Things to do in Southwest Florida with Visiting Friends & Family: Janet’s Itinerary

Do you live in Southwest Florida and looking for things to do with visiting friends or family? As a travel and outdoors blogger and writer, when family and friends come to visit, they leave the itinerary planning to me. In February 2020, before the world turned upside down with the coronavirus pandemic, my friend Janet visited. Here’s a sampling of what I planned for her weekend-long visit. We started in Sarasota and explored North Port, Punta Gorda, and North Fort Myers. Yes, it was a full weekend but a lot of fun.

Vita in Motu by Christian Sampson at the Sarasota Art Museum, Feb. 2020
Vita in Motu by Christian Sampson at the Sarasota Art Museum, Feb. 2020

Authentic & Artsy Sarasota

Lunch at Old Salty Dog in Sarasota

I picked up Janet from Sarasota and the first stop was finding the perfect spot for lunch. We dined at the Old Salty Dog on City Island, not too far from Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. The waterside eatery isn’t fancy, but they do serve up delicious pub fare like grouper sandwiches, tacos, and the famous Salty Dog, a quarter pound hot dog dipped in batter and deep-fried golden brown. They also serve fresh seafood. (The Old Salty Dog, 1601 Ken Thompson Pkwy, Sarasota, Fla. 34236)

Caveat: Birds have discovered the Old Salty Dog’s deliciousness and while sitting at my table, waiting for lunch, I looked up and spotted the butt of a sweet little sparrow. And then, almost in slow motion, I watched a pea-sized white, milk-like substance drop down on me. I let out a little squeal as it landed on my head. On the positive side, there wasn’t any food on the table and it was easy to wash out. Plus, my guest was spared, although it did provide her with lots of laughs.

Soak up Culture at the Sarasota Art Museum

The Sarasota Art Museum is a relatively new contemporary art museum in the historic Sarasota High School. The museum partnered with Ringling College of Art + Design and after years of visioning and planning, the result is a stunning masterpiece complementing Sarasota’s other cultural treasures. Galleries house rotating exhibits. (Sarasota Art Museum, 1001 S Tamiami Trl., Sarasota, Fla. 34236)

Janet and Me with Our Bullseyes at The Axe Haus in North Port, Fla., Feb. 2020
Janet and Me with Our Bullseyes at The Axe Haus in North Port, Fla., Feb. 2020

Hit a Bullseye at The Axe Haus

The newest place for an axe-llent time is The Axe Haus in North Port. I’m still perfecting throwing a bullseye yet Janet threw one on her first try! Me? Well, every one in 10 throws I hit the red. (The Axe Haus, 7040 Sumter Crossing Dr., North Port, Fla. 34287)

A Wet Trail at the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, Punta Gorda, Fla., Feb. 2020
A Wet Trail at the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, Punta Gorda, Fla., Feb. 2020

Cool Charlotte County

Hike at Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center

Janet is all about the outdoors, we both worked and lived in Everglades and Yellowstone National Parks and she walked across America! We trekked through the woods at the Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center and Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park. Portions of the trails were submerged in ankle-deep water which did not put a damper on the morning adventure. (Charlotte Harbor Environmental Center, 10941 Burnt Store Rd., Punta Gorda, Fla. 33955)

Crab Cake Eggs Benedicts at John Ski's House of Breakfast & Lunch in Punta Gorda, Fla., Feb. 2020
Crab Cake Eggs Benedicts at John Ski’s House of Breakfast & Lunch in Punta Gorda, Fla., Feb. 2020

Lunch at John Ski’s House of Breakfast & Lunch

John Ski’s House of Breakfast & Lunch for lunch hit the spot. Their crab cake eggs benedicts are out of this world! My friend opted for a burger with a fried egg and she, who has run restaurants, said it was one of the best she’s had. The service was friendly, too. (John Ski’s House of Breakfast & Lunch, 502 King St Ste A, Punta Gorda, Fla. 33950)

Distiller Alex Voss Giving a Tour at Alligator Bay Distillers in Punta Gorda, Fla., Feb. 2020
Distiller Alex Voss Giving a Tour at Alligator Bay Distillers in Punta Gorda, Fla., Feb. 2020

