20 Aug 2015

Collier tourism fuels new hotels, crafty cocktails options

Published on 08/20/2015 by Marco Island Sun

20 Aug 2015

Published on 08/20/2015 by Marco Island Sun Times.

Continuing high occupancy at hotels in Naples and Marco Island over the summer and increases in visitors throughout the year is helping to fuel a growth wave that is bringing new hotel rooms and trendy spots for everyone to enjoy craft beer, fine wines and cocktails. Here’s a list of what’s happening, spied on my recent travels around the destination.

Marco Island Marriott Transformation

I had the chance to walk through the newly reopened Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort the other day after its 90-day closing over the summer. Work is continuing on guestroom renovations and on a new adults-only tower as the resort works toward its transformation to the JW Marriott brand, but there’s already an impressive list of new and noteworthy amenities as a result of the summer makeover.

Walk in the new lobby and your eyes are instantly drawn to the spectacular view across the pool and out to the Gulf of Mexico. Some of the large palm trees that used to line the courtyard were removed and the now unobstructed view welcomes guests to paradise in spectacular fashion.

Both pool decks at the Quinn’s and Tiki pools were expanded, providing space for hundreds of new pool chairs — something the resort realized was badly needed because of the demand in the high volume months. Isn’t it interesting how most people say they come here for the beach, but end of spending the majority of their time poolside? By the way, all those new chairs have flags you can put up to signal your friendly server for a frosty beverage refill. Who wouldn’t want to be there?

A stop at MAIA, the new all-day dining restaurant in the previous Tropik’s location, turned up an intriguing menu side item, charred bitter greens. I had just read that charred vegetables, fruits and just about anything is a growing foodie trend. Yes, I tried them, and yes, they were good — tasty with some crispy edges for texture. Stay tuned for more foodie fun. Kurrent’s, the resort’s former signature restaurant, re-opens next month as ARIO with a promise of “primal dining.”

For a peek at what’s to come with the resort’s introduction on Jan. 1, 2017, as the first JW Marriott beachfront resort in the continental U.S., visit jwmarco.com.

Hyatt House Naples/Fifth Avenue

A lot of people are wondering what’s being built across Fifth Avenue South from Port-O-Call Marina. It’s the new Hyatt House Naples. Architect Matt Kragh is bringing his signature color (white) and style — sleek and contemporary with touches of Old Florida design. The 186-room full service hotel will have a pedestrian walkway on the Gordon River. The opening is scheduled for March 1. For a list of amenities and services visit naples.house.hyatt.com.

Suds and Sips

Craft beer, fine wines by the glass and craft cocktails — all part of national trends that continue to expand across Naples and Marco Island — will soon be even easier to find.

Three guys who were brewing beer in their garages and a man cave recently received a conditional use permit from the City of Naples to open a craft brewery that will be called Riptide Brewing Company when it opens later this fall in the downtown design district at 987 Third Ave. N. near 10th Street.

Paradise Wine, a wine-centric retail space with several wine bars serving wines by the glass and light bites, is nearing completion at the Pavilion Shops in north Naples. The store will host tasting events and there are multiple spaces for group events that should make it a fun destination for nights out with friends or special celebrations.

Vom Fass at Mercato is a fascinating spot to learn about and taste exclusive cask-aged vinegars, exquisite oils, superior spirits and liqueurs direct from the cask. Check their events page at naples.vomfassusa.com/events for several cool cocktail tastings coming up featuring summer cocktails, scotch and more.

Ingrid Aielli has transformed the private dining enclave in the dining room at Sea Salt into the comfy Sea Salt Lounge, where she hosts free “Thursdays in the Lounge” spirits tastings from 6 to 8 p.m. until peak season returns. Tonight’s tasting event features Bacardi 8 and Bacardi Maestro. Call 239-434-7258 for more information and to RSVP.

JoNell Modys is the public relations and communications manager for the Naples, Marco Island, Everglades Convention and Visitors Bureau, the tourism marketing agency for Collier County, where more than 1.7 million visitors annually provide an economic impact of more than $1.8 billion. Check the destination website, paradisecoast.com, for more ideas on what to see and do in Florida’s Paradise Coast.

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