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I have been going down to Naples, FL since I was a kid. My family, on both sides, has been going down for generations. What once used to be a quiet, sleepy little town on the Gulf of Mexico has now become the chic counterpart to the Atlantic’s Palm Beach.
With its plethora of restaurants and hip boutiques, Naples has become the sophisticated destination on Florida’s west coast. Mind you, though, many people do not like to admit it, or want that – they still think of Naples as the serene oasis on the gulf, not caught up in the social ties of PB. Whatever your stance, there is no denying that Naples is one of the most beautiful spots in all of Florida – with its aqua blue water, white sand beaches and spectacular sunsets, the scenery it offers is sublime.
With Naples’ growth has come an increase in family activities, both outdoors and indoors. There are SO many things you can do with the kids now. Whatever the weather, you will not be sitting around your hotel room on any given day. Speaking of hotels, there is the The Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club (a kids paradise- on the water, with Kids Club, activities, etc.) to hotels and motels more inland, to the chic boutique hotel the Edgewater Beach Hotel, to the very upscale Ritz, a bit removed from town.
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Favorite Things to See and Do with Kids in Naples, Florida
With its pristine white beaches, the coast of Naples is one of the prettiest around. If you are not staying at a hotel on the beach, there are a variety of public entryways on different side streets, but the best one for kids has got to be Lowdermilk Park on Gulf Shore Boulevard North. It has two playgrounds, a concessions stand with, actually, good food, volley ball courts, and right on the beach. Go for an evening visit one day and catch the famous sunset. 1301 Gulfshore Blvd North.
The Naples Zoo
A trip for us is not complete without a visit to this wonderful zoo. Small in size (but not too small), it is easy to navigate, and much to see. The highlight for us is always the Primate Expedition Cruise (we call it Monkey Island) – catch a 15-minute tour boat through islands of monkeys, apes and lemurs. There are also alligator feedings, tigers, lions, hyenas, giraffes, camel rides, and so much more. We love this little gem of a zoo.
1590 Goodlette-Frank Road, 239.262.5409. Open 7 days a week, 9-5, last tickets sold at 4:00. Adult tickets, $19.95, kids ages 3-12, $14.95, 2 and under free.
Naples Botanical Garden
I can’t say enough about this fabulous botanical garden, one of my favorites in the country. The kids section, The Children’s garden, is so well-done. With tree houses and caves and treasure hunts and water fountains, it’s a child’s adventure land. We always come dressed in suits so that my girls can spend plenty of time running through the fountains. There are also the Asian, Brazilian and Carribean gardens, so make sure to check those out too. A great diversion from the every day beach and pool, I highly recommend going to the Botanical Garden.
4820 Bayshore Drive, 239. 643. 7275. Open 7 days a week, 9-5 (Tuesdays 8-5), last tickets sold at 4:00. Adult tickets $14.95, kids ages 4-14 $9.95, kids 3 and under free.
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Stretching 1,000 feet into the water, the Naples Pier is one of the longest and most beautiful piers around. With views of both the gulf and shoreline, one can glimpse dolphins, fishermen reeling in their prey, and the surrounding homes on shore, which are some of the most luxurious in town. It is Naples’ most popular place to fish, and the great thing is, anyone can – you don’t need a license. The kids love watching all the fishermen and all the action that goes on at the pier.
Located at 12th Avenue South off of Gulf Shore Boulevard
A Trip to the Everglades for airboat and swamp rides
Our pick is Wooten’s, which also has an animal sanctuary and alligator shows. The Grasslands airboat tour is a lot of fun as you cruise along like you’re on – well – air. The Swamp Buggy tour is an elevated ride over muddy and dry land and into the “thicket” of the everglades. Learn about that ecosystem and the animals, such as pythons, that live there. It’s a unique experience and one the kids won’t forget. It’s a little less than an hour away.
Wooten’s, 32330 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, FL, 1.800.282.2781. Open 7 days a week, 9-5. Call number above for pricing.
The Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples
Also known as C’mon, it has 30,000 square feet of interactive exhibits and 12 hands-on exhibit galleries. It is a mega play space for the younger ones, but the older ones as well, as the museum’s target age group is 1-14. We come here on rainy days, and our girls get their work-out for the day. Even on a nice day, as they have phenomenal outdoor activities as well.
