We’re emerging from a global pandemic, and the world truly will never be the same.
It’s made everyone appreciate life more, from live concerts to eating out to visiting friends and family.
And the pandemic has made us appreciate what we have in Southwest Florida, with a whole slew of places to see and visit.
We’ve put together some of our top spots to see this summer in Collier County. Here’s a few places to check out.
Where to go:
Back to the water: Closed in 2020 because of the pandemic, the popular Collier County water park reopens in July. The park at 15000 Livingston Road in North Naples offers water slides, a “lazy river,” kiddie pools and more. Admission: $11 Collier County residents (must show valid Florida driver’s license with Collier address); $6 anyone under 48 inches tall; free ages 0 to 3 years old; $9 seniors age 60 and up; $8 veterans. Cost does not include 7% sales tax. napleswaterpark.com or 239-252-4021
Cool off with work of local artist: Home to some of Southwest Florida’s finest art works, the Baker Museum at Artis—Naples allows you to stay cool during the summer months while getting out. And you can enjoy the work of Fort Myers- and New York-based internationally known artist Marcus Jansen. His “Two Decades of Relevance” exhibit at the museum runs through July 25. The museum is at 5833 Pelican Bay Blvd. Admission: $10 ($5 for full-time students and military, free for ages 17 and younger). COVID rules: Masks and social distancing required. 239-597-1111 or artisnaples.org/baker-museum
Take a visual tour of the garden: Philadelphia native Steve Tobin has created nature-based sculptures for more than three decades. His art, which explores the unseen power of the natural world, is on display through Sept. 6 at Naples Botanical Garden, 4820 Bayshore Drive. Open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. Free for members. Non-members: $20 adults, $10 children 4-17 and free for children 3 and younger. 239-643-7275 or naplesgarden.org
Explore the real Florida: A one-hour documentary in 2019 beautifully showcased Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center in East Naples. The attraction at 300 Tower Road in Naples reopened May 17 after being closed for the past year during the height of the pandemic. The current art exhibition is titled Rediscover Rookery Bay and is on view through Aug. 6. It features three works each by local photographers Dennis Goodman, Jean Hall and Martin Strasmore, and painters Paul Arsenault, Muffy Clark Gill and Dora Knuteson. Hours are 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. Cost is $8 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. More at rookerybay.org or 239-530-5972.
Marking the sands of time: Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park turned 50 in 2020, a gem for beach-goers, nature lovers and others for a half century. Thousands annually visit the park to swim, barbecue, fish, sunbathe, savor diverse wildlife, walk, go shelling, get married and more. The park is open from 8 a.m. to sundown every day. Cost is $6 per vehicle. Visit floridastateparks.org or call 239-597-6196 for more.
Three decades of dreaming became reality: The Gordon River Greenway opened in 2013, a place to get away from the city while really not traveling too far. Walk, ride your bike or kayak, walk your dog on or along the scenic from 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m. daily. There’s 12-foot wide pathways and 10-foot-wide elevated boardwalks. Restrooms and other amenities available. 1596 Golden Gate Parkway; 239-252-4000 or gordonrivergreenway.org
Where the wild things are: Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary offers a walk in nature that’s unique. Saunter down the 2.5-mile boardwalk and see, well, what won’t you see? Advance online reservations required, with no walk-ins accepted and no entry after 1:15 p.m. For more, visit corkscrew.audubon.org or call 239-348-9151.
Wonders revealed: Fakahatchee Strand State Park in Copeland is the largest state park in Florida, at 120 square miles. Florida is more than Disney World, pink flamingoes and gators, although you could see a few here. The park is open 8 a.m. to sunset daily and the cost is $3 per vehicle. Visit orchidswamp.org or call 239-695-1023
Revs roars with new managing director, more space: If you like cars, really cool ones from the past century or more, then you’re in luck. The Revs Institute may not look like much on the outside, but it’s the inside that counts. Among the top auto museums in the U.S. (and possibly the world). Take a break from the summer heat and walk back in time. Reservations required. revsinstitute.org or 239-687-7387
It’s a boy! Naples Zoo welcomes newest addition: The Naples Zoo is a great-sized zoo to spend a morning or afternoon exploring animals from throughout the world. For express entry, buys tickets online. Zoo hours are 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., with last timed entry at 3:30 p.m. napleszoo.org or 239-262-5409
Dave Osborn is the regional features editor of the Naples Daily News and News-Press. Follow him on Instagram @detroitdave88 and on Twitter @NDN_dosborn.