Happy New Year! Out with the old and in with the new. Wipe the slate clean and begin again. Although I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, I do think the beginning of a new year and in this case, a new decade is a great time to hit the “reset button” on life. Over the last 10 years, my family and I have taken a trip over the New Year’s time frame to do just that. It is always the same destination…a warm and sunny escape from the grayness of Michigan winters.. to the warm and sun of Florida. Nothing is more relaxing to me than the beach…the waves, the sand between your toes, the sun on your face…it opens the heart and mind for reflection. Add in some time with the people I love most in the world and I am in my “happy place”. I have some favorite family, couple, and alone spots that I would like to share with you in the Naples and Bonita Springs area if you are looking to do the same. Let’s start with the family.
Bonita Beach is the destination that I have been taking my kids to for the last 25 years. The activities have changed for us, but it is still our “go to” spot. The beach has rich white sand, perfect for building sandcastles together. Love the idea of siblings working together on a plan to build the best castle on the beach. Should there be 4 towers or 6 in the castle? Anything is possible! One person is in charge of filling the buckets of water, the other digging the moat to protect it from intruders and the tide. The other molding the sand as the castle begins to take shape. Usually supervision by a mom or dad is helpful, just to ensure there is peace among the villagers. If your kids are past that age, maybe it is strolling along the beach looking for the perfect shells to bring back as a souvenir. I remember some of my best conversations with my children about their struggles, hopes, and dreams have happened on that beach. All walls seem to come down and the family bond is renewed.
When reality sets in and the family starts to get hangry, there is Doc’s Beach House http://docsbeachhouse.com close by…actually on the beach. It’s ok to leave your stuff on the beach to save your spot (chairs, towels),no one will bother it. Doc’s is a cash only establishment -but don’t worry there is an ATM on site. You can dine inside or sit at one of the umbrella covered tables on the beach. After a delicious burger or fish sandwich and some lively conversation with the bartender or server , it is time to hit the beach again. Maybe up your game with the kids a bit and rent a jet ski , or go parasailing or join a dolphin tour – whatever your level of adventure is for the day, Doc’s offers it all.
Need to reconnect with your spouse or significant other? The BEST place in southwest Florida to do that…2 words…The Ritz. Even if you don’t stay there, it is a great place to spend the day. I recommend getting there early, grab a couple of coffees from the cafe and head out towards the beach. There are miles of white sandy beach you can walk together, hand in hand, admiring the multi-million dollar homes- picking out the one you would want if you won the lottery. Then turning your gaze toward the ocean and watch the dolphins play along the shore, or maybe even take a dip in the warm Gulf waters. As relaxation sets in, the conversation and laughter grows and all of sudden you realize you are on a date.
A date usually includes a meal and it is almost lunch time…fortunately for you without any preplanning, you have a great option close by. Gumbo Limbo at the Ritz. Great Ritz service, delicious options for food and drink and a view like no other. Sometimes there is a bit of wait, but the wait is eased by the perfect frozen margarita or glass of Rose. Once seated, this al fresca restaurant has great views of the ocean and a festive Caribbean atmosphere. The service, in true Ritz Carlton tradition provides the pampering you SO deserve. You are no longer worried about time of day, world events, or to-do lists. It’s just you and your love. Let the rest of the day evolve into a romantic dinner while watching the sunset together.
I travel all the time by myself for work, but it wasn’t until a few years ago that I took my first vacation by myself. Such a difference experience. There is no need for making compromises when it comes to what to do, when to do it, or how long to do it. I found a few days (or even just one day if that is all you can manage) at the beach alone can be rejuvenating, reflective, and glorious! I like beach at Naples. Close to downtown Naples so you can add in shopping if you so desire. There is so much do to, so let’s take a walk through a full day. Beginning with breakfast, I highly recommend Jane’s Cafe on 3rd http://www.janesgardencafe.com. The garden setting is beautiful and the French toast is AMAZING. After a delicious meal, a stroll downtown is on the agenda. Great little boutiques line the avenues. Pick out a new outfit, find something beachy stuff to take home or gifts for the people you left at home. After some shopping, head towards the pier for some sun and surf. I love to walk the beach. I can resolve a lot of things in my life with some quiet time along the seashore. I have a practice of throwing shells in the water, representing any negative thoughts or things in my life, clearing the way for new and prosperous things to enter in. Might sound cheesy but it works! After all that soul searching, I am hungry again. Lunch at old Naples Pubhttp://www.naplespubs.com is on my list..mainly for the pickles. Not to say they don’t also have great seafood, burgers, and tacos..but it is the pickles that will bring you back time and time again. After lunch, you can head down to Tin City and take the 2 hour boat cruise through Port Royal and Naples Bay http://www.purefl.com. Sightseeing includes the homes of the rich and maybe not so famous. After a full day of sun and sea, a relaxing dinner at Albertos on Fifth is the perfect way to end the day. Chef Alberto has created a delectable menu of Northern Italian favoriteshttp://www.albertosonfifth.com. A glass of one of the Super Tuscan wines accompanied by a dish of homemade pasta will send you home content and relaxed.
I imagine you all have your own traditions when it comes to welcoming in a new year. Maybe it is a trip? Or an activity? Your own way of finding renewal and a fresh outlook. I hope through what I have shared that I have inspired some new ways. Either with your family, with your loved one, or some needed time alone. Please feel free to share your stories with me. I would love to hear them.