15080 Livingston Road, 239.514.0084. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Closed Wednesday. Sunday, 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. Children 1 + $10, Under 1 free, Adults $10.
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Due to Naples’ grid lay-out and flat surface, it’s a great place to bike with your kids. You can cover a lot of territory on bikes (even with the young ones in the trailers which we have done), from biking around town all the way up north on Gulf Shore Boulevard. There are bike lanes everywhere, so it’s very safe. We spent a whole day biking one day when it was chilly, and saw places I had never seen before.
For rentals, check out The Bike Route (655 Tamiami Trail North, 239.262.8373) and Big Momma’s Bicycles (850 Seagate Drive, 239.263.0728)
Ok, so this might be tourist trap central, with oodles of souvenir and cheese ball shops, but it is SO FUN for kids, especially the younger ones, I had to put it in. In the heart of Naples in the marina, lies Tin City, what once used to be a bunch of tin-roofed buildings way back when. Today Tin City has over thirty shops and two waterfront restaurants. We always go to our favorite restaurant there, Riverwalk, your classic burger and fish ‘n chips spot, and right on the water with great views and fun waterside paths for the kids to walk up and down. While waiting for a table, we ramble along the board walks of TC and check out all the quirky shops. It’s an old-school joint, and old-school fun.
1200 Fifth Ave South, 239.262.4200, Monday-Saturday 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00-5:00 p.m.
Dovetailing with Tin City above, take one of the boat rides that depart from the marina in Tin City for some dolphin watching, fishing, shelling and more. We’ve used Pure Naples boating service, cruising around on their double-decker dolphin viewing boat called the Double Sunshine. This is something I always rolled my eyes at until we did it – and it turned out to be great. We saw a ton of dolphins up close and the kids went bananas.
1200 Fifth Ave South, 239.263.4949. Open 7 days a week, 7:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
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Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary
One of the unique things about Florida has always been the Everglades and its tropical wetlands. Within these wetlands lie Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a 13,000 acre Audubon full of botanicals and wildlife. About 30 minutes east of Naples, this is a greta place to explore animals in their natural habitat. Think alligators, rare birds, panthers, lizards, snakes, even the Florida bear. My girls love visiting Corkscrew Sanctuary because they get to see so many animals outside of the confines of the regular zoo, and in their natural setting. Highly recommend.
Located in the heart of downtown Naples, just south of swanky 5th Avenue South, is the lovely 12.5 acre park. It has become tradition for us to go here too because it has, as my girls would say, “the best playground we’ve ever been to.” It is also well located in town so that if you want to go get coffee in the morning or ice cream in the afternoon, you don’t have to get in your car to do so. My girls love coming here, and for us it’s the perfect spot to go in the morning before hitting the beach.
755 8th Ave South
Naples is known for all its fabulous restaurants and is a food mecca. There are a lot of them, and most are kid-friendly. A hot-spot and not to be missed is Tommy Bahama on Third Street. May sound cheesy, but this always-packed umbrella drink spot actually has delicious Caribbean cuisine and super-fun live music. Other favorites include Cafe Lurcat (my personal favorite), Luna Café, Campiello, USS Nemo, The Dock, Bistro 821, Chops, Fujiyama (great hibachi and sushi), Yabba and more. For excellent cheap eats try Grouper and Chips and Brooks Gourmet Burger and Dogs. You can view my full post on Dining (and Shopping) in Naples here.
Naples has two main shopping districts, Third Street South and 5th Avenue South. Many of them are upscale and for adults, but there are some children’s shops mixed in. Not to be missed is Beth Mone’s Children Shoppe in the Third Street area, which has been around forever. It has clothes, accessories and toys for all ages, with some classic designers like Florence Eiseman mixed in with more hip items. Every mom I know loves this store. There’s also Lilly Pulitzer around the corner, and a bunch of more souvenir type shops around 5th Avenue. See my post above in the restaurant section for a full list of shops.
You may also be interested in other Florida posts:
Universal Studios Orlando: Everything You Need to Know to Plan your Trip
Hard Rock Hotel Orlando: A Review of our Stay at Universal Studios
Want to read more about Florida? Check out this guide!
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Great photography and descriptions of Naples. It’s a wonderful place for kids!
