ideal-LIVING.com ideal-LIVING • fall 2015
ideal towns >>> fort myers, fl
Thomas Edison and Henry Ford are credited with invent- ing dozens of modern-day conveniences. When it comes to Florida, their greatest discoveries might very well have
been their mutual love for Fort Myers.
As the story goes, Edison first came to what was then a
sleepy tropical village on Florida’s southwest coast in 1885 as
a place to recover from a lingering illness. The New Jersey native liked the place so much, he purchased a small house and
13 acres on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River.
The following year Edison was joined by his wife, Minnie Miller Edison, and they became two of Florida’s original winter snowbirds. Soon after, famous friends Henry Ford
and Harvey Firestone flocked to Fort Myers, turning the quiet
Seminole War-era settlement into front-page headline news
and launching a tourist industry that transformed the city.
Nearly 100 years after Ford purchased his winter residence
next door to mentor and good friend, Edison, Fort Myers is
thriving as much as the city’s 1,800 towering palm trees that
line McGregor Boulevard and give the city its nickname.
Today, this Southern-influenced town has grown into a city
with attractions and an atmosphere worthy of a bigger city’s
envy. A big part of that energy and excitement comes from
being the county seat and commercial center of Lee County
and the gateway to the southwest Florida region courtesy of
its shiny new Southwest Florida International Airport.
Consequently, Fort Myers, known for its beautiful weather,
outdoor activities and world-renowned pristine beaches on
nearby Sanibel, Captiva and Estero Islands, is a popular lei-
sure destination that attracts visitors from all over the globe.
As local tourism officials put it, visitors can go from “baggage
claim to beach” in under 30 minutes. One trip here and you’ll
know why the Edisons and Fords first fell in love with Fort Myers.
City of Palms by Scott Kauffman
• Angelina’s Ristorante’s award-winning ravioli and
30-foot wine tower with 4,000 selections are just two of
the highlights from this restaurant.
• CRU Restaurant is home to a hip bar and classy
indoor restaurant, and it’s the place to see and be seen
• Flippers on the Bay is part of Lovers Key Resort and
is a hidden alfresco gem that overlooks Estero Bay.
• La Trattoria Cafe Napoli is known locally as Gloria’s,
in reference to the owner’s name, and is Fort Myers’
only true tapas bar.
• The Mad Hatter, a beachside dining spot that has
been an island favorite for three decades, boasts the
perfect combination of food and ambiance.
• Sweet Melissa’s Café serves local ingredients year-round, and this unique Sanibel restaurant is where
foodies go while on the island.
TOP THINGS TO DO
• City of Fort Myers Yacht Basin
Float into Fort Myers and take in the revitalized historic
downtown river district full of shops and restaurants.
• Edison and Ford Winter Estates
This National Register Historic Site features 20 acres of
historical buildings, gardens and the Edison Botanic
Research Lab and Edison Ford Museum.
• Imaginarium Hands-On Museum & Aquarium
Whether it’s running through a rainstorm, being blown away
by a hurricane or handling sea life, learning is fun for the whole
family at this science emporium.
• JetBlue Park
Watch a Boston Red Sox spring training baseball game or Minor
League game during the summer in this replica of Fenway Park.
• J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge
This 5,000-acre refuge, home to 278 species of resident and migratory birds, including waterfowl, birds of prey and wading birds, is
one of the highlights on nearby Sanibel Island.