With the Kids …
Otters return to the Wonder Gardens—a Bonita Springs ecological site and rescue center for reptiles, mammals and birds—in December. A major upgrade from the previous tiny concrete enclosure, which closed in 2014, the new $250,000 exhibit has waterfalls and slides for its furry residents, as well as transparent viewing domes and an underwater play-cave, where little ones can feel like they’re swimming with the playful weasels.
The cage-free exhibit is part of a revitalization of the garden led by new director David Rahahętih Webb. The parasol-adorned parrot courtyard, where you can hold the exotic birds and watch them perform tricks, has been a hit since debuting earlier this year, too. It’s no wonder the gardens are setting records, with 80,000 visitors last year.
Without the Kids …
In the age of streaming services, the long-awaited CMX CinéBistro at Coastland Center Mall makes a serious case for itself. Not only does the six-screen theater maintain a 21-and-up policy for flicks after 8 p.m., staffers deliver the entire menu, including tuna poke bowls, Wagyu sliders and selections from the full bar, to your oversized, reclining leather seat.
For a next-level putting experience, a Topgolf location is in the works for the end of the year in Fort Myers. This is like your typical driving range—except with drinks and snacks right in your climate-controlled bay, microchipped self-scoring balls and flat-screen TVs. But, if you’re yearning for a true-blue 18-hole experience, check out Ave Maria’s new course, The National Golf & Country Club, designed by prolific Gordon Lewis.
Or, for date night, spice things up with axe throwing at the trendy drink-and-chuck spots that opened recently, including The Axe Lodge at the Galleria Shoppes at Vanderbilt and TJ’s Hatchet Hangout in the Cape.
Caloosa Sound Convention Center & Amphitheater
When the new, 12-story Luminary Hotel & Co., part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, was built on the Caloosahatchee riverfront in downtown Fort Myers last year, locals were thrilled. Now, they’re just as charged about the debut of a polished event venue next door that brings something downtown has never had: a waterfront amphitheater.
Harborside Event Center came with the hotel deal, but the 30-year-old venue needed a facelift. Luminary gutted the space, gave the dated Mediterranean yellow exterior a black-and-white refresh and hired Orlando design firm L2 Studios to give the interiors a stylish new look that complements the hotel.
Across the street from the renamed Caloosa Sound Convention Center, the amphitheater is under construction in Centennial Park and slated to open in 2022. The new venue comes with a bandshell stage and expansive lawn for up to 3,000 people, with views of the Caloosahatchee and downtown. Stay tuned for concerts, food and wine festivals, theatrical productions and art shows—which means more entertainment in the already booming arts district.