Free country concerts. Cool pinball machines. A sports complex packed with golf, pickleball and more.

If you’re looking for things to do this summer in Southwest Florida, 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 top things to do this summer in the Fort Myers/Bonita Springs area.

If you want to learn more, we’ve also included links to the original articles.

Chill out in downtown Fort Myers’ new Bay Street Yard

Staffers work on last-minute preparations Wednesday afternoon, May 22, 2024, at the Downtown Fort Myers outdoor venue Bay Street Yard. The establishment will include bars, concert stage, food truck spaces as well as table games among other amenities.

Staffers work on last-minute preparations Wednesday afternoon, May 22, 2024, at the Downtown Fort Myers outdoor venue Bay Street Yard. The establishment will include bars, concert stage, food truck spaces as well as table games among other amenities.

An “urban-chic” oasis in downtown Fort Myers.

That’s how the owners of Bay Street Yard describe their new outdoor entertainment venue on Bay Street, which opened in May just across from Luminary Hotel.

They say they’ve opened something unique in Southwest Florida: A laid-back, outdoor venue that’s home to food trucks, yard games, live music, sports-watching parties on a huge LED screen and two bars built inside metal shipping containers.

The three food trucks are parked in the venue’s paved food truck area. The lineup features Banzai Asian Cuisine (Asian food), Bay Street Butcher (American food) and Rick’s Taco Cartel (Mexican food).

Together, yhey offer everything from fried sushi rolls and Korean fried-chicken sandwiches to cheesesteak melts and smashburgers to shredded-beef tacos and churros in chocolate sauce.

For more information, visit BayStreetYard.com.

Bay Street Yard: New outdoor venue hits Fort Myers with concerts, food trucks

Play golf, pickleball and lots more at Bonita Springs’ Sports Challenge America

Sports Challenge America opened its 12 new, state-of-the-art pickleball courts in April 2024.Sports Challenge America opened its 12 new, state-of-the-art pickleball courts in April 2024.

Sports Challenge America opened its 12 new, state-of-the-art pickleball courts in April 2024.

They call it the first of its kind in the United States: A Bonita Springs attraction that promises to be “the ultimate destination” for sports fans.

Sports Challenge America quietly opened last summer on Bonita Beach Road, but it’s been slowly growing since then and adding more things to do. It’s latest addition: 12 new, state-of-the-art pickleball courts.

So far, thousands of people have played golf, basketball, pickleball, football and many other sports at the five-acre, indoor-outdoor complex, says general manager and executive vice president Shawn Veerasammy.

And if all goes well, Sports Challenge America will soon be expanding elsewhere in Florida and the United States.

“Sports Challenge America is a pilot project,” Veerasammy told The News-Press. “The goal is to open 100 of these facilities within 10 years. In many ways this is a ‘test kitchen’ for developing Sports Challenge America.”

For more information, visit sportschallengeamerica.com.

Sports Challenge America: ‘Ultimate destination’ for sports: Play golf, pickleball, lots more at unique Bonita spot

Watch a LOT of concerts at the 10th annual Island Hopper Songwriter Fest

Country singer Kristian Bush of Sugarland performs at the 2023 Island Hopper Songwriter Fest.Country singer Kristian Bush of Sugarland performs at the 2023 Island Hopper Songwriter Fest.

Country singer Kristian Bush of Sugarland performs at the 2023 Island Hopper Songwriter Fest.

Better than Bonnaroo? Cooler than the Monterey Jazz Fest?

Island Hopper Songwriter Fest is all that and more, according to the 2024 USA TODAY 10Best Readers’ Choice Awards.

The Southwest Florida festival — celebrating its 10th anniversary this September — was ranked the fourth-best music fest in the USA Today awards. That’s higher than Rhode Island’s Newport Jazz Festival (No. 10), Tennessee’s Bonnaroo (No. 7) and California’s Monterey Jazz Festival (No. 5).

Island Hopper features dozens of singer-songwriters ― mostly country artists ― spread across many Lee County venues. Tickets are sold for the headlining acts, but most of the concerts are free.

“The 10-day music festival in Southwest Florida launches on Captiva Island then moves to Cape Coral, Fort Myers, and Fort Myers Beach,” said a March 27 USA Today article announcing the winning music fests. “Artists play at various venues like art centers, hotels, restaurants, and resorts, so the vibe is chill.”

The fest returns Sept. 20-29. This year’s headliners include Jeffrey Steele, Kristian Bush and Scotty McCreery.

For more information, visit IslandHopperFest.com or facebook.com/islandhopperfest.

Island Hopper: SW Florida’s Island Hopper named one of 10Best U.S. music festivals by USA Today

Read a book by former News-Press journalists: From a ‘mango shooter’ mom to the new Doc Ford thriller

Annabelle Tometich, author of the new memoir "The Mango Tree"Annabelle Tometich, author of the new memoir "The Mango Tree"

Annabelle Tometich, author of the new memoir “The Mango Tree”

These former News-Press reporters have stayed busy writing since leaving for new adventures. Now you can read their latest books, including the new Doc Ford bestseller and a salute to the Fort Myers basketball tournament City of Palms Classic.

