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Central Florida is the Sunshine State's Best Kept Secret! Here's 10 Things You Must Try
The world is seemingly back to normal, and so are our busy schedules. If you don’t have time to travel internationally this winter, there are great domestic destinations to escape the cold weather. Florida is the perfect location to visit if you want a vacation vibe without traveling outside the country. The weather warm and the flights are wallet-friendly, especially if you live on the east coast. Miami and Disney World aren’t the only hot spots in the Sunshine State; there’s plenty to do in Central Florida.
Central Florida, located in the state’s geographic center, is less than 40 minutes from Tampa and Orlando. Getting to Central Florida by air is easily accessible — you can fly to Tampa International Airport (TIA) or Orlando International Airport (MCO).
From theme parks and beaches to architecture tours and cozy cafes, Central Florida is the state’s best-kept secret.
Related: Road Trip You Can Take Within The State Of Florida
Here are 10 things to do when exploring Central Florida.
Frank Lloyd Wright architecture tour at Florida Southern College
Step on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, Florida, to experience the largest collection of work by famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright in the world. The collection boasts thirteen completed structures, including the Usonian House, which was originally designed in 1939. The house was completed based on Wright’s design in 2013.
There are paid tours, as well as self-guided walking tours. For more art on campus, visit the Polk Museum of Art, which houses a permanent collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts, rotating exhibits in eight galleries and a sculpture garden.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Bring the entire family for fun-filled days at one of the largest LEGOLAND Parks on earth. There are over 50 rides, attractions and shows on the 150-acre property. Explore the park to find LEGO models, such as Mainland USA, Pirates’ Cove, DUPLO Village and Mainland USA.
The theme park opened in 2011 and since then has upgraded to have LEGOLAND Water Park, THE LEGO MOVIE WORLD, LEGO NINJAGO World and more. Pirate River Quest recently opened on January 12.
Camp Margaritaville RV Resort & Cabana Cabins
RV camping is becoming more popular, and we predict it will be a top travel trend in 2023. Debuting in January 2022, Camp Margaritaville RV Resort & Cabana Cabins is a luxury RV resort that has two tiki bars, two swimming pools, a 147 ft. spiral waterslide, mini golf, a dog spa, dog parks and more. Hop on a bike or golf cart to explore the RV resort and end your evenings with a drink at the tiki bar or by the fireplace with s’mores.
You can either rent a luxury rental cottage or an RV camper. RVShare offers amazing RVs equipped with an eating nook, a full-service kitchen and more.
Elite Cable Park
If you’re into water sports, spend an adventurous afternoon kneeboarding and water skiing on Lake Myrtle. Elite Cable Park offers lessons for beginners as well as the equipment needed. After a thrilling time on the water, refuel on land at Tantrum’s Lakeside Grill, a lakefront dining experience. The fish tacos or oyster po’boy are excellent choices.
Named one of the “10 Best Safaris in the U.S.” by Fodors.com, Safari Wilderness in Lakeland is where you’ll be able to enjoy a safari experience without the requirement of a passport. Surrounded by the state’s Green Swamp, you can tour the 260-acre preserve on ATVs, by kayak, on a safari vehicle or on camelback.
Be sure to reserve a tour, which operates daily at 9 a.m., 1 p.m., and 3 p.m.
Bok Tower Gardens — A Hotspot for Central Florida Locals
Bask in nearly 700 acres of gardens and conservation lands dating back to 1929 at Bok Tower Gardens. This National Historic Landmark is located on one of the highest points of peninsular Florida, where you’ll find plants and animals only in that area. In addition to nature, enjoy daily carillon concerts, an edible garden, an outdoor kitchen, hiking trails and more.
There’s also Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, with almost three acres of nature play, music discovery areas and interactive art for your little ones.
Sweet Magnolias Tea Bistro
Head to the Historic Downtown Auburndale for an unforgettable afternoon tea experience. Sweet Magnolias Tea Bistro offers an assortment of gourmet teas, coffees, fresh scones, clotted cream and delicious southern dishes.
Enjoy the Afternoon Tea, which includes a 3-tier tray of scones, clotted cream, fresh fruit, miniature sandwiches, salads and sweets. If you want to enjoy High Tea, be sure to make a reservation at least 24 hours in advance with a minimum of two guests. The High Tea experience includes soup, a 3-tier tray of scones, clotted cream, fruit, savory treats and sweets.
Visit during the holidays to enjoy a specialty menu, including dishes like “A Christmas Duet” (house-made pimento cheese and bacon jam served with crackers).
Devil’s Den — A Hidden Gem in Central Florida
This underground natural spring is perfect for scuba diving or snorkeling. Make your way down the stairs, and you’ll find yourself on a platform in the middle of the water. The cave has a small opening for sunlight and is a hidden gem in Central Florida.
Circle B Bar Reserve
USA TODAY named this reserve one of the “Top 50 Places to see Wildlife,” and we agree. This bird habitat was once a functioning cattle ranch. You can find eagles, alligators, waterfowl, ospreys and more around this natural treasure.
The reserve is free to visit and educates visitors at the on-site Polk Nature Discovery Center. If you’re interested in seeing a gator or two, check out the 1.2 mile Alligator Alley Trail overlooking Lake Hancock.
Black & Brew Coffee Shop — A Central Florida Favorite
With three locations, this hip coffee shop welcomes locals and visitors to the city of Lakeland. The warm, inviting atmosphere is perfect for an early morning breakfast, lunch or coffee break after visiting the nearby Frank Lloyd Wright collection.
Enjoy a Vanilla Latte with a Green Tomato breakfast sandwich (buttermilk biscuit, egg soufflé, pimento cheese, green tomato relish) in the morning. At lunch, try the Smoked Turkey sandwich (hickory smoked turkey breast, applewood smoked bacon, mild cheddar cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, creamy mayo, smoky mustard, service on ciabatta bread) and a cup of Lobster Bisque soup.
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