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Exploring Gay Naples: Everything You Need to Know

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Historically, Naples, Florida is  not the first destination that comes to mind when considering a gay Florida getaway. But this sleepy beach town might now surprise you. While Naples isn’t visually brimming with burly bears or lipsticks lesbians, Naples is the perfect place to enjoy a touch of LGBTQ nightlife with a never-ending list of things to do, places to eat and opportunities to relax.

How the Visitor Bureau Drives LGBTQ Travel

Although the Naples region has traditionally catered to high-income, straight, retired couples and senior travelers, the demographic is changing. Naples is more LGBTQ-welcoming than ever before. While there are several reasons for the shift in inclusivity, including Naples Pride, marketing efforts taken by the Paradise Coast Visitor’s Bureau  are creating a positive impact. And we would be remiss if we didn’t highlight our favorite LGBTQ ally and Visitor’s Bureau Tourism Sales Assistant, Michelle Pirre.

A proud ally and mother of an LGBTQ child, Pirre is involved in nearly every Naples LGBTQ organization. She also travels to global LGBTQ travel conferences, statewide pride festivals, and has met with dozens of LGBTQ leaders and influencers to put Naples on the map as an LGBTQ-friendly place to visit.

Selfie. Left to Right: Michelle Pirre (Visitor’s Bureau Tourism Sales Assistant), Margaret Covello (my wife), Rachel Covello (me). Photo captured at Hampton Social in Naples, Florida. #roseallday

Where to Stay

There are several hotels and resort accommodations in and around the Naples region. Here are a few of our favorites from luxury to affordable.

La Playa Beach and Golf Resort

For luxury lovers, consider booking a stay at the La Playa Beach and Golf Resort. Home to the award-winning BALEEN restaurant, you won’t have to travel out of the resort to get an authentic local food experience.

The rooms at this hotel are beautifully decorated and incredibly comfortable. The property’s private beach offers stunning views of the Gulf. If you like to swim, then you’re in luck, because the pools on site are not only spacious but also uniquely designed to make you feel like you’ve been swept away onto a tropical island.

Book a massage or spa day to unwind. Or get in a workout at the onsite gym. Guests can also tee off at the 18-hole Robert Cupp-designed course and retreat to one of La Playa’s newly-renovated suites after hours.

Also check out my personal review from my Socially Isolated Gaycation at LaPlaya Beach and Golf Resort.

Holiday Inn Express and Suites – Downtown Naples 5th Avenue

Location, location, location!! The Holiday Inn Express and Suites on Downtown Naples 5th Avenue is centrally located. This 5th Avenue hotel is within walking distance to upscale shopping experiences, luxury spas, and the most stunning Naples beaches. Guests with a lot on their itinerary can enjoy a daily grab-and-go breakfast with a rich selection of hot and cold items. Beds are comfy, rooms are spacious, and the staff is friendly and accommodating.

Holiday Inn Express and Suites is also the host hotel for Naples Pride. Whether you’re taking part in a T-Dance pool party or enjoying a random getaway, make sure to soak up some sun and enjoy a drink or two from the tiki bar. Drink responsibly of course!

Staybridge Suites, Naples-Gulf Coast on Tamiami Trail

This pet-friendly and affordable hotel option is close to everything. This all-suite hotel has large rooms with full kitchens. Creature comfort amenities are available, including spacious desks, clean updated bathrooms, flat screen TVs, and lots of closet space.

Check out our Pet-Friendly Vacation Guide to Naples with our full review on the Staybridge Suites.

Note: The property charges a nominal deposit fee of $75 per pet per week.

Gay Naples Nightlife and Dining Out

Bambusa’s Bar & Grill

Empire Plaza, 600 Goodlette-Frank Rd, Naples

Bambusa’s Bar & Grill is the designated LGBTQ hot spot in Naples. It’s the obvious choice in town to see drag shows, connect with LGBTQ locals and enjoy a mix of entertainment and events, but this isn’t your typical gay bar with subpar bar food. The Bambusa menu alone is worth the visit!

Everything we sampled was delicious. From the Butternut Ravioli to the Sesame Seared Tuna and the Salmon, to the Tortellacci, not a morsel was left behind. The drinks were delicious, too.

Bambusa also offers several event services, including catering, private parties and dinner parties.

Celebration Park

2880 Becca Ave, Naples, FL 34112

This lesbian-owned food truck park offers flavors for every pallet. Whether you’re craving Asian cuisine, lobster rolls from Maine, or a taste of Greece, you can travel the world at Celebration Park. Don’t forget to top your meal off with ice cream. Also enjoy musical entertainment, fresh drinks (the margaritas were our favorite) and water views.

