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Summer Highlights

1. Go fish

If chartering a fishing boat for $350 for a half-day isn’t in your budget, try casting off with a party boat like Captain Tony’s Fishing Adventures or Getaway Marina, both on Fort Myers Beach. Each has a 90-foot vessel that goes miles out into the Gulf. The school of possibilities includes snapper, grouper, mackerel and more. Costs are the same: $57 for adults, $35 for adults not fishing and $35 for kids ages 14 and younger. Captain Tony’s lets kids younger than four fish for free. Captain Tony’s, (239) 415-0515, www.capttonys.com; Getaway Marina, (800) 641-3088, www.getawaymarina.com.


2. Summer at the winter estates

So many inventions, so much to explore, so little time. The sprawling Edison and Ford Winter Estates complex in Fort Myers includes nine historic buildings, 20 acres of lush tropical gardens and a 15,000-square-foot museum with scads of inventions. Sure, Edison invented the light bulb, but did you know about the cement mixer and electrical torpedo? (239) 334-7419,


3. Give the dog his day

Pause from your busy schedule to frolic with Fido. Dog paddle with your pooch at Dog Beach, just south of Lovers Key. If you prefer terra firma, try these off-leash dog parks: Barkingham Dog Park in Buckingham, Waggin’ Tails Dog Park in Cape Coral or K-9 Corral at Estero Community Park.


4. It’s bargain city

Now’s the time to pick up your heart’s desire as bargains abound at area shops and malls. Search for that special something or let serendipity be your guide. Sample destinations: Fifth Avenue South, Waterside Shops and Mercato in Naples, Coconut Point and Miromar Outlets in Estero, Gulf Coast Town Center and Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, and Periwinkle Place on Sanibel.


5. Move it

Your various body parts, that is. Bike the paths around Sanibel Island with your honey on a bicycle built for two, rented from one of numerous vendors. Tour Old Naples, Marco Island or the Everglades with Naples Bicycle Tours. Or pedal your own way to get a dose of sunshine and lose those love handles. Naples tours, 455-4611,


6. Blooming beau-tanical

The Naples Botanical Garden is a beautiful work in progress and already has so much to give. An interactive Children’s Garden with a butterfly house; a Brazilian Garden with its giant waterfall and grassy amphitheater; a Caribbean Garden of diverse landscapes tracing the natural and cultural history of the islands. Wander, learn, fall under nature’s spell. (239) 643-7275, www.naplesgarden.org.


7. Rock to a little

Jazz, free and sunset are three-party harmony. The silver anniversary of the free SummerJazz Concert Series at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club features Late Night Brass July 24, the Mike MacArthur Band Aug. 28, and Denise Moore and Then Some Sept. 18. Bring your ears, your chairs and your blankets to the rolling green lawns of the resort by the glistening Gulf. Call 261-2222, www.naplesbeachhotel.com.


8. Speed across the
River of Grass

If you haven’t seen the Everglades by airboat, then you haven’t seen the Everglades. Skimming across the sawgrass is sheer exhilaration. Finding gators and endangered birds among mangrove nooks and crannies is sheer delight. More than a half-dozen tours are in the Everglades City area, including Everglades Private Airboat Tours, (800) 368-0065, www.epat.cc; or Captain Doug’s Airboat Tours, 200 Collier Ave., Everglades City, (239) 695-4400, www.captaindougs.com.


9. Parasail over paradise

Fly through the air with the greatest of ease at about 250 feet above the Gulf of Mexico with a colorful parachute billowing behind you. It’s oddly quiet up there, and the view is spectacular. You feel like you’re barely moving even though the boat is speeding through swells below. Go with a friend or make it a threesome. Offered at various sites including Naples, Bonita Springs and Fort Myers Beach. Mid Island Water Sports Inc. at the Holiday Inn Beach Resort, Fort Myers Beach, (239) 765-0965; www.midislandwatersports.com. Bonita Jet Ski & Parasail, (239) 825-7559, www.bonitajetski.com.


10. Talk to the animals

The Naples Zoo keeps you coming back for more, with changing exhibits geared to bring you close to exotic, endangered and native animals in their natural habitats. View rare Malaysian tigers, Florida black bears, leopards and spotted ocelots separated by nothing more than a (thick) pane of glass. Shows, such as snake sunbathing and a primate boat cruise, spotlight some of the more than 200 wild animals residing here. (239) 262-5409, www.napleszoo.org.


11. A sultry beach sunset

The Southwest Florida summer is hot. Really hot. But if you wait for the cool of the day to settle in at sunset, you can dig your toes into sugary white sand and witness a sunset nonpareil. Take your love to a favorite beach, sip a glass of wine and enjoy the fiery sky as the day dies. Good choices: the Sanibel Causeway beaches, or at Lowdermilk Park in the heart of Naples, (239) 213-3029, www.naplesgov.com (under the Parks and Recreation Department).


