PRESS RELEASE – CHARLOTTE HARBOR & THE GULF ISLANDS, Fla. (Oct. 21, 2014) When seasonal residents return to southwest Florida each winter, they’re eager to experience favorite pastimes, but also to embark on new adventures offered by what’s new in the area since last visited. In Charlotte Harbor and the Gulf Islands, returning snowbirds will be delighted with the amenities and activities soon to be discovered this year.
NEW AND MOST NOTABLE
• FLORIDA TRACKS & TRAILS. Florida Tracks & Trails in Punta Gorda, is under development to become the only multi-themed outdoor adventure and live entertainment park of its kind. The family-friendly 1,000-acre park will include a 56-acre entertainment ground with a spacious 40,000 square foot indoor venue and an outdoor event lawn exceeding 30-acres in size. Surrounding the entertainment grounds will be miles of one-directional OHV trails, four professionally designed Motocross tracks, 80-acres of world-class paintball, RV campgrounds, zip lines, a fresh-water beach, and a full suite of on-site amenities such as OHV rentals, a general store, party pavilions and more. Phase 1 is targeted to open sometime in Winter 2015, with additional amenities opening shortly after. 39450 Bermont Road, east of Punta Gorda. www.floridatracksandtrails.com
• PUNTA GORDA’S OUTDOOR FITNESS ZONE. Stationary gym equipment has been installed in Linear Park near Fishermen’s Village, Punta Gorda, providing a facility for those who don’t want to use an indoor gym. The equipment, part of the city’s first-ever “Fitness Zone,” has five pieces of equipment with activities designed to target the cardiovascular system, core, upper body, and lower body. It is safe for people of ages 14 years of age and older, and is handicap-accessible. The Fitness Zone was purchased through a private donation to the City of Punta Gorda by the Punta Gorda Rotary Club. Materials and installation were supplied by Home Depot of Punta Gorda. http://www.ci.punta-gorda.fl.us/depts/growthmgmt/ringaroundcity.html
• ALLEGIANT AIR ADDS HUNTINGTON, WV NON-STOP SERVICE TO PUNTA GORDA, effective November 20, 2014 with fares as low as $77. Other gateways with direct service to Punta Gorda include: Allentown/Lehigh Valley, PA, Asheville, NC, Cedar Rapids, IA, Cincinnati, OH, Columbus, OH, Des Moines, IA, Fort Wayne, IN, Greenville/Spartanburg, SC, Knoxville, TN, Lexington, KY, Moline/Quad Cities, IL, Niagara Falls/Buffalo, NY, Peoria, IL, Plattsburgh, NY/Montreal, QC, Rockford/Chicago, IL, South Bend, IN, Springfield/Branson, MO, Springfield, IL, Toledo, OH and Youngstown, OH. http://www.allegiantair.com/destinations/us/fl/punta-gorda#flights
• MASTER GARDENER TOURS. Take a walk on the wild side with the Master Gardeners on the first Saturday and third Wednesday of each month for a tour of the Punta Gorda Pathways and Parks. The tour is also offered to groups by request. Led by the University of Florida’s Master Gardeners, you will view the unique ecosystems of the mangroves, identify trees and shrubs, and learn how these plants can fit into your home landscape; plus experience the habitats that support many different Florida creatures including alligators, wading birds, turtles, fish, raccoons, and crabs. Free. For information, call the Master Gardeners at (941) 764-4340 or visit http://charlotte.ifas.ufl.edu
•BABCOCK WILDERNESS PANTHER. Babcock Wilderness Adventures recently acquired a fourth generation Florida Panther “Osceola,” who was brought to the ranch by Green Field Preserve, an organization that rescues and finds homes for many species of wildlife. An endangered species, there are fewer than 200 adult panthers in Florida. Make reservations to meet Osceola in his outdoor pen by calling (800) 500-5583 for tour times. 8000 State Road 31, Punta Gorda. http://www.babcockwilderness.com
