Family Adventures in Central Florida
After living in Orlando for a few years, I decided that my kids needed a break from Universal Studios and Walt Disney World, so we decided to explore some of the surrounding attractions in Central Florida. My kids love animals and flowers, so you will see we visit a lot of Gardens and Zoos when traveling. It turns out Central Florida is the perfect family destination for outdoor adventures. During a three-day weekend getaway (like ours) or an extended Orlando vacation, you can experience a lot of cool attractions, including the beautiful Bok Tower Gardens, the adventurous Safari Wilderness Ranch, several really fun parks and the creative LEGOLAND theme park. And if you are looking for more things to do in Central Florida to fill up your itinerary then check out this list of 42+ Unique things to do beyond Disney.
Day one in Central Florida with kids
Take a drive to Lake Wales for a few hours exploring Bok Tower Gardens and the Pine Estate. History buffs like my husband will enjoy the Pine Estate Tour and young kids (or kids at heart like myself) will enjoy Hammock Hollow, a 2.7-acre outdoor creative space included in your General Admission to Bok Tower Gardens. During our visit, we arrived mid day and my kids saw the entry garden and were ecstatic. Exploring all of Bok Tower Gardens was a blast for all of us.
This attraction was so much fun I decided it needed a post all on it’s own to showcase all it has to offer. In this post I show all the parts of Hammock Hollow, a walk through the Pine Estate, the beauty of the tower and plus learn about history in the museum.
TIP –> You will want to spend a couple of hours playing in the gardens. Bring a picnic lunch or plan to dine in the cafe. We spent about two hours in the children’s garden alone before we set off to see the rest of Bok Tower Gardens and tour the historic Pine Estate.
Run off some energy at Uncommon Grounds Playground. This is by far the best playground I have every been to. We had to drag our kids away kicking and screaming. Not really but there were tears involved. The playground is set up into areas marked by a level of difficulty for play. My five-year-old son managed all areas fine on his own. And our two-year-old daughter tried everything but needed some help from time to time. The hills to slide down and rocks to climb on were the biggest hit.
Take in a first-run movie the old fashion way at Silvermoon Drive-In. This is a fun way to relax after a busy day while also sharing a new experience with the kids. You can bring in food; we opted to get there early for a good spot and order a pizza from their snack bar.
TIP–>You can tune into the sound on your vehicles am radio but if you are like us and want to sit in the bed of your truck you will want to come prepared with a portable radio or make sure your phone has a good radio app on it.
Day Two in Central Florida with kids
Spend a full day of fun at LEGOLAND Florida. My kids are pros at theme park days and LEGOLAND is on their favorites list. LEGOLAND is a perfect theme park experience for little ones because there is so much for them to actively do. So many rides designed for their comfort level. You could easily spend a couple of days here but if you only have a few days in Central Florida here are great tips for making the most of a one-day visit.
Day three in Central Florida
We decided to take a morning walk around Lake Mirror. This beautiful lake in downtown Lakeland is the perfect backdrop for a walk before grabbing coffee and beignets at the Poor Porker; such an eclectic restaurant. After breakfast, you can stroll over to Hollis Garden to see all the patterned flower beds and ornamental fountains. Before we started our drive out to Central Florida’s Green Swamp, we let the kids pay at another cool playground at Barnett Family Park.
Explore wildlife on an up close adventure at Safari Wilderness Ranch. This is a unique opportunity allowing you to have personal encounters with exotic animals on a guided tour of the property. Safari Wilderness was named by Fodor’s as one of the top 10 best safaris in the country and I can now see why!
We loved the Vehicle Safari tour! Still not convinced, here I shared 5 Reasons to Take Your Kids to Safari Wilderness and showed off our favorite family moments at Safari Wilderness Ranch.
Where to stay in Central Florida with kids
The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lakeland North is a great budget-friendly hotel in Central Florida. We stayed here and found the rooms are pleasant and spacious, and suites come with small kitchenettes — a convenient touch. Hot breakfast is complimentary, and cribs and high chairs are available from the front desk.
If you are planning a day or two at LEGOLAND and have some room in your budget for a fabulous hotel experience then you will want to stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel or the new LEGOLAND Beach Retreat opening in April.
Central Florida is a family destination
With so much to do in Polk County, it’s a no brainer to check it out for a few days whether you live in Florida or are vacationing. Central Florida is fun for kids and adults alike because there is something for everyone.
Have you been to Central Florida? I would love to hear about your favorite attraction in the comments.
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A note from Mandy at ACupful: Visit Central Florida coordinated some details of our family’s media trip for the purpose of sharing family destinations for our readers. As always, all opinions and fun are my own.