Thomas Edison and Henry Ford had one thing in common: They loved to spend their vacation in the Sunshine State. Today, their original homes in Fort Myers rank among the city’s most popular attractions. At the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, you cannot only tour historic houses, but also admire antique cars and groundbreaking inventions. The Botanic Gardens with their exotic plant life are a perfect spot for nature lovers.
Edison and Ford Winter Estates – The House
American “Snow Birds” who spend the winter months in Florida are not a new phenomenon. Thomas Edison also preferred the warm climate of the Sunshine State, and so the inventor built a house on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River in 1886. After his friend’s death, the automobile pioneer Henry Ford bought the adjacent parcel and had a villa constructed there. Today, both properties are managed by a non-profit organization that tries to preserve the original architecture as well as the memories of these great American figures.
Edison and Ford Winter Estates – Exhibitions
You can either take a guided tour or visit the Edison and Ford Winter Estates with an audio guide. Starting point are the historic houses where the interior has not been altered since the lifetime of Edison and Ford. Here you can see the study room where Thomas Edison came up with his inventions, as well as the Fords´ cozy living room and the first swimming pool built in Florida.
Thousands of exhibits are displayed at the Edison Ford Museum – from groundbreaking cars to Edison’s famous inventions like gramophones, light bulbs and early movie projectors. Here, you can also admire lesser-known creations such as first toasters and flatirons. A movie informs visitors about the camping trips of Edison and Ford, and the Spark!Lab is a perfect place for little inventors. Here, children can design their own hovercraft and test it in the wind channel.
A highlight of the museum is the authentic laboratory with its multitude of flasks and tubes. Here, Edison and Ford tried to produce rubber in order to make the USA independent from foreign exports. A whopping 17.000 plant samples were collected to achieve this goal.
Edison and Ford Winter Estates – The Gardens
The Botanical Gardens of the Estates are home to 1.700 plant species that grow in an area of 11 football fields. The plants come from every part of the world: from one of the tallest banyan trees in the USA to magnificent palm trees and prehistoric ferns.
In Edison’s lifetime, his gardens were more than a feast for the eye. The plants served a practical purpose. Bamboo, for example, was needed for the production of light bulbs. Edison’s wife also left her mark here, as can be seen in the Moonlight Garden with its reflecting pool and the Butterfly Garden where colorful pollinators flutter about. Even today, you can still see the Edisons walk the gardens – in the form of costumed actors, that is. Hobby botanists should check out the official website edisonfordwinterestates.org to see which plants are blossoming at the moment.
Edison and Ford Winter Estates – Opening Hours, Ticket Prices and Events
The Edison and Ford Winter Estates are open daily from 9 am to 5.30 pm. Tickets are available on-site and online. An audio guide is included in the entrance fee of 15 USD.
For an additional 8 USD you can join a group tour of the Estates. German tours are available two times a week. In addition, there are two special tours:
- The Garden Tour lets you take a look behind the scenes in the Botanical Garden. (costs: 32 USD)
- On the Inside the Homes Tour you can see rooms that are normally closed to the public. (costs: 40 USD)
Bargains can be struck with coupons from websites like groupon.com, mecouponz.com and floridaadvertisingservices.com.
Events at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates include orchid sales, weekly talks about Edison´s and Ford´s inventions and workshops with fun experiments for children.