Summer is here and we here at Global Itineraries couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate its official start then with a Memorial Day Weekend road trip! So, we hopped in the car and drove from the Fort Lauderdale area across the infamous “Alligator Alley” (actually I-75) across to the west side of the state to Naples, FL. It was hot hot hot all weekend long with no rain. Everyone we encountered was so friendly and the city is immaculate – no garbage on the streets, perfectly manicured everything and no homeless/vagrants as far as we could tell. Just a beach town with a high population of retirees and golfers. Here are some of the highlights:
The Hilton Naples – What a fantastic hotel! Clean with great amenities. We told the front desk that it was our one year anniversary and they gave us free access to the Executive Lounge on the fourth floor AND a free box of delicious chocolates from a local shop called Norman Love. I don’t know how people usually get access to the Lounge, but it was a real treat. We received a complimentary Continental Breakfast in the mornings and complimentary hors d’oeuvres in the evening. Coffee and tea seemed to always be available outside for anyone with key card access. We also enjoyed the hotel gym and the gratis water/juice and cookies that appeared in the lobby every afternoon. The hotel also provides a complimentary shuttle service to the beach complete with towels, chair and water. Bring your earplugs, though, because the walls are thin! Here are pictures of the exterior, the pool and those chocolates:
Naples Zoo – Naples has a small, but very nice zoo that can be seen in 2 hours or less. This is not a place to spend all day, but is certainly worth a trip as they have a nice variety of animals. Do not forget to bring sunscreen and water during the summer months! You will be outside the entire time and it was HOT when we were there. Make sure to see the Feature Show, which takes place at 11am and 3pm daily. Zookeepers bring out animals you can’t see on display, such as a two-toed sloth and an ocelot. The monkey islands boat ride is also something worth checking out. Otherwise, just walk along the main path and you may just come across this guy:
Silverspot Cinemas – Naples has gotten on the bandwagon of the luxury movie theater and has done a pretty nice job. The seats in this theater were basically over-sized easy chairs and were so comfortable that you felt like you were in your own living room. Pros: you can enjoy wine and other drinks at your seat and choose your seat ahead of time so that no one else sits in it. Cons: The price. $16 for one adult ticket to a regular (not 3D) movie). Also, it didn’t seem like you could take the gourmet food inside the theater with you; instead you must eat it in the cafe in the lobby. Don’t know what drink to order? They did have some interesting promotions:
What to eat? – I have to say we were somewhat underwhelmed with the food we ate in Naples. The much-heralded Simply Southern BBQ, very incognito in a strip mall, was just ok (but boy was that mac n’ cheese good…), and the Roy’s Hawaiian outpost at the Bayfront offered beautiful views with very inconsistent and generally underwhelming food. We still don’t know what Hawaiian fusion is! Similarly, we didn’t understand all of the buzz about Adelheidi’s Organic Sweets on Fifth Avenue. It’s laudable that they use organic, natural ingredients, but the gelato was really nothing out of the ordinary.
There were some food highlights, however. We had a lovely dinner at Citrus Seafood Restaurant on Fifth Avenue. We were able to sit outside as the sun went down, watching the crowds walk by. The owner is obviously passionate about all things seafood and made us excited to eat there. I will say that our trio of ceviche appetizer was just ok, but both the Maine lobster tower and the fish tacos were perfectly prepared and full of flavor. Similarly, we had a nice lunch at The Cafe, tucked away just off Fifth Avenue on 8th Street. They have delicious sandwiches and salads and many drool-worthy items in their bakery case.
Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t talk about another restaurant in Naples that we had dinner at last summer called Cracklin’ Jacks. It is a down home Southern restaurant if we ever saw one with things like alligator and fried catfish on the menu. Go for dinner and they will literally fill your table with bowls of vittles:
Thanks for reading and happy traveling!