Crashing surf, soft white sand, and plenty of adventure draw more than 4 million people to visit Fort Myers every year. But sometimes being a tourist is overrated. To experience Fort Myers like someone who belongs, plan to travel during the off-season from March through May, when parking is easy and the crowds are small. Check out these local weekend haunts while you’re there.
Hop on a Bike
Park it. Who needs four wheels in Fort Myers? Locals love to spend their weekends on two wheels. Not only do you get the thrill of the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, but you get to see plenty of local wildlife — maybe even some alligators along the way. Nearby Sanibel Island is a bicycle-friendly community with more than 25 miles of bike paths, but locals who want to challenge their skills head to Caloosahatchee Regional Park, 20 miles north of the city.
Explore Centennial Park
Whether you spend an hour or an entire day, you can really relax in the 10-acre Centennial Park that’s smack dab in the middle of all the action downtown. Plus, it has fabulous views of the Caloosahatchee River. Launch a boat, strike up a volleyball game, or fish off the pier at this old-fashioned park that feels like a throwback to simpler times. And check out the garden art, like “Uncommon Friends,” a tribute honoring the friendship between Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone, and Henry Ford.
Hit the Trails
People who live in Fort Myers enjoy walking the boardwalk at Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve to watch the wildlife that live on the 3,500 acres. But that’s not the only good spot. Alligator Creek’s two loop trails and the Babcock Ecotour Trail are also great choices for anyone who wants to experience the wilds of Fort Myers without having to deal with other tourists.
Spend a Day at the Beach
While everyone else is seashelling on the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva islands, locals like to keep it low-key on smaller, quieter beaches like Little Hickory Island Beach Park, a quiet spot where surf fishing and relaxing on the sand are the orders of the day. Cayo Costa State Park is another favorite spot. This “key by the coast” is one of the region’s most untouched gems, where you can explore pine forests, kayak through the mangroves, and plant yourself right at the water’s edge to enjoy the sun.
Times Square, Florida Style
People who live in Fort Myers love Times Square so much they’ll even battle the seasonal crowds. Do swimsuit-friendly restaurants, live island-inspired music with steel drums, and some of the best beaches and shopping around sound good to you? If so, this is your spot. If nothing else, check out the huge Sunset Celebration beach party — it’s the best way to kick off the weekend.
Get in Touch with the Local Art Scene
Fort Myers River District is a busy place at any time of year, and it’s well worth dealing with crowds to explore the funky galleries, boutiques, and other attractions. See a show at the Florida Repertory Theatre, or explore the variety of performance art, paintings, and sculptures at the Sidney & Berne Davis Art Center. Love experiences that make your jaw hit the pavement? Check out Parallel Park, with 30,000 square feet of Kevlar and fiberglass panels transforming a parking garage into a massive public art installation that changes throughout the day as the sun tracks over it. Cool, right?
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