Blake Walsh

15 Best Things to Do in Fort Myers, FL

  • Published 2023/04/29

Fort Myers is the seat of Lee County; it is more than a gateway to Southwest Florida.

Fort Myers is among Florida’s most popular tourist destinations, located on the Gulf of Mexico coast and adjacent to the Caloosahatchee River.

The city traces its name to the fort Col. Abraham Myers commanded during the Seminole Wars in 1850.

Fort Myers later emerged as a trading post and was incorporated as a small town in 1885.

The influx of northerners wintering in Florida has much to do with the rise of Fort Myers as one of the Sunshine State’s leading tourist destinations.

One of these “snowbirds” was the inventor Thomas A. Edison, who built a winter retreat in Fort Myers on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River.

Edison named it Seminole Lodge, where he and his wife stayed for many winters and where he enjoyed fishing in the local waters.

Besides fishing, there are other fun activities in Fort Myers.

Here are the best things to do in Fort Myers, Florida.

Tour the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Exterior of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Irina Wilhauk /

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates span over 20 acres on McGregor Boulevard.

This property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been open to public tours since 1947.

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates feature not only the influence of Thomas A. Edison.

This site also carries some of the hallmarks left by Henry Ford, who also had a winter home next to Edison’s in Fort Myers.

Lab room in the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

SR Productions /

The historic estates’ points of interest include research gardens featuring ficus trees that Edison and Ford planted.

These gardens also boast 1,700 plants representing over 400 species gathered from six continents.

A tour of its vintage homes, Edison’s laboratory, and a museum are the other highlights of a visit to the Edison & Ford Estates.

This air-conditioned, 15,000-square-foot museum exhibits some of Edison’s inventions and artifacts, including a Model-T Ford gifted to him by Henry Ford.

Phonographs in the Edison & Ford Winter Estates

SR Productions /

Meet Artisans at the Crafts on the River

Crafts on the River is a popular annual event organized by the non-profit Edison Festival of Light at Downtown Fort Myers.

This festival, a non-juried three-day event, is typically held around early February and features national and local crafters and artisans.

These artists and artisans display and sell their works in an informal setting that encourages their interaction with visitors and shoppers.

Some Crafts on the River participants often conduct demos on how their works are created.

The mediums of this festival include paintings, drawings, graphics, photography, sculpture, jewelry, handicrafts, and edible art.

Feel the Night Life at the River District of Fort Myers

Far view of River District

Jillian Cain Photography /

Fort Myers offers a vibrant nightlife, particularly in its River District on First Street and road corridors arterial to it.

The brick-paved streets of this district are the domain of classy restaurants, wine bars, funky dens, pubs, and clubs.

The Fort Myers River District becomes livelier during the city’s monthly music and art walks.

Buildings at River District

Sadie Mantell /

The city holds art walks featuring exhibits and fun activities every first Friday night, with a party at its tail-end.

On the other hand, the music walk happens every third Friday of the month, with local and regional musicians performing.

The music can vary monthly, ranging from rock & roll to jazz and blues.

Get into the Water at Lakes Park

Lakes Park spreads over 279 acres off Gladiolus Drive, with a 158-acre lake as its centerpiece.

Boat rentals are available at Lakes Park for visitors who want to go canoeing or kayaking on the lake.

You can also go fishing on the lake, which is home to bass, snook, tarpon, mullet, tilapia, bluegill, and catfish.

Off the water, you can hike on the park’s miles of unpaved and paved trails and boardwalks, which also offer opportunities for birdwatching.

Other park amenities include fitness stations, bike trails, sand volleyball courts, a playground, a splash pad, an amphitheater, picnic areas with grills, and food concessions.

Explore the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

The waters of Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Jim Schwabel /

The Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve sprawls over 3,500 acres and is accessible from Penzance Boulevard.

This nature preserve features a butterfly garden and an Interpretive Center featuring interactive exhibits about the local natural environment.

