— FORT MYERS, FLORIDA — Nicknamed the “City of Palms,” Fort Myers is a very popular tourist destination in southwest Florida. In addition to being one of the top tourist attractions in Florida, Fort Myers is known for its beaches, fishing, and shopping. Major attractions also include the winter estates of American inventors and entrepreneurs Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.
The city of Fort Myers was built along the Caloosahatchee River as a base for the American Army during the Seminole Indian Wars in the mid-1800s. It was named after Colonel Abraham C. Myers, the son-in-law of the commander of Fort Brooke in Tampa. After being abandoned in 1858, the fort was again occupied by Federal troops from 1863 – 1865.
Noted as one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation in 2020, the current population is approaching 100,000. The warm climate, variety of activities, strong economy, and relatively low housing prices all contribute to the city’s growing population. Here are twelve of the many fun and exciting best things to do in Fort Myers.
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After one visit, I could see why Fort Myers is one of the fastest-growing cities in America.~Scott Kendall
1. Get to Know Edison & Ford
One of the top attractions in Fort Myers is the fascinating Edison and Ford Winter Estates. Fort Myers was the winter home of two titans of American industry, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. To escape the harsh cold winters of the north, these two inventive geniuses had winter homes side by side overlooking the Caloosahatchee River. In addition, they collaborated with each other, as well as other entrepreneurs like Harvey Firestone, in expansive research and development projects here in Fort Myers.
The Edison and Ford Winter Estates have been open to the public since 1947 and is a National Register Historic Site. It is one of the most visited historic home sites in America. The estates also offer a number of education programs and tours for school children, scouts, adults, and other interested groups.
2. Browse the Edison & Ford Museum
The list of achievements of Edison and Ford is endless. From the light bulb, advances in electricity, the phonograph, and of course, the automobile, these men transformed the way America and the world lived.
In addition to these well-known accomplishments, we also learned much about their lives and other fascinating inventions and projects. One of these expansive projects was the research into a source of rubber for uses like automobile tires and other industrial uses.
3. Stay at the Luminary Autograph
The brand new Luminary Hotel is the perfect place to stay to enjoy the waterfront and the cozy downtown area of Fort Myers. The beautiful AAA Four-Diamond Luminary Hotel & Co., Autograph Collection hotel on Edwards Drive, with views of the Caloosahatchee, is very luxurious with plush beds and first-class amenities.
The Luminary Hotel is the perfect place to stay when visiting downtown Fort Myers. In addition to the wonderful in-house restaurants, the hotel is just steps from the waterfront pier and the dozens of great shops, restaurants, and other great entertainment downtown.
4. Eat at The Silver King Ocean Brasserie
The main on-site restaurant, The Silver King Ocean Brasserie, serves a wonderful menu of seafood, pasta, steak, and specialty dishes. The classy, elegant restaurant offers indoor dining as well as plentiful outdoor seating.
The coastal-themed décor and open kitchen add to the energy of the restaurant. In addition to The Silver King Ocean Brasserie, the Luminary has several other eateries to serve its guests. Ella Mae’s Diner offers traditional diner classics, comfort, and soul food for breakfast and lunch.
Another in-house restaurant conveniently located next to the lobby is Dean Street Coffee Roastery & Retail. The smell of freshly roasting coffee wafts through this special coffee stop for your morning and early afternoon beverage.
5. Rooftop Bar in Fort Meyers
Pop up to the Beacon Social Drinkery Rooftop Bar. With stunning Fort Myers views, this rooftop bar has an excellent selection of small plates and wines, craft beers, and inventive cocktails.
Comfortable seating options on the outdoor patio or inside with views through the large windows make the Beacon Social Drinkery Rooftop Bar the perfect place to wind down after a full day of work or pleasure. You can also visit The Lobby Bar on the first floor, which offers a wide variety of wine, beer, and mixed drinks, with artwork depicting the intriguing history of Fort Myers’ past.
