Location: 26811 South Tamiami Trail | Bonita Springs, FL 34134
There are few things that are more quintessentially Southwest Florida than the Fort Myers Beach Lions Club Shrimp Festival. For two days in March, locals and visitors visit Fort Myers Beach to enjoy the parade, meet the Shrimp Festival Queen, and participate in arts and crafts, the shrimp-eating contest and the iconic shrimp boil and dinner. Last year, 30,000 people came out to the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival and parade and festival attendees consumed about 13,000 pounds of shrimp. This is the ultimate event for seafood lovers.
The Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival began as the Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet more than 50 years ago. Now it is a major celebration. Shrimp is known as “pink gold” to locals, and in the early days the shrimp industry was one of the things that helped put Fort Myers Beach on the map. Come enjoy a Southwest Florida tradition since 1959. Meet new people, enjoy the weather, try some shrimp and other seafood dishes, watch the parade, visit more than 100 arts and crafts vendors, watch live entertainment, meet the Shrimp Queen, or try to take home the title of the winner of the shrimp-eating competition. The Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival is an excuse to get out, eat a delicious meal, participate in some Southwest Florida culture and have a fun day on the beach.
It’s come a long way in 62 years. Today the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival raises tens of thousands of dollars for charities that provide assistance for services like eye surgeries, the Florida Lions Eye Bank, Southeast Guide Dogs, scholarships for area students, Little League and YouthSoccer, large print books for the local library, and Beach Elementary and Cypress Lakes High School students’ needs.
Lions Club secretary, Shelby Stites, is in charge of the parade float and shrimp-eating contest.
She says her favorite part of the event is the 10 a.m. parade on Saturday.
“You get to ride on the float and throw out candy. That ties it all together for me,” said Stites, who is a third generation Lions Club member.
She also loves seeing the festival come together.
“We work really hard and get lost in all that happens and forget the fun it creates for the community and what a big deal it is for them,” Stites said. “We work so hard. To take a step back and see the faces in the crowd and how much fun it creates for them and the camaraderie of the community, it hones in on why we do it in the first place.”
The March 14 and March 15, 2020, festival is from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both days. The free event is open to kids and adults and there’s something for the entire family to enjoy.
The Shrimp Festival grounds are located at Lynn Hall Memorial Park at 950 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, 33931.
Some people opt to leave their cars off-island and take the LeeTran trolley to the festival. There is plenty of parking at LeeTran’s Beach Park and Ride facility at the corner of Summerlin Square Drive and Pine Ridge Road. The LeeTran trolley takes you to Fort Myers Beach. Once on the island, a free tram service runs continuously to help you get from point A to point B.
Keep in mind that the Matanzas Pass Bridge will be closed from 9 a.m. to noon for the Saturday morning parade. If you’d like to access the beach from San Carlos Boulevard you should arrive before 8 a.m. The only bridge open to Estero Island during the parade is from Bonita Springs, about 16 miles south.
If you choose to park on the beach, there is a pay lot you can use on the north side of the island. From the south, you can park at Santini Plaza in the 7200 block of Estero Boulevard, or at Lovers Key State Park.
The parade of the season begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 14. The one-and-a-half-mile-long route runs down the main street of town, Estero Boulevard. Many people get there early to claim a prime viewing spot, so if you want first dibs, prepare to get there by 9 a.m. The parade starts near Fort Myers Beach Elementary School and ends at Lynn Hall Park next to Times Square. It has run the same route for 60 years and it’s a piece of Southwest Florida history. To watch it live visit, http://cam1.fortmyersbeachfl.gov/view/view.shtml?id=16327&imagepath=%2Fmjpg%2Fvideo.mjpg&size=1.
For more than 50 years, the Fort Myers Beach Lions have been serving delicious Gulf shrimp to festival attendees. In fact, many festival goers attend the event just for the delicious pink shrimp dinner. The secrets of the perfectly cooked peel and eat shrimp have been in the Lions family for generations, passed down throughout the years from boil master to boil master. The Lions also use their secret recipe for cocktail sauce. This is a dinner fit for a king or queen. The shrimp comes straight from the Fort Myers Beach shrimp boat fleet. It’s a whole operation. The Lions boil shrimp for two days, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They make it a priority for festival goers to experience the goodness that is shrimp directly from the Gulf of Mexico.
The shrimp-eating contest has become a new island tradition. Ten sponsored contestants compete to eat as many pounds of cooked and peeled shrimp as they can in eight minutes. They are distributed to contestants in pre-weighed portions. Whoever eats the most wins! Will Fort Myers Beach firefighter, Joel, be crowned the Shrimp King yet again or will a newcomer outlast him?
