Ft. Myers
Known as "The City of Palms" for its 5,000 royal palms, many of which were planted by Thomas Edison, Fort Myers is the waterfront jewel in Florida's treasure chest. Settled originally by the Calusa Indians, much of the landscape remains as it was then; massive oak trees draped in lacy Spanish moss, abundant native wildlife, pristine wetlands. There are lots of ways to get on the water all around-canoeing, sailboarding, pleasure boats either on the Gulf of Mexico or on the beautiful Caloosahatchee River.

More than a century of architectural stylings are reflected in this beautiful city. The Fort Myers Historical Museum in downtown offers a fascinating glimpse into its past. For nature lovers, there's a terrific five mile trail through native habitat at J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on nearby Sanibel Island. Walk, drive or bicycle past lagoons, marshes, woodlands and lakes, home to alligators, river otters and more than 200 species of birds, many rare and endangered. Lakes Regional Park , just south of the city, is an ideal spot to bring the kids, with swimming, paddle boats canoes and more. Six Mile Cypress Slough is a mile-long boardwalk that brings you close to all kinds of wildlife. A Manatee tour boat runs during winter months for a close-up look at these unique, gentle creatures.

The eight-mile long beach is legendary, with fine sugar sand, perfect for making sand sculptures. There are hobie cats and pontoon boats for rent as well as fishing charters, and of course dinner cruises. Nearby Babcock Wilderness Adventures offers a 90 minute swamp buggy tour through the Telegraph Cypress Swamp, where there are panthers, alligators and other native wildlife. The Edison and Ford winter estates are the side-by-side winter homes of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. There are botanical gardens, laboratory and museum. For the serious nature lover, there's the Everglades Day Safari - a nine hour tour with two airboat rides, professional naturalist guides, a nature drive and lunch. For model train lovers, there's the Model Train Station, a unique collection of different scales and landscapes.