12. Discover the mysterious Koreshans

How can you not want to learn about a place where turn-of-the-20th-century inhabitants believed the earth was hollow and they lived inside? Members of the Koreshan Unity once owned all of Estero Island. They thought their leader, Cyrus Teed, would resurrect. Instead, a 1921 hurricane washed his coffin out of his Fort Myers Beach grave into the sea. Find out more at the Koreshan State Historic Site, Estero. 992-0311, www.floridastateparks.org/koreshan.


13. Tippecanoe and kayak, too

Get out of the mainstream to canoe and kayak the area’s scenic waterways. There’s no better way to get an up-close and personal look at native wildlife, flora and fauna. From river to estuary to bay, vendors abound from Naples to Sanibel Island. Or ply the waters of the Paradise Coast Blueway, a network of coastal paddling routes from Everglades National Park to Goodland on Marco Island, or the Great Calusa Blueway along Lee County’s coast. For kayaking trips that travel the region, try GAEA Guides’ estuary, full moon, sunset, archaeological and other tours, (239) 694-5513; www.gaeaguides.com. For canoeing, Tarpon Bay Explorers, within the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, (239) 472-8900, www.tarponbayexplorers.com.


14. Link up

A little birdie told us golf courses are oh-so accessible and more affordable in the summer months, when the snowbirds have flown and tee-time availability is tip-top. Southwest Florida has an estimated 170 courses, with about 90 in Naples alone. Some private courses also open up to the public for play. Putt around at your leisure. Try Bonita Bay East, where two Tom Fazio-designed championship courses are now available for daily fee play. (239) 352-6463, www.bonitabayeast.com.


15. Take a walk on the historical side

The charm of historic Naples doesn’t fade in the bright, off-season sunlight. Stroll the Old Naples Walking Tour, held by the Naples Historical Society at 9 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month through October. (239) 261-8164, www.napleshistoricalsociety.org. Or meander the waterfront district at Tin City and Bayfront on new Wednesday walkabouts, held from 5:45–6:45 p.m. by Naples Backyard History. (239) 213-3020, www.naplesbackyardhistory.org.


16. It’s in the cards

Looking for a little action on a lazy summer day? Get a piece of the $62 million in cash and prizes paid out each month at the Seminole Casino in Immokalee, open 24/7. Sit at the blackjack table, play some high-stakes poker or try your luck at some of the 1,150 slot machines. (800) 218-0007, www.seminoleimmokaleecasino.com.


17. Forever Everglades

Day-tripping to Everglades City at the very tip of Southwest Florida is like entering a time warp. Things don’t change much in this fishing town of about 680 residents—and they like it that way, thank you very much. Visit the Museum of the Everglades, dine at the famous Rod and Gun Club or drive over the causeway to Chokoloskee and see the 103-year-old Ted Smallwood Store, where Indians and settlers traded in the Florida wilderness. Smallwood Store, (239) 695-2989.


18. They’re called
mangroves, Darling

The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island is world-famous for having the largest undeveloped mangrove forest in the country (6,400 acres) and providing habitat to 238 species of birds. Tour it on a five-mile auto loop, rent canoes, kayaks or bikes, or just take a hike. Off Sanibel-Captiva Road. (239) 472-1100, www.fws.gov/dingdarling.


19. Serenity in the swamp

At the National Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, nothing is ever the same except the serenity. There’s always a surprise as you travel the 2.25-mile boardwalk winding through the world’s largest subtropical, old-growth bald cypress forest. You may see a fawn nibbling near the boardwalk, a mama gator with her brood of babies or a yellow-crowned night heron feeding by the lettuce lake. The sanctuary is off Immokalee Road, 15 miles east of I-75. (239) 348-9151, www.corkscrew.audubon.org.


20. Turtle time at the

A juvenile loggerhead sea turtle is the latest star of the show at the Conservancy of Southwest Florida, flapping its flippers in its 2,000-gallon aquarium. This 21-acre campus has lots more to do—including a kids’ discovery center with a 20-foot-long stuffed python, trails and an electric boat ride. Or watch egrets, herons and perhaps a majestic eagle spread their wings over the water during kayak excursions in Rookery Bay, Clam Bay and the Isle of Capri, offered through the summer. (239) 262-0304, www.conservancy.org.


21. Arts alive in
Fort Myers

Monthly art walks with numerous stops along the downtown streets of the River District continue the first Friday of each month from 6–10 p.m. followed in season by a Saturday downtown art fair from noon to 4 p.m. Stops might include the Art League of Fort Myers, Arts for Act, daas Gallery, Howl Gallery, Space 39, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center, Art of the Olympians and more. Check out the traditional 10 p.m. after-party at one of the bars and restaurants downtown. www.fortmyersartwalk.com.


