v Fort Myers fun in the rain

i n s i d e f l o r i d a

More About Ft. Myers

More Absolutely Florida

More About the Calusa Indians

More about Sanibel Island

More about J.N. Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge

In Fort Myers:

(239) 337-3332
Admission: $6 Adults
$5.50 Seniors
$3 Children 3-12

Seminole Gulf Railway
(239) 275-8487
Or toll-free (800) 736-4853

Riverview Special:
$12 Adults
$4 Children ages 3-12

Bayshore Express:
$11 Adults
$6 Children 3-12

Fort Myers Historical Museum
(239) 332-5955
$6 Adults $5.50
Seniors $3
Children ages 3-11

Edison Ford Winter Estates
(239) 334-7419
Adults, $12
Children 6-12, $5.50
Adults, $11
Children 6-12, $5.50

On Captiva Island:
The Bubble Room
(239) 472-5558

Darren DiSilva photo

Not every family's vacation falls during southwestern Florida's seasonably comfortable months of February or March. In fact a high percentage of U.S. families take their only vacation of the year during the months of June, July and August. In this part of Florida that can mean lots of rain and/or balmy heat.

Does a daily downpour or the hottest part of the day, which can be downright unhealthy, mean folks should hole up in their hotel rooms until late afternoon? Watch a few soaps on T.V. or rent a movie? Definitely not!

Southwest Florida boasts some appealing attractions suited to families, singles, and seniors that offer relief from the rain or heat while passing time in entertaining and educational ways. Let's investigate a few of these family-friendly establishments.

Let's face it—all of us have imaginations. And who doesn't love the educationally fun and tropical appeal of an aquarium? The city of Fort Myers combined these two elements and created Imaginarium. Located at 2000 Cranford Avenue in Fort Myers, Imaginarium boasts a 3-D movie theater and interactive exhibits. Local environment is explored through the exhibits, as well as other informational subjects like weather and anatomy. The aquarium offers up-close looks at local marine life. A family can easily spend two hours at Imaginarium. Allow a few minutes more if it's not raining, as outside offerings include a lagoon, walking paths, and a touch tank.

The Fort Myers Historical Museum, located on 2300 Peck Street, is located in an old railroad depot. Southwest Florida history is on display here, and includes artifacts of the Calusa and Seminole Indian cultures.

The longest private railroad car ever built, The Esperanza, is displayed here as well. Although not a huge time killer, the museum is an interesting look into old Fort Myers. Count on spending about an hour here.

The Seminole Gulf Railway, located at Colonial Station on Colonial Boulevard, offers a couple of options for train excursions. Their Bayshore Express Excursion takes a little over an hour and a half, and features narration about local railroad history and area wildlife. The Riverview Special takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, and its narrative is much the same. Special dinner trips are available also, but times, itineraries, and menus vary.

Who said kids (and parents) have to stop learning in the summer or while on vacation? A stop at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates located at 2350 McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers affords an interesting and educational look into the lives of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford.

Thomas Edison began wintering in Fort Myers in 1895. After meeting Henry Ford and forging a friendship, Ford opted to purchase the property right next door. “Mangoes” is the name of Ford’s estate. In addition to touring the interior of the house, the grounds boast lush vegetation including
citrus trees.

Thomas Edison’s home, “Seminole Lodge”, includes a guest house, workshops, and a laboratory in addition to the main home. The grounds feature a 14-acre tropical garden. A museum houses many of Edison’s inventions.

Allow about an hour to tour Henry Ford’s winter home, and roughly an hour and a half for Thomas Edison’s. Allow a little more if the weather doesn’t preclude touring the grounds.

Just minutes from Fort Myers, reaching into the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, Sanibel Island offers entertainment options well worth the drive. If it's not raining, and beating the afternoon heat is part of your plan, opt to visit the J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge in the early morning hours. Not only will the temperature be far more comfortable, but the chances of catching glimpses of rare southwestern Florida wildlife are far more likely. More than 200 species of wild birds have been observed here, as have alligators and a variety of water snakes. There are canoe trails, an interpretive trail, marinas, a bird-watching tower, and a wildlife drive, all located on over 6000 acres.

Extend your drive a bit farther into the Gulf of Mexico and onto Captiva Island, and allow yourselves the opportunity to visit The Bubble Room, located at 15001 Captiva Drive. Since you'll have to eat anyway, and preferably indoors on steamy or rainy days, this restaurant is a sensory delight for the eyes as well as the palate. Most entrees are moderately priced (between $7 and $20) and children are made to feel more than welcome. The ambiance is nostalgic and comforting with memorabilia from different eras. There is something almost everyone will remember from some special time in their lives. The desserts from their bakery are to die for. The Bubble Room is open for lunch and dinner.