LEE COUNTY, FL—There’s more than just warm weather, beautiful scenery and a host of meeting venues to attract groups to The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel in Southwest Florida. Meeting planners seeking a slice of paradise for their group attendees and guests are finding that the area has a delightful selection of dining, arts, entertainment, and shopping venues to enjoy.
Fort Myers has been recognized by Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the “50 Cities That Sizzle,” along with Miami, New York, San Francisco and other major metropolitan areas. According to the trade publication, Fort Myers has something for everyone, from popular chains such as Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s, Chili’s and Bahama Breeze, to rapidly- expanding list of homegrown hot spots including The Veranda, Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille and Bistro 41.
Of course, with the abundance of local fresh fish, shrimp and crabs, seafood is the centerpiece of many restaurant menus. Roy’s in the Bonita Springs’ The Promenade was one of the first in the area to offer Euro-Asian cuisine which recreated flavors of Hawaii and Pacific Rim in a display kitchen. For more traditional seafood, The Timbers and its adjourning Sanibel Grill sports bar on Sanibel Island offer a casual setting. The Timbers’ original location is now occupied by Doc Ford’s Rum & Grille, named after the main character in proprietor Randy Wayne White’s island-themed adventure novels.
The restaurant is famous for its gourmet finger food, fresh seafood entrees and extensive drink menu. Enjoy a seafood casual waterfront dining experience when visiting The Marina at Edison Ford’s Pinchers Crab Shack. This seafood restaurant is famous for local fishermen and crabbers fishing the Gulf of Mexico and delivering to their several area locations in Bonita Springs, Fort Myers, Fort Myers Beach and Gulf Coast Town center.
Seafood isn’t the only reason for the popularity of many restaurants around The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel. As the name suggest, The Sanibel Steakhouse started locally and is so big with beef lovers it has expanded to locations in Fort Myers, Bonita Springs and Naples. The Cabbage Key Inn, north of Captiva and Useppa islands, is where, reportedly, Jimmy Buffett
was inspired to write his hit “Cheeseburger in Paradise” after eating one of the inn’s huge, juicy burgers. The burger is almost as famous as the restaurant’s screen-enclosed dining room, where thousands of signed dollar bills from patrons are taped to the walls.
Ambience is what draws many meeting groups to some of the area’s more unusual
restaurants. At the ultra-casual Barnacle Phil’s on the barrier island of North Captiva,
everything but the signature black beans and rice is brought to picnic tables in plastic baskets. To the north at the world-renowned Gasparilla Inn is The Pink Elephant, known for its “Floribbean” continental cuisine and one of several restaurants accessible by boat. Another
highly original spot is The Bubble Room on Captiva Island, nationally-recognized for outrageous portions of Key Lime pie and other oversized, homemade desserts.
Naturally, The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel is home to some of the world’s most picturesque, waterfront restaurants, including The Mad Hatter at Blind Pass on Sanibel Island, The Mucky Duck on Captiva Island, The Tarpon House restaurant at Sanibel Harbour Marriott Resort & Spa, and The Lighthouse Waterfront Restaurant on Fort Myers Beach. Other fine dining restaurants include: The Veranda (downtown Fort Myers), Sea Breeze Café at the Sundial Beach Resort (Sanibel Island), SS Hookers (Fort Myers near the Sanibel causeway), Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille (San Carlos Bay) and Thistle Lodge (Sanibel Island).
Meeting planners looking for a comprehensive list of restaurants and lounges on The
Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel can visit the dining section at www.FortMyers-Sanibel.com.
Arts & Entertainment
From dinner theaters to museums and festivals, meeting attendees can enjoy the world of art and entertainment on The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel.
“Cultural and artistic enrichment opportunities provide an especially attractive incentive for group attendees to bring the family along,” said Tamara Pigott, executive director of the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau. “We’re fortunate to be living in an area that focuses on
the best life, including the arts; so we can offer a variety of spouse and youth programs, as well as unique off-site venues for meeting planners’ needs.”
The Alliance for the Arts is based in a 12,000–square-foot William R. Frizzell Cultural Centre on a 10-acre campus with public galleries hosting a few exhibitions each month. The 150- seat Claibourne and Ned Foulds Theatre, as well as the Margaret Morrow Frizzell Amphitheater, present theatrical productions. The Gladys G. Land School of Arts offers yearlong classes and workshops for adults and children.
The Arcade Theatre, a renovated 393-seat Victorian playhouse built in 1908 in downtown Fort Myers, combines early Florida charm with 21st century technology. Audiences are treated to variety of live theater, dance and music. Lee County’s professional Florida Repertory Theatre produces award-winning dramas and comedies year-round, even winning first regional rights for New York hit plays.
The Barbara B. Mann Performing Arts Hall is located on the campus of Florida Southwestern State College in Fort Myers. The hall hosts national Broadway productions, world- renowned entertainers, dance performances and classical music concerts year-round. Southwest Lee County professional symphony, Florida Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, is among the feature performers. Adjoining the Barbara B. Mann Hall, the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery exhibits present and interpret modern and contemporary artwork.
Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre is Southwest Florida’s premier dinner entertainment. The Playbill Bar offers a pre-dinner or post- show cocktail. Both entertaining and educational is the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers.
The 14-acre riverfront estate is the site of the inventor’s charming “old-Florida” style home, laboratory and experimental gardens, a popular off-site venue for meetings attendees. The Shell Factory & Nature Park in North Fort Myers, is the “world’s largest collection of rare shells, sponges, coral, fossils and sea life specimen.”
The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel offers unique shopping opportunities to meeting attendees from all over the world. Antique shops, flea markets, shops drawing inspiration from the sea and more, are waiting to be explored. The area also treats shoppers to upscale malls with designer labels, elegant boutiques and outlet centers with mega savings.
On Sanibel, there’s Periwinkle Place, a cluster of intimate shops set in a park-like atmosphere with covered walkways shaded by banyan trees. It offers original art and fashions that capture the essence of Southwest Florida. The charming old-time Florida community of Matlacha has many colorful shops and galleries. This once thriving fishing village is now home to many artists, galleries and restaurants. Visit fun-filled Florida artist Leoma Lovegrove’s island gallery and take a bit of the Gulf Coast back home through her tropical motifs.
In Fort Myers Beach, Times Square vibrates with activity. This highly-traveled
pedestrian hub and shopping district finds bare feet acceptable. Downtown Fort Myers, the city’s entertainment district, surrounds shoppers with charming, historic architecture. Renovated shops and buildings feature a professional theatre, bistros, coffee shops and boutiques.
There’s no lack of shopping malls in the area. The 1.2-million-square-foot Coconut Point Mall in Estero is an open-air, Main Street-style shopping destination with Mediterranean Revival-style architecture designed to fit gracefully with the flavor of Southwest Florida. Gulf Coast Town Center in Fort Myers features a Regal Cinema, 130 specialty shops and restaurants. In addition, Edison Mall in Fort Myers showcases more than 160 shops and eateries.
For outdoor shopping, meeting attendees and their families can sample Miromar Outlets in Estero or the Sanibel Outlets in Fort Myers. Upscale shops ensconced within a tantalizing Spanish-style plaza can be found at Fort Myers’ Bell Tower Shops.
For more information about meetings and the many dining, arts, entertainment and shopping choices in The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel, visit www.FortMyers-
Editor’s Note: The Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel include: Sanibel Island, Captiva Island, Fort Myers Beach, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Estero, Cape Coral, Pine Island, Boca Grande
& outer islands, North Fort Myers, Lehigh Acres. Images available upon request.
Lee Rose, Francesca Donlan (239) 338-3500