Fun Things to Do in Central Florida

While most visitors are trolling through theme parks, truly happy travelers will enjoy our favorite cool, happy, and fun things to do in Central Florida.

An easy day trip from Orlando, the following attractions include some amazing historic sites, cultural activities, adventures, and natural areas, for people of all ages. Polk County Florida itself has over 550 lakes.

Eating fresh seafood and getting out on the water are must activities (obviously!). But what are some other things to do in Central Florida? Glad you asked. Read on!

Thank you to Visit Central Florida for hosting McCool Travel.

Fantastic Fun Things to do in Central Florida

1. Feed Lemurs at Safari Wilderness Ranch

The USDA licensed Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland Florida is a natural adventure experience, unlike zoos or the neighboring theme parks. The 260 acre Safari Wilderness is part of the 870 square mile Green Swamp and houses hundreds of exotic animals from around the world. Reservations are necessary for the off-road vehicle safari and many other experiences. Feeding lemurs was one of my favorite things to do in Central Florida.

Safari Wilderness Ranch is also an easy and fun Tampa day trip.

2. Frank Lloyd Wright Architecture and Lakeland Florida

Learning that a college campus in Central Florida has the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings was certainly a surprise. The Florida Southern College itself is gorgeous, regularly earning designations for most beautiful college. While you can self-guide the Frank Lloyd Wright architecture, taking a tour is highly encouraged. The guides are extremely knowledgable and provide incredible information.

Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College. Article and photo by Charles McCool for McCool Travel. Frank Lloyd Wright architecture at Florida Southern College

Other things to do in Lakeland FL, near the Florida Southern campus, include walking along Lake Morton (saw a lot of cool water birds), Hollis Garden at historic Lake Mirror, and Polk Museum of Art and quaint downtown Lakeland.

This is another great day trip from Tampa.

3. See Florida’s Taj Mahal at Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower is one of those Old Florida places I heard of since I was a kid growing up in South Florida but never saw. I finally visited Bok Tower Gardens on my last trip. Wow, what a place.

Bok Tower is on top of Iron Mountain, one of the highest spots in Florida. Do not worry about altitude sickness, it is only 289 feet above sea level.

The “Singing Tower” houses a magnificent carillon which plays a bell concert twice daily. The historic garden provides acres of refuge for birds, wildlife, and visitors.

The Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden is a 3 acre nature playground which recently opened. Pinewood Estate is a Mediterranean designed mansion from the 1930s, requiring a separate admission.

McCool Travel tip: On the way to Bok Tower, check out Spook Hill. They were installing new signs during our visit so tell me how it is now.

4. Citrus Tour at Ridge Island Groves

Florida’s Sun Ridge is USA’s top citrus production area and Ridge Island Groves is a cool place to visit in Central Florida. Ridge Island Groves makes the best tasting orange juice I ever had and the tangerine juice was even better.

They feed used orange peels to their cattle stock and it is fun to see the cows run to the fence whenever the workers approach.

During your visit, take a tour to learn about their operation, citrus history and future, to taste the freshest possible orange, and to pick your own.


5. Florida Sports Hall of Fame

Before the permanent location is built, visit the Florida Sports Hall of Fame preview center in Central Florida. Nearby is the Polk County Sports Hall of Fame, where you should check out the Banana Skier (fun), but also more mainstream sports stars like Al Kaline, Tracy McGrady, and Ray Lewis.

things to do in Central Florida: Polk County Sports Hall of Fame things to see in Central Florida: Polk County Sports Hall of Fame

6. Where to Eat in Central Florida

Gary’s Oyster Bar and Peebles BBQ are Old Florida favorites and well worth a visit. Adler’s serves amazing burgers at their storefront in Davenport. They also have a popular food truck.

Grove Roots in downtown Winter Haven is an excellent craft beer shop with rotating offerings. During our February visit, the porters were our favorites.

Visit Mr Fish in Lakeland before starting your Frank Lloyd Wright architecture tour. McCool Travel tip: call or fax in your Mr Fish order to avoid standing in line.

Also in downtown Lakeland, we like Mitchell’s Coffee House and Black & Brew. Try the veggie breakfast burrito at Mitchell’s, an old school and lovingly local place. Black & Brew is across the street from Munn Park and we like their breakfast biscuit sandwiches.

See which place in Central Florida serves one of the Best Blackened Grouper Sandwiches.

