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A Weekend in Downtown Fort Myers: (Luminary Hotel + Ford & Edison Winter Estates)

On a recent trip to Sanibel, I decided to split the trip up and stay a couple of nights in Fort Myers before moving over to the island. 

A Weekend in Downtown Fort Myers

There were a handful of things I’d been wanting to check out in the area plus a new hotel opening and it ended up being a nice little weekend!

Downtown Fort Myers is about 25 minutes from the airport (RSW), about 40 minutes from Fort Myers Beach, about 45 minutes from Sanibel, and only about 5 minutes from the Edison and Ford Winter Estates. 

Where to Stay: Luminary Hotel & Co

The new Luminary Hotel & Co in Fort Myers is part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection and you know how much I love a Marriott branded boutique hotel ; ) 

The Luminary Hotel & Co sits right on the Caloosahatchee River in downtown Fort Myers. “Downtown” is a relative term here. Think more historic and less businesslike. First Street (just behind the hotel) is a quaint, cobblestone street lined with historic buildings that have been converted into shops and restaurants. 

Inspired by the creative pioneers of Fort Myers (including Thomas Edison), this place has a very strong sense of branding that stops just short of feeling like a theme. It has a trendy vibe, but is still very casual and everything about the place is very modern with historical touches. 

All of the public spaces in the hotel are well designed and in good condition (it was still a brand new hotel when I stayed here though so I wouldn’t have expected to see any wear and tear). 

The room was stylish and well thought out with great amenities. A great minibar, plenty of outlets for charging, streaming on the TV, a posh bathroom…all good and on par with what you’d expect from an Autograph Collection property. My favorite touch though was the glass water container (a carafe??) that you could fill up down at the ice machine. There were cups and glasses in the mini bar and it was nice having water in the room without having to stop and buy plastic water bottles. 

This seemed like a fairly large hotel, but the lobby itself wasn’t that big and while there are several different restaurants on property it’s a little disjointed. 

We had breakfast one morning at Ella Mae’s Diner which is part of the hotel, but it has an outside entrance.  It’s very cute, but I think I ordered wrong (the breakfast sandwich). It wasn’t great…probably go with the pancakes! 

We capped off one evening at the Beacon Social Drinkery which is the rooftop bar. Because it was winter (and daylight savings time) it was completely dark by 5:30 or so but it was still pretty to see the lights. This place was fine, but I wasn’t overly impressed. Unless you’re just a real rooftop bar junkie or you’re staying in the hotel, I don’t think I’d go out of my way to come here. 

The coffee shop in the lobby is a nice touch. It’s on par with a Starbucks as far as selection and price and super convenient to have if you’re staying there on business or just need something quick before you head out.

If you stay at many Autograph Collection hotels, you probably know that they fall into a pretty wide spectrum regarding amenities and level of luxury. There’s not as much of a set standard level as there is with other Marriott brands. 

Overall, I would say this particular property is on par with a high end Courtyard Marriott. Great branding, well designed spaces, but not really much to speak of in the way of service and definitely not what would be categorized as luxury. But a really solid hotel. 

You can book directly with Marriott here

***Want to save major $$$ on a fancy beach resort? My favorite travel hack is cashing in points to score free nights at some of the island’s most high end resorts. My go to hotel brand is Marriott so I use this Marriott Bonvoy Boundless card to rack up points for a lot of my trips to Florida. If you pay for your monthly expenses on the card and are responsible about paying it off every month, the points add up really fast. Plus, if you sign up through my link, you’ll get THREE bonus free nights to use. In Florida, use your points at some of my favorite Marriott properties like the Swan Reserve at Walt Disney World, the Vinoy in St. Pete, the EDITION Miami Beach, the JW Marriott Marco Island, and the soon to open St. Regis Longboat Key. 

What to Do: Edison & Ford Winter Estates

While it’s not uncommon to find winter estates from wealthy families of the Gilded Age on Florida’s east coast, Florida’s Gulf Coast usually doesn’t see as much history. 

But there’s something special in Fort Myers on the Caloosahatchee River. Thomas Edison purchased land to build a winter estate on the river in 1885 and in 1914 after the Fords came to visit, Henry Ford bought the home next door. 

