Naples, Florida loves fireworks displays. And what could be better than having residents and visitors watching the show from tropical, white sand beaches lined with palm trees. New Yorkers can shiver in cold, snow or rain as they simply watch a ball descend from atop a skyscraper! And what’s even better is that Naples offers such events twice each year (July 4th and New Year’s Eve).
Along with thousands of other people, my wife and I have attended the July 4th event several times. Last year, we watched the New Year’s display from the third floor balcony of downtown Naples town home. Each time we see these displays, we can’t help but marvel at their beauty!
One thing working for the fireworks extravaganza is that the fireworks are launched from the Naples Municipal Pier (which extends 1000 feet into the Gulf of Mexico). This allows for celebrants to line the adjacent beaches where there are no viewing restrictions. Although not as well attended as the July 4th event (because of parties and other commitments), hundreds still attend at New Year’s, according to Mike Leslie, the city’s assistant community services director.
The Pier, located at 12th Street South, is a community landmark. Built in 1888, it has survived fires and hurricanes and is unto itself a sight to visit. If you walk the pier don’t be surprised to see dolphins, pelicans and other coastal birds on parade.
The fireworks display starts at 7:30pm, leaving plenty of time for an early dinner before or a more elegant dinner or party afterwards. And the earlier timing allows the younger set a chance to partake in the celebration, something they couldn’t do if it were held at midnight.
This year’s celebration marks the 6th year for the City. As usual, the roughly 30-minute show is sponsored by ASG Software Solutions, a Naples-based international company.
Centered around the time of the fireworks display (7pm to 10pm), look for activity on 3rd Street South. Local merchants will be distributing party hats and other New Year’s paraphernalia.
Residents and visitors staying near the downtown area will be able to walk to the beach. Otherwise, according to local officials, parking will be at a premium. The city parking lot across the street from the pier offers the best parking, but it is small and fills up quickly. Drivers can also park along side streets (even on grassy areas in front of some residences). Even better, visit a friend or relative downtown and capitalize on their driveway. Regardless, be prepared for a lengthy ride back to your home or hotel as traffic will back up trying to exit the downtown area.
Those coming early or staying late can choose from many restaurants along and near favored 3rd Street South and 5th Avenue South. Some offer prix fixe menus; others offer their regular fare; some even offer entertainment. But for this evening, checking with your restaurant early and making reservations is the preferred option. Unfortunately, most restaurants are far enough removed from the beach and have too many palms and other trees in the way for good fireworks watching.
Regardless of what you are looking for as a dining experience, I recommend that you check it out before committing. One way is to visit the restaurant beforehand (especially if you are a local or if you visit Naples frequently). Another is to check with family and friends who live in or near Naples. You can also check out comments from others at sites such as http://www.tripadvisor.com, http://www.insiderpages.com, and http://www.naplesnews.com. At the latter, search for “restaurant reviews” and you’ll be treated to news articles and a list of additional review links sites.
While fireworks may be a main draw, there are other events centered during the New Year’s celebration period. On December 27 and 28th there is an art show on 5th Avenue South. The Philharmonic also provides a New Year’s program. More information on these and other happenings can be found at http://www.paradisecoast.com/events/events.php.
And, don’t limit yourself to just fireworks and dining. There are many things to see and do in the area, including visiting the Zoo, taking airboat rides in the nearby Everglades, and just vegging at the beach. We love to visit the Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park http://www.floridastateparks.org/fakahatcheestrand/ about 25 miles southeast of Naples on Highway 41. Walking the Big Cypress bend Boardwalk allows one to see labeled vegetation, a wide array of birds (including eagles) and alligators. You can obtain other attraction information at http://www.naplesrealtyservices.com/yournaples/attractions.htm or by visiting the local AAA site near Airport and Pine Ridge Roads.
Whatever you opt for, have a great celebration as we all look forward to happier and healthier 2009.