Celebration Park hosts Naples Pride fundraisers throughout the year, including the popular Live with Pride on the last Sunday in June. This all day party includes the Famous Pride Punch, art activities, food, and live music.

Three60 Market

2891 Bayview Drive, Naples, FL 34112

Located across the bay from Celebration Park, and owned by the same couple, is Three60 Market. This cafe, wine shop, and market is a foodie paradise. Enjoy a meal by the water or grab and go, whichever your fancy. And check out the new Three60 Wine shop, the newest addition to their growing gay Naples empire of restaurants and retail stores.

Bistro 821

821 5th Ave S, Naples

Located on the cosmopolitan Fifth Avenue South, Bistro 821 is the longest-running restaurant in the area. It combines Asian, European, and domestic flavors for a fresh seafood and beef experience.

Guests shouldn’t miss out on Prime Rib Night every Thursday. For one ticket, you can indulge yourself in a 14 oz cut of slow-roasted prime rib and your choice of delicious sides.

Jane’s Garden Cafe

1209 3rd St S, Naples

Drop by the fountain in Camargo Courtyard on the 13th and get a taste of Jane’s Garden Cafe’s award-winning breakfast of comfort foods, all made with the freshest ingredients. A few fan favorites include the Crab Cakes, Eggs Benedict, French Toast, and other classic dishes. 

Make sure to look up the weekend specials before hitting Jane’s!

Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro

865 5th Ave S, Naples, FL 34102

Innovative and beautiful, Bha! Bha! Persian Bistro is an experience for both the eyes and mouth. This 5th Avenue restaurant offers “old world flavor” with a “new world flare.” Bold flavors, sweet touches, and fragrant spices puts this award-winning cuisine as the top of our must-visit list.

Bha! Bha! is also LGBTQ owned!

Naples Princess Dinner Cruise

550 Port O Call Way, Naples

Both a sightseeing and dinner cruise, the Naples Princess provides a buffet-style dinner and an unforgettable view of Naples’ signature but elusive Green Flash. You’ll also get a guided tour of spots like Naples Bay, Port Royal, and Royal Harbor. 

As for food, the Sunset Dinner Cruise menu is ever-changing and features delicious dishes like Carved Prime Rib, Beef Tenderloin, Roast Beef, and fresh seafood.

Things to Do

With award-winning beaches, fishing, boating & Everglades adventures, live theater & music, museums, art galleries & historic sites, an incredible craft beer & foodie dining scene, relaxing spas & world-class shopping, championship golf courses, affordable resorts & hotels – Naples has something for everyone.

Shopping

5th Avenue

Head to 5th Avenue for a shop-til-you-drop experience. This “Main Street” of downtown Naples is lined with a mix of stores (both chains and boutiques) that caters to every budget, age and lifestyle. Our suggestions? Pick up a $5-$30 trinket at Best of Everything. The assortments of sterling silver and fashion jewelry is broad and deep. Handbags, scarves, hair accessories, sunglasses, gifts and plush toys are beautifully presented in the extraordinarily attractive store.

Then head over to Gallery One for both an art and shopping experience. One of Naples’ oldest established art galleries, Gallery One has been showcasing fine quality Contemporary Art and Unique American Crafts since 1992. With more than 300 artists represented, eye catching displays feature an extensive and diverse selection of colorful art glass, sculpture, original paintings, artesian jewelry, ‘Frogman’ bronze frogs and Judaica.

Check out our Complete Travel Guide to 5th Avenue.

A Rainy Winter Day on Naples 5th Ave, Photo by Rachel Covello

Sticks and Stones Collection

When you’re done walking around downtown, head to Sticks and Stones Collection at 5857 Shirley St, Naples Fl 34109 in Naples. This LGBTQ-owned store is packed with natural home decor and furniture, live edge and teak root tables, sculptures and wall decor, petrified wood, quartz crystals, fossils and other mineral accessories. These one-of-a-kind pieces are collected from around the world and brought to Naples to decorate homes and hotels throughout the region. Attention designers – this is a store worth visiting! Owner Cori Craciun is also the President of Naples Pride.

Tin City Waterfront Shops

Tin City Waterfront Marketplace in Historic downtown Naples, FL is the original shopping sensation and home to three unique buildings with a waterfront boardwalk full of activity, more then 30 charming boutiques, 2 waterfront restaurants and a variety of water adventures including daily sightseeing cruises, fishing charters, jet boat thrill rides and more!

Arts and Museums

If you are interested in a bit of culture, head to Artis-Naples, home to the Naples Philharmonic and The Baker Museum. This three-story facility was formerly the Naples Museum of Art.