Taste Rum at Alligator Bay Distillers

Alligator Bay Distillers offers free tours and tastings every hour, at the top of the hour 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., Monday through Saturday. The family-owned distillery crafts award-winning rum with Florida molasses. (Alligator Bay Distillers, 25522 Marion Ave, Punta Gorda, Fla. 33950)

Brown and White Pelicans at the Peace River Wildlife Center in Punta Gorda, Fla., Feb. 2020
Brown and White Pelicans at the Peace River Wildlife Center in Punta Gorda, Fla., Feb. 2020

Viewing Wildlife at the Peace River Wildlife Center

The Peace River Wildlife Center provides tender care to abandoned, orphaned, and injured native wildlife. Some of the residents include white pelicans, a barred owl, raptors, shorebirds, and birds and some small mammals. (Peace River Wildlife Center, 3400 Ponce De Leon Pkwy., Punta Gorda, Fla. 33950)

Gulf of Mexico Sunset at Englewood Beach, Feb. 2020
Gulf of Mexico Sunset at Englewood Beach, Feb. 2020

Watching the Sunset at Englewood Beach

A Florida visit is complete with a Gulf sunset and Englewood Beach is the perfect spot. Shelling is fantastic right now, thanks to recent storms. This time of year, parking is at a premium and if you’re planning on visiting during the day, arrive early. If you are planning on visiting for sunset, give yourself enough time to find a parking space. (Can’t make the beach? Checkout the Englewood Beach Cam.)

Sugar-Free Turtle Sundae Ice Cream at Made in the Shade Ice Cream in Englewood, Fla., Feb. 2020

Dessert at Made in the Shade Ice Cream

Ice cream from Made in the Shade Ice Cream is the perfect way to cap off an evening. I’m watching my sugar intake and opted for the sugar-free Turtle Sundae ice cream and it was mighty good! (Made in the Shade Ice Cream, 2411 S Mccall Rd, Englewood, Fla. 34224 )

Brunch on a Farm in North Fort Myers

Delicious Farm-to-Table Dining at Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm

Sunday Brunch at Rosy Tomorrows Heritage Farm in North Fort Myers is a magical experience. This farm-to-table restaurant is on a 100-acre farm and raises 100 percent grass-fed cows, pastured heritage-breed hogs, and a variety of fowl. Herbs, salad greens, and other vegetables are grown, too. Other ingredients are sourced locally, including from Punta Gorda’s Worden Farm. Seating is family-style and the restaurant is open on select days. Reservations are a must. Menu items vary by season and if Passion Fruit Ice Cream is on the menu, order it. It’s a vibrant, creamy, and sweet citrus deductible treat. (8250 Nalle Grade Rd, North Fort Myers, Fla. 33917)

"Keep Our Beach Clean," Englewood Beach, Fla., Feb. 2020
“Keep Our Beach Clean,” Englewood Beach, Fla., Feb. 2020

Looking for More Ideas on What to See and Do in Southwest Florida?

Looking for more ideas on what to see and do in Southwest Florida? My blog has many, many more articles on things to do in Florida and Southwest Florida. You can search for “Florida” or select this link.

You can also visit the tourism websites for the destinations mentioned in this post:

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Author: Solo Travel Girl

Jennifer A. Huber is an award-winning travel and outdoor blogger and writer in Southwest Florida. Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., a hiking trail led her to a career path in the tourism industry for more than 30 years. She spent a decade with a park management company in Yellowstone, Death Valley, and Everglades National Parks. She founded the travel blog, SoloTravelGirl.com with the goal of inspiring others to travel alone, not lonely. The unexpected death of her former husband in 2008 reminded her how short life is. His passing was a catalyst for sharing her experiences with the goal of inspiring and empowering others to travel solo. Jennifer holds a Travel Marketing Professional certification from the Southeast Tourism Society, is a certified food judge, member of the NASA Social community, and alum of the FBI Citizens Academy. When not traveling, she is either in the kitchen, practicing her photography skills, or road tripping with her dog, Radcliff.

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