Miamians flock to Naples for summer deals, but why not go sooner to take advantage of South Florida’s other coast? Besides being a world apart without having to board a plane—big city stress melts away the minute one hits Alligator Alley’s open stretch of road surrounded by endless views of the Florida Everglades—Naples has a lot of new action this season.
Hot HotelsThe remastering of The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, a premier destination since its opening in 1985, is reason enough to visit. Following a just-completed contemporary makeover that introduced curtains in a bold citron palm print and streamlined furnishings, its 450 guest rooms feel more like personal residences than hotel accommodations. On weekends, D.J.’s spin at the dim sushi lounge Dusk, whose mixology program is meticulously designed down to edible pansies and spritzes of rose hydrosol; the Japanese chef who trained in Osaka doesn’t hold back either. Also part of updated dining, the open-air Terrazza satisfies homemade pasta and gelato cravings. A fireside table at the Grill, amid modern dove gray décor and hefty, glamorous chandeliers, is worthy of a reservation.
While parents relax at a tri-level spa with hot, cold and mineral dipping pools or golf at sister property The Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort, Naples, the on-site nature camp that’s one of the area’s best-kept secrets enthralls kids.
To walk out the door and be in the thick of Old Naples, stay at The Inn on Fifth, which expanded with 32 concierge club level suites. The luxury annex’s vibe falls in line with the entire hotel’s renovation from pineapple and monkey themes to cosmopolitan chic, only with even more attention to detail such as enormous baths, automatic shades and separate air conditioners for every room. Its private, rooftop sun and whirlpool deck for club guests overlooks the bustling street.
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The recently opened Avenue5 answers the city’s hunger for hipper restaurants. Jeffrey Beers, the designer behind Gotham, Milos and La Cote in Miami Beach, chose brighter hues like cobalt blue and fiery coral, and lighter woods than his usual direction for the American grill-meets-French brasserie. Considering the nonstop traffic at Truluck’s, the Inn’s other eatery famous for stone crabs, the newcomer is destined to bolster the happening block.
Fancy a Frock Located on the suites’ ground level, two complementary fashion brands share a retail space that marks their first freestanding stores. Castaway Nantucket Island focuses on resort-friendly menswear like button-down cotton shirts in mixed prints and shorts embroidered with sharks and fish tacos. A T-shirt depicting a map of historic Naples makes a good souvenir. St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Tracy Negoshian supplies the women’s selection of color and print-driven shift dresses in a spring palette of royal blue and poppy red. Oversize nautical rope wallpaper and a coral chandelier link their water heritage. Anchoring Third Street South’s shopping district, Marissa Collections serves as a mini-Bergdorf Goodman. Seasonal highlights include a revamped Brunello Cucinelli shop-in-shop and a fine jewelry gallery. Coloradoan Todd Reed, who put raw diamonds on the map, and Arunashi, from an eighth-generation heir to a royal gem house in Jaipur, will make personal appearances this month.
Neapolitan NoshSlow to embrace 21st-century dining, Naples is finally playing catch-up. The Local pioneered the farm-to-table trend with organic produce from nearby growers, healthier recipes and smaller dessert portions served in shot glasses. At the Mercado shopping center, Masa goes through several cases of limes a day for fresh-squeezed, cucumber or spicy pepper blend margaritas to pair with its authentic Mexican menu’s best-selling chipotle chicken tacos and grilled calamari drizzled in verde sauce. The chef also cooks special dishes from a different region each month. Come late night, a younger crowd takes over nearby TAPS, too. The regional chain from Tampa pours craft beers, including its hometown’s Cigar City, that go perfectly with yellowfin tuna crudo stacked between wonton crisps, and hosts local musicians like guitarist Mark Thompson. Housed in a former fish shack painted appletini green, Three60 Market offers a glimpse of Old Florida. Pick up fried grouper sandwiches and blueberry and goat cheese pie to eat on its back deck facing Haldeman Creek. Another Neapolitan haunt is Peace, Love & Little Donuts, which plans to relocate elsewhere along US 41 from its original gas station stand in the spring. Long lines form for the Pennsylvania import’s 42 flavors like the location’s exclusive strawberry cream pie. The bean-obsessed go for their Intelligentsia Coffee. A top-notch espresso also can be found at Dolce & Salato, whose co-owner has been sipping them since he was a kid in Rome. The homesick Italian imports prosciutto that’s been aged 24 months and layers lasagna with spicy sausage and peas for the real deal. Every other Saturday, a tenor serenades guests who break bread during multicourse dinners at communal tables. Beyond the BeachHelmed by new directors and recently combined as Artis—Naples, the Baker Museum and Naples Philharmonic ramp up their game during season. Duchamp Family of Artists presents 20th -century multimedia works by Marcel Duchamp and three of his relatives through April 6. People-watch over a flute of champagne during intermissions at nightly shows, too. Soprano Renee Fleming and ’90s pop duo Indigo Girls perform with the orchestra on February 24 and March 1, respectively. The Naples Botanical Garden also hosts concerts atop its floating stage in the water lily pond circled by seating on the Great Lawn. The fast-growing endeavor stands out for its plumeria collection and plants native to the 26th parallel north worldwide.