The centerpiece of the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is its 1.4-mile boardwalk winding through the preserve’s acreage.

Boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Kjerstan /

There are guided tours of the boardwalk morning and afternoon every Wednesday and Thursday.

On these tours, you may observe some animals inhabiting the nature preserve, such as otters, turtles, and wading birds.

Birds at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

Thomas Reville /

Ride a Mini Train at the Railroad Museum of South Florida

The Railroad Museum of South Florida not only draws visitors to its exhibits but also to its mini-train rides.

This museum, located in the southern part of Lakes Park, runs the mini train over a one-mile course.

During this 15-minute, winding mini-train ride, you will pass through replicas of Southwest Florida villages circa the 1950s.

The Railroad Museum of South Florida also features an Interpretive Center housed in a railway depot-style building.

In addition, the museum has outdoor displays of a restored caboose and locomotive as interesting sidelights after your mini-train ride.

Watch and Learn at the IMAG History & Science Center

Exterior of IMAG History & Science Center

Ebyabe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The IMAG History & Science Center on Cranford Avenue satisfy visitors’ curiosity through its unique, interactive, and family-friendly exhibits.

Its Animal Lab allows you to come up close to exotic animals, like the majestic Tegu, and those native to Florida, like the box turtle.

The IMAG History & Science Center also offers the SEA-to-SEE Touch Tank, where you can feed stingrays, among other creatures.

Another exhibit that can leave visitors in awe is the Engineering Lab, where you can build an unbelievable device.

You can also try to simulate the powerful forces that shape the world’s weather in the interactive Science on a Sphere exhibit of the IMAG History & Science Center.

Browse the Displays of the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium

The Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium on Ortiz Avenue offers many interesting exhibits on various themes.

A visit to this nature center typically starts from its Natural History Museum featuring immersive displays about Southwest Florida’s natural environment.

Various cutting-edge equipment has been installed at the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium for its full-dome movie-style presentations.

The visitors of this facility can also hike on two nature trails on its 105-acre site.​

On a stroll on these pathways, you’ll have the opportunity to see local reptiles and amphibians, as well as some animals rescued by the Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium.

Catch a Show at the Florida Repertory Theatre

Exterior of the Florida Repertory Theatre

Felix Mizioznikov /

The Florida Repertory Theatre on Bay Street is an award-winning stage with a historical twist.

It’s housed in the historic Arcade Theatre built in 1908, where Henry Ford and Thomas Edison watched early films.

The vintage theater was renovated in the late 20th century to accommodate the live performances of the Florida Repertory Theatre.

This professional theater company has celebrated its 25th year and has been hailed by the Wall Street Journal as “One of America’s Top Repertory Companies.”

Thousands troop to the Florida Repertory Theatre each season to watch its nine-show lineup from September to May.

Its productions include musicals, dramas, and comedies like Oscar Wilde’s classic play “The Importance of Being Earnest.”

Grab Fresh Produce at Southern Fresh Farms

Thanks to Southern Fresh Farms on Penzance Boulevard, agri-tourism is alive and well in Fort Myers.

Its owners, fourth-generation farmers in the city’s Daniels Corridors, preserved a portion of their land, a large part of which was sold to high-end property developers.

The plants of Southern Farms are grown in vertical gardens, but traditional growing methods are still used.

Farm visitors will thus always find plenty of fresh seasonal produce to sample.

A taste of natural Florida sugar cane, samplings of local beef and bison, and locally brewed beers can likewise give you a visit to remember.

Live music and food trucks further enliven the farm’s activities every Friday and Saturday.

Southern Fresh Farms is kid-friendly, featuring a playground and a petting zoo.

Learn about Nature at the Butterfly Estates

Monarch butterfly at Butterfly Estates

Jim Schwabel /

The Butterfly Estates is a fantastic destination on Fowler Street in the River District of Downtown Fort Myers.

