When a well-designed pavilion with a sea of tables and seats got together with eight alfresco micro-eateries and a classy (tiki-echoing) bar, it resulted in the match made from above that is the now 6-month-old Celebration Park on Bayshore Drive. There are many reasons it’s beyond awesome and has garnered legions of fans; here are our top five.
1) Variety is the spice of a good meal. Why not chase an order of falafel with an organic Brussels sprouts salad followed by a burger smothered in a goat cheese-fig spread (or Wisconsin cheddar), each from different trucks? The aim of the semi-permanent lineup is diversity. The initial lineup, which is subject to change, has remained: Dilly’s Seafood (straight-from-the-Gulf catches), Dutchkinz (beignets and mini-pancakes), Gigi Gourmet (Frenchie-American faves), Gyro2Go (chicken or lamb with sides), I Love Curry (and samosas and mango lassi, too!), Nawty Hogg Backyard BBQ (ribs, brisket, beans and more), Red’s Pizza (10-inch pies, toppings galore) and Smith Organics (greens, grains and sammies).
2) Location, location, location. Not only is it minutes from downtown and within walking distance of a cultural gem, Naples Botanical Garden, but all of the seats overlook a peaceful canal. Picnic tables line the water, and both the elongated bar and a bunch of four-top metallic tables have overhead cover in case of pesky rain or blazing rays.
3) Raising the bar. You know a place is a destination when you can take away the food and the bar is still a draw. There’s always a $6 COD, aka cocktail of the day, like a flirty passion-rita, peach sunrise or an original creation in souvenir tiki glass (think: Malibu with banana liqueur and a squeeze of pineapple and cranberry). Wine and higher-end spirits match any bar downtown, and “build your own buckets” are a hoot—five picks of either imported beer, craft suds or splits. Add in game-day-colored punches and some flat-screens and it’s the definition of fun in the (shaded) sun.
4) Come one, come all. There are manifold cuisines and libations, and the crowd also doubles as a pupu platter. Just about everyone feels comfortable here—young professionals, retirees, families, sports fanatics, music lovers (bands jam at night) and even pooches! Yes, Sunday mornings are “Brunch & Bark at the Park,” with $5 mimosas and bloody marys and free dog treats.
5) The boots on this ground were made for walking. No doubt a big reason this has been so successful is the dynamo behind it: Rebecca Maddox. She worked for years in the business world before moving to Naples and opening the hugely popular Three60Market on Bayshore Drive. When people complained about the parking situation at Celebration Park, she listened and opened adjacent lots, offering free valet, early on.
Find Celebration Park: 2880 Becca Ave., Naples, 239-316-7253, celebrationparknaples.com. Open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.