The Shrimp Run 5k, presented by the Cypress Lake High School Athletic Booster Club and Cypress Lake High School, is back. It’ll twice take over the Matanzas Pass Bridge while thousands of onlookers cheer the runners on! It starts and ends at Doc Ford’s restaurant.
There is also a run for kids. The Kids Shrimp Run is a one-mile run on the beach sand and it takes place on the first Saturday in March. Each participant gets a T-shirt and accolades will be awarded to the top-three finishers for each gender per grade, Kindergarten through fifth grade. The free race will begin at the beach access on Gulf Beach Road. Each grade will be released separately and the race begins at 8 a.m.
Before the first Shrimp Festival was held in 1959, there was an event called Beach Day. St Raphael’s Episcopal Church sponsored the Blessing of the Shrimp Fleet, which was held on the Beach Pier. Shrimp rolls were sold in the county park.
“We started it from the beginning,” Stites said.
But at first, instead of shrimp, the Lions sold barbeque chicken dinners.
“Someone asked why we were selling chicken dinners at a shrimp festival and we stopped that and got local shrimp from shrimp boats, and turned it into a shrimp festival with shrimp from local shrimp boats,” Stites said.
And they haven’t looked back since.
“We’ve got some new members this year and they’ve reminded us that some people move down to the beach after experiencing the Shrimp Festival because they’ve decided this is where they want to be,” Stites said. “It brings everyone together. They (locals) consider it a holiday. For the community, it’s a way to get together. It’s all about the local pink shrimp.”
It also gives the local economy a boost.
“Everyone is slam jam-packed,” Stites said.
And every dollar raised goes back to the local community.
Stites says the Lions raise more than $60,000 in two days.
“We distribute funds we raise to local food pantries, students at the Beach School, help families in need, and all sorts of other efforts,” she said. “We can’t keep any of the money for ourselves. One-hundred percent of the money we raise goes back to the community.”
Come visit us on the beach and check out the Fort Myers Beach Shrimp Festival. Soak up the warm Southwest Florida sunshine, mingle with the locals, try some freshly boiled peel-and-eat shrimp and take advantage of this local tradition. If you’d like to dip your toes into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico or take in one of our famous sunsets, any of our Vacation Planning Advisers will be happy to help you book a vacation in paradise. We have all sorts of rentals available, whether you’re looking for something to accommodate a large family or a romantic vacation for two. Call us today and let us know how we can help. Creating lasting memories is what we do best!
Naples is known for being a cultural and artistic hub in Southwest Florida and people come from all over to enjoy the annual two-day Naples National Art Show. In 2018, Sunshine Artists Magazine ranked it No. 18 out of 25 art shows in the country—and it’s easy to see why. The show has been a Naples stable for decades!
The Naples National Art Show is one of the oldest art shows in Naples and locals consider it to be one of its premiere must-see events. It’s also a fun event the whole family can enjoy. You can catch the show at Cambier Park in Downtown Naples and when you’re done you can stroll up and down Fifth Avenue South and eat at one of the many delicious dining options. The Naples National Art Show also features high-quality work, so if you’re looking for more home décor options, this is a great event to plan your trip to Southwest Florida around. Royal Shell has a variety of vacation homes in Naples, too. It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling with a large group or it’s just you and your significant other. We have homes in all shapes and sizes.
Come out on Feb. 22 and 23, but make sure you get there early as parking is somewhat limited. The show will be held at scenic Cambier Park at 755 Eighth Avenue South. The show is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and there is a concert after the show on Saturday. It’s free to enter and look at all the beautiful artworks, but a $5 donation is suggested. Come enjoy the beautiful weather in Southwest Florida and celebrate these national ranking artists!
Not only is this a great art show, but it is also a competitive event for the artists. The Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau says the Naples National Art Festival draws more than 20,000 residents and visitors. Meet some of the finest artists from across the United States. Downtown Naples is an idyllic setting for this event, too. It features Spanish and Mediterranean architecture, the landscaping is on point and it looks like it could be on a postcard from Europe. It’s hard not to be in a good mood when you visit!
The juried art show will showcase approximately 190 artists. Since the show is so prestigious and well-known, it features some seriously talented artists. The fine art and craft show features all different types of mediums, too. These include digital art, furniture, ceramics, leather and fiber, jewelry, glass, metal, printmaking and graphics, mixed media 3D, mixed media 2D, sculpture, wood, photography and painting.
