Next to the beaches, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates is the most popular attraction in Fort Myers. And from December into the first week of January, the estates come to life with thousands of lights and festive decorations, for Holiday Nights. This event consistently earns the estates national recognition, in fact being selected by the editors of 10Best as one of the top Historic Homes to visit for the Holidays.
The lights are hung with care during Holiday Nights — Photo courtesy of Mike Shapiro
Thomas Edison is referred to as Southwest Florida’s most famous winter resident, escaping the cold in New Jersey, to work in his lab on the warm banks of the Caloosahatchee River from 1885 to 1931. Edison and his famous friend Henry Ford, the father of the automobile, spent their winters adjacent to each other on these lush properties which are now historic landmarks.
The estates are spectacular year round, but are particularly enchanting during the holidays as the lights truly are hung with care to preserve the gardens and the preserved buildings; each expertly decorated by local businesses and organizations.
Visitors can view the newly restored Edison Main House, Guest House, Caretaker’s House and the Ford House among others. Edison’s famous laboratory still has original test tubes, unmarked viles and other items used for his life changing experiments and inventions.
Thomas Edison's famous lab at his winter residence in Fort Myers — Photo courtesy of Mike Shapiro
Perhaps the most famous American Inventor, Thomas Edison left his mark on Christmas in a way many people are unaware of. During the Christmas season in the 1880s, he hung strings of electric lights outside of his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey. He created the first, and now long-established holiday tradition, of hanging strands of lights for celebrations. Thank you, Mr. Edison.
During Holiday Nights, guests are also treated to live music and an occasional visit from Santa Clause himself. In addition, there are refreshments for purchase and the museum and gift stores stay open late.
A new event for the 2013 season, Clydesdale Wagon Rides. IF the weather is cool, you can snuggle close to your family and friends as you tour the historic Edison park neighborhood. The rides are ten and five dollars for adults and children.
The next big event focusing on the landmark estates and the inventor, is scheduled for February as Southwest Florida celebrates Edison’s birthday. The Edison Festival of Light kicks off the last weekend of January and stretches for three weeks with an array of activities all over the city, including inventor’s fairs, art shows, coronation balls and road races.
The festival culminates in the annual Grand Parade of Light, one of the largest nighttime parades in the Southeast. The 2014 date is Saturday, February 15. Weeks prior to the parade, locals use masking tape and paint to mark sidewalks; an unofficial but recognized and respected way to reserve their parade viewing spot. Some even chain chairs to city sign posts.
The estates are typically open from 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. But during Holiday Nights, the gates don’t close until 9pm. The decorations stay up through January 4.
Admission is $15 for adults, students from the age of thirteen to college pay $8 and it’s $2 for children ages six to twelve. Guided tours will cost about $5 more per person.
This is the only time of the year the Estates are open to the general public at night, so enjoy.