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By Mike Miller Updated December 19, 2022
Naples, Florida is a special town with an interesting blend of history and modernity. It is in far Southwest Florida on the Gulf of Mexico. Its population is 22,206.
It is a small city within the larger Naples-Marco Island Metropolitan Statistical Area of 322,000. In the winter tourist season the population is much larger.
It is located on Interstate 75 and US-41. Both of these highways come down from the north and when they reach Naples they bend east toward Fort Lauderdale and Miami.
Naples history, at least in the modern era, began when the town was founded during the late 1880s by General John Stuart Williams and Walter N. Haldeman.
Williams was a former Confederate general known as John "Cerro Gordo" Williams for his exploits in the Mexican War.
He also served with distinction in the Civil War, and became a United States senator from Kentucky after the war.
Walter Haldeman was publisher of the Louisville Courier-Journal, an influential newspaper that was founded in 1868 and is still active in 2021.
READ MORE ABOUT NAPLES, FLORIDA HISTORY
The focus of present day life in Naples are the two historic business districts: Fifth Avenue South and Third Street.
Great restaurants and shops abound in both districts, which are in the heart of what is known as Old Naples.
Downtown Naples and Old Naples feature many art shows and classic car shows in the season.
Cambier Park is a local treasure in the heart of the city that has free movies every Saturday evening in season, and free band concerts every Sunday afternoon.
Free concerts were held for years every summer at the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club.
Sadly for locals, this resort is being converted into a condominium development, and the future of the concerts is uncertain.
Downtown Naples also features the Sugden Theater, a community showcase for live plays, and the Norris Center, a smaller venue at Cambier Park for plays and small musical events.
Von Liebig Art Center is on the northwest corner of Cambier Park. It features wonderful art exhibits all year long.
The Pelican Bay development just north of town features the Philharmonic Center For The Arts completed in 1989 at a cost of almost $20 million.
The "Phil", as locals call it, has a full program of music, dance and theater. Many traveling art exhibits also stop at the adjacent art museum.
Nature lovers will enjoy visiting the Everglades, whose nearest entrance is at Everglades City. You can explore the Everglades on foot or by canoe or airboat.
You can even ride in a swamp buggy. Guided tours in these uniquely Naples machines are offered by Everglades Island Airboat Tours.
Naples Botanical Garden.
Corner of Bayshore Drive and Thomasson Drive. 170 acres that were renovated and expanded in late 2009. One of the most unusual Florida tourist attractions.
You will see 7,633 different kinds of plants, 1,000 different kinds of orchids and thousands of fruit, palm and other tropical trees.
Open daily 9am to 5pm (2 pm in the summer), Admission for Adults $ 20.00, children 4-17 $ 10.00, Members and Children Under 4 FREE. 239-643-7275
Tin City Waterfront Marketplace.
U.S. 41 at Goodlette Road on the Gordon River. This is more than a shopping venue. It is part of Naples history.
The setting recalls Naples's nautical past, since the buildings were once part of a working waterfront in a typical little Florida fishing village.
Tin City's quaint boardwalks, tin-topped building and bayfront shops and eateries overlook the working docks of Naples Bay. A couple of tour boats operate out of Tin City.
This is about as laid back as it gets in Naples, and is one of the best known Naples Florida tourist attractions. 239-262-4200
Naples Trolley Tours.
Located at Tin City, this is a picturesque method of seeing the sights that were common in Naples 100 years ago and is still one of the city's most popular forms of public transportation.
This is a fun and educational way to see Naples. The tour is narrated and covers over 100 local features of interest. 1-800-592-0848.
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens.
1590 Goodlette Rd Naples Florida 34102. Located just south of Golden Gate Parkway. Tucked into quiet Naples, you may hear the laugh of hyenas, the chattering of monkeys, or the deep roar of lions.
This is a nationally accredited zoo, and considered to be one of the finest in the State of Florida. You will get to cruise on a guided boat tour past unique monkey islands.
Naples Zoo has been voted "Best Place for Kids" by several publications, and is one of the most popular Florida tourist attractions. 239-262-5409.
The Naples area also has dozens of parks and wildlife preserves, and a world class botanical garden.
The town has done a great job of preserving its historic residences and commercial buildings. Check out Palm Cottage, maybe the oldest building in Naples.
The neighborhood known as Old Naples within the City of Naples, Florida does not have a precise definition, but I'll give it a shot here.
I always think of the northwestern corner of Old Naples to be the Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club. This was one of the earliest hotels in modern Naples, and is still a great place to stay. The locals love it for drinks at sunset.
The southern limit of Old Naples are the neighborhoods south of 14th Avenue South.
HOW TO FIND NAPLES FLORIDA
Naples is in the far southwestern corner of the state at the intersection of US-41 and SR-84.
These were once the main north and south, east and west routes, but have been supplemented in recent years by I-75.
It doesn't matter; traffic congestion is an unfortunate way of life in popular Naples, especially during the winter.
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By Mike Miller, Copyright 2009-2023
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