Ceramics must be originally shaped and fired clay. This includes earthenware, stoneware, terracotta and porcelain. Digital art should be original and signed. Fiber includes non-wearable artwork from fibers such as batik, basketry, tapestry, papermaking and weaving. Wearable art includes leather goods and clothing.
Furniture can be constructed in any material that is functional as a piece of furniture. Glass work should consist of blown glass, stained glass or fused glass. Drawings are made from pastels, graphite, wax crayon, charcoal or chalk. Jewelry should be made from precious stones, gold, enamel, gold, sterling silver or silver.
Mixed Media 2D incorporates more than one type of media, has a relief depth of less than 1/8 of an inch and includes collage and handmade paper. Mixed Media 3D should be non-functional work and combine more than one material or media and exceed 1/8of an inch in depth.
Oil, watercolor and acrylic paintings can be a still life, landscape, portrait or abstract. Photos should be signed prints created by the artist from their own original digital files or negatives.
Make it an all-day thing and stay for the 5 to 7 p.m. concert at the Cambier Park Band Shell. Relax in your lawn chair and listen to the Blu-Tones. The weather this time of year is perfect for an outdoor concert. There will be small bites of food from Artichoke and Company in Bonita Springs. The Blu-Tones have been on the Southwest Florida music scene for about 10 years and they specialize in songs from the 1950s to the 1970s.
The great thing about the Naples National Art Show being in Downtown Naples is that there are so many great things to do after the show’s over. The beach at the end of Fifth Avenue South is about a 20-minute walk from Cambier Park. Driving is the best way to get there, but parking can be limited during this time of year. You’ll also be happy to know that there is a Starbucks in front of Cambier Park and an ice cream shop across the street from there. And if you have a taste for even more art, there are a handful of galleries along Fifth Avenue South and Third Street South.
Some popular restaurants near the Naples National Art Show and Cambier Park include:
When you’re done eating dinner, you can stroll along Fifth Avenue South and take in the sights. There are orb lights hanging from the trees and when they’re lit up at night, it gives the whole street a romantic vibe. It’s great for lovers, but also soothing enough for children and other families to enjoy. Fifth Avenue South is a hub for foodies, artists and people who appreciate the finer things in life. Visiting for the Naples National Art Show is just the icing on the cake!
Royal Shell has a variety of vacation rental homes near the Naples National Art Show. Let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll do our very best to find it for you! If you have any questions about things to do in Naples or more questions about the Naples National Art Show, we can answer those, too. Our favorite part of what we do is helping you create lasting memories you’ll treasure forever.
Stroll through downtown Fort Myers and enjoy the unique works of art, warm weather, glimpses of the Caloosahatchee River, Fort Myers waterfront, and meet artists from around the world. ArtFest Fort Myers began in 2001 and it’s one of the largest and most beloved art festivals in the country. Professional artists from nearly all 50 states showcase their work in the downtown River District, where the streets are blocked off, and the whole event feels like a block party in the winter. There will also be a sidewalk chalk-art competition, art demonstrations, children’s craft area and children’s art activities, high school art competition, and high-end food court. Attendees may also purchase the works they see.
ArtFest Fort Myers takes place over three days this year on the last day of January and during the first couple days of February. More than 200 artists display their works. There are also performance stages and food vendors. It’s a fun event you can bring the entire family to. The festival uses its proceeds to promote the arts in local schools. ArtFest Fort Myers isn’t limited to one age group either. There is a high school art competition and children are invited to make their own masterpieces in the Art Yard.
While ArtFest Fort Myers is a juried fine art festival, it’s also a great opportunity to purchase new pieces for your home or maybe as a gift for the art lover in your life. If you’re looking for a variety, this is where you’ll find it!
VIP tickets for opening night are available. There will be 65 artists at the event for you to meet and get to know. One section of the art show will also be open from 5 to 9 p.m., so you can be one of the first to experience the artists’ creations.
A lot goes into planning the event. In fact, it takes a year to organize it. A three-person committee is responsible for looking over the previous year’s event to help get ready for the next one. A local TV news station says that beginning in March, the team holds 25 meetings to discuss how the three-day festival went. The committee starts choosing artists in May.
Out of 900 applications, only about 200 are accepted. From ceramics, glasswork, clothing, to jewelry, there will be all types of mediums at ArtFest Fort Myers. The jurors are an assorted group of experienced art professionals selected for their backgrounds and appreciation of the value of art festivals. Each year, members vary and the panel often includes a festival artist. The jurors also do not know the names of the artists or anything else about them.
