Sanibel Island, FL
The Cooler Town
Sanibel Lighthouse, copyright
Lee Island Coast CVB
On a budget? Head to Fort Myers Beach (13 miles south of Fort Myers on Estero Island). Teens will like the lively scene (a welcome change from Sanibel's upscale setting) including T-shirt shops, inexpensive restaurants, and water sports (including para-sailing and Waverunners). Hotel rooms are generally more affordable than on Sanibel. And wide, gradually sloping beaches and gentle tides are ideal for tots.
Fort Myers is also bustling with family-friendly attractions:
Welcome to spring training. The Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins both make their winter homes here each March. Players are surprisingly friendly in this small-stadium setting; your kids just may walk away with an autograph or photo (pre-game is the best time to ask). Games sell out fast, however, so buy your tickets well in advance.
- Thomas Edison's Winter Estate
Inventor Thomas Edison spent winters in warm Fort Myers. At his estate, the kids tour his laboratory (where he made rubber, among other things). There's also a museum housing Edison's inventions. Elsewhere on the grounds, kids will love climbing on and around the giant banyan tree, with its 400-foot-wide roots and endless forest of "shoots."
- Imaginarium Hands-On Museum & Aquarium
More than 60 hands-on science and nature exhibits give kids a chance to play TV weatherman, experience an indoor thunderstorm, or reach in the "touch tank" and pet a crab.
- Calusa Nature Center & Planetarium
This natural history museum, aviary, planetarium, and preserve offers daily programs starring local wildlife (snakes and alligators often make an appearance).