Few things are more sacred in Southwest Florida than the sunset. The Sunset Celebration at the Cape Coral Yacht Club has grown to become quite a popular place to be the first Wednesday of each month. The Yacht Club Beach offers several pavilions for live entertainment and vendors; some 40-50 local artists and entrepreneurs. Food trucks are also on hand, so once you find a place to park, you can stay for hours. Be sure to pack a beach chair or blanket, stretch out on the sand and enjoy the beautiful view of the Caloosahatchee River as it stretches to the Gulf of Mexico. The hours for this free event change with the seasons; 4-7 November-March; 5-8 April-June and October with time off July-September.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This monthly celebration at Cape Coral Yacht Club brings entertainment, artists and food vendors together in celebration of the area's amazing sunsets
Gina's expert tip: There is additional parking at the Veterans Museum, with free shuttle service to the beach from January through April
Get ready for some swashbuckling action with pirates including Captain Jack, Peg Leg Meg and Pick Pocket Pete, aboard the Pieces of Eight Pirate Cruise in Estero Bay. Your adventure begins at Salty Sam's Marina, just before the big bridge to Fort Myers Beach. The 65-foot Spanish Galleon-style ship sells snack food and has a full a bar; after all what respectable pirate takes to the seas without rum? The ship sails at different times starting at 9am and going until 8pm depending on the day of the week and time of year. You can upgrade your ticket to include pirate paraphernalia such as eye patches, swords, water pistols, hats and more. It's a fun and festive way to see the Fort Myers waterways.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This sunset cruise provides the views the booze and the swashbuckling fun for the young and old.
Gina's expert tip: The ride is even more fun if you dress in your own pirate theme
The Blue Coyote Supper Club Sanibel is a trendy restaurant at the Sanibel Island Golf Club Golf Course, where diners are greeted with a lush view of the well-maintained greens. But if you are not a golfer, you'll never see what really lies deep within the course, the native vegetation and wildlife. The golf cart eco tour is a brilliant pre-dinner activity for families and couples. Grab your camera, a beverages to go, the keys to a golf cart and take off through the nine holes for great photo ops of birds, iguanas and the occasional alligator. By the time you return, your table will be waiting for you and your appetite will have been primed. Tours run between 4:30-6:30 during the summer and fall.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: A fun pre-dining activity and an excellent way to see the beautiful landscape and natural vegetation on Sanibel Island.
Gina's expert tip: Be prepared for the occasional rain shower
If you love animals or are looking to connect with someone who does, the monthly Yappy Hour at The Bell Tower Shops is just for you. This free event takes place the second Friday of each month from 6-8 in the outdoor shopping malls center court. A benefit for the Gulf Coast Humane Society, the fun doesn't stop there. Besides pet friendly entertainment, many of the high end stores also open their doors to man's best friend, as long as they are accompanied by a human and a leash. Most restaurants here have outdoor seating which often times is taken over by as many water bowls as water glasses.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Dogs and their owners are welcomed into shops and outdoor restaurant at The Bell Tower, with special exhibits and entertainment in the center court.
Gina's expert tip: Great place for single animal lovers to connect
The Downtown River District of Fort Myers really comes alive during the monthly Art Walk, the first Friday of each month. Galleries, museums and shops stay open late, with special exhibits, activities and lots of music. Many even offer wine, while bars and restaurants often sell drinks from booths set up on the sidewalk in front of their establishments. The fun gets going early, at 6pm, and lasts until 10pm. Hop from gallery to gallery while glancing at unique works from local and national artists. Then stay for dinner or drinks at one of the many popular restaurants and bars, that might just have an art display of their own.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: A free, monthly activity on the charming streets of downtown Fort Myers. You don't have to be an art lover to love this event.
Gina's expert tip: Make a dinner reservation and hangout downtown
HeadPinz is a one-stop shop for early entertainment. This 48 thousand square foot entertainment complex is centered around bowling with three unique rooms containing 28 lanes and a killer sound system. However, the first thing to catch ones attention is the Game Zone, lit up like Las Vegas. Purchase a Passport to Fun Card, play as many of the popular arcade games as you can, then cash in your points for prizes. Kids and adults both like the ropes course, suspended above the Game Zone and JukinBox, with its lighted dance floor. Laser Tag is so popular that the wait for a 15-minute session is sometimes more than an hour. HeadPinz is also famous for its 48-inch pizzas and a sports bar where mom and dad can escape while the kids play.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This locally owned spot is massive, with arcade games, bowling, a ropes course, laser tag, dining and more.
Gina's expert tip: A perfect place to host a party or celebration
About an hour before sunset every Sunday, a crowd forms in the city's famous Centennial Park for the Fort Myers Drum Circle. This downtown, waterfront space has a large covered pavilion, perfect for the musicians, although other events occasionally force the circle to migrate to other spots in the park. Young and old come from all over Southwest Florida to play their instruments, banging out cool beats while the sun goes down, continuing into the evening hours. Not only drums, sometimes you'll find flautists and other percussionist, dancers, artists and lots of people who are happiest to simply watch and listen. Don't have an instrument? There are almost always extras on hand. Everyone is welcome in the drum circle. You never know who will show up but it is always entertaining and in a way, a bit healing too.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: For musicians who want to play and those who like to listen, this Sunday evening Drum Circle on the water, welcomes a fun loving crowd.
Gina's expert tip: Bring a chair or blanket and pack a cooler
There is always something going on at the dog track, even if there aren't any live races. The poker room is quite popular with daily early bird and high hand specials as well as tournaments. But the biggest draw surrounds high hands on Wednesday and Saturday where $500 is given away every half hour. Admission is free during non-live racing events, May-November, two-dollars otherwise. When the dogs aren't racing, the track simulcasts action from other tracks in Florida for your entertainment and betting. There is plenty of room for kids to move around on the first floor and grand strand area, concessions are available along with indoor dining options and a sky box. Open seven days a week, take note that men are not permitted in the poker rooms wearing tank tops.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Starting early in the day and through the night, you can wager on the Greyhounds or try your hand at poker too.
Gina's expert tip: The facility has event rooms if you have a large party
The Fort Myers area is an exciting place for baseball lovers. Not only for major league Spring Training games, but also for the Fort Myers Miracle, the Class A Minor League team for the Minnesota Twins. The Miracle have games in the afternoons and in the evenings during the regular season that runs from April to September. It's not just about baseball at these games; it's also about fun. Special events and promotions get kids and adults participating in amusing activities on the field and in the stands. There is almost always something fun going on here and the games are affordable.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: The Fort Myers Miracle, part of the Minnesota Twins minor league, provide some of the most affordable, fun and early entertainment for the entire family.
Gina's expert tip: Check the event calendar for weekly promos and specials
Beaches in the Fort Myers area are full at sunset. Some people watch in reverence as the sun slips away into the great Gulf of Mexico. However others like to celebrate, like victory in a sporting event, the conclusion of another day. These are the people who gather on Fridays and Saturdays for the Sunset Celebration at the so-called Times Square area of Fort Myers Beach. The square is a pedestrian area at the foot of the beach pier, full of shops, restaurants and bars. But for weekend sunsets, the paved space is taken over by artists, musicians and other performers, gathering to celebrate the mighty sun. Activity starts at 5:00 and will continue as late as 10pm. It's free and it provides great people watching.
Recommended for Early Entertainment because: This sunset party is not always serene as musicians, artists and entertainers gather to celebrate the end of another day.
Gina's expert tip: Park south and take a trolley to avoid traffic