The Fort Myers and Sanibel Island area is much more than a beach destination.
Discover the area’s cultural side in museums and galleries, then reward yourself with a shopping spree. The best of both can be found in and around the downtown Fort Myers River District, the heart of the region’s history and arts. Still more delights wait to the north and south of the River District – from icons that date to the late 1800s to the brightest, coolest, funkiest and thriftiest modern shops, stores and malls.
Cultural Charm of Downtown
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is the only place in the nation where you will find the homes of two US genius inventors sitting next door to one another. Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and their families spent winters here, separated by exotic gardens, a quaint picket fence and what they termed the Friendship Gate.
Visitors today can peek into the inventors’ former homes and visit the renovated lab where Edison worked on some of his 1,093 inventions. You can also roam the grounds – either on your own or on a guided tour – and see the riverfront gardens Edison planted for his experiments. Don’t miss one of the grandest banyan trees in the world on the estates’ property.
A short drive from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Art of the Olympians houses the only gallery in the world where you can see the collective creative works of Al Oerter, Bob Beaman, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Peggy Fleming and some 20 other Olympic athletes.
Shopping Opportunities Abound in Fort Myers
Shoppers will love the art galleries, clothing boutiques and The Franklin Shops artisan mall in the eclectic shopping scene in the historic Fort Myers River District. The unique shops in this area stay open late during monthly first Friday Art Walks and third Friday Music Walks, where street parties feature live entertainment and lively bar and restaurant action.
An offbeat attraction and shopping experience all in one, The Shell Factory in North Fort Myers has grown from a glorified souvenir shop selling seashells and shell art in the early 1950s to now include a nature park, dog park, amusement park, gift shop and restaurant.
To the south, Miromar Outlets in Estero offers nationally known brand-name apparel and goods at prices up to 70 percent off regular retail. Fountains, covered walkways, a children’s play area, waterside restaurants and weekend live music enhance the great bargains you will find in more than 140 factory stores.
Chocolate lovers will want to make a special stop at Norman Love Confections for the tastiest souvenirs around. Many of the handmade, award-winning truffles and chocolates offer a taste of the region with local flavors like mango, coconut, Florida orange, ginger lime and passion fruit. During the spring and summer, you can even register for classes to learn how to create your own sweet treats.