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Holiday magic pushes TWI sled to parade win

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.”

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The Holidays on Captiva Island | ‘Tween Waters Inn Tree Lighting

Holiday Tree Lighting

Holidays Tree LightingThe 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.

November 25, 2016 | The fun begins around 4PM! | FREE to all | Arrive early to secure parking | Fireworks finale!

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.

 

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Getting Silly with Girlfriends at ‘Tween Waters’ Crab Races on Captiva Island

As much fun as you can have with hermit crabs
As much fun as you can have with hermit crabs

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.

Commissioner Tim explains the rules before the races start.
Commissioner Tim explains the rules before the races start.
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Karaoke on Captiva | Fun Things To Do at ‘Tween

Karaoke Specials Tween

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.

Karaoke: Wednesdays | 8:30-11:30PM | Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille

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!

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The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year Here Is January!

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During the winter season on Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Southwest Florida life is simply cool and as easy as a breeze.
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Aside from the temps and the weather we enjoy every year at this time, life around the Islands also gets a little busier and a lot more fun. Because of the beautiful environment found from one end of the islands to the other, in January the last of our winter residents and neighbors that call the area home each year, arrive and settle into their homes and condos. The grocery stores get active, traffic increases for cars, bicycles and pedestrians, and the most popular restaurants are serving full houses during the winter season.
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People are out and meeting each other. Outdoor eating is popular day or night while the temps are cooler. Talk to a fisherman or boat captain and you can learn about the fresh fish and seafood they are catching in season and how they love to have it prepared to eat.
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This time of year we are seldom hot or over heated and therefore everyone seems more relaxed and comfortable in the midst of day-to-day activities and special outings. There are lots of people, families and couples here for shorter holiday visits. Smiles are up, and car windows are down. Locals are wearing light jackets and maybe socks. Visitors are enjoying the beach and the Gulf of Mexico, and likely getting an easy tan while the sun is not so strong.
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The breeze picks up in winter, so trips around the islands and walks on the beach are not sweltering but cool and don’t require a hat except to keep your head warm sometimes. This means a long sleeved, cotton coverup with or without a hood is all you need to stay comfortable outside. Cardigans are the best because they are easier to take off or put back on as needed.
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409660_480695841987647_698914864_nDon’t let the heightened activity fool you. The area is a paradise especially during the winter. Plus there are a lot of community events and activities to take in and things to do this time of year. Browse a couple of the local papers that are published weekly and you can get a quick idea of when and where things are happening. Art and artists, nature activities galore, great music, pubs, cafes, fine dining, premier shopping, local theater, clubs, and groups get active. Most weekends there is an annual event or a unique gathering planned and ready to add to your calendar.
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Unique flowers and foliage bloom in the winter season here and many people find them interesting to learn more about. Animals get active early in the day and are spotted more often while they are seeking the sun to warm up. The golf courses get busy, as well. At night places like the Crow’s nest at ‘Tween Waters Inn feature music and entertainment along with dancing more nights each week.
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When the days are cooler remember the temp outside is usually around the temperature of your air conditioning turned low after the day warms up. Find a place in the sun and out of the breeze to stay the warmest. Winter is a dry season for Florida and it seldom rains but if it does then go shopping. You won’t be disappointed by the kind of things that are available in the shops around town.
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The very worst case scenario will be that it gets really chilly… or ‘burr it’s cold’ in island terms for just a little while and never for too long. So remember no matter what the exact temp is during your stay, everything is going to be alright.
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It’s January here and it’s time to get outside and enjoy!
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New Year, New Resolutions

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.

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Mysterious Sand Sculptures and a Championship Festival

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!

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There’s No Need To Pack A Lot When You Are A Guest At ‘Tween Waters Inn

On trips to Captiva Island you can travel light and be sure to take advantage of the perks!
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When you wake up lots of things around the resort are waiting for your convenience and enjoyment. Rooms with kitchen amenities have coffee makers and are outfitted with coffee to use during your stay. Specialty coffee and treats are sold at ‘Tween Beans to enjoy while you sit by the pool and the sunrises quietly to the east. Later, when you get an appetite sitting by the pool, the Oasis Pool Bar serves famous hamburgers and fish sandwiches.    
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In the morning, coffee is always brewing at the Captiva House where a free, extraordinary continental breakfast is served everyday. Head to the buffet after your first cup of coffee by the pool and savor an array of the finest fresh fruits, baked goods and pastries on the Islands. You don’t need to pack a lot of clothes on this trip. Shorts and sandals are perfect attire for most ‘Tween Water settings. You may want to dress up just a little for dinner at the Captiva House.
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Swing located between the pool and the front desk.
Towels for the pool or beach are provided when you check-in. Pick up fresh ones whenever you like by exchanging the towels you’ve already used. Along the beach shoreline there are cabanas and umbrellas to rent, as well as, drink services from the Crow’s Nest staff who are around to help you stay cool.
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All rooms at ‘Tween Waters Inn have the ‘nicest’ of bathroom sundries for you to use. Don’t pack your blow dryer because one is definitely there. If you are missing something special, be sure to call the Staff to request an item you may need that they keep on hand.
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If you are staying in a vintage cottage with a fireplace you’ll find logs ready to burn when it’s cool. There are variety of floating devices like noodles available to make your swimming more relaxing in the heated pool. Resort wi-fi at no charge is available everywhere around the resort 24 hours a day. The Staff will offer you pass codes to use when you arrive at the resort. Sit back, enjoy the sunshine, your phones and devices.
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Visit the Marina to take in the sights on the bayside.
Over by the marina is the Pelican Roost Boutique and Snack Center where you can enjoy a snack and also browse sportswear and accessories to wear and take home as a gift for yourself or someone else. One light cardigan jacket or wrap is all you’ll need if the air is chilly and the easiest to remove when the temps warm up in the middle of the day.
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Most importantly, remember to simply enjoy!
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Identifying The Prize Shells In Your Bucket

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When a shell is unbroken and naturally colorful, it’s considered a prize shell in my book.
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The private beach at ‘Tween Waters Inn offers guests a beautiful stretch of shelling coastline on one of the most famous beaches in the world. You will find all kinds of shell species recognized as native to the Southwest Florida, Gulf of Mexico area. Best of all, shelling on Captiva, Sanibel, and other barrier islands in the area is as simple as walking along on a nearby beach or as adventurous as boating to an uninhabited island.
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When the day is done, the bucket of shells you collect will include more or less of many common shells. While some are more prized than others, all of them may become your favorites. The Junonia shell with it’s bold, brown spotted pattern on a white shell with a distinctive spiral shape, once housed a live mollusk or sea snail creature inside. It has a reputation for being the Prize shell to find on local beaches. The Junonia is ‘the’ shell you just have to hold or pose with to capture a keepsake photo for all time.
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My shell favorites like the Banded Tulip or the Lightening Welk found around the islands, are the ones I can count on finding most often. There’s also the Cat’s Paw, Turkey Wing, Auger, Cockle, Conch and Scallop. The Shark’s Eye Moon shell, Apple Murex and Olive. These are all the shells we can generally find without a doubt. My husband, Eric is enthusiastic about helping me find the beauties that come in all sizes and colors. The feature photo for this post includes many of the shells I named.
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For lots more information visit the popular, world-famous website ILoveShelling.com that was created by island resident, Pam Rambo. Here you can find photos and descriptions for the shells named above and so many more you are likely to find. Check with the Front Desk and the staff can guide you to exciting shelling boat trips, the Shell Museum and of course lots of stores. And remember, most importantly be sure to enjoy!
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Photo of a live Fighting Conk shell temporarily on the beach and destined to go back into the water. 
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