22. Mollusk mania

See thousands of shells by the seashore. The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum on Sanibel Island has more than 30 exhibits of shells from around the world, including the rare, the fossilized, shell habitats and of course, a bevy of Southwest Florida shells. Afterward, you can play the name-that-shell game or do the Sanibel stoop to find your own treasures. (888) 679-6450, www.shellmuseum.org.


23. Discount din-din

In summer, area restaurants say thanks to year-round residents, their mainstay, with discounts like two-for-one deals, dollars off drinks or a dinner for two. This is the chance to try a mouth-watering steak at that high-end restaurant that’s been tempting you, or sample everything from seafood to Mexican at a price that won’t upset the digestion. Try Ridgway Bar & Grill in Old Naples, where you can buy one entrée and get one free Monday through Thursday, (239) 262-5500, info@ridgwaybarandgrill.com; and Bistro 41 in Fort Myers, which offers two salads, two entrees, one bottle of wine and dessert du jour for $41 per couple. (239) 466-4141, www.bistro41.com.


24. Slip-sliding away

Beat the heat with a plunge into the million gallons of water flowing through the Sun-N-Fun Lagoon at North Collier Regional Park. Five water slides will thrill you and chill you. Float down the lazy river and wash your cares away. The park is at 15000 Livingston Road, Naples. (239) 252-4021.


25. Color me creative

There are about 150 galleries in Collier County, and they don’t sleep in the summer. Check out Fifth Avenue South and Gallery Row on Third Street South for traditional to avant-garde works. The Art League of Bonita Springs also continues exhibits through the summer, including All About Color, which opens in conjunction with a campus-wide open house and a public reception from 6–8 p.m. July 23. The exhibit continues through Aug. 26. www.artcenterbonita.org.


26. Sunshine and sea breezes

Hors d’oeuvres, lunch or the setting sun are even
sweeter when enjoyed while cruising the Naples Bay aboard the Naples Princess. On one side you have cavorting dolphins, on the other, the multimillion-dollar estates of Port Royal. A perfect pair. (239) 649-2275, www.naplesprincesscruises.com.


27. Make it to Matlacha

It’s quaint. It’s boho. It’s artsy. It’s Matlacha (Mat-la-shay), a tiny community that is part of Pine Island, dotted with multicolored cottages of turquoise, yellow and pink. Visit art galleries and boutiques, or just hang out at a local watering hole and “set a spell.” www.pineislandchamber.org.


28. A little night music

Third Street South offers its signature mix of live jazz, rock, folk and other genres at Thursdays on Third from 6–9 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month through the summer. Enjoy the ambiance sans crowds. Dance and work up an appetite. You can get a seat in a restaurant without waiting. www.thirdstreetsouth.com.


Hot Tickets

If this is july, it must be time for the Naples Players’ summer musical. Right on both counts. And this year, they’ve chosen a show with almost as much drawing—and staying—power as the long-standing community theater troupe has.

The ever-popular pick is Annie, the award-winning musical about Little Orphan Annie and how she found a home with the incomparably rich Daddy Warbucks. The show originally opened on Broadway in 1977, making an instant star of Andrea McArdle, who played the title role (and who, incidentally, brought her grown-up and entertaining one-woman show to TheatreZone a couple of seasons ago). Annie was revived on Broadway’s Great White Way in 1997 and has been a staple of community and high school theaters throughout the years.

And what’s not to like? The show offers upbeat songs (including Tomorrow and the always entertaining It’s a Hard Knock Life); a group of adorable little girls, singing and dancing their hearts out; some highly comic characters (look for Debi Guthrey as Miss Hannigan); and a New Deal message of hope that’s sure to seem relevant in today’s economy.

Playing the part of Warbucks in the Players’ production is Jim Corsica, one of the founding members of Naples City Improv. Although he is committed only to this show, the other members of the improvisational comedy troupe will keep the laughs coming this summer. They’ll be appearing twice this month (and twice in August) at Fred’s Diner in Naples for dinner-and-a-show evenings. The dinner/comedy combo sold out last summer when Fred’s presented Compton & Bennett’s Assisted Living: The Musical, so make your reservations early.

If you’re looking for quieter and more reflective entertainment, check out the exhibition ArtPoems at BIG Arts on Sanibel. This unique show offers 24 collaborative artworks, born of poets and visual artists inspiring one another. While the poems are not intended to interpret the paintings or sculptures (or vice versa), the joining of words and images provides a refreshing perspective. And in July, “refreshing” sounds very good indeed!

The Naples Players present Annie, matinees and evenings, from July 2 to Aug. 1, at Sugden Community Theatre. (239) 263-7990 or www.naplesplayers.org.

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