adelheidi’s Organics, 505 Fifth Ave. S., Naples, 206-7091, adelheidis.com



Sometimes you just want a little culture—a nice evening of the arts that helps to clear the palate of a month’s worth of Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Start with a mid-afternoon visit to the Naples Museum of Art to check out one of the largest collections of Latin American art in the Southeast United States. Modern Mexican Masters features more than 1,100 pieces as part of the museum’s permanent collection. As the museum closes at 4 p.m. you can head over to Waterside Shops for an early dinner at Brio Tuscan Grille. From there, head back to the Phil for a performance by the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra, currently celebrating its 30th season. We suggest you get seats in “boxes center rear” for a sweeping view and the ability to enjoy a cocktail or two during the performance. (Drinks are not allowed on the main floor.) Naples Museum of Art (and the Phil), 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd., Naples, 597-1900, thephil.org; Brio Tuscan Grille, Waterside Shops, 5505 Tamiami Trail N., Naples, 593-5319, brioitalian.com

One-stop fun: You could have a perfect night out all at Sugden Plaza, with dinner at Truluck’s, a play at the Sugden Community Theatre and drinks at Yabba or McCabe’s.10


We like to think of Marco Island as a rogue banana republic (not the store) where we can roll up our pants legs and use an alias with strangers. Begin your night out with a sunset stroll along one of the best beaches in the United States, Tigertail Beach—off Spinnaker Drive. Once you’ve had your fair share of sand between your toes, cruise down South Collier Boulevard to Sale e Pepe at the Marco Beach Ocean Resort for some spectacular Italian cuisine with views overlooking the Gulf. From there, cap off the night with a visit to the Off the Hook Comedy Club, a regular stop for nationally known comedians. VIP seating up front is worth the extra coin (and you’ll get a $25 food voucher—hey, nothing washes down the brilliant Italian entrees of Sale e Pepe like nachos and taco sliders) because you’re using an alias anyway. Sale e Pepe, 480 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, 393-1600, sale-e-pepe.com; Off the Hook Comedy Club, 599 S. Collier Blvd., Marco Island, 389-6900, captbriens.com/off-the-hook-comedy-club


This article appears in the January 2012 issue of Gulfshore Life.

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