Florida’s Paradise Coast is not in any danger of becoming a college Spring Break mecca, but in recent years the destination has experienced a refreshing youth movement. More people in their 20s and 30s are moving to the area, and more people in that age range are coming for visits, as couples or in groups. The youth infusion has added a jolt of energy to these environs. You can see it in the microbreweries, food trucks, coffee shops, nightclubs and live music bars that have cropped up.
Will Lawson, managing partner of Naples Beach Brewery has seen it happen firsthand. When the micro-brewery’s taproom opened five years ago, its owners wanted live music to be part of the experience. “There weren’t very many local bands to choose from,” he says. “But lo and behold, we started booking a few bands, and now I probably get two, three, up to five inquiries a week from new bands looking to play here.” Kids forming bands in garages around Naples. Looking for gigs. Who’d have thought?
Mark Remington was hanging out at Riptide Brewing Company on a Thursday night in September. In his 30s, he moved to Naples from Rhode Island two years ago and works as a realtor. “My wife and I visited here on a random vacation,” he says. “We stayed at a friend of a friend’s condo. The people were so friendly, and of course we loved the weather. So we made it an annual trip. Then we decided to pick up and move to Naples, start fresh. I love it here.”
A nightlife hub
Mercato , a high-energy outdoor mall in North Naples, has established itself as a young person’s alternative to downtown’s posh and more traditional 5th Avenue South. This dining and socializing collection includes Blue Martini, a nightclub and tapas lounge with live music that also has locations in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, Las Vegas and other party towns.
Cavo Lounge is nearby. It has all the nightspot trappings: happy hour seven days a week, craft martinis, VIP bottle service, Ladies Night on Wednesdays, Latin night on Tuesdays, reggae Thursdays, DJs on the weekends. The club serves small plates, and around 8 p.m. they clear away tables to make a spacious dance floor.
Lawson, of Naples Beach Brewery, has a theory as to why Florida’s Paradise Coast is starting to catch on with a younger crowd. “It’s a little quieter here,” he says. “That may have been a knock five or 10 years ago. People would think Fort Lauderdale. These days, the Paradise Coast is giving you everything you need to enjoy yourself, but it’s not quite as busy, it’s more low-key. It’s a relaxing spot to be in. And I don’t think relaxing has anything to do with age. Everyone on vacation wants to unwind, take a deep breath, and enjoy themselves — whether you’re 25 or 60.”