7. Where to Stay in Central Florida

Lodging options are plentiful along the I-4 corridor. Instead of a hotel, consider a vacation rental property like Regal Palms Resort (see also the TripAdvisor reviews and our video) where you can stay in a multi-level townhouse with full kitchen and other amenities for the same price as a hotel.

Camp Margaritaville (formerly called Cabana Club Resort) in Auburndale features over 100 RV spots but also 60 cool cabins. Onsite fun features like a tiki bar, fire pits, mini golf, kid’s area, and pools make this one of our recommended places to stay in Central Florida.

Choose a waterfront cabin at Camp Margaritaville and sit on your patio (with your morning tea or afternoon margarita) and watch the eagle nest just 100 yards away. Bring binoculars!

Camp Margaritaville Auburndale cabins
Camp Margaritaville Auburndale cabins

8. Other Things to Do in Central Florida:

Some other things to do in Central Florida recommended to us and we hope to do in the future:

>>> Find out the great place where I ate in Haines City in Florida Back Roads Road Trip and more about what to do in Central Florida in Florida Hills – Yes, Hills!

What are your favorite things to do in Central Florida?

Fun things to do in Central Florida USA | Most people visit for theme parks, but there are so many other cool, happy, and fun things to do in Central Florida. Between Tampa and Orlando are some amazing historic sites, cultural activities, adventures, and natural areas, for people of all ages. But what are some other things to do in Central Florida? Read on.

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30 thoughts on “Fun Things to Do in Central Florida”

  1. We live near Central Florida and didn’t know about all of the great places you covered in this awesome guide! You really nailed it! Thanks for sharing the funness!

  2. I always enjoy the non-touristy attractions when I travel especially on a road trip. Several of the attractions you featured were new to me although over the years I have visited Central Florida many times. Great post!

  3. Have yet to venture there but I’d really like to understand more of Florida’s culture. I loved visiting Ft. Lauderdale and the Keys, Miami and Naples but there’s so much more. Thanks for the inspiring information about central.

  4. Florida is full of surprises. I’d love to visit those Frank Lloyd Wright buildings at Florida Southern College.

  5. I had no idea about the FLW architecture – and I’m a big fan. And I’m glad to know altitude won’t be a problem as hubby Henk is a flatlander (being Dutch and all!) 🙂

  6. These certainly look like fun things to do in central Florida. I’ve been to the Orlando area but that trip was all about taking the kids to Disneyworld. I’d love to see these other things. I did not know that Florida Southern College had the largest collection of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings. I’d enjoy that tour.

  7. We are doing a road trip through Florida right now so this is very timely. Thanks.

  8. We never knew many of these places in Central Florida existed. The citrus farm tour looks interesting, and a bite of the tangerine ice cream would be a nice treat. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Totally agree that there’s so much more to Florida than the theme parks! We lived in Central florida for a while and I loved the beaches, the everglades, and the wildlife if you were willing to head off the beaten path, didn’t visit Safari Wilderness Ranch though and would love to when we get back! Goes to show you that there’s so much to do in Central FL that there’ll always be reasons to come back!

  10. Wow, I had no idea there was so much to do in this area. I would love to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, especially after doing the FLW Trail in Wisconsin last summer. That’s funny about the tower not being very high – it does look beautiful, though. And I can smell those oranges from here. Ahhh …

  11. I’m always looking for to-do lists like this. I’m not interested in the theme parks and other high-crowd tourist sites. In fact, I wrote a similar post about what to do in Orlando when NOT visiting the theme parks. I had to laugh when you mentioned the highest point in Florida as being only 289 feet elevation. So much of Florida has to worry about ending up in a sinkhole! I would really enjoy the Ridge Island Groves tour, and the Grapefruit Pie at Lang Taste of Florida Cafe!

  12. I’ve been to Florida many times; sometimes the Atlantic coast and sometimes the Gulf coast. I thought about Orlando and Disneyworld but I never realized that central Florida has much more to offer. Bok Tower gardens sounds wonderful and Ridge Island Groves sound like a fun place to visit.

  13. Awesome rundown of things to do in my home state! I’ve been to Bok Towers, very beautiful and a surprise in the middle of kinda nowhere. Additionally, near there, I enjoyed my Fantasy of Flight visit, seeing vintage planes and getting a ride in bi-plane. However, my most recent FUN thing to do in Central Florida was kayaking Silver Springs and spotting manatees. You can see a photo on my IG:

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