6. Stay Near Fort Myers Airport
Conveniently located close to the Fort Myers Airport, The Drury Inn & Suites Fort Myers Airport has large, luxurious rooms and suites to suit your needs. Extra touches like a full hot breakfast with freshly brewed coffee, eggs, bacon or sausage, oatmeal, waffles, and more start your morning on the right foot.
Every evening, each visitor to The Drury is treated to up to three beverages (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and a nice selection of food choices for dinner or a snack. There is also a huge selection of restaurants, shops, and bars in the surrounding area, several within walking distance. B. J. Brewhouse and Panera are literally across the street, and many others are very close by.
7. Walk Downtown Fort Myers
Downtown Fort Myers is a charming mix of historic buildings, fun-filled bars, great shops, restaurants, art, and other attractions. In several places, visitors are greeted to streets meticulously lined with tall palm trees, and flowers and lush gardens are everywhere.
Cornog Plaza is a wonderful clean, quiet area next to the impressive Regional Library. It’s fun to walk through downtown and see the historic Old Lee County Courthouse, City Hall, the old Edison Theater, and other buildings. With the many cool shops, restaurants, and bars, downtown Fort Myers provides endless entertainment for visitors.
8. National Shell Museum
For a fascinating time exploring the magical world of mollusks and seashells, nothing beats the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum. With its reputation as the best shelling spot in North America, according to Travel & Leisure Magazine, the Weather Channel Facebook, and other groups, it’s no wonder one of the top shell museums is on Sanibel Island.
This incredible museum displays Conch shells, Junonia shells, sand dollars, and so many more shells in a wide array of colors, shapes, and sizes. The exhibits do a wonderful job of displaying and explaining the fascinating world of mollusks.
9. Relax on Fort Meyers Beaches
Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, and Captiva have miles of pristine beaches to enjoy. These wonderful beaches are just a short drive from Fort Myers.
Feel the sand between your toes and the warmth of the gulf waters as you collect shells, play, relax, and see some of the best sunsets in Florida.
For those in search of more adventurous activities, boating, jet skiing, and parasailing are all popular beach activities. As we drove from the mainland to the island, we saw a kaleidoscope of colorful movement with dozens of parasails, sailboats, and families dotting the beaches.
10. Fort Myers is an Outdoor Gallery
Spread throughout downtown and outlying areas are 23 fabulous metal sculptures by renowned Columbian artist Edgardo Carmona.
The whimsical collection includes creative sculptures like The Horse, Unicycle Juggler, and The Chess Players.
Three of these unique metal sculptures – The Knife Sharpener, Nostalgic Tune on the Radio, and Boy Fishing From a Bucket – grace the pier just outside the Luminary Hotel. Some pieces have been or may be moved in order to spread these special pieces of art throughout Fort Myers.
11. Dine at the Thistle Lodge at the Casa Ybel Resort
For dinner, we were hosted by the lovely Thistle Lodge Restaurant at the fabulous Casa Ybel Resort. We had a beautiful view from our table overlooking the lush landscaping.
This award-winning upscale historic restaurant once hosted Edison and Ford themselves. The Hogfish with plump shrimp in a tangy barbeque sauce, mixed veggies, and a special cream sauce was one of the most flavorful dishes I have ever experienced.
My wife’s seabass was equally excellent, and the Angeline Sauvignon Blanc recommended by our wonderful waiter was spot on. The friendly staff made our dinner an exceptional experience.
12. Have a Beer at Ford’s Garage
For a fun break downtown, head to Ford’s Garage for a beer, mixed drink, or a bite to eat. With a Model T hanging from the rafters in the middle of the U-shaped bar, Ford’s is a must-do when in Fort Myers. Ford’s is known for prime burgers and craft beer.
Join the fun for Family Night, Burger Night, or any night for great burgers, beer, and comfort foods in a setting reminiscent of being in a 1920s service station with vintage Ford vehicles, gas pumps, and fixtures.
After one visit, I could see why Fort Myers is one of the fastest-growing cities in America. With a beautiful downtown, the waterfront pier, museums and artwork, great weather, and some of the best shops and restaurants around, Fort Myers is inviting you to come and see what all the fuss is about.
*Opening photo ©Scott Kendall