School’s out, and there’s only so much Netflix a human being can watch.
So now what?
No worries. If you’re looking for things to do this summer, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve been writing about entertainment options all year long. In case you missed them, here are some of our articles on concerts, exhibits, attractions and more in Fort Myers, Cape Coral and the rest of Lee County.
— Charles Runnells, The News-Press arts and entertainment reporter
FastTrax amusement park revs to life in Fort Myers at the former Zoomers: After being dark for more than a year, the former Zoomers amusement park has revved back to life under new owners and a new name: FastTrax Entertainment.
And Brianna Coon-Walsh is here to tell you: It’s kind of awesome.
“We used to come here all the time,” the Fort Myers woman says, taking a break from duckpin bowling Thursday with her 10-year-old daughter. “It’s 800 times better now!”
Changes at the park include new electric go-karts, mostly new games in the arcade, seven lanes of duckpin bowling (a first for Southwest Florida), two bars and an expanded kitchen.
And more changes are coming, including a two-level covered patio with seating and a bumper-car pavilion.
Gator Mike’s in Cape Coral: Zip lines and more big changes: Lots of changes have been happening at the Cape Coral attraction, including an aerial park and zip lines, new arcade games, faster go-carts and a trampoline bungee that lets small kids jump 18 feet.
“We’re really starting to ramp things up,” owner Chris Scuderi said in March 2020. “We’re hitting on all cylinders. But we want to keep our foot on the gas pedal. We don’t want to slow down.”
Country stars Jimmie Allen and Michael Ray headline Island Hopper in Fort Myers, Captiva, FMB: After taking a break during the pandemic, the Island Hopper Songwriter Fest returns to Southwest Florida this September with two hit-making country-music stars.
The seventh-annual festival has announced two headliners: Jimmie Allen, who won New Male Artist of the Year at the 2021 Academy of Country Music Awards (making him the first Black artist to win that category); and Florida native Michael Ray, whose hit songs include the No. 1 country single “Kiss You in the Morning.”
Santana is coming to Florida, including Estero’s Hertz Arena: Rock legend Carlos Santana and his famous band hit the road this September for their new Blessings and Miracles Tour. The 15-date tour has three stops in Florida, including Sept. 19 at Estero’s Hertz Arena.
“Santana will perform high energy, passion-filled songs from their fifty year career, including fan favorites from Woodstock to Supernatural and beyond,” said a news release announcing the tour. “The band (which also features Santana’s wife, Cindy Blackman Santana, on drums) will also debut incredible new songs from a much-anticipated upcoming full-length album entitled Blessings and Miracles.”
Theater’s back in Fort Myers: New seasons announced at Broadway Palm, Lab Theater, New Phoenix: After a rough pandemic year, the curtain is rising again on a new season of theater in Southwest Florida. Florida Repertory Theatre already unveiled its 2021-22 season in May (see below). Now three more Fort Myers theaters have done the same: Broadway Palm, Lab Theater and New Phoenix Theatre.
There’s a lot to be excited about for theater lovers, including the first local production of “In the Heights” (Broadway Palm), the naughty puppets of “Avenue Q” (Lab Theater) and Go-Go’s musical “Head Over Heels” (New Phoenix).
Florida Rep’s uplifting new season: ‘West Side Story,’ Buddy Holly and more: It’s been 15 months since Florida Repertory Theatre has performed on its two indoor stages. That changes this September, when the theater company returns with the cabaret show “Let’s Fall in Love.”
The show technically opens Oct. 1, but there are also preview shows in late September. The rest of the season includes everything from “West Side Story” to the Pulitzer-winning drama “Driving Miss Daisy.”
Welcome to the Tiny Theatre: Florida Rep actors turn their closet into a stage on Facebook: Actors Brendan Powers and Rachel Burttram Powers usually perform onstage at Florida Repertory Theatre and Theatre Conspiracy. Then all the theaters closed during the pandemic.
So the married couple decided to convert a bedroom closet into their own Tiny Theatre — complete with a stage. Every Wednesday, they perform scenes, plays and monologues sent by their playwright friends.
“I get sort of in a funk if I’m not working on a project,” explains Rachel Burttram Powers. “An artist has to create! Otherwise, what’s our purpose with a capital P, you know?”
More theater: ‘Curious Incident,’ a play about the Parkland shootings and more SWFL shows announced: Five more theaters have unveiled their shows for the 2021-22 season, including Florida Rep’s August play “Bulletproof Backpack.” That original work explores the 2018 Parkland shootings.
Cape Coral’s Tal Anderson returns for final season of Netflix series ‘Atypical’: The fourth and final season of the hit TV series “Atypical” drops July 8 on Netflix. And once again, Tal Anderson is back on-screen as sassy college student Sidney.