If history is your thing, visit the Holocaust Museum & Cohen Education Center or visit Palm Cottage. Built in 1895, it is the oldest house currently standing in Naples inside of which is a museum inside.

Outdoor Experiences

Trike Tours At Tin City

1200 5th Ave S, Naples

For tourists who want insider knowledge about Naples’ local hotspots and historical sites, book a 90-minute Trike Tour at Tin City. Over an hour and a half, you’ll get to feast your eyes on the beautiful landscapes of Cambier Park, Naples Yacht Club, Crayton Cove, Bayfront, and more picture-perfect locations. 

Make sure to grab a bite at the pier after your guided tour!

Naples Botanical Gardens

4820 Bayshore Dr, Naples

While the Naples region is known for the Everglades and golfing, nothing is more magical than the Naples Botanical Garden. According to Trip Advisor, Naples Botanical Garden is “a 170-acre world-class garden paradise that features the plants and cultures of the tropics and subtropics. A hands-on interactive Children’s Garden along with 90 acres of beautifully restored natural habitats, walking trails and a Butterfly Garden offer educational entertainment and enjoyment for people of all ages.

Pure Florida Offshore Fishing

For offshore fishing adventures, head back to Tin City and sign up for a Pure Florida Deep Sea Fishing Adventure. We attempted to go out the day we visited, and almost made it 15 miles off the coast to catch some fish, but due to bad storms, we were called back in to shore. Safety first!

Beaches

Two of the best beaches in Naples are Vanderbilt Beach, where you can see loggerhead sea turtles every summer, and Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, which offers some of the most pristine stretches of beach in the state for tourists and locals to enjoy. But all of the beaches along the Naples coastline include serene sunsets and crystal blue waters.

Hotel guests watch the sunset from the Sunset Bar at The Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Resort. Photo by Rachel Covello
Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens

1590 Goodlette-Frank Rd, Naples

Naples Zoo is a nationally accredited zoo in a tropical setting. Visit some of your favorite animals like lions, giraffes, monkeys, pythons, and bears. In addition, the Zoo is host to feature exhibits and an array of more rarely seen creatures like the fosa of Madagascar or a giant anteater. Combining conservation and recreation, Naples Zoo offers fun for every generation.

 

Photo provided by Naples Pride

Naples Pride

If you’ve been searching for a true gay Naples experience and feel like it’s nowhere to be found, you’re in luck! The gay Naples family is here! The mission of Naples Pride is “to unite and empower the LGBTQ community of Collier County and to provide emergency support for those in crisis.”

Naples Pride Center

2248 Airport-Pulling Rd S, Naples, FL 34112

The Naples Pride Center opened in 2020 and is now the official home to Naples Pride. Naples Pride does more than host an annual Pride Festival. The 501(C)3 organization provides emergency funding, counseling resources and housing assistance to LGBTQ community members in need. Other programs focus on wellness, employment, social activities, legal, advocacy and providing LGBTQ-inclusive resources to area residents.

Naples Pride Festival

The Naples Pride Festival is traditionally held during the first weekend in June in Cambier Park, although may vary due to weather or unprecedented events. This celebration has grown by leaps and bounds thanks to a dedicated board of activists and leaders. Since 2017, this “all-inclusive annual festival draws thousands of people together to celebrate the unity and diversity of the LGBT community and to promote equal rights for all.” And it’s family friendly, too. With a non-stop program of entertainers, speakers, musicians, performers, vendors, exhibitors, kid’s activities, food and beverages, a day of fun and celebration is provided for all.

The Recap

We’ll admit that we were skeptical, at first, about writing a Gay Florida Travel experience review on Naples. But the food, sunsets, accommodations and LGBTQ-owned and managed restaurants were enough to convince us to return over and over again. If you’re looking for relaxation, romance or a recreation, look no further than Naples, Florida. For more information on Naples, visit the Paradise Coast Visitor’s Bureau website.


***Disclaimer: There is a good chance that this post contains affiliate or sponsor links. If you make a purchase through them, we may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you (for which we are extremely grateful).

Also, while we do our best to highlight LGBTQ-friendly destinations and businesses, info provided is based solely on personal experience and recommendations by community partners. We hope that nobody experiences discrimination or homophobia while visiting Florida, but we make no guarantees. Please inform us if you experience discrimination or homophobia while visiting any destination so we can make updates to our recommendations.

Written by Rachel Covello

Rachel Covello is an award-winning speaker, writer, diversity consultant, and LGBT advocate. She was the Founder of LGBT Equality Alliance, a Chester County, PA nonprofit organization. She is currently the Publisher of OutCoast.com and Producer of the OutCoast TV YouTube Channel, both of which highlight LGBTQ welcoming destinations in Florida.


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