Naples is a resort town that tourists flock to regularly. Many fall in love. Yes, almost half of Naple's population is over 65, and seniors come here to retire. But young professionals and families also recognize this coastal metropolis's arts and culture scene and easy-going charm. The natural landscape is varied with marshland and superb beaches, and the cuisine is diverse and often incorporates fresh seafood. Plus, the locals claim this place is the golfing capital of the world, so if you like your fairways, you'll fare well.
The turquoise waters of the Gulf of Mexico are integral to the look and feel of Naples. A sunset cruise along the city's waterways and out to sea is an excellent way to glimpse some of the most expensive real estate in the Sunshine State. Guides will wow you with multimillion-dollar price tags as the boat winds past mansion after mansion. Once you blink and recover from the exposure to so much wealth, you'll be able to appreciate the simpler and less expensive pleasure of spotting dolphins and manatees in the ocean.
Upscale boutique shops and fancy restaurants line this downtown strip, but the overall vibe is fairly laidback. If you're into designer brands, this is one of the best places to window shop and wrap your head around the trends or part with those dollars you've been saving. Sweeten the deal with a waffle cone or sundae from Naples' most famous and nostalgic ice cream shop, Regina's. Drive for fifteen minutes, and you'll come upon The Waterside Shops—another high-end spot for luxury labels.
Hone your cultural instincts with the Eastern European and Russian art on display at the premier gallery formerly known as Gallery on Fifth. This fine art exhibition is a favorite among monied local collectors. From oil paintings to glass and resin work and photography, you'll find lots of creative inspiration from renowned artists. When you're done perusing, head over to the Mercato shopping center's dining complex to refuel and process what you've seen. If you're into art, check out The Baker Museum too.
Florida is swampy, and just over half an hour away from Naples, you can visit Audubon Society Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary to get the full swamptastic experience. You'll likely spend at least two hours on the boardwalk trail. Learn about the birds in the ecosystem and the crucial climate-related function of the wetland. Keep an eye out for turtles and alligators—binoculars and telescopes will help your cause. Take pics of the old and huge bald cypress trees towering above.
If you've been to the wonderful botanical gardens in Naples, you may want to venture a little further for more flora and fauna. Just 25 minutes from downtown, there's an old roadside attraction housing hundreds of rescued animals. Everglades Wonder Gardens is about a decade shy of a centenary celebration, and it's worth a drive to Bonita Springs. If you have kids, they'll revel in being able to feed the flamingos and marvel at the peacocks. But skittish children may not be keen on the mostly cage-free setup. It's at least an hour-long experience.
Golisano Children's Museum is a not-for-profit organization. Kids and child psychologists influenced the design of this splendid museum, where the focus is education through interactive play. The themed exhibits have immersive sensory elements and include a ton of fun art and STEM activities. In addition, seasonal events keep activities fresh and exciting.
Third Street South also has a bustling nightlife scene, but it's a stone's throw away from Naples Pier and feels even more down to earth than 5th Avenue. The Saturday morning farmer's market is magnificent if you're more of an early bird, and you'll find the kinds of artisanal goodies that make tasty and cute gifts and souvenirs. Whether you're a vegan or a carnivore, go hungry. You shouldn't struggle to find parking at this festive street fair.
Half an hour from Naples, Marco Island's beaches are wide and inviting with crystal clear waters. Tigertail Beach and lagoon are popular with families, central access is great for sunbathing, and south access is low-key and quieter. Parking is hard to come by after 8:30 am, so wake up with the birds if you want to spend your day on the shore.
Have you got a one-track mind? Well, there's no need to shift gears at the Rev Institute. Car aficionados will love this little homage to the automobile—an entire section dedicated to Porsches (one of the biggest collections in the world) accompanies areas that spotlight sports cars and racing. The cars are colorful characters; some are over a century old and still move well, according to the guides.
Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park is a local highlight with powdery white sand, and a Caribbean feel where parking is no problemo. This state park near the Cocohatchee River has showers, food stands, and beachy paraphernalia for rent. You can snorkel nearby or watch the kiteboarders. Carry some of the snacks you picked up at the farmers' market for a leisurely picnic and when you're done nibbling, survey the beach for seashells. Loggerhead turtles nest here between May and October, and you'll see segments of the beach marked off for their protection.