This time, the former Cape Coral resident has a bigger role on the heartfelt comedy-drama. She’s even featured prominently in the show’s official trailer.
“I’m in a lot more episodes this season,” the actor says, “and Sid is a lot more prominent in the storyline. I’m so excited for everyone to get to know Sid a little more.”
ART AND EXHIBITS
Exhibit takes on U.S. mail, 2020 election. ‘We love the post office,’ says Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh: Artist Beatie Wolfe and singer-songwriter Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo created the “Postcards for Democracy” exhibit for FSW’s Rauschenberg Gallery. The project started as a “collective art demonstration” supporting the U.S. Postal Service, mail-in voting and the right to vote. But it eventually grew into much more than that.
People from all over the world submitted postcards decorated with all sorts of topics: The 2020 election, of course. And the post office. And Trump. But also Black Lives Matter. Human kindness. Racism. Feminism. QAnon. Science. The environment.
And there were other, less political topics, too: A one-eyed alien holding its arms out for a hug. The leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.” And lots of Devo-themed art.
For Art Walk, Davis Art Center’s new sculpture garden gets its rooftop debut: After 18 years of planning and two years of construction delays, Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center finally has its rooftop sculpture garden. It’s open during Art Walk and other special events, such as concerts planned for later this year.
Visitors can wander through the 13 sculptures in the rooftop’s current exhibit, including eight metal pieces from Miami artists Juan Miguel Vazquez and Mario Almaguer.
McCollum Hall’s new murals: Louis Armstrong, dancing and more revealed at Dunbar landmark: The Dunbar venue was THE place to be during the 1940s and ’50s. Music legends B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and more played there.
Now that colorful history has a colorful new mural to celebrate it: An 8-foot-tall wall behind McCollum Hall, painted with images of festive dancers and legendary musicians. Plus poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (the Dunbar community’s namesake), teacher Evelyn Sams Canady (founder of the annual Dunbar Easter Parade) and other notable figures from Dunbar’s past.
Cape Coral military museum finds new home at Edison Mall, just six weeks after closing: The Southwest Florida Military Museum can now be visited at Edison Mall in the former Disney Store. It features exhibits from World Wars I and II, the Revolutionary War, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Cold War and more.
Alliance for the Arts transforms with $1.2 million Water Wall and ArtsPark project: The Alliance’s campus has a new look, thanks to a $1.2 million project that includes sidewalks, an expanded pond and plants representing four Florida ecosystems.
Then there’s the centerpiece of the whole project: A towering blue wall called the “Caloosahatchee Water Wall.” The 22-foot-tall, anodized-aluminum sculpture shows the path of Florida’s Caloosahatchee River from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.
Sanibel’s new aquarium: Live octopuses, clams, a rare junonia and more at shell museum: Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum opened its $6 million aquarium exhibit in March 2020. Its displays and 11 aquarium tanks show both sea shells and the critters that live inside them, otherwise known as mollusks.
The giant octopus is one of the biggest stars of the exhibit. He often delights visitors by changing texture and color with his “moods,” says education coordinator Leigh Gay.
“You can tell when he’s angry. You can tell when he’s curious,” Gay says. “They change colors based on how they feel.”
Angry is a deep, deep red. Curious is a mottled, lighter red with small dark spots. “And when they’re sleeping, they turn this really white color, only a little bit of orange or red in them,” Gay says. “And they basically don’t move for hours.”
Want weird, wacky Florida news? Tune in to ‘Florida Freakshow’ podcast: Former News-Press engagement editor Cory O’Donnell and his wife Kirsten Britt O’Donnell host this Cape Coral-based podcast celebrating Florida’s weirdest, quirkiest news. New episodes are posted weekly.
Lee County’s first cat café, Cattyshack, opens at Gulf Coast Town Center: Almost everything at Cattyshack has a cat theme (and a golf theme, too). You can order cat-themed coffee drinks, read cat-themed books and hang out in a room full of cats.
The café’s golf theme comes from co-owner Andrew Townsend’s love of the Chevy Chase movie “Caddyshack.” “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched it,” he told The News-Press in 2019.
Dog-themed art bar Snouts and Strokes opens in downtown Fort Myers: It’s a bar. It’s an art gallery. It’s a package store. There’s a lot going on at Snouts and Strokes in downtown Fort Myers. But one thing ties everything together: Pets — especially dogs — and the people who love them.
“This is a bar for pet fanatics,” says co-owner Jency Emo. “If you like pets, then you’re gonna like this, right?”
— Connect with this reporter: Email email@example.com or connect on social media at Charles Runnells (Facebook), @charlesrunnells (Twitter) and @crunnells1 (Instagram).