Its 3,600-square-foot glass butterfly conservatory is at once impressive, with its lush tropical nectar gardens and colorful butterflies kept within.

The Butterfly Estates is also the headquarters of its builder, the Florida Native Butterfly Society Conservatory.

Atala butterfly at Butterfly Estates

Jim Schwabel /

The society uses its downtown conservatory to raise and protect native Florida butterfly species.

The Butterfly Estates lets visitors learn more about butterflies, especially their role as pollinators.

Schedule your visit to the conservatory around mid-morning to see the butterflies released.

Malachite butterfly at Butterfly Estates

Jim Schwabel /

Shop for Bargains at the Fleamasters Flea Market

Drop by Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and stroll within the 400,000-square-foot Fleamasters Flea Market.

This bargain-hunters paradise is reputed to be Southwest Florida’s largest, with over 900 vendors selling various wares.

Here you can browse stalls ranging from fresh produce and Florida souvenirs to local wines and hard-to-find perfumes.

Other merchandise sold at the Fleamasters Flea Market includes apparel, paintings, antiques, cutlery, outdoor equipment, and more.

Tasty food, such as Latin dishes, barbecues, and burgers, are also available for shoppers in this flea market.

Besides shopping, you can also enjoy the flea market’s state-of-the-art music hall, where special events are regularly held.

Board the Murder Mystery Dinner Train

Daytime view of the Murder Mystery Dinner Train

Sanibel sun, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Ride on the Murder Mystery Dinner Train for a unique culinary and movie-watching experience in Fort Myers.

You will board a retro train at its station on Colonial Boulevard for a round trip of about three and a half hours for its standard journey and murder mystery film showing.

A five-course dinner will be served during your ride on the air-conditioned Murder Mystery Dinner Train, which had its first run in 1991.

The items on its menu can change from month to month, but typically you’ll be served an appetizer, salad, and soup.

The typical main course that follows can be a choice of baked chicken, poached salmon, or slow-roast prime rib.

Dessert plus a choice of coffee or tea serve as dinner tailender.

You can also pick from cocktails, wine, beer, and soft drinks while on the trip.

The Murder Mystery Dinner Train hosts special events during holidays like New Year’s Eve, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day.

Pick a Table at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre

Reserve a table at the Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre on Colonial Boulevard for delicious meals and live performances.

Thousands of diners and drama lovers have patronized this theater each season since 1993.

You can pick from several Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre venues for its presentations during lunch or dinner.

Your selection starts from its main dinner theatre with seating for 400 diners.

It also offers the Off Broadway Palm Theatre, a 100-seater “black-box” theatre.

You can also choose a table at the Royal Palm, a 120-seat dining room.

In addition, there’s a Children’s Theatre where its cast fields questions from the audience after each show.

Broadway Palm Dinner Theatre also welcomes its guests in its Sabal Palm main lobby, with space for 30 seats.

Watch the Twins at the Hammond Stadium

Exterior of the Hammond Stadium

Tommy Dolan /

The Hammond Stadium at the Lee County Sports Complex on 6 Mile Cypress Parkway hosts the spring training of Major League Baseball’s Minnesota Twins.

Two minor league Twins affiliates—the Fort Myers Mighty Mussels and the rookies of Florida Complex League Twins—also play at this stadium.

Besides the Hammond Stadium for baseball, the Lee County Sports Complex features four softball fields.

Collegiate and community sports events are regularly scheduled in these venues.

The main draw, of course, is the Hammond Stadium games of the 1987 and 1991 World Series champions Minnesota Twins.

The field of Hammond Stadium

Sanibel sun, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Final Thoughts

Stopping by Fort Myers on a trip to Southwest Florida is a no-brainer.

It isn’t just a gateway to the various points of interest in this Gulf Coast region.

These major attractions have shaped its Florida area as a leading tourist destination.

Check out the best things to do in Fort Myers, Florida!

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