In addition to the Edison and Ford Estates, you can also see the Edison Botanical Research Laboratory where Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Harvey Firestone did their research into natural rubber resources and a pretty extensive museum.

I LOVE visiting historic homes so this place was right up my alley. It sits right on the river and it’s a charming complex of houses and other buildings. Compared to most of the titans of industry who built estates during this time period, this place is downright quaint. 

I loved seeing the laboratory and the museum gives a lot of context into not just Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, but their relationship and the work that they did in Fort Myers specifically. 

It’s such a beautiful property right on the river and all of the buildings and rooms are furnished exactly as they were when Edison and Ford lived here. Even if you don’t love history, the site is so pretty (and the audio tour moves along pretty quickly) and I think it would hold just about anybody’s attention (even kids) for at least an hour. How long you spend in the museum is up to you. I spent about an hour inside and definitely didn’t read everything thoroughly. 

Tickets are $25/adult (20+), $20/teen (13-19), $15/child (6-12), and children 5 and under are free. The complex is open from 9AM to 5:30PM (last entry at 4:30PM). 

There’s a free app you can download that leads you through the estate on an audio tour. But there’s also a handful of guided tours you can take ranging from a basic to tour one that focuses on automobiles, the gardens, and the home interiors. Find more info about tours here

Plan to spend at least a couple of hours at the complex. With the audio tour, you’ll spend about an hour going through the estate (including the laboratory) and then you can easily spend an hour in the museum. 

Side Note: If you’re looking for a rental car for your trip, I LOVE Discount USA Car Rental. They’re seriously the only company I ever use. I started using their sister company (Discount Hawaii Car Rental) on my Hawaii trips almost 10 years ago and now I use their main site for all of my other trips. They’ll give you the very best prices, you don’t have to reserve with a credit card or pay until you show up, you can cancel and re-book anytime if you find a better rate, and they usually have a special that adds additional drivers for no fee. It’s a no brainer. Click here to check rates for your trip.

Where to Eat: Historic First Street

Historic First Street in downtown Fort Myers is a really cute, walkable area. 

I had dinner at Ford’s Garage one evening. It’s now a chain, but this is the original. It’s a really well themed place and the food was surprisingly good. It’s basically TGI Fridays style, but the burger was phenomenal and the atmosphere was a lot of fun. I also read a lot of recommendations for The Lodge and it looked pretty good (like a Texas themed TGI Fridays) and Capone’s Coal Fired Pizza would be a place I would try too. 

This area is convenient if you’re staying nearby and the cobblestone streets, alleys, and historic buildings are charming, but I wouldn’t say it’s a big foodie destination. The restaurants are decent but not outstanding so it really depends what your expectations are (note my using TGI Fridays as a comparison to the two most popular spots ; )  

On Another Note: If you’re looking for a condo or vacation rental for your trip, I always book with Vrbo. They’ve got the largest selection of rentals you’ll find anywhere and you can easily filter to find exactly what you’re looking for. Need a specific number of bedrooms and bathrooms? Narrowed it down to a certain location? Want flexible cancellation terms? Need to stay under a fixed budget? Click here to search for Florida vacation rentals for your trip.

Want to Read More Posts about Florida? I’ve got plenty!

Check out these destinations: Miami (Things to Do Besides Party & Where to Stay) // Key Biscayne // Sanibel & Captiva // Longboat Key & Anna Maria Island // Marco Island // 30a // St Augustine // Amelia Island // St Pete Beach // St Petersburg // Fort Myers // Dunedin // Crystal River & Weeki Wachee Springs // Honeymoon Island & Caladesi Island State Parks // Tarpon Springs // Matlacha & Pine Island // Apalachicola

Trying to narrow it down? Siesta Key vs Anna Maria Island // St Pete Beach vs Clearwater Beach // Sanibel vs Marco Island // Destin vs Panama City Beach // Destin vs 30a // Key Biscayne vs South Beach // Seaside vs Rosemary Beach 

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P.S. If you want to follow along on my travel adventures in real time, you can follow me on Instagram (@caitylincoln). My post captions are full of travel tips and I have a ton of story highlights and videos with great info. And share my account with your travel loving friends! Your support really helps me keep this blog running!