- 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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1.Start 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.
2.Go 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.
3.Walk 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.
1.Drive over to East Naples for breakfast—and to stock the hotel kitchen—at the 2012 newcomer Three60 Market. This Dean & DeLuca-esque gourmet deli has waterfront tables and specializes in fresh baked goods and unique salads.
2.Head north about 20 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 10am during high season to ensure a spot.
3.Make 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.
4.Head 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.
5.Browse the downtown shopping districts, Fifth Avenue South, and Third Street South, which is anchored by Marissa Collections, a women's clothing store with pieces straight from the New York runways.
6.For 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 to fill the gap of moderately priced downtown dining options. We recommend the Pescatora pizza with shrimp, squid, and mussels.
7.Wind 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.
1.Get an early start with an uber-casual breakfast at Country House East, just outside downtown Naples. Count on solid comfort cooking and ample choices.
2.Take 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 am and also a 1 pm option if you are planning for a late Saturday night.
3.Before leaving the area, grab a quick, cheap Mexican lunch at local favorite Taqueria San Julien 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 2 hours, 10 minutes from Miami. Take Highway 836 W to 826 N/Palmetto Expressway to connect with I-75 North. Exit 105, County Rd 886/Golden Gate Pkwy and continue west to Naples.