The Publix Run to the Arts is a 5k set in the beautiful backdrop of the Caloosahatchee River. There are post-race events, too. Attendees will receive breakfast, race awards, a chance to make art at the Silk Experience and door prizes. There will also be live music. Be sure to register at www.runtothearts.com by Dec. 30 so you can make sure you get the T-shirt size you want! Children 12 and older can participate in the race and runners under 16 must have an adult with them.
The course starts and ends at the corner of Bay Street and Monroe Street, in front of the Harborside Event Center. The race’s route goes from Bay Street to Lee Street, over the Caloosahatchee Bridge and back over the same course.
We have a variety of vacation rental homes in Fort Myers, including along the McGregor Boulevard corridor. This desired location also isn’t far from the downtown Fort Myers historic district. Whether you’re vacationing with your significant other, a small group of friends or the entire family, we have homes that accommodate every type of vacation.
From Dec. 2-15, Southwest Floridians get to experience a variety of restaurants at a discounted price from Marco Island to Cape Coral. The Sizzle SWFL Restaurant Week also donates $1 from every Restaurant Week meal sold to the Sizzle SWFL FGCU Food & Beverage Scholarship. You can eat like a king or queen, and it benefits a great cause. It’s the best of both worlds.
The semi-annual, charity-driven Sizzle SWFL Restaurant Week gives both visitors and locals a chance to try all the restaurants on their wish list, and to visit places that may be new to them. Restaurants from Collier to Lee County will offer a two-course lunch and/or a three-course dinner with fixed price menus. Sizzle SWFL Restaurant Week celebrates the concept of dining out for an affordable price, and one of its goals is to raise awareness and make a positive impact on Southwest Florida’s varied culinary community.
There are so many original restaurants offering delicious food in Southwest Florida. Restaurant Week wants to showcase them so everyone has a chance to discover and enjoy a great meal. Sizzle SWFL Restaurant Week’s goal is to strengthen Southwest Florida’s brand and culinary reputation. Local businesses feel the effects of restaurant week, too. Participating restaurants order more supplies, have more people working and see increased traffic and business. Combine that with the uptick in business for hotels, entertainment, shopping centers, and other local businesses, and nearly everyone in the local food and hospitality sectors feel the benefits from the impact of tourism dollars spent across Southwest Florida during restaurant week.
A dollar from every restaurant week meal benefits the Sizzle SWFL FGCU Food & Beverage Scholarship. It will be used to help teach and fund the next generation of local chefs, directors, supervisors, servers, caterers, managers and concierges.
Last year, over 60,000 Restaurant Week meals were sold and participating restaurants donated more than $20,000 to the Sizzle SWFL FGCU Food & Beverage Scholarship. This scholarship helps local restaurants find and hire more qualified staff members.
We have a diverse selection of rental properties throughout Southwest Florida, from Naples to Cape Coral to Sanibel and Captiva Islands. The good thing about all of the cities participating in restaurant week is they are not far from each other, if you’d like to venture out and try several new options. Estero and Bonita Springs are more centrally located. They are less than an hour north of Naples and downtown Naples, and less than an hour south of Fort Myers and Cape Coral. If you’d rather stick to one municipality, you have plenty of choices in each city.
Sizzle SWFL Restaurant Week has been growing and gaining popularity for years and the 2019 Restaurant Week is no exception. It’s the perfect chance to indulge in new food and create lasting memories with the ones you love. Let us know which restaurants you visited and which ones you loved the most. We’re always looking for new places to try, too!
Let us know if you have any questions about the area before you book. Our Vacation Planning Advisers are well-equipped to address your questions and concerns. They’ll help you plan your trip and make sure you’re set up for success. Our goal is for you to have the best possible vacation while you’re here in paradise. Mouthwatering entrees from Sizzle SWFL Restaurant Week are just the icing on the cake!
The 33rd Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship will make Fort Myers Beach its home for 10 days at the end of November and the first day of December.
The American Sand Sculpting Championship is the largest sand sculpting competition in the United States and people come from all over to compete. More than 30 sculptors from eight nations, including World Class Master Sand Sculptors and amateurs, will compete in a sequence of competitions to see who will be the next American Champion. The event will also include a kids’ activity area, quick sand speed sculpting, music, sand sculpting demonstrations and a vendor village. Food and beverages are available for purchase.
