Soak up the sun’s rays in Fort Myers, a fun, energetic city in Southwest Florida. As one of the region’s major tourist destinations, this buzzing hot spot has a well-developed system of attractions and activities ideal for families. Explore the fascinating Florida wilderness, get up close and personal with native animals, or travel to the ocean for a day at the beach. Use these top 12 attractions as a guideline when choosing an itinerary and booking vacation rentals in Fort Myers.

1. Kayak With Manatees

Create an unforgettable experience with a visit to Manatee Park. Rent kayaks at the park, and paddle just above the manatees that frequent the area. Manatee sightings are most common in December, January, and February. The rest of the year, you can enjoy a paddle trip with the kids, meander through the large butterfly garden and fish in the Orange River.

2. Get Scientific

Turn learning into a fun activity with a visit to the Imaginarium Science Center, which features more than 60 hands-on exhibits. Feel different sea creatures in the Sea-to-See touch tank, or get close to a ball python in the animal lab. The mix of indoor and outdoor stations are designed specifically for little ones, so you can participate or simply watch the fun. Be sure to visit the Fisheye Lagoon, where you can watch exotic fish swim under the sun.

3. Ride the Rails at Lakes Regional Park

Hop aboard the small railway at Lakes Regional Park, one of Fort Myers’ most popular family spots. After your ride, plan to stay the whole day to fish in the lake, play in two splash pads, and explore the walking paths. The park also hosts regular story hours, bird watching walks and strolling tours. Take advantage of bike and boat rentals to entertain kids of any age.

4. Check Out the Railroad Museum

The Railroad Museum of South Florida, which sits across the street from Lakes Regional Park, is a must-see for families with tiny train enthusiasts. Check out a variety of train cars including steam locomotives and rolling stocks. Take photos with the trains and examine the interesting artifacts of the historic rail industry in Florida. When you need a break, head to the onsite movie theater to watch a train-themed film.

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5. Take a Pirate Cruise

Hit the high seas with a Salty Sam’s Pirate Cruise. Board the Pieces of Eight, a replica of a Spanish galleon, and head out into the water on a 90-minute adventure. The pirate staff provides a fun and entertaining trip that includes cannon fire, a mutiny, and a variety of games for the whole family. Kids are encouraged to wear pirate costumes and the shipboard bar provides a selection of drinks for purchase.

6. Ride a Roller Coaster

Spend your day sailing through the air on thrill rides at Zoomers. This small amusement park is easy to navigate with kids in tow and features a variety of rides for everyone in the family. Stop by the arcade to play old-fashioned video games, race each other on the go-kart track or enjoy a game of mini golf. Rides are priced individually, and the park’s unlimited wristbands are a great deal for families with older kids.

7. Visit the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium

Enjoy an educational and entertaining afternoon at the Calusa Nature Center and Planetarium. Learn about Florida’s native wildlife in the museum then head out to the nature trails to see the animals. Be sure to stop by the butterfly and bird aviaries. Each day the museum offers kid-friendly educational programs that provide a closer look at a specific animal.

8. Watch the Minnesota Twins in Spring Training

If you’re visiting Fort Myers early in the year, head to the CenturyLink Sports Complex to watch the Minnesota Twins in spring training. Games are well-attended and great for families. If you can’t catch a game then you can still attend practices, which are also open to the public. During the rest of the year you can visit the stadium to see the Fort Myers Miracle and the Gulf Coast League Twins play.

9. Watch for Wildlife

Experience Florida’s animal population in the wild at the J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge. Start your visit at the onsite Visitor and Education Center to learn about local wildlife. Then, walk or bike the four-mile Wildlife Drive to spot water birds, alligators, otters and bobcats. You can also drive the four miles, which is a good idea if you have little ones. If you’re up for a hike you should take the easy Indigo Trail.

10. Go to the Beach

No visit to Fort Myers is complete without a trip to the beach. Head to Fort Myers Beach, which lies about 16 miles from downtown. Kids love gathering shells on the sand, swimming and enjoying the stunning South Florida weather. Rent gear and bait from the shop on the local fishing pier, and spend the afternoon saltwater fishing with your family.

11. Check Out the Edison and Ford Winter Estates

See where two American icons spent their time at the Edison and Ford winter estates. A tour of the grounds gives families insight into Henry Ford and Thomas Edison. Check out their main houses, caretaker’s houses, and pool complex. The Botanic Research Laboratory shows off Edison’s broad range of interests. During your visit, look out for the actors that portray these historical characters and their family members.

12. Paddle the Great Calusa Blueway

Load your little ones into kayaks or canoes, and head to the Great Calusa Blueway. This well-marked water trail, which travels through coastal waters and inland tributaries, is gentle enough for kids and new paddlers. Look for sea life, spot water birds and keep an eye out for crabs. Manatees and dolphins are a common sight, so be sure to bring your camera. Download maps or orders a trail guide at the Blueway’s website.

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