When your ugly-but-warm winter outerwear begins to make its necessary appearance, it’s only natural to begin dreaming of warm, sunny beaches. Solution? Grab the girls and head south to Naples, Florida, and indulge in fabulous food and drink, gorgeous beaches, luxury shopping, and perhaps even a round of golf.
Frequented by snowbirds, Naples is perfectly situated – far south on the Gulf coast, and less than an hour from Fort Myers Regional Southwest Airport (RSW). Naples is also home to one of Florida’s wealthiest cohorts, but far from the Miami and Jupiter and Hollywood communities, Naples is a little less flashy and a little more classy, the perfect mix for making your girls getaway as fabulous as you want it to be.
Champagne Happy Hour
Perhaps one of the best things about Fridays in Naples is the Naples Grande Hotel’s Happy Hour. Brace yourselves, ladies, because starting at 3pm every Friday, glasses of Veuve Clicquot champagne are three dollars. Yes. $3. I know. The price increases by $3 each hour until 7pm, and then decreases again until it hits $3 again for the final hour at 11pm. And, they don’t mind if you order three glasses at 3pm and sip them for a couple hours.
If this news hasn’t gotten you excited, perhaps the next bit of info will. When champagne happy hour starts, so does appetizer and cocktail happy hour, with dishes like truffle parmesan fries and chocolate strawberries, and cocktails like pink martinis and Jose Cuervo margaritas punching in at only five dollars. Seriously. It really is the perfect way for you and the girls to start the weekend, no matter what plans await you.
A Little Kayaking, A Little Seafood
About a half hour drive southeast of Naples is the Isle of Capri (yes, yes – Naples, Capri… it’s American Italy!). The Isle of Capri is an itty-bitty spot in the middle of an area that’s freckled with islands and waterways, and its star attraction is the Capri Fish House. With kayak rentals and tours, and a fresh seafood menu to die for, the Capri Fish House’s other alluring attribute is that you can enjoy your meal right on the beach, where tables are set up in the sand and water tickles your feet. Go on a relaxing or rigorous kayak adventure in the morning, and nab some gator nuggets, conch fritters, lobster fingers, or the fresh catch of the day for lunch. Fabulous.
Recently face-lifted (like quite a few Naples ladies), the Waterside Shops will give you and the girls one of the happiest shopping experiences around. While many of the shops are ridiculously posh (read: LV, Cartier, Ferragamo, Hermès), the plaza is also home to our favorites, Nordstrom’s and Saks.
The other divine element of Waterside is what it looks like – with waterfalls, fountains, and streams meandering throughout the fancy shops, it’s easy to enjoy Waterside without even shopping! Well, perhaps that’s an exaggeration. You could definitely spend the day at Waterside, and if so, be sure to sit on the patio at Brio Tuscan Grill for a great power lunch and mini desserts.
With more ladies hitting the links, girls golfing getaways are increasingly popular, especially for warm winter vacations. Naples is a fantastic option, because while it’s home to some spectacular courses, there is so much more to do in destination than just golf.
Perhaps the most famous course in Naples is the Greg Norman designed Tiburón at the Ritz-Carlton, home to the annul Shark Shootout. Bonus – guests of the Ritz are treated to complimentary Taylor Made club rentals and golf balls.
Other public courses in the Naples area that are worth checking out are the two Lely properties, which are surrounded by lagoons and watery vistas, and The Rookery at Marco, a Marriott property that is also set in a beautiful nature-conscious environment.
Eat, Drink, and Be Lovely
Naples is the type of town where eating and drinking are essential to socialization; much of life revolves around wining and dining along Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South. Be sure to make some reservations at Campiello’s, for the best calamari in town, and ensure you get to Tommy Bahama early for lunch – the Loki Loki Tuna Poke and Key Lime Pie are just two dishes that help pack this place to the brim at all hours. For fun live music and a chill, sophisticated bar atmosphere, look no further than The Jolly Cricket. Yabba gets fun and rowdy at night, and Trulucks is the place to get the most decadent surf and turf you’ve ever seen.
Feeling a little casual? Grab some lawn chairs and a bottle of champagne and head down to the beach to watch the sunset near the Naples Pier around Eleventh or Twelfth Street South. You can even order a pizza to the beach street entrance nearest you. Sit, relax, and laugh the night away with your best friends.
Sleep in Style
There is no shortage of luxurious sleeping options for the shopping-weary, from glamorous hotels to stunning homes, there’s no doubt that you and your girls can rest easy and very comfortably in Naples.
If you plan on incorporating golf into your vacation, it may suit you best to stay at the Ritz-Carlton Naples, home to the aforementioned Tiburón course. Naturally, the rest of the Ritz is über appealing too – a stunning spa, soft sandy beach, complimentary fitness center, multiple swimming pools, and a plethora of dining experiences – all within the property. The disadvantage? It’s a bit further north than most of the shopping and Olde Naples.
For a hotel experience that’s just as luxurious, but a little closer to the action (including Waterside Shops), check out the Naples Grande Hotel, home to the sweet Happy Hour. The Naples Grande, of the Waldorf Astoria group, also offers spa and golf packages, tennis, a so-called ‘flawless’ beach, aquatic activities, and it operates on eco-friendly principles (bonus!). The disadvantage? It’s still not super-close to Olde Naples – you’d definitely need to take a cab.
Vacationing with lots of girls or for two weeks or longer? Why not consider renting a home in Olde Naples? Many seasonal residents rent their immaculate homes to visitors for weeks or months, and often for pretty reasonable prices. If you consider that most of these homes are within a five block walk to the Naples beach, and usually only about a fifteen-minute walk to the shops and restaurants of Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South, this is certainly an appealing alternative for longer vacationers. Renting a home can also add a personal touch to your getaway, and even may come with local tips and suggestions on how to make the most of your vacation.
Pack your swimsuits, book a flight into Fort Myers, grab a rental car or limo, and be on the beach in an hour. Think about it – in the span of a morning, you and your girls can go from minus-20-with-the-windchill to 25 and sunny, with a slight breeze. Throw in a glass of champagne on the beach, and it’ll be pure paradise.
Lindsay has been traveling since she was a year and a half and hasn’t stopped. With a BA in Geography, an MSc in Tourism Management, and visits to 30 countries under her belt, she’s always looking for new adventures and experiences around the globe (ideally involving local food, drink, and language lessons). You can visit her blog at www.thisishowitravel.com.