Jiri Vilim has no one but himself to blame.
Or, perhaps himself, a colleague and the magic of Christmas.
Upon hearing the Tween Waters Inn had been asked to simply donate a prize to the seventh annual Captiva Holiday Village Golf Cart Parade, the resort’s maintenance manager ambitiously chose to go the task one better.
Faced with a tight deadline, he enlisted the help of an assistant to go ahead and build the resort’s inaugural entry — and spent the better part of a week gathering and cutting plywood and dressing up a six-passenger golf cart as Santa’s sled.
Vilim said the cutting and building took about a day, with the balance of the effort spent on decorating and painting.
His gift arrived five days before Christmas in the form of a first-place trophy in the Commercial Division and the bragging rights that’ll accompany it, though he concedes that the unlikely victory will also bring pressure this time in 2017.
The 2016’s parade proceeds benefited the Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation.
Nearly 50 decorated golf carts rolled down Captiva Drive and Andy Rosse Lane with over-the-top displays of holiday spirit, including snowflakes, flamingos, and gingerbread houses.
Prizes were awarded in commercial and non-commercial categories, as well as to a best-in-show honoree.
“We did fabulous,” Vilim said. “This means that next year we have to go even bigger.”
The first year I moved to Florida, I worried that the holidays wouldn’t be quite the same as living in Wisconsin. No dreaming of a white Christmas. No bundled shoppers hurrying from one store to another. Even the thought of cuddling up by the fireplace had me taking off another layer of clothing. And I was right — the holidays aren’t quite the same…but in some ways, they’re even better!
There’s something really magical about the holidays on Captiva Island. Every year, ‘Tween Waters Inn hosts an annual Tree Lighting Ceremony the day after Thanksgiving, and it’s a show-stopping, 100,000 light miracle that can’t be missed.
Picture hundreds of people singing Christmas carols as 100,000 lights brighten the Captiva Island property. Picture Tony Lapi, CEO of ‘Tween Waters Inn, popping marshmallows from a shooter toward the kids. Imagine drinks, friendly conversation, fresh popcorn, and oh, yeah, Santa Claus, all set against the backdrop of a gorgeous Captiva sunset. If that’s not enough to get you in the mood, then stay for the fireworks — a guaranteed holiday spirit melter for even the coldest Grinch.
Yeah, it’s pretty magical, and if that’s not enough to impress, then get this — the entire event is FREE! Plus, if you’re looking to make an evening of it, then don’t forget to stay for the special tree lighting menu at Crow’s Nest and Captiva House afterward. Or, if you can’t stay, these two top-rated restaurants on property make for great holiday parties or stocking stuffers (think gift cards!) for family, friends and colleagues. I might as well just book the whole month at the resort this year.
I had taken my son and friends to the crab races at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa a time or two when they were young. Adopting and naming a hermit crab, then cheering it on in a race to the finish line: What’s a kid not to love about that?
That would have been the family-skewed races that take place at 6 p.m. every Monday and Thursday. The races take a hiatus the month of September, and will put the pedal down again starting Oct. 3, 2016.
We caught the last one of the season on Thursday, Aug. 18. This was my first adult-rated race, which started at 9 p.m. Three girlfriends joined me at the Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille for some pre-race munchies and cocktails. The season’s finale meant a big, noisy crowd – many of whom arrived super early to take one of the limited trackside seats around the round table.
I had always wondered how the adults race could get any more, well “racy,” than the family one. Commissioner Tim, who has been commandeering the races for more than 30 years, has a sarcastic, sassy sense of humor, but his witty double-entendres luckily escape the comprehension of young ones.
The fun gets a little rowdier and naughtier at the 9 p.m. show, but still the same tomfoolery, kazoo blowing, and good-natured taunting as the earlier one. Plus half the proceeds from crab “rental” ($5 each for the adult show) benefits the United Way. Good fun for a good cause.
Innsider Emily Experiences Karaoke at ‘Tween Waters Inn
It’s 9 o’clock on a Saturday, the regular crown shuffles in. There’s an old man sitting next to me, making love to tonic and gin. Except that’s not exactly right. It’s about 8:45 on a Wednesday, the regular crowd is here but so are the new midweek guests, and there’s an older gentleman sitting next to me, but instead of drinking gin, we’re laughing hysterically at the corner stage in the dining room.
