“Genius is hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense.”
—Thomas A. Edison
The Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers, Florida evoke more of America’s history and unique character than most of the country’s leading tourist attractions.
And best of all, the buildings and grounds of this sprawling riverfront attraction are mostly wheelchair accessible. Next door to the estates, a newly opened seafood restaurant with reasonable prices offers a panoramic view of the Caloosahatchee River, and even though the restaurant is on the second-floor, two elevators make it easily accessible. See “Where to eat at Edison Ford.”
In addition to offering wheelchairs on a first-come, first-served basis, the attraction offers guided, wheelchair-accessible tours; amplified audio tours for the hearing impaired and wheelchair-accessible parking. For complete information on accessibility visit their website.
Self-guided audio tours are available in English, French, German and Spanish, and German language tours led by a historian are offered every Wednesday at 10:30. Maps are available in German, French, Spanish and English.
While the Edison and Ford estate is not among the top 25 United States attractions overall—Times Square, Las Vegas and the Disney properties lead that list—it is one of the most-visited historic sites in the country.
Thomas A. Edison, credited with inventing the light bulb, the phonograph and the movie camera, among many other inventions, and Henry Ford, whose pioneering inventions created the auto industry, were friends and neighbors during the winter months in the early 1900s, living in surprisingly modest houses side by side. Edison also had a separate, botanical research laboratory where he worked on his inventions, including a failed attempt to create an artificial rubber that could be used for automobile tires.
The Edison Ford Museum offers a collection of inventions, artifacts and special exhibition galleries that highlight the historical contributions of these two early entrepreneurs.
The Edison Ford gardens comprise 20 acres of gardens that boast 1,700 plants representing more than 400 species from six continents. The most famous tree is a banyan tree, which was just four feet tall when it was planted in 1925, but which now covers almost an acre. It’s a gardener’s paradise.
Though Thomas Edison was called “The Wizard of Menlo Park” for the New Jersey laboratory where he produced many of his inventions, Fort Myers, Florida, takes special pride in what it considers a native son.
The estate is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and has many special events and a number of guided tours.
For more complete information, visit the Edison Ford Estate web site.