Southwest Florida Entertainment
The nightlife scene in Naples—particularly downtown and in North Naples—gets continually livelier these days as young couples and families move in. Hit the live theaters around Fifth Avenue South, then stay to party at late-night clubs downtown. Or take in a show at Artis-Naples in North Naples and later head to the clubs and pubs in the Mercato shopping and entertainment district. You can do both dinner and a movie at its Silverspot Cinema or at the Paragon Theaters at The Pavilion across the street. North Naples also has its own comedy club-restaurant complex.
For quirky spectator sport entertainment, you can’t beat the Swamp Buggy Races held three times each winter. It involves big-tired Everglade vehicles, lots of mud, and a festival queen who ends up in the deepest mud hole.
East of town in Immokalee, the Seminole Casino Hotel hosts gaming and big-name entertainment. To the north, Bonita Springs is building a reputation for comedy, live music dining, performing arts and indie films. It is also home to a greyhound racetrack.
Downtown Fort Myers has the hottest nightlife and special events scene in town. Fort Myers is also home to two Major League Baseball stadiums that host the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox during spring training. Come summer, the Fort Myers Miracle take to the field. The Tampa Bay Rays train in Port Charlotte to the north, and off-season, the Charlotte Stone Crabs bat the ball around.
The Sarasota-Bradenton area is home to two spring training teams as well—the Pittsburgh Pirates and Baltimore Orioles, plus summer’s Bradenton Marauders.
Much of Sarasota’s entertainment and nightlife is of a higher brow ilk, with a reputation for fine theater, symphony and opera. Downtown Sarasota sparks at night with sophisticated clubs, and Siesta Key has a beachy party atmosphere in the village.
Don’t miss the beach clubs of Bradenton Beach for more laid-back entertainment options. Bradenton’s Manatee Performing Arts Center infuses energy into downtown, as does its dynamic Riverwalk, the venue for December’s long-running blues festival.
5 MUST-SEE ATTRACTIONS
Big Cypress National Preserve, Everglades City: nps.gov/bicy
Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Fort Myers: edisonfordwinterestates.org
J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island: fws.gov/refuge/jn_ding_darling
Naples Botanical Garden: naplesgarden.org
The Ringling, Sarasota: ringling.org