You photos are so good and make you descriptions come to life. Never been to Naples, but think I might need to make that part of my bucket list
take that back….I did go there once for a wedding
I give you credit for taking an airboat ride.. I live down here, and I have always been too scared to do it – can’t figure out if it’s the gators, the snakes or the bugs that have kept me from going.., of course if I wait too much longer I’ll have another excuse- “I’M TOO OLD!” HAHA! 🐊
This comment is way overdue but for some reason just saw it – could have been due to the fact that I had just started my blog back then – definitely take an airboat ride sometime!!
We have toured throughout Florida and yet completely missed out Naples. It sounds like there is a lot to do though. Fab photos and a very informative post to save for a later date! #MondayEscapes
Thanks so much Lisa! It’s a place close to my heart..you will love it if you do make it there some day!
We love Naples! My in-laws go every year. We took the kids there for the first few Christmases of their life having stayed at both the Edgewater and Naples Beach club. This year we ventured further afield and went to the Keys. We have really good memories of all the things you mention especially New Year’s eve fireworks off the Naples Pier.
Yes the fireworks are awesome! The Beach Club and Edgewater is the location to be at if you ask me – close to town but not right in it. We love the beach right there, and the sunset is not to be missed at the beach club! I can understand mixing it up and heading to the keys – another amazing part of FL!
We have been to Florida many times but I don’t think we have ever made it to Naples. Is it near Fort Meyers beach or am I on the wrong side? I get confused! We love the Gulf coast though and have also stayed at Clearwater. Ah so many places, so little time 🙂 #Monday Escapes
Tell me about it! Ft. Myers is only 1/2 hour away from Naples, on the Gulf.We try to fly into Ft. Myers when we can and drive to Naples. In recent years prices have been so crazy that we’ve had to fly into Tampa and drive from there. Thanks for reading!
This place is wonderful!! Ohh I need to get there someday!
The picture of the Botanical Garden is sooo pretty. Beach, food, ocean and dolphins: I’m in 😀
Thank you for joining #MondayEscapes 😀
Thanks Allane – I know the botanical garden is like being in the caribbean. We really love it down there – so much to do and see. #mondayescapes
If your sunny pictures weren’t enough to convince me alone that this is an incredible place to visit, then the list would do. Bike riding, musuems, boat trips, great food….sounds like a paradise for family travellers.
Thanks so much! Naples really does have it all..and we are only a short 3 hour plane ride away which makes it an easy destination for us. You must visit sometime!
Don’t you love beach towns? I live in Redondo Beach one of the beach cities in Los Angeles County. There are a lot of similarities with Naples. I think I am never leaving.
Ha – seriously. That’s so nice – I used to visit L.A. all the time when I lived in SF. Every NY winter I wonder why we live here and not there. But we did move out of the city to a town on the LI Sound so summertime is great. Love living on the water!
So, so beautiful! I’m always so amazed by Florida vacations. Being a West Coast gal, we never quite made it to Florida for the beach. But it is absolutely gorgeous, and looks like a ton of fun! #citytripping
Naples is the best. I feel the same way living on the east coast – wish I made it out to Cali more. I have a bunch of relatives there so need to make it happen soon!
This is such a great guide – brought back lots of happy memories of white sand beaches from our trip to the Gulf coast last year (Bradenton rather than Naples though). The zoo sounds lovely and I think botanical gardens are surprisingly great with younger kids, especially when it’s hot. Would love to go back to that stretch of Florida. #citytripping
Thanks Cathy – I agree, we’re huge fans of botanical gardens, no matter where we are. I will have to look into Bradenton, not familiar with it. But in my opinion you can’t go wrong with the Gulf Coast..a beautiful part of the U.S.
Fantastic photos and great guide… Naples really is a great family destination….a bit different from the Naples I am familiar with in Italy. Thanks for bringing this part of Florida to my attention! I’d love to go on an airboat and the beaches and sunsets looks so beautiful. Thanks for linking to #citytripping
Thanks so much- many people are familiar with the Atlantic side of FL, but the Gulf side is so beautiful. And Naples is amazing for families.
There are some exciting new things for our area and should be on your list of things to do in Naples FL. There is the Hypnagogic light Lucia 3 and a Samadhi Floatation Tank are very unique and blend technology and relaxation. Check out The Om Spa in Naples FL
Thanks for the recommendations. As this is a family travel blog the list is focused on kids activities. Thanks for reading!