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Music to your ears: Jamming at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Captiva Island holds a reputation for some of the best music to be found around Southwest Florida, and you can thank ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa for that. For as long as I can remember, our visits to Captiva have been orchestrated by a party-down visit to the Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille, where live contemporary musicians take the stage several nights each week. It has always been THE place to nightlife in these parts.

In the past few months, ‘Tweenies has gone a step jivier with the introduction of its Songwriter Saturdays the first weekend of each month. On the shirttails of the famous, countywide Island Hopper Songwriter Fest each September, ‘Tween Waters has piggybacked on a building reputation for high-profile artists from the BMI circuit. The informal Saturday concerts – to further sweeten this deal – take place at the Oasis Pool Bar, where the drinks are fruity and the setting tropically splashy.

The next Songwriter Saturday hits the pool deck on Feb. 3 starting at 4 p.m. ‘Tween Waters welcomes Hugh Mitchell to the stage. He has toured nationally since 2006 as a side man for other artists in venues ranging from bars to arenas. Now he has broken out on his own with a new 2017 release.

From his hometown in Alabama, the Birmingham Magazine writes: “Hugh Mitchell has an unmistakable down-home flavor, but he isn’t the result of a country factory. Call it country, call it rock. Just listen.”

I believe I will, and that you should too.

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Fall in Love with February at ‘Tween Waters

February is my favorite month in Florida. The weather is near-perfect, there’s so much to do and I get to celebrate two “National Holidays” if I’m lucky. February at ‘Tween Waters is no different — from Songwriter Saturdays to “Big Game” Sundays, plus a little Valentine’s Day love in between, there’s a million and one ways to fall in love with February. Here’s a few to get you started:

Songwriter Saturdays: Start off February with a relaxing day at the pool and a little nationally-recognized music. With temps rising, the Oasis Pool Bar is the best place to “chill” and relax, and now with Songwriter Saturdays, it’s an even cooler hangout. This month, enjoy music stylings from Hugh Mitchell on February 3, starting at 4PM. This “golden-throated troubadour” gives you grit and melody all and one, and now it’s all poolside to enjoy. Book a reservation ASAP because they fill up fast for these music-filled weekends or plan to bring a carful of people for just $50 for the day.

Valentine’s Day: They love love at ‘Tweenies, and there’s no better place to enjoy Valentine’s Day than the home to “America’s Most Romantic Sunset.” If you can’t make a week-long vacation out of it (this year, Valentine’s Day falls on a Wednesday), the perfect Valentine’s Day gift is a romantic dinner at Captiva House. I’ve enjoyed more than one Valentine’s Day pre-fixed menu at Captiva House, and couldn’t ask for a better way to celebrate love than with my mouth full of delicious food. Make your reservations asap!

The Big Game: Okay, so I can’t say those magic words that start with Su and end with owl, but you know the Big Game I’m talking about. Cheer on your favorite team, or just come for the commercials, but either way, you’re going to want to do it at Crow’s Nest Bar & Grille. Grab a stool and join in the fun as they give away huge prizes (TVs, spa and dining gift cards and more!). The fun starts at 4PM on February 4.

Soak in Fabulous February Weather: The last, and best way to fall in love with February is to soak in fabulous February weather by making a vacation out of it all. Save big during high season with un-heard of three- and five-night packages, starting from $263/night for a Poolside Guestroom February 2 through April 8, 2018. Plus, when you book direct, you get all of those great VIP benefits like bike rentals, kayak and canoe rentals, hassle-free cancellation and so much more. Book by calling: 800-223-5865 or getting your deal online: www.tween-waters.com.

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Living the top-rated life on Captiva Island at ‘Tween Waters Inn

Recently, Coastal Living magazine published its 2018 list of 20 Best Places to Live on the Coast. Captiva Island made the top 10. My only surprise at that was: It should have placed number one. But of course we’re talking about a board of “experts” who don’t know Captiva Island like I do. And the scope, after all, is worldwide.

IMHO opinion, Captiva Island tops out even if you can only live there for a week or three days. Especially if you are living it up at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa, with its prime location balanced between Gulf of Mexico sunsets and Roosevelt Channel sunrises.

In that way and place, the sun dictates how you live on Captiva Island. I like to start with a morning coffee on the marina docks, where I can watch the bustle of morning boaters raring to get out on the water. Ospreys squawk and scold at all the commotion. Manatees and dolphins play undisturbed around the mangroves. Captiva Island comes alive.

