While most visitors are trolling through theme parks, truly happy travelers are enjoying enjoy these fabulous 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!
We were hosted guests of Visit Central Florida but this content is carefully crafted with the McCool Travel audience in mind.
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.
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I could feed grapes to lemurs 24×7. Really, though, lemur feeding at @safariwilderness in @visitcentralfl is an epic experience. Give it a try next time you are in Central Florida. Safari Wilderness Park is conveniently located in Lakeland, Florida between Tampa and Orlando. Video credit: @funinfairfax
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) February 23, 2018
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.
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.
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) February 24, 2018
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.
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 now serves amazing burgers at their storefront in Davenport, open only 9 days when we visited. 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 before starting your Frank Lloyd Wright architecture tour. McCool Travel tip: call or fax in your Mr Fish order to avoid standing in line.
Dave is shucking oysters, mixing my margarita, and just being awesome. At Gary’s Oyster Bar in Lake Alfred, Florida. So old school, Oh, and elusive Gary is in background. #loveFL #travel @FunInFairfax @VisitCentralFL pic.twitter.com/n58arVTW6I
— Charles McCool ✈️ (@CharlesMcCool) February 23, 2018
— Julie McCool | FuninFairfax (@FunInFairfax) February 23, 2018
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!
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:
- restored marsh system at Circle B Bar Reserve
- LEGOLAND Florida
- Cypress Gardens (if it still exists)
- authentic dude ranch at Westgate River Ranch Resort
- Streamsong Resort
- Florida’s Natural Grove Store
- Grapefruit Pie at Lang Taste of Florida Cafe
- Polk Museum of Art
What are your favorite things to do in Central Florida?