•SCENIC BIKE ROUTES. Look for the green and white Bicycle Route signs along Punta Gorda roadways denoting four inspiring Bicycle Routes: The Bridges (BR) route is a 30-mile ride running over 13 bridges and Charlotte Harbor; the Tropical Gulf (TG) route is a 31-mile ride south to the Webb-Babcock National Wildlife Refuge; the Punta Gorda (PG) route is 17 miles running west from Downtown through the Isles neighborhood then east past the State College; and the Washington Loop (WL) route is 30-miles from Downtown to past the Airport around Washington Loop Rd. and Riverside Drive. http://www.ci.punta-gorda.fl.us/depts/growthmgmt/ringaroundcity.html
•FAT POINT BREWING. Located in Punta Gorda, which in Spanish translates to “Fat Point” it’s anticipated this Florida craft and microbrewery will be opening its taproom by the end of 2014, but in the meantime its beers, stouts and ales can be found in Southwest Florida eateries and bars such as the Icehouse Pub and Beef ‘O’ Brady’s in Punta Gorda as well as at special events. Details: www.fatpoint.com/brewery
•SMUGGLER’S GRILLE. Mid-November 2014, Smuggler’s Grille, a full service seafood restaurant “with an Italian flair,” opens in Port Charlotte. The eatery is brought to you by Smuggler’s Enterprises, Inc. who operate, among others, the Laishley Crab House and Harpoon Harry’s and Captain’s Table restaurants in Fishermen’s Village. The address is 3575 S. Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte. https://www.facebook.com/smugglersgrille
•HOWARD’S RESTAURANT. An Englewood tradition since 1955 has opened at its new location of 70 Indiana Avenue, Englewood. Now serving breakfast, lunch and dinner 7:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. daily, the new venue offers an expansive wine list, farm fresh selections, a private dining room for parties, five TVs for sports programming throughout the bar area and its well-known classy, yet casual atmosphere. (941) 473-0171. www.HowardsinEnglewood.com
SPECIAL EVENTS OF INTEREST
•FOURTH SUNDAYJAZZ JAM. January to May seasonal visitors can enjoy the Charlotte County Jazz Society’s jam sessions at the Port Charlotte Golf Club 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Club members free, all others $3.00. 22400 Gleneagles Terrace, Port Charlotte (941) 743-2157. www.ccjazz.org.
•THIRD THURSDAY GALLERY WALKS. During Gallery Walk, shops stay open until 8:00 p.m. There are free trolley rides, gallery maps at participating merchants, and plenty of free parking in downtown Punta Gorda. For information, call (941) 505-1915.
•PLACIDA ART MARKET. On select Saturdays October through May, visit the Placida Art Market open 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. in the historic fishing village and arts enclave of Placida. Featuring paintings, wood sculpture, pottery, jewelry, metal work and fine crafts from local artisans, the Market takes place outside the Margaret Albritton Gallery, 13020 Fishery Road, Placida. (941) 698-0603. www.thealbrittongallery.com
•2015 FLORIDA WINTER NATIONAL WOOD ART EXPO AND COMPETITION. Jan. 10-11, 2015 from 9:00 a.m. – closing at the Charlotte Harbor Event & Conference Center, 75 Taylor Street, Punta Gorda. The premier woodcarving show since 1986 featuring hundreds of entries, vendors, demonstrations, silent auction and artists’ displays and sales of sculptures and other carvings. www.charlotteharborrec.com.
•7th ANNUAL HANDS ACROSS THE HARBOR. Jan. 31, 2015 at Gilchrist Park, will find fitness enthusiasts walking, running, biking or racing their longboards over the bridge at Charlotte Harbor and returning back to the park for breakfast and family-friendly activities, awards and door prizes. Registration: 6:45 a.m., first event: 8:00 a.m. $20 adults/$10 students. www.HandsAcrosstheHarbor.com
•10th ANNUAL WINE & JAZZ FESTIVAL on Feb. 21, 2015 features artists Mindi Abair, Nick Colionne and Dave Koz performing on the shores of Charlotte Harbor in Laishley Park on Nesbit Street, Punta Gorda. Park opens to the public at 12:30 p.m. with first performance at 1:00 p.m. Tickets: $65 (purchased by December 31, 2014) up to $190 for VIP tickets that include stage front seating, private dance area, food, drink tickets, welcome back Friday night artists meet ‘n greet and more. (941) 639-3720. www.puntagordachamber.com