In between, there are two swimming pools, a pool bar, a spa, tennis courts, and dining to see you to the other side: the Gulf side, where long beach walks, seashell hunts, and sandy snoozes bring you to the magnificent, near-religious finale of solar adieu. Sunrise, sunset. If that isn’t the way to live life to its fullest, what, I ask you, is?

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Live History at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort on Captiva Island

Step back 80-plus years to the days of rumble seats and airplanes landing on the beach — without having to leave the grounds of ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort & Spa on Captiva Island. Begin your day steeped in history with breakfast at the Old Captiva House restaurant, which dates back to the resort’s origins in the 1930s. Read the historic plaque outside for your first history lesson.

Step inside, then, and admire the cartoons of Jay Norwood “Ding” Darling, namesake of today’s J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel. You can see a collection of his Pulitzer Prize Award-winning political cartoons from the Des Moines Register. The resort also displays some of his original work, including a triptych piece called “The Big Parade,” depicting Captiva beachgoers back in the day.

Darling wintered for many years starting in the 1930s at ‘Tween Waters, where he had both a cottage with his wife and a studio for himself built with higher windows, said resort owner Tony Lapi. Today both cottages have been restored for guest accommodations, along with 17 others. Most of them, along with the Old Captiva House building, are on the National Register of Historic Places. Four are named for other historic figures who have visited Captiva through the years: pioneering aviator Charles Lindbergh, who is said to have landed his plane on the beach; his wife, author Anne Morrow Lindbergh; President Teddy Roosevelt; and ornithologist Roger Tory Peterson.

Anne Morrow Lindbergh Cottage
“Ding” Darling’s humorous portrayal of Captiva shellers: The original hangs in Old Captiva House.

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Winter, Captiva-Style, at ‘Tween Waters Inn

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and I have to agree. Winter on Captiva is fantastic. The weather is delightful, the shells are plentiful, and there are lots of ways to celebrate the season.

Snow Party at ‘Tween Waters

Every Friday and Saturday at 6pm from Dec 1, 2017 – Jan 27, 2018, bring the family and enjoy our tropical version of a Snow Party – no coats or mittens required! Enjoy all of the snow, and none of the cold.

Frozen drinks poolside

In need of something cold? Head to the Oasis Pool Bar and order your favorite frozen concoction. There are also frozen treats for the kids, and if you purchase a Tervis tumbler while you’re here with the ‘Tween Waters logo, you’ll get a coupon for a free piña colada.

Snowy Egrets

The yellow feet of this small white heron make them easy to identify. Look for these slender and elegant white birds at the marina, dancing along the shore at the beach, and at J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge.

Brightening Vitamin C Facial

Be merry and bright all season with this special vitamin rich facial at the Spa at ‘Tween Waters Inn. This 50-minute treatment can even out your skin tone and lighten discoloration.

Ice Cold Sushi

Tuesday through Saturday evenings, Captiva House Seafood Restaurant offers fresh, creative sushi. My son’s favorite is the “Sanibel Island” roll with tempura shrimp, cream cheese, cucumber, crab, spicy mayo, and eel sauce. Yum!

Sand Angels

Ever tried making the Captiva version of a snow angel? It’s easy! Or, channel your inner “Frozen” characters and build a Frozen castle at the beach. (And try not to sing, “Let It Go” too many times – unless your kids ask you to.)

Cool Live Web Cam

This is so cool! Check out the live Beach Cam at ‘Tween Waters Inn! Log on and you’ll see Santa’s sleigh and other holiday decorations in the foreground – and the shimmering Gulf of Mexico in the background. What a sight!

From my family to yours, I wish you a joyous holiday season and a happy, healthy 2018.

Snowy egret by Vicki Hacker

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Songwriter Saturdays — A Relaxing Afternoon by the Pool

Songwriter Saturdays

If you thought Oasis Pool Bar was a cool (pun intended) place to hang, you’ll be surprised to find out it got even more chill with Songwriter Saturdays. The hit sounds and hip artists of Nashville hit the ‘Tween Waters stage this September for the Island Hopper Songwriter Festival, and now have returned to the resort for more live tunes — this time Poolside at Oasis Pool Bar.

The first Saturday of the month, we grabbed a carload of friends and for $50 headed to ‘Tween Waters. Admission got us parking, use of all of the free amenities at the resort, plus a live performance from Nashville songwriter Brian Sutherland. We hung out poolside, grabbed some drinks and snacks and enjoyed a “chill” day hanging by ‘Tween Waters’ Olympic-sized pool.

