If you’re heading to Fort Myers, Fla., this spring to catch the Red Sox – for either the team’s daily workouts in February or the Grapefruit League action in March – you’ll find plenty to do beyond taking in the baseball activity at JetBlue Park.
Here are a few suggestions on places to gather, eat, drink, and other assorted activities to take advantage of while you are in Southwest Florida.
Gulf Coast Town Center
Just six miles away from JetBlue Park, you can socialize, shop, and eat in the village-style setting of Gulf Coast Town Center. The center features restaurants and plenty of shopping. Some of the most popular spots to eat and drink at GCTC include: Bar Louie, Blu Sushi, Carrabbas, Miller’s Ale House, Outback Steakhouse, and the always crowded PF Chang’s China Bistro.
Bell Tower Shops
Located at the corner of Daniels Parkway and US 41/S. Cleveland Ave., the Bell Tower Shops are a smaller, older version of the shiny Gulf Coast Town Center, with plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment options to keep you busy if the Red Sox happen to get rained out. Some of my favorite spots include: Blue Pointe Oyster Bar & Seafood Grille, Cru, DaRuMa Japanese Steak House & Sushi Lounge, World of Beer, and Grimaldi’s Coal Brick-Oven Pizzeria.
Fort Myers Beach
Visitors who opt to stay in Fort Myers Beach will enjoy the sun and surf on the Gulf Coast, but are usually in for a rude awakening when they realize the 17-mile drive between JetBlue Park and Fort Myers Beach could take 45 minutes to an hour depending on traffic. But if you venture over the bridge to the beach, here are some favorite spots to take in for drinks and/or a bite to eat: Top-o-Mast in Fort Myers Beach, the Lani Kai resort, The Beached Whale, along with the activity at Times Square just over the bridge.
Downtown Fort Myers and River District
Downtown Fort Myers definitely had more Red Sox fan foot traffic when the team worked out at the end of Edison Ave. and played at City of Palms Park, just outside the downtown area and river district. If you do venture downtown, check out the World Famous Cigar Bar for a stogie. Also located on Edison Ave. is the hugely popular Farmer’s Market restaurant, one of the top breakfast spots in Southwest Florida.
Other popular restaurants and bars
One great hidden gem for authentic Mexican food on US 41 is Carmencita’s To Go Tamales & Tacos, located just north of Daniels Parkway. Other popular eating establishments in the area include: Outback Steakhouse, Two Meatballs in the Kitchen, Iguana Mia, Hooters, Miller’s Ale House, and my favorite lunch spot: Patinella’s Chicken Grill.Oh, and if you are checking out the workouts at JetBlue Park, make a stop at the outstanding hamburger stand in the middle of the workout fields.
Sanibel and Captiva
If you’ve got the time, and want to see a more tranquil part of Southwest Florida, I highly recommend taking the 25-mile drive over to the islands of Sanibel and Captiva. While you are in Sanibel, check out Coconuts Café at the Casa Ybel Resort.Be sure to look at your bill before paying as an 18 percent gratuity may have already been added! A little further out on Captiva, check out the world-famous and wonderfully colorful Bubble Room restaurant right on Captiva Drive.
If you have even more time to venture out of Fort Myers, take the 45 minute drive down I-75 to the fancy-schmancy city of Naples where there are three distinct areas to socialize. On Fifth Avenue be sure to consider: Paddy Murphy’s Irish Bar, Vergina restaurant (and dance floor), and Yabba Island Grill. On Third Street, you can’t go wrong by stopping into Handsome Harry’s, Tommy Bahama restaurant and bar, and Campiello. Over in the Mercato – an upscale condo, retail, and entertainment area — stop at my favorite spot in Southwest Florida: the Blue Martini, in addition to Naples Flatbread, and Wine Bar. If you’re down in Naples during the day, be sure to pay a visit to the Ritz Carlton’s Gumbo Limbo bar right on the beach at the end of Vanderbilt Beach Road and take a ride on the Clam Pass Beach free tram – a wide three-quarter-mile boardwalk to the beach — just down the road by the Waldorf Astoria and grab a drink at the beach bar at the end of the wood-paved pathway.
Other things to do Fort Myers
You can golf to your heart’s content all over Southwest Florida and/or check out Red Sox players, major league greats, and other sports celebrities at the 21st annual Red Sox Children’s Hospital Golf Classic that takes place on Friday, Feb. 21 at the Forest Country Club. Fishing, boating, JetSkiing, kayaking, parasailing, paddleboarding are also popular activities along Florida’s gulf coast. Some other activities to consider include checking out the Dolphin Wildlife Cruises at Good Time Charters and Tours, shopping at the Tanger Outlet Center on Summerlin Road, grab something fresh at Farmer’s Market Monday at JetBlue Park or take a ride to the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve.
If you want to get some outdoor exercise in on land, check out the John Yarbrough Linear Park, a slender green space with paths that you can skate, run, walk, or bicycle located just off Daniels or Colonial Boulevard.
You can get your science fix at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Castle Golf is one of the best mini-golf courses you’ll find anywhere, and afterward you should take a drive on the beautiful palm-tree lined McGregor Boulevard.
If you’re still hungry for more baseball, the Minnesota Twins play at Hammond Stadium, just a few miles from JetBlue Park, or take a trip north to see the Tampa Bay Rays play in Port Charlotte.
Your best bet for interaction during the Red Sox workouts are to gather near the open gates where the players cross between fields. Before games at JetBlue, hanging by the corners of the Red Sox dugout may yield the best results.