If you ask someone to name the first thing that comes to mind when someone says ‘Florida’, you’ll get a variety of responses. Warm weather, crystal clear water, white sand beaches, thrilling rides and amusement parks, water slides, wild nature, bountiful citrus trees, and natural springs are just a few things Florida’s best-known for, and it’s only in Central Florida that you can get a taste of everything that makes Florida fantastic.
In fact, Polk County’s (AKA Central Florida) motto is Choose Everything (don’t mind if I do!). Choosing everything is a great option when you’re a parent with small or young children or even bourgeoning teenagers because as you know, the audience has many interests and tastes, and in Central Florida, it’s actually possible to satisfy all of them. In fact, there’s so much to choose from, we compiled a list of the 12 most visually, physically, and intellectually stimulating things to do in Central Florida with the family.
It’s a Land of Many Amusements
Everything you ever dreamed Legos could be (and then some) is at the LEGOLAND Florida Resort and theme park in Winter Haven. Plan to stay at the hotel and get special perks (like early Park access, access to Master Model Builder Sessions, and a treasure hunt in every room) or just spend the day at the LEGOLAND water park or theme park. Ride the choo-choo train and roller coasters, zip down slides, and splash into adventure your little ones won’t soon forget at LEGOLAND.
Cultivate your child’s fancy for aviation in this elegant, wholly unique museum, which features a private collection of vintage aircraft (it’s the world’s largest). Bring the fantasy to life with a ride in a real biplane.
Lakeland’s Common Ground Park is more than your average park. It boasts some of the largest and most inclusive playground equipment ready for children to explore, climb, and have fun (and we’re not just saying that, those are literally the posted rules of the park). Best part for parents? No entry fees.
Walt Disney World, Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon, Universal’s Islands of Adventure featuring the Wizarding World of Harry Potter … these world-famous amusement and waterparks are a short drive from Central Florida and need no introduction; all you need to know is that you can make any one of them a memorable day-trip while staying in Polk County.
There’s Plenty of Nature
This National Historic Landmark in Lake Wales is part natural retreat, part history tour all in one. Explore the stunning 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco style Singing Tower, or stroll the lush landscaped gardens. The serene masterpiece is canvased with ferns, palms, oaks, pines, and plenty of flora. Young nature enthusiasts will love looking for avian species as the Gardens is a site on the Great Florida Birding Trail. They even have a brand new children’s garden and play area opening soon!
Visit the wilds of Africa from Lakeland, Florida. Travel by vehicle, kayak, or camelback to explore the herds of African and Asian species (like zebra, water buffalo, and antelope) in 260 acres of Florida wilderness. You’ll get up close and personal with the animals and even hand feed Lemurs or Water Buffalo!
On the northwest shore of Lake Hancock is 1,267 acres of preserved Florida wildlife. You’ll see several ecosystems in this resplendent, protected area. Visit the Nature Discovery Center to gather information before you tour the area. This perfect natural location was named as one of the 51 best places to see wildlife by USA Today Travel.
Indulge in neoclassic architecture and take a musical stroll through the rose garden and butterfly trail. The park has a lovely view of Lake Mirror and is a short stroll from Lakeland’s stylish downtown area as well as Barnett Park.
Sports Fans Love It
Get a little wild at this family-friendly dude ranch. Plan to stay at the resort and enjoy horseback riding, hayrides, boating, fishing, golf, swimming, and even a Saturday night rodeo at this incomparable resort. They even have glamping and stylish teepee “camping”.
Inspire young baseball fans by letting them watch the Detroit Tigers during Spring Training each March. Get an autograph to go with your hotdog as you enjoy a sunny day at the old ball game. When the big league team heads back to Detroit, catch the future stars of the Tigers during the Lakeland Flying Tigers minor league season, which runs April through September.
Just 30 minutes from Central Florida is Raymond James Stadium, the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Plan to catch a home game while in town during football season (August-December).
It would be a shame to come to Florida and not play in the water. The Winter Haven Chain of Lakes lets you do it all: jet ski, boat, tube, fish, swim, paddleboard, and more.
There are fun things to do in Central Florida for all ages. It’s literally the place where you can choose everything, so why not try it all?