Fort Myers and Sanibel are much more than beach destinations.
Discover the area’s cultural side in museums and galleries, then treat yourself to a shopping spree. The best of both can be found in and around the downtown Fort Myers River District, the heart of this region’s history and arts scene. More delights waiting to the north and south of the River District include icons that date to the late 1800s and the brightest, coolest, funkiest and thriftiest modern shops and malls.
Culture in Downtown Fort Myers
The Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers is the only place in the nation where you will find the homes of two American 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 not only have the chance to peek into the inventors’ former homes, but also to visit the recently 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), including the riverfront gardens Edison planted for his experiments. Don’t miss one of the grandest banyan trees in the world here on the estates’ property.
Serious Shoppers Love the Beaches of Fort Myers & Sanibel
Shoppers will love the art galleries, clothing boutiques and artisan mall (The Franklin Shops) that make up 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 bars and restaurants. Unusual places you can explore include an art gallery and bar in one, a tattoo art gallery, The Franklin Shops’ collection of unique vendors and artisan wares, The Butterfly Estates, and a restaurant with a Model A Ford hanging from the ceiling.
One of the region’s newest and biggest shopping arenas, Coconut Point, located to the south in Estero, encompasses a comprehensive layout of big-box stores, boutiques, restaurants and a movie theater. Buy everything from books, swimsuits and iPods, to a seafood dinner at one of the 140 stores and restaurants. The fashionable outdoor shopping destination is accented by a picturesque lake and Florida-style landscaping.
Those looking for deals and “steals” should spend shopping days at Miromar Outlets in Estero, which includes some 140 restaurants and stores, stocking internationally known name-brand apparel and goods at prices up to 70 percent off regular retail.
Souvenirs and Fun
Buy seashells and other local trinkets at The Shell Factory in North Fort Myers. What started as a seashell and shell art souvenir shop in the early 1950s has grown to include a Nature Park, dog park, amusement park, restaurant and much more.
Locals will tell you that the absolute sweetest souvenirs come from Norman Love Confections. Many of the handmade, award-winning truffles and chocolates sold here offer a taste of your holiday, with such local flavors as 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.