Two decades ago, a strip mall, parking lot, and acres of invasive plants stood on this land, hosting crowds of shoppers bustling through their daily routines. Now, serene greenery has once again reclaimed the expanse, replacing the concrete and metal with 170 acres of flourishing gardens and pine flatwoods. Naples Botanical Garden's 90-acre preserve is home to seven ecosystems, including untouched forests, marshes, and mangroves, where hundreds of animal species and more than 300 species of native and exotic plants dwell.
Cultivating a diverse array of subtropical flora, the seven garden habitats enchant and educate adults and children alike. Visitors meander along 2.5 miles of walking trails, dropping into the Lea Asian Garden to admire a northern Thailand riverside scene and relax at the Balinese--temple water garden, spying on frogs trying to have a conversation with their own reflections. Throughout the Kapnick Caribbean Garden, guests stroll beneath a vine-covered arbor and through the coconut grove, which showcases plants from Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific that had great economic impact on the islands. Wee ones splash in jets of water in the Smith's Children’s Garden, where they can visit a butterfly house, caper about treehouses, and drop by the healthy-eating garden to ask organic vegetables why there are no mummies in the food pyramid. In addition to engaging the senses, the botanical gardens enlightens minds of all ages with myriad educational programs and events.
Reel Kind Fishing charters boats on which adventurers explore backwater wetlands, protected freshwater, and saltwater regions that are home to diverse marine life. Along with licensed and experienced captains, the company supplies rods, reels, tackle, and bait, ensuring that even novice fishers can participate. Tour-takers might nab snook, redfish, spotted seatrout, and tarpon, the four of which can be housed together in a jumbo aquarium for a fish reality show, as long as a sassy blowfish joins the mix. Each boat seats up to three people for half-days, three-quarter days, or full days, with the vessels heading either inshore or offshore near the Gulf of Mexico. Explorers might bring a hat, sunglasses, snacks, and jackets, according to the weather, and smocks depending on how neatly their co-tourists can eat.
It would take a massive pool to accommodate every diver who's been trained by Scuba Outfitters of Naples. To date, the company's instructors have educated and certified more than 1,000 scuba divers, and their aquatic alumni only continue to grow in numbers. PADI training begins in Scuba Outfitters' heated indoor training pool, where the experts introduce the most fundamental skills, such as how to avoid dissolving. Eventually, the instructors take students to premier diving locations, including the reefs of Key Largo.
Home to a fleet of luxurious wave-tamers, Sailboats Unlimited has been making the warm blue waters accessible to would-be mariners for more than 25 years. With a two-hour sunset sail, cruisers will sally forth on the 40-foot center-cockpit sloop, Danmark, which is Coast Guard–certified and fully crewed for up to 18 passengers and their extra pairs of sea legs. Erstwhile sailors are encouraged to assist the crew in manning the vessel if they so please, and pleasure seekers are free to relax on deck, lounge under the shaded bimini and dodger, or whistle jazz-fusion sea shanties in the spacious salon. Guests can take in the beautiful ocean sunset while feasting their eyes on a menagerie of wildlife. Cruises will be scheduled as they fill based on expressed interest and available dates.
The newly opened True Blue Water Sports on Tamiami Trail North brings aquatic gear, water-sports lessons, and peaceful paddle tours to the Naples area. Kiteboarding advocate and co-owner David Peterson opened up his laid-back shop to pique the interest of out-of-town water-sports seekers, and his two-hour eco tour does just that with its personalized instruction and open-water demonstrations. Paddlers mount buoyant boards and glide through the Gulf Coast’s resplendent waters, learning about the mangroves that surround them and avoiding the urge to give up all worldly possessions and set up shop as a backwater soothsayer. Instructors demonstrate the mechanics of the stand-up paddle tour before and during the tranquil ride, giving guests ample time to reacquaint themselves with their estranged centers of gravity.
The seasoned performers of Piccadilly Circus dazzle audiences of all ages with 90 minutes of acrobatics, comedic high jinks, and trained animals beneath the big top. Audiences gasp at high-flying trapeze artists swooping through the air with the confidence of a kite in a wind tunnel, as well as contortionists able to bend themselves into human bonsai trees. Death-defying motorcyclists roar into a caged globe to perform a 360-degree display of vehicular mastery. Gaggles of clowns coax out chuckles, and a trained elephant parades around the ring, occasionally stopping to memorize an audience member's phone number. General-admission seating surrounds the ring, allowing ample viewpoints from which to observe the boisterous spectacle.