Edison & Ford Winter Estates

Top choice museum

in Fort Myers
Image by Danita Delimont / Getty Images
Image by Danita Delimont / Getty Images

Florida's snowbirds can be easy to mock, but not this pair. Thomas Edison built his winter home in 1885 and lived in Florida seasonally until his death in 1931. Edison's friend Henry Ford built his adjacent bungalow in 1916. Together, and sometimes side by side in Edison's lab, these two inventors, businessmen and neighbors changed our world. The museum does an excellent job of presenting the overwhelming scope of their achievements.

Edison, Ford and Harvey Firestone were dedicated 'tin-can tourists' who enjoyed driving and camping across America together, and exhibits chronicle their journeys and how these fed their refinements of the automobile. Indeed, the main purpose of Edison's Fort Myers lab was to develop a domestic source of rubber (primarily using goldenrod plants) for auto manufacturing, although he then went on to file 1093 patents for things like the light bulb, the phonograph, waffle irons and sprocketed celluloid film.

The rich botanical gardens and genteel homes very nearly glow, and are decked out with historical goodies and period furniture. Don't forgo the self-guided audio tour of the estates (adults/children $25/15). Guided tours are also available from 10am to 4pm on the hour