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The Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium aims to promote a better understanding of the natural history below as well as the cosmological one above. The 105-acre (42 hectares) site contains a museum, an aviary, winding nature trails, and a gift shop alongside meeting and picnic areas. The museum has information on the Calusa Indians, a tribe also known as the Shell Indians because of their subsistence on the gulf shores and estuaries. In addition to a glimpse back in time, the museum provides interactive animal exhibits like snake feedings and aviary tours.
The barrier island of Sanibel is home to Sanibel city known for its shelly beaches and wild-life refuges. From an ecological standpoint, this city plays an important role in the conservation of the abundance of flora and fauna found here, the largest wildlife refuge being the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Equally attractive are the large number of shells that wash up on the shores of the island. Some lucky tourists also get their hands on the rare Scaphella junonia, which is highly valued. Often acclaimed as a top tourist destination, the island welcomes all those looking for an adventurous escapade amidst the ocean.
One of the most popular tourist attractions in Fort Myers, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates highlight the lives of two American intellectual behemoths that are Thomas Alva Edinson and Henry Ford. Spread across 20 acres (8 hectares) of pristine estates, this site was where legendary inventor Thomas Edison began spending his winters along the Caloosahatchee River from the comforts of his beloved Seminole Lodge in 1886. In 1916, Edison's dear friend Henry Ford built his Craftsman-style holiday home, known as 'The Mangoes' right next door. Edison's house is engulfed in a blanket of spectacular beauty thanks to the botanical garden designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman that houses Florida's largest banyan tree. The Rubber Laboratory is one of the sight's prime exhibits that showcase the facility exactly how it was left by Edison.
As its name implies, Manatee Park highlights this mammal from the order Sirenia, a popular emblem of Southern Florida. The park sits alongside the Orange River and its a great place to launch a canoe; you can bring your own or rent one from CalusaBlueway Outfitters. Additionally, the park has a butterfly garden, an amphitheater, pavilions for rent, picnic areas and plenty of places to toss a hook and line. The best time to catch the manatees is during the winter months (typically December through March), when the temperature in the river reaches the appropriate number, around 68ºF.
Look for the yellow and green dinosaur next to the water tower and you'll know you have found the Imaginarium, a hands-on science museum for kids of all ages. Try your hand at being a weatherman, excavate a T-Rex in the "dig pit" or chart a course on a boat. The simple explanations make learning fun and easy to understand. There is even a living coral reef and alligator lagoon.
The J.N. "Ding" Darling Wildlife Refuge is 5,200 acres (2,104 hectares) of tidal wetlands and mangroves, home to more than 200 species of birds, 50 different species of reptiles and 32 mammals. The best and busiest times to visit, especially for bird-watching, are November through April. Visitors can explore the park on a two-mile foot trail (3.21 kilometers), hop aboard a canoe or ride their bike along the Wildlife Drive which has views of the water on both sides. Moreover, the drive to its location on Sanibel Island is a treat unto itself.
The Six Mile Cypress Slough is one of many preserved and pristine swamplands spread throughout southwest Florida. The highlight of the preserve is the 1.2-mile (1.9 kilometer) boardwalk, a wood-planked corridor that runs through the 2,200-acre (890 hectare) wetland, where guests can see alligators, wild boar, otters and much more. During the dry season (October to June), birds like herons and egrets flock to the flag ponds which make it a perfect place for birders. There are guided tours year-round, and self-guided tour brochures in the LEED-certified interpretive center.
Lakes Park is one of the most popular recreational areas in-and-around Fort Myers. The 279-acre (112 hectare) park has several fresh water lakes perfect for swimming, fishing or hopping aboard a boat. Officially, swim season starts from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but throughout the year you'll see people wading in and out of the water. You don't have to go in the water however, because there is still a 2.5-mile (four kilometer) paved path used for running, rollerblading or riding your bike. Additionally, the Fragrance Garden offers a unique sensory experience and other picnic areas, concession stands, a miniature train ride, boat rental and showers, further delight visitors.
Once said to be a haunt for pirates and later home to the Calusa Indians, Captiva Island is filled with myths, legends and stunning beauty. Bestowed with pristine beaches set against azure blue waters, this isle is charming in every way. Explore its beaches for pastel shells, or go fishing, boating and kayaking. Besides water-sports and cruises, it is also popular for biking, hiking and birding. Since it is a resort island, you will find plenty of shopping and dining destinations as well.
Covering 40,000 square feet (3,716 square meters), more than 900 vendors ply their wares at the Fleamasters Fleamarket every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 9a to 5p, rain or shine (covered walkways help with adverse weather). At Fleamasters, one is sure to find the typical flea market fare, such as jewelry, books and antiques, but the place is also home to a barbershop, outlet stores, and there's delicious food at various eateries to satiate your well-worked appetite. Colored lines on the floor help you find your way through the many booths.