- Distance from New York City: 108 miles
- Best time: October to May
- Best for: Girl's GetawayFood and WineBeaches
Good buzz has served Naples well since the late 1800s when the first settlers compared the area to an Italian paradise, a vote of confidence that gave the city its name and launched its resort reputation. Although it has some of the old-school tendencies that can accompany a wealthy enclave, the downtown dining scene has seen some inventive new twists in recent years, and East Naples is now blossoming into a destination in its own right, anchored by the Botanical Garden. The combination of stylish downtown bars and restaurants with beautiful beaches make this our Florida pick for a girl's getaway weekend. Gather your friends and check out the newest hotspots and some old favorites. – By LoAnn Halden
Naples Cheat Sheet
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1Start the evening with one of the city's famous sunsets, best viewed from Naples Pier, an easy walk from the Third Street South shopping district.
2Go for dinner at Chops City Grill, a long-running favorite in the heart of downtown that tends to stay open later in low season. Although it's a steakhouse, the menu mixes it up with Asian flavors and a raw bar.
3Walk to Osetra, a new champagne and caviar bar on Fifth Avenue South, to end the evening on an indulgent note. The menu ranges from affordable sparkling wine by the glass and black caviar with crème fraiche to bottles of Cristal and bank-breaking servings of the finest Russian caviar.
1Drive over to East Naples for breakfast—and to stock the hotel kitchen—at Three60 Market. This Dean & DeLuca-esque gourmet deli has waterfront tables and specializes in fresh baked goods and unique salads.
2Head north about twenty minutes to lounge on the white sand at Vanderbilt Beach Park near the Ritz-Carlton. This is one of Naples' most popular sunbathing spots so arrive before 10 a.m. during high season to ensure a spot.
3Make your way south with a detour for lunch at Inca's Kitchen, just north of Golden Gate Parkway. The Peruvian restaurant features a don't-miss selection of ceviche.
4Head back to the east side for one of the city's top draws, the Naples Botanical Garden. The grounds include six cultivated gardens, 90 acres of restored native preserve, and 2.5 miles of walking trails.
6For dinner, meander over to Third Street newcomer Barbatella, which has already earned a following for its wood-oven pizzas and homemade pasta and for helping fill the gap of moderately priced downtown dining options. We recommend the Pescatora pizza with shrimp, squid, and mussels.
7Wind down with a martini at the downstairs bar of Fifth Avenue's Café Lurcat, a no longer new but still shiny example of Naples moving in a hipper direction.
1Get an early start with an uber-casual breakfast at Country House East (2206 Davis Boulevard; 239-775-0626), just outside downtown Naples. Count on solid comfort cooking and ample choices.
2Take the 30-minute drive south to Marco Island to board the Dolphin Explorer, a thee-hour eco-tour that observes Southwest Florida's dolphin population and makes a beachcombing stop on one of the area's unspoiled barrier islands. Book in advance. There's a cruise at 9 a.m. and also a 1 p.m. option if you are planning for a late Saturday night.
3Before leaving the area, grab a quick, cheap Mexican lunch at local favorite Taqueria San Julian (3575 Bayshore Drive; 239-775-6480) in East Naples. This is strictly no-frills, but it's authentic. Chipotle, habanero, and green tomatillo sauces accompany the fresh tortillas.
Where to Stay
Our pick for downtown convenience that doesn't skimp on charm is the Bellasera Hotel (rooms from $129/night), a Tuscan-flavored property hidden in plain sight on the east side of historic Naples. The larger suites with kitchens are ideally suited for groups of friends.
If easy beach access is a priority, pick the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club (rooms from $170/night). It's right on the Gulf of Mexico, but only two miles north of the shops and restaurants of downtown Naples.
When to Go
The winter high season in Naples, from Thanksgiving to Easter, brings the sunniest weather and a livelier downtown scene. Plan a trip for May or October to take advantage of lower hotel rates and less-crowded beaches, while avoiding the rainy months of summer. Rainfall averages about eight inches per month from June to September.
How to Get There
By car: Naples is a little over two hours from Miami. Take Highway 836 W to 826 N/Palmetto Expressway to connect with I-75 North. Exit 105, County Road 886/Golden Gate Parkway and continue west to Naples.