INNSIDER TIP: Book a room stay for Songwriter Saturdays early! Reservations fill up fast during high season and parking is limited! 800-223-5865 ** 
There’s nothing like the island breeze and a little acoustic music mixed together to put you in vacation mode. I really felt like I was transported to my own little “Margarita-ville” (sans Jimmy Buffet music, because hey, Brian Sutherland is more than just kitsch Jimmy Buffet artist — his writing style includes Americana, Florida-Folk and Alt Country). With a signature ‘Tweenies Tervis Tumbler in hand and my friends nearby, the day couldn’t have been more perfect.

Songwriter Saturdays are held the first Saturday of every month, and next up is songwriter and artist Hugh Mitchell, who will perform at Oasis Pool Bar on February 3. Currently Nashville resident and performing artist, Mithcell’s down-home flavor of music has people calling Hugh Mitchell the “golden-throated troubadour.” If you love a mix of gritty rock and intimate melodies, you’re going to want to save the date for February 3!

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Getting in the Holiday Spirit (Sans Snow) at ‘Tween Waters Inn on Captiva Island

When people from up north tell me they just can’t get into the holiday spirit in Southwest Florida, I have eight words for them: “Santa climbing a ladder up a palm tree.” To me, the holiday display at ‘Tween Waters Inn Island Resort epitomizes all that is beautiful and festive about spending the holidays on Captiva Island.

If you are like me, and view holiday spirit as a warm, fuzzy feeling and a giving, loving pause from all that’s upsetting in the world, you’ll get it. Where is warmer than Southwest Florida, after all? What can be fuzzier than ‘Tween Waters’ traditional decorations, like old friends I look forward to seeing once a year?

And that Santa on the ladder? A clear demonstration of how islanders make magic – with a little humor — out of a tropical setting. ‘Tween Waters fills the grounds with old-fashioned decorations and thousands of twinkling lights.

The centerpiece, a towering traditional Christmas tree, marks the season’s kick off with a lighting ceremony that takes place the day after Thanksgiving – Friday, November 24, this year. We like to make a night of it with dinner at the Captiva House once the excitement of the lighting, live music, and fireworks draws down.

So, you can keep your snow, frostbit cheeks, and yule log. I will happily settle for seashell-studded decorations, sun-kissed cheeks, and Santa climbing a palm tree.

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Benefits of the New Breakfast Policy

breakfast tween waters inn

I hate change, so when I heard that ‘Tween Waters was switching their breakfast policy, like many of you, I started to panic! Would they have my beloved pastries? What about the mornings when I just want something fresh? Was this going to cost me more? I just want my breakfast back!!!

After speaking to Sanibel Captiva Beach Resorts CEO Tony Lapi (and maybe taking a chill pill too), I was able to calmly examine the policy a little further, and began to realize this really wasn’t the end of the breakfast world as we know it. In fact, I might actually save some money.

As explained to me, in order to maintain their bountiful buffet, they have to work that into the nightly rates. It’s built in. So removing the free breakfast buffet option, I don’t have to pay that automatically in my nightly rate — so no money lost. In fact, they reduced their rates by 8% across the board (so all cottages and suites too), meaning I’m actually paying less per night in the future.

So now that I have 8% back in my pocket — equating to anywhere from $20-40 per night — can I still spend it on breakfast? Of course! But I also don’t have to. Food and Beverage Director Laurent Bosc says they plan to have quick breakfast options, which will have grab and go items like fruit, cereals, pastries and more, all at reasonable prices, so that I can grab my breakfast, not waste any time getting to the beach, and still have money left over in my pocket each day in savings.

But some days I want a little extra — pancakes, omelets, eggs benedict, oh my! Bosc tells me that that won’t change. I will still be able to order these items from a menu for breakfast, just like I had when the breakfast buffet was in place.

Plus, with newly renovated rooms complete with partial and full kitchens in some rooms, I also have the option to make my own breakfast.

So to all of my ‘Tweenies peeps who, like me, started to fret when they heard about the 2018 policy, don’t panic! It’s designed to save us money, reduce waste and save us precious beach time, while still giving us options — and that’s the truth.

NOTE: The New Breakfast Policy doesn’t begin until 2018, and they’ve been planning this for a while now, which means your rate most likely reflected the 8% change. If you booked your reservation extremely early (around 1 year prior) your initial reservation might not have been adjusted, but has since been refunded the 8% difference. 2017 reservations are not affected by this new policy.