The last Saturday of the Fort Myers Beach, FL, event includes something special on Nov. 30. There will be a new viewing called “Sand Under The Stars” from 6 to 9 p.m. in which the sculptures will be illuminated and displayed under the night sky.
There will be free parking and a shuttle service at the Lovers Key grass lot at 8700 Estero Blvd. in Fort Myers Beach. Paid parking is also an option at businesses closer to the event, which is located behind the Wyndham Garden Hotel.
This event is from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 22-Dec. 1.
There will be nearly 50 sculptures made by 10 advanced amateurs competing in the Florida State Championships, 10 Masters competing in doubles and 16 Masters competing in solos.
In addition to people creating impressive works of art, the American Sand Sculpting competition will feature more than 40 arts and crafts vendors, food and drinks, photo opportunities and a people’s choice award. The VIP pass has also been reinstated this year. It includes a complimentary event T-shirt, food and beverage, as well as access to a private sand lounge.
Last year, sculptors worked with about 600 gallons of water and 10 tons of sand for each of their masterpieces.
The 2018 Master Sculptor Solo Division winners included John Gowdy from the U.S. in first place with “A Tribute to the Wildland Firefighters of California,” Melineige Beauregard from Canada took home second place and the sculptor’s choice award with “You Make My Heart Burn,” and Seveline Beauregard, also from Canada, received third with “Dance and Breathe.”
As for the Master Sculptor Doubles Division, “Return to Oz” by Bruce Phillips and Jihoon Choi won first place, sculptor’s choice and people’s choice. John Gowdy and Laura Cimador-Gowdy took home second with “Dreaming Nonna’s Bedtime Stories” and “Connected/Disconnected” by Bert Adams and DeLayne Corbett received third.
The Advanced Amateur Division winners were “Alien Vacation” by Lisa Fewless in first place and “Pucker Up” by Amanda Bolduc.
In a local news article, President of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce, Jacki Liszak, said the American Sand Sculpting Championship had a huge economic impact.
“With 50,000 people coming in and putting heads in beds and staying the night, we don’t have hard numbers, but it has a significant impact,” she said. “It’s also over the holiday week, so a lot of people turn this into their vacation.”
Thousands of people visit the Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship on Fort Myers Beach each year. Whether you planned your trip around the competition or you stumbled upon it during your stay, it’s worth taking half a day to visit the beach and admire the creative sculptures. If you want to stay as close as possible to the action, we can help accommodate you. We have rooms available at RL Ambassador Suites, which is about a five-minute walk from the site of the event. We also have a variety of rental homes available on Fort Myers Beach. Let us know which option is right for you, and our Vacation Planning Advisers will get started searching for it right away.
If you’re visiting our slice of paradise to celebrate the holiday with your loved ones, you’ll need to know which Southwest Florida restaurants are open on Thanksgiving to help plan your day. That is, unless you want to go to the grocery store, haul everything back home, and spend the entire day cooking up a feast. If you do, we salute you and ask that you save us some leftovers. If you’re looking for something less stressful, this blog post will give you plenty of options.
From Naples to Sanibel and Captiva Islands, there are many Southwest Florida restaurants open on Thanksgiving that will make your mouth water. The best part? You won’t have to mix, chop or bake anything! There are a lot of restaurants in Southwest Florida throughout Collier and Lee Counties that are open on Thanksgiving. If you don’t want to cook, you have a lot of choices, and you’ll still get to enjoy the traditional turkey breast, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, green beans, butternut squash soup, and your other Thanksgiving favorites. From special Thanksgiving menus and Thanksgiving meals to scrumptious buffets, you’ll find a cornucopia of choices.
Many of the restaurants on this list are open for breakfast and lunch, too! You don’t have to settle for just a great dinner, you can indulge in some of Southwest Florida’s best for all three meals of the day.
Some of these eateries don’t require reservations, but many of them do. Southwest Florida, and especially Sanibel and Captiva Islands, are popular vacation destinations and restaurants get even busier around the holidays. To be on the safe side and to ensure you get to eat at the first restaurant of your choice, it’s better to err on the side of caution and make a reservation.
Let us know where you end up. This list has some great options. We only wish we could try them all!
Regardless of where you’re staying, all of these Southwest Florida restaurants open on Thanksgiving are sure to serve up great culinary options that won’t disappoint. If you have a question about any of these restaurants or how to get to them, we can help! If you have a particular craving, we can point you to an option that will satisfy your cravings and your taste buds.
We hope you have a great Thanksgiving holiday and we hope to see you again next year. The holiday is about relaxing and giving thanks and we are thankful for customers like you!