10 Family-friendly Activities for the Ft. Myers, Florida Area

by Janis on March 13, 2011

Our friends are taking a family vacation to Ft. Myers, Florida for spring break this week Their children are 14, 11 and 7 years old.

Image of Cape Coral, Fort Myers, Florida from space. NASA July 1997.

Besides enjoying the beach, what are the must-see family attractions near Ft. Myers?

Since we’ve only been to Ft. Myers on business trips, we had few ideas. But we were intrigued to find some recommendations for our friends.

Between an in-depth internet search of travelers reviews, and a request through social media to fellow travelers, here’s our list of 10 family-friendly activities for the Ft. Myers, Florida area

1. Walk over a slough with alligators, wild pigs, herons and egrets at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve 7751 Penzance Blvd Exit #131 off I-75  between northern Lee County and Estero Bay. A 1.2-mile boardwalk winds through the 2200-acre wetland, and includes two observation platforms and a photo blind. The Interpretive Center is open Tuesday – Saturday 10 am -4 pm. Guided walks are offered at  9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Free admission; parking fee.

2. Watch the Boston Red Sox in Spring Training. The City of Palms Park in downtown Fort Myers hosts theBoston Red Sox for Grapefruit League spring training. This week the Sox play both the New York Yankees and the Mets. Advance ticket purchase is recommended.

3. Learn about two famous America inventors/industrialists at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.   Inventor Thomas Edison began wintering along the Caloosahatchee River in 1886. In 1916, Edison’s friend Henry Ford built his winter home, Mangoes, next door. Both are open to the public and include Edison’s botanical gardens, laboratory and a museum.  The Estates are open daily 9:00 AM – 5:30 PM with guided and self-guided tours

4. Learn where the “fort” was in Fort Myers at The Southwest Florida Museum of History, housed in the restored Atlantic Coast Line Depot located on 2031 Jackson Street in downtown Ft. Myers.  Open Tuesday – Sunday, the museum traces the history of the Ft. Myers area from prehistoric times to the present day, with exhibits such as a Pullman car, a late 1800s “Cracker” home replica and a World War II P-39 Cobra On Wednesdays or Saturday the museum offers an hour and a half walking tour of historic Ft. Myers along the banks of the Caloosahatchee River, departing a 10 am.

5. Catch a glimpse of  manatees at Manatee Park, a non-captive refuge for the Florida manatees  located at 10901 State Road 80.   Admisssion is free but there’s a $1 per hour parking fee.  Visit in the morning for the best chance to see manatees.  The park – located by a power plant – offers walking trails as well as canoe and kayak rentals.

6. Sample Florida’s famous Indian River citrus and fresh-squeezed juices at Sun Harvest Citrus, a family-run citrus growing, packing and retail gift store operation in Fort Myers.

7. Spend a day in the Florida Everglades.  Journey to the Everglades – think alligators, snakes and an airboat ride.  For a half day adventure with an hour-long airboat ride in the swamp, book Captain Bob Excellent Adventure Eco Tours.  The Funmobile picks you up from locations in the Ft. Myers area, transporting you to the northwest corner of the Everglades while sharing the history of the unique ecosystem.

For a more in-depth experience with Florida’s wildlife, book a daylong Everglades Day Safari.  Guides lead small groups by airboat, van, riverboat, and on foot. Lunch (with alligators!) is included.

8. Fish, canoe, roller blade or ride a miniature railroad at Lakes Regional Park 7330 Gladiolus Drive A popular recreational area in Fort Myers, this 279-acre park has 158 acres of fresh water lakes and a 2.5 mile paved path. The Fragrance Garden is a unique sensory experience.  The scale model railroad offers 15-minute rides through the northern areas of the park beside the lake, through a tunnel and past several displays.

9. And, go north, Beth Roden @BethKRoden22 advises.  The Sarasota  Mote Marine Aquarium,  “is great for kids” and “;and you “can’t  beat Busch Gardens” in Tampa.  

10. John Boykin  a photograher and publisher of Boomer magazine says  just across the causeway “Sanibel and Captiva Islands are the best shell collecting beaches in America.”

Another shell stop: The Bailey-Matthews Shell Museum 3075 Sanibel-Captiva Road in Sanibel    featuring mollusks from around the world. Exhibits are devoted to shells in art and history, shell habitat, fossil shells, common Southwest Florida shells, and more. A half-hour video, Mollusks in Action, is shown on the hour, while the museum store offers a wide selection of shell books and is open daily 10-5.

Have you visited Fort Myers, Florida?  What must-see attractions do you recommend?

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