Why? It’s the new karaoke night at the Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille, and one of the guests is singing “I will survive,” with the zest of a gaggle of bachelorette party girls. My buddy Les and I laugh, but as my turn starts to draw near, my laugh becomes a little less robust and little more, “oh my god, I actually have sing out loud.”
I promised myself I would try this out. I haven’t sang karaoke since high school, but on any given car ride alone or afternoon shower, you might here me jamming out to my favorite tune on the radio at the top of my lungs.
So now it really is 9 o’clock on Wednesday, and I’m singing “Piano Man.” No one has walked out in horror and I’m feeling good. “SING US A SONG YOU’RE THE PIANO MANNNNNN, SING US A SONG TONIGHT. LA, DEE DEE DAH DAH DAH.”
Yes, what I lack in skill, I make up in enthusiasm. I’m shaking in my boots, but I have to admit, I’m having fun — and so is everyone else! People are laughing, singing along, no one is judging and with a liquid courage, most people are actually not half bad. If you’re looking for a good time while on vacation (or even local), then you’ll find it at the Crow’s Nest, with almost nightly entertainment and specials!
I really don’t like making resolutions because I’m not very good at keeping them. This year however, I have a fool-proof plan. Yes, I want to lose a few pounds and be more active. I also want my kids to spend more time outdoors and less time in front of a screen. And alone-time with my spouse would be a miracle. I need a family vacation to fit with my New Year goals. The answer is ‘Tween Waters Inn.
A family vacation to ‘Tween Waters Inn makes keeping resolutions easy. For exercise, there is a fitness center with state-of-the-art equipment. The view is inspiring because it overlooks the pool (bikini bod encouragement?). But think outside of the box, and get your exercise in along the shore. Walk to the left and in two miles you’ll be at Blind Pass, where Sanibel and Captiva meet. It’s also a popular shelling spot. Round trip takes about 90 minutes. (Sometimes I call for a ride back!) Walk right, and you’ll end up at Redfish Pass. This is where Captiva and North Captiva go their separate ways. Again, 90 minutes round trip…and what a peaceful journey.
For the more active, there are tennis courts; rent a one- or two-person kayak and paddle the scenic back bay mangroves in search of wildlife like manatees or dolphin; the pool is heated so you can swim year-round in comfort; yoga on the beach is always a nice treat; and you can rent bikes onsite. I’d better make a reservation at The Spa at ‘Tween Waters to soothe my rarely used muscles. A couples’ massage would check off the last item on my list. Yes, I definitely resolve to vacation at ‘Tween Waters Inn. Come and join me, the weather is perfect.
You never know what you’re going to find when you wander down the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva. Case in point, while out looking for seashells, I have stumbled upon some amazing sand sculptures (see photos). I have found them all over the island, every month of the year, from the tip of Captiva to the Sanibel lighthouse.
I don’t know who builds them, or why, or what their motivation is, but I do know that these creations create quite a stir among beachgoers. After all, who wouldn’t want to just happen upon a smiling dragon? Or an octopus where every little suction cup on every leg has been created by the placement of a perfectly shaped seashell? Whoever you are, thank you for leaving these treasures!
While these sculptures are exciting to find when you find them, if you want to be guaranteed the chance the see sand art, plan to visit the Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship that’s held each November on Fort Myers Beach. (This year it’s Nov 20-29.) Talk about jaw-dropping. It’s the largest sand sculpting competition in the state and it draws hundreds of amateurs (and 25 master sculptors) from all over. In fact, USA Today and CNN Travel have named this is a ‘must see’ and one of the 10 best sand sculpting competitions in the world. And, ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort is a short ride away from all the excitement. Here’s a You Tube video that my friend Lauren and fellow VISIT FLORIDA insider made about her visit.
I hope these photos encourage you to come build your own sandcastles and other fun creatures. All you need is your imagination – we’ll supply the sand and water. If you do get creative, post your pics to our Facebook page. Build on!