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The City of Ft. Myers has a downtown with a true sense of identity. Its original architecture is pretty much intact and in use. The city developed along the Caloosahatchee River and is
well known for being the former winter home of Thomas A. Edison and
Henry Ford. Today it is best known for being the spring training home
for the Boston Red Sox. The city has grown as most in Florida sprawling out in all directions with little planning but its roots - its downtown along the river remains special.
Community leaders and preservation advocates should be congratulated for retaining the old buildings and the entire streetscapes.The River District, the core of the downtown, is visually attractive and interesting. Many of the storefronts are occupied by offices but it appears more and more retail, bar and restaurant tenants are moving in as Ft. Myers joins in on the growing popularity and resurgence of great downtowns. There are plenty of interesting independent retailers including some small antique malls to occupy your time for a day as well as public art, galleries, a history museum and large marinas along the river. Don't miss the retailer in the Franklin Building. It's eclectic and fun. On Thursdays from 7-1:30 there is a Farmers Market under the bridge at First Street.
The River District appeared to be the only mixed use historic district in the city. If your interest lies in architecture and preservation and you wish to see more - within walking distance is Dean Park, a locally designated residential district and a short drive down McGregor Blvd. is the first designated district - Edison Park (adjacent to the Edison Estate.) A bit further is the Seminole District. For viewing the old, estate-sized homes you'll need to wind through the streets off McGregor Blvd. to the west of the Edison/Ford Estate property.
The Edison / Ford Estates are extremely well preserved and good examples of architecture and a way of life for winter residents at the turn of the century. The tropical and exotic plantings on the grounds are quite amazing and include a Pin Cushion Tree, Strawberry Guava, Candlenut Tree, Ylang-Ylang trees, Lychees, and more mangoes than you are likely to see anywhere else.
The Hotel Indigo is nestled into the 1925 U.S. Post Office Arcade in the heart of the River District. Their rooms and ammenities are impressive for the price. Dining at the Twisted Vine Bistro was excpetional in June 2011. Yelp.com, a good resource to check for local restaurants offered Bennett's Fresh Roast as the best breakfast restaurant and the donuts alone are worth a return trip. Finally, the Red Rock Saloon on First Street has a fried green tomato salad that won't disappoint.
Ft. Myers, Punta Gorda and Sarasota are truly unique cities on the west coast of Florida. Consider visiting all of them. When you travel to Sarasota don't miss the National Register Historic District of Laurel Park or Palm Avenue both in
the downtown core just off the bay. Visit the Laurel
Park website to download a tour map and find information to make your visit more enjoyable.