Explore Naples, Florida through the eyes of three LGBTQ people who live, work, play and create here.
If you want to know what makes Naples, Florida such a special place to visit, ask a local—and that’s just what we did. Join us as we explore this beautiful and exciting destination with three LGBTQ individuals who live, work, play, and create here. Naples is filled with many wonderful things just waiting to be experienced and enjoyed. From unique local businesses, to art galleries, museums, theatre, scenic tours, farm to fork restaurants, and spectacular adventures in nature, Naples, Marco Island and the Everglades has something for everyone.
Randall Kenneth Jones
Tell us about yourself and what you do for a living?
Though I wear many hats—writer, keynote speaker, podcaster, actor and communications consultant—storytelling is the common denominator. Every person and every business has a story to tell, and an audience they need to hear that story. I help people develop and share their most compelling stories. My feel-good podcast, JONES.SHOW: JONESING FOR GOOD features program announcer Susan Bennett, the original voice of Siri, and has been described by recurring guest Erin Brockovich as “The best podcast and host ever.” Thank you, Erin!
My first non-fiction book, inspired by people I met in Naples, Show Me: Celebrities, Business Tycoons, Rock Stars, Journalists, Humanitarians, Attack Bunnies & More! was published in late 2016. I’m currently at work on my first fiction novel. I’ve been with my wonderful husband, Derek, for over 25 years and have two adult children, filmmaker Kevin and grants administrator Maribeth.
If you moved from somewhere else, what influenced your decision to move here?
In late 2009, we moved to Naples from Leesburg, Virginia, outside Washington, D.C. Derek wanted the beach. I wanted to learn from the collection of wildly successful people who live here or pass through. So, I approached the Naples Daily News and offered to write an independent newspaper column, a blend of personal and professional development. For the next four years, I conducted over 100 best-practices interviews with Pat Benatar, Brian Boitano, Barbara Corcoran, Hoda Kotb, Colin Mochrie, Suze Orman, Vanessa Williams and over 100 more. For me, living in Naples full-time has been life-changing. The column inspired my book (SHOW ME) and my podcast (JONES.SHOW).
What are your favorite places to go for a cocktail and/or dinner?
There’s something for every taste in Naples. We’ve been here 12 years and feel like we’ve only scratched the culinary surface! In addition to LGBTQ home base, Bambusa Bar & Grill, we love Tommy Bahama on Third Street, followed by a visit to the historic Naples Pier (that never gets old). I’m a big fan of HobKnob Kitchen on Fifth Avenue for their fresh, creative spin on American cuisine, and my husband is always up for the great food and stunning oceanfront views at Baleen Naples at LaPlaya. Make sure to check out Twisted Sheep Pizza & Brew for pizza that is inventive but retains its status as being “pizza.” We are also big fans of Sunset Grille on nearby Marco Island. It’s affordable, friendly, and right on the beach!
What cultural attractions are a must-see for visitors to Naples?
ARTIS-NAPLES, our beautiful performing arts venue that also houses the Baker Museum; however, we have a soft spot for the intimacy of Naples Art in downtown Naples and the Marco Island Center for the Arts on Marco Island. Both tend to deliver the unexpected and are fueled by personality. It’s worth the trip to nearby Fort Myers to check out the Laboratory Theater of Florida, which tends to stage more cutting-edge plays and is your best chance to see naked people on stage!
A friend is coming to Naples for the first time… Please describe the perfect weekend.
As this happens all the time, we have a list! Step back in time at The Coffee Shoppe at Cove Inn for breakfast. Then, before you think all sand is created equal (it’s not), head to Lowdermilk Beach (my husband’s favorite). I like Wiggins Pass Beach for its natural charm and the amenities; however, we both love South Beach on Marco for its wide-open feel. We’re also addicted to the energy at Celebration Park Waterfront Bar & Food Truck Park. Plus, Off The Hook Comedy Club presents nationally known comedians and the Naples Princess and Marco Princess host spectacular sunset cruises.
What are the best places to truly enjoy the natural beauty of the area?
Easy. Take an airboat ride in the everglades or, for a more robust experience, explore the unique ecosystem of Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve via boat and daily kayak tours that offer an up-close and personal experience in nature. Baker Park is stunning. As our dog owns us, the dog park is a big hit in our family.
What is your favorite time of year in Naples and why?
Easy again: April and May. It’s warm, sunny, humidity levels are low, and the seasonal population has thinned out. However, if you choose to visit in November, also a beautiful time of year, plan your trip to coincide with the popular Naples International Film Festival.
What’s one souvenir to bring back for friends or family?
A refreshed and renewed you. Yes, that sounds a bit over the top, but that is my best advice. SPOILER ALERT: Your friends stuck at home really don’t want that festive jar of sand you crafted for them. You know, the one you just wrapped in a t-shirt and shoved in your suitcase. Skip that.
Please finish this sentence: Don’t leave Naples without…
Scheduling your return visit. Seriously!