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All the World’s a (Terrifying) Stage

My first concert was Van Halen. My first poster was Bruce Springsteen. My first girlfriend would have ditched me for Jon Bon Jovi. So, needless to say, music has played a role in my life for many years.

And it’s no stretch to suggest – alongside champion boxer and prolific author – that being the front man of a rock band has been a prime fantasy of mine since the hair was long and the face was smooth.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Grammys… turns out I can’t sing a lick.

Oh, I can hang with “The Boss” from the comfort of my bathroom and I’ve been known to draw stares as I belt out “Margaritaville” at red lights, but when it comes to hitting the high notes more than an arm’s length from showerhead or steering wheel, I’m far better off staying on mute.

Given my role as TWI’s adventurer-in-chief, though, the right to remain silent is no longer an option.

So with that responsibility weighing heavy on a recent Wednesday night, I paid a visit to the 8:30 p.m. karaoke session at the Crow’s Nest Beach Bar & Grille with an intent to indulge my inner entertainer.

It’s a relatively new outlet for wannabes – having started as a regular weekly gig in early 2016 – but it’s an automatic attention-getter once the “stage” starts going up in the corner of the dining room.

The stage is a stage by only the most liberal definition, of course, but once the predictable procession of Buffetts, Beatles and Beastie Boys begins revving-up the enthusiastic, bottle-tipping vacation crowd, it might just as well be the big room at Madison Square Garden.

But if you think that might help with the nerves… think again.

More than a dozen people were there to perform and I got the number nine slot, nestled comfortably between a retired U.S. Army master sergeant (we all know what divas they are) and a guy who did the worst Ricky Martin impersonation this side of the actual Ricky Martin. Whoa.

The crowd was an eclectic mix of perhaps 30 people, ranging in age from early 20s to early 50s, most if not all dragged by a friend or loved one who was going to take the stage. I brought my better half and, having heard my act for 12 years, she compassionately began praying for a power outage.

From the mic you could look out and see traffic drive by, which provided the comfort of knowing the world didn’t care. But that was all the relief I got as I learned other wannabe stars, too, tend to cut their teeth on the “Wanted: Dead or Alive” and “Cheeseburger in Paradise” ditties that I had planned.

You can totally get away with that stuff if you’re the first person up, but being No. 9 suddenly stunk. Best Buy employee “Chad” killed it in the No. 1 spot with all my material, leaving me scrambling through an internal CD catalog for old Bruce nuggets like “Glory Days” and “Pink Cadillac.”

Suddenly, teen nights spent with headphones while cool kids partied elsewhere were a boon.

Anyway, the sound of my thudding heartbeat essentially drowned out performers two through eight, and by the time my name was called an hour or so later, position nine turned out to be completely innocuous. People had lost steam after the first several songs and were busy refreshing their drinks by the time I grabbed the microphone – and within 10 minutes, my one-man show was over.

I ducked into the bathroom and came back prepped for an encore, but by that time the Ricky Martin guy had hit the second verse of “Livin’ La Vida Loca” and I was already old news.

So I headed to my Kia instead, and left the windows down while Bruce and I gave the residents along Captiva Drive an impromptu show for the ride home.

Glory days, well, they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days…

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Sauntering the Captiva Island Beach from ‘Tween Waters Inn

Walking the beach is my favorite form of exercise and relaxation, as contradictory as that may sound. What can I say?: I’m a type-A Pisces. So, being goal-oriented as I am, I like to plan a destination for my beach walks. A purpose.

When setting out on my beach strolls from ‘Tween Water Inn Beach Resort & Spa on Captiva Island, I have two different routines from which I choose. When I’m looking for serious beach quiet and meditation, I head south toward Blind Pass. The uncluttered beachscape along this 2-mile stretch allows me to commune with nature – from the tiny ghost crabs scooping sand out of their coin-sized holes to the pterodactyl-esque brown pelicans that dive-bomb the surf for breakfast.

Days I’m feeling more social, I aim my flip flops north, where the beach parallels the road and glimpses of majestic beach homes are more likely. My goal on these jaunts? The shops of “downtown Captiva” and perhaps a stop for a pina colada or slice of key lime pie for incentive. Maybe a visit to the cemetery next to Chapel-by-the-Sea, where mourners leave seashells on gravestones rather than flowers.

The return walk always is less energetic. That’s when I do my favorite kind of shopping – searching for seashells and other beachcomber finds. I take it slowly, promising myself the final, most fulfilling goal at the end of the walk: A dip in the new Serenity Pool at ‘Tween Waters, followed by a snooze under a cool blue umbrella.

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