Naples, Florida

Naples, Florida

If you close your eyes and picture paradise, most will conjure images of aquamarine waters, white sand beaches and palm trees dotting the shore. For most, it’s merely a dream; but for residents of Naples, Florida, it is their daily reality.

Phil Wood, who has called Naples home for 53 years, describes Naples as one of Florida’s most tropical destinations. “The powdery white sands are totally unlike the east coast of Florida and unlike most other areas in the U.S.,” he says.

Getting around: The easiest way to get from Point A to Point B in Naples is to drive. Most residents own cars and use them to get around town. But there is a large community of bicyclists and walkers, especially in the downtown area and close to the shore.

You can generally tell what time of year it is in Naples by observing the traffic. That is, traffic in Naples is virtually nonexistent from April to October. But come November to March, congestion on the roads becomes more of an issue. That’s because of the influx of what Floridians call “Snow Birds,” or part-time residents who flee to Florida to escape the cold winter months up North.

But even so, Wood says, it’s manageable. “It’s not like a big city -- it’s still so much better than what most people are accustomed to dealing with on a daily basis.”

Owning a home: According to Wood, real estate in Naples is unique because of its wide range. “The interesting thing about Naples is we have selections at $100,000 and selections at a couple million dollars and everything in between,” he says.

The median close price on a single-family home as of June 2010 is around $184,000, Wood says. The number is lower than normal because it reflects some of the recent foreclosures in the area. The normal average, Wood estimates, is in the range of $300,000 to $400,000.

Finding fun: Recreation in Naples centers on the outdoors. Because of the constant warm weather -- what Floridians refer to as year-round summer -- outdoor activities are most popular.

“There’s never a day in the year so cold that you can’t play golf or tennis or just be outside,” Wood says. Residents enjoy kayaking, golfing, fishing, tennis, walking, cycling, boating and even exploring the nearby Everglades. Shopping and dining out are also very common, especially on Naples’ famed Fifth Avenue, the heart of the city’s downtown area.

As for entertainment, there’s an active live music scene ranging from reggae bands to jazz musicians. And with the Naples Philharmonic and Naples Players theater group, there’s always something to do or see.

Tallying the cost of living: Although Naples has a reputation of being a bit upscale, Wood says it’s all in how you look at it. “It’s probably a little bit above the normal median in Florida. It’s not as high as some places on east coast like Miami or Palm Beach, but it’s a bit of a luxury place.”

But with the wide range of housing prices and the lack of a state income tax, living in Naples is actually more affordable than many imagine.

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