Former sports and growth-and-development reporter Dave Dorsey (now reporting for WINK News) has written two sports-related books. His latest celebrates the 50th anniversary of Fort Myers basketball tournament City of Palms Classic, which Dorsey has been covering since 1994. It’s called “Dunks, Threes, and Palm Trees: How the City of Palms Classic became High School Basketball’s Best Tournament.”

Then there’s former food writer and restaurant critic Annabelle Tometich, whose debut memoir has been racking up glowing reviews and mentions in the Washington Post, The New York Times and elsewhere. In “The Mango Tree,” Tometich takes on her chaotic childhood and her love/hate relationship with her fiery, whip-smart, complicated Filipina mother – infamous as the Fort Myers “mango shooter” arrested in 2015 for shooting a BB gun at a couple she claimed was stealing her mangoes.

Novelist Randy Wayne White, of course, has been the biggest success story of them all. His Doc Ford thrillers are regular New York Times bestsellers, including the new ‘One Deadly Eye.’ The story involves a hurricane tearing through Sanibel Island, a serial killer called the Vulture Monk and an organized gang of Russian mercenaries looting millionaire’s houses during the storm’s chaos. White based much of the book on his own experience riding out Hurricane Ian on Sanibel Island.

Annabelle Tometich: Florida writer makes NY Times, Wash. Post with memoir of fruit, Florida, felony

Dave Dorsey: City of Palms Classic author David Dorsey on his new book about the nation’s premier high school basketball tournament

Randy Wayne White: Novelist Randy Wayne White survived Hurricane Ian. Now it’s Doc Ford’s turn in new book

Practice your pinball wizardry at Fort Myers’ Pinball Asylum

"Robot" is one of the many pinball machines at The Pinball Asylum in south Fort Myers"Robot" is one of the many pinball machines at The Pinball Asylum in south Fort Myers

“Robot” is one of the many pinball machines at The Pinball Asylum in south Fort Myers

It’s one of the coolest places in Southwest Florida. But you can’t just walk in the door to see The Pinball Asylum’s collection of new and antique pinball machines ― one of the biggest in the country.

To get in, you have to email them and register first. Only then do they reveal the secret location.

But once you finally make it to the Asylum? It’s a paradise for pinball lovers: About 150 clinking, clanking pinball machines from modern games all the way back to the 1960s and ’70s.

The Pinball Asylum moved into a new, smaller location earlier this year. It’s now open every Saturday instead of only once or twice a month.

For more information, visit pinballasylum.com or facebook.com/PinballAsylum.

Pinball Asylum: Changes coming for one of biggest pinball collections in U.S.

Rock out at The Buddha LIVE – or maybe dance to a country show, instead

Fort Myers music venue Buddha LIVE has new owners, and they've made a lot of changes. That includes repainting the landmark Buddha statue out front. Here it is in December 2023 as it transitioned from red to its new gold look.Fort Myers music venue Buddha LIVE has new owners, and they've made a lot of changes. That includes repainting the landmark Buddha statue out front. Here it is in December 2023 as it transitioned from red to its new gold look.

Fort Myers music venue Buddha LIVE has new owners, and they’ve made a lot of changes. That includes repainting the landmark Buddha statue out front. Here it is in December 2023 as it transitioned from red to its new gold look.

Buddha LIVE ― one of Fort Myers’ oldest music venues — has new owners who have made a lot of changes to the place.

That includes new paint and décor, a renovated woman’s bathroom, a full-service kitchen and ― instead of mostly rock and metal bands, like before ― a new mix of genres that also includes local country, R&B and blues acts.

The new owners ― husband and wife Matt and Melanie Mikesh ― also repainted the popular, kitschy Buddha statue out front from red to its original gold.

For more information, visit facebook.com/TheBuddhaLive.

Buddha LIVE: Fort Myers’ Buddha LIVE statue goes gold. And the new owners are making more changes, too

Relax with a play or jazz show at new McGregor Boulevard theater Players Circle

Players Circle Theater co-founders Bob Cacioppo and Carrie Lund Cacioppo show off the theater's new home on McGregor Boulevard in south Fort Myers.Players Circle Theater co-founders Bob Cacioppo and Carrie Lund Cacioppo show off the theater's new home on McGregor Boulevard in south Fort Myers.

Players Circle Theater co-founders Bob Cacioppo and Carrie Lund Cacioppo show off the theater’s new home on McGregor Boulevard in south Fort Myers.

Florida Rep co-founder Bob Cacioppo opened his fourth Lee County theater in four decades last year on south Fort Myers’ busy McGregor Boulevard. He moved his Players Circle Theater from North Fort Myers to the space formerly occupied by New Phoenix Theatre (now defunct).

The 5,000-square-foot storefront marks a dramatic improvement over Players Circles’ former home at The Shell Factory, Cacioppo told The News-Press last year.

It’s twice the size, for one thing. And the ceiling is about 32-feet high ― three times what it was at The Shell Factory ― so now they can build two- or even three-level sets. Plus there’s an expanding lighting grid that combines Players Circle’s and New Phoenix’s lights into one big, $140,000 system.

The theater is home to musicals, plays and ― this summer ― a cabaret series with comedian RC Smith, jazz singer/pianist Danny Sinoff, a John Lennon tribute and more.

For more information, call 800-3292 or visit playerscircletheater.com.

Players Circle: ‘Elegant’ new theater opens on Fort Myers’ McGregor Blvd. near Landings

Waltz, foxtrot and tango with USA Dance in Fort Myers, Cape Coral

USA Dance national champions John and Penny DeFino are members of Cape Coral-Fort Myers USA Dance and teach classes for the chapter.USA Dance national champions John and Penny DeFino are members of Cape Coral-Fort Myers USA Dance and teach classes for the chapter.

USA Dance national champions John and Penny DeFino are members of Cape Coral-Fort Myers USA Dance and teach classes for the chapter.

For almost three decades, they’ve been spreading the joy of ballroom dancing in Southwest Florida.

Cape Coral-Fort Myers USA Dance offers low-cost group dance lessons every week, monthly dance parties and other events. The group was formed last year after two separate local chapters ― Fort Myers and Cape Coral ― merged into one big group again.

Chapter 6049 is part of the national organization USA Dance, which promotes ballroom dancing and other dance styles.

They offer lessons in nightclub two step, waltz, foxtrot, tango, cha-cha, East Coast Swing and other forms of ballroom dancing.

Most beginner and intermediate dance lessons cost $10-$12 per class, or $15-$17 for couples. They’re taught at various locations in Lee County.

For more information, call 863-703-2250, email [email protected] or visit facebook.com/southwestfloridausadance.

USA Dance: ‘People love to dance!’: Merged USA Dance offers cheap dance classes in Fort Myers, Cape

Hang out with gators, flamingos and more at Bonita’s Wonder Gardens

Bonita tourist attraction Wonder Gardens has gone through many changes since opening in 1936 as the Everglades Reptile Gardens. Now it’s a botanical garden and animal refuge that’s home to more than 300 rescued, rehabilitated and non-releasable animals.

That menagerie includes alligators, flamingoes, parrots, turtles, tortoises and Chinese golden pheasants. The place also features hundreds of native and exotic plants: Fruit and nut trees, palms, orchids, water lilies, ferns and even Ylang-Ylang trees (the scent used for Chanel No. 5 perfume).

And there’s more to come, too: The Wonder Gardens just signed a new operating agreement in April with the City of Bonita Springs. That’s expected to lead to many more changes and improvements over the next decade.

As part of the public-private partnership, the nonprofit will pay the city $50,000 a year in rent for the next 10 years and make at least $3 million in capital improvements during that time.

“The support of the City allows us to update and expand the Wonder Gardens experience while continuing what makes the Wonder Gardens so special,” said Wonder Gardens president and CEO Neil Anderson in an April news release. “With the City’s collaboration, we look forward to enhancing all that makes the Wonder Gardens a beloved community treasure that represents a link to the rich, cultural legacy of Bonita Springs.”

For more information, call 992-2591 or visit wondergardens.org.

Wonder Gardens: Bonita Spring attraction signs 10-year agreement to run, update ‘community treasure’

Watch a movie without people talking, texting at Naples’ new Alamo Drafthouse

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema opened in April 2024 at Mercato in North Naples.Alamo Drafthouse Cinema opened in April 2024 at Mercato in North Naples.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema opened in April 2024 at Mercato in North Naples.

Naples’ new Alamo Drafthouse movie theater has a strict policy about talking or texting during the movie. After a warning or two, they’ll kick you out of the theater.

No refunds.

So if you’re annoyed by people’s rude behavior at the movies, it might be worth the trip to Naples for a more refined, respectful experience.

The theater opened earlier this year in the former Silverspot Cinema at North Naples shopping center Mercato. It’s the national chain’s first Florida location.

Alamo also offers movie-themed mini golf, dinner at your theater seat, “eardrum-rattling” 7.1 Dolby surround sound and 11 theater rooms outfitted with laser and xenon movie projectors (including four with 4K projectors).

For more information, call 427-4463 or visit drafthouse.com/southwest-florida/theater/naples.

Alamo Drafthouse: No talking? No texting? Naples’ new theater is a movie lover’s paradise

Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. To reach him, call 239-335-0368 (for tickets to shows, call the venue) or email him at [email protected].

Follow or message him on social media: Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), X (formerly Twitter) (@charlesrunnells), Threads (@crunnells1) and Instagram (@crunnells1).

This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: Things to do this summer in Fort Myers: Pickleball, pinball and more

Share.
2024 © Network Today. All Rights Reserved.