42+ Unique & Awesome Things To Do In Central Florida (Beyond Disney)

There are a large number of things to do in Central Florida for families beyond just Orlando and Walt Disney World. In fact, there is so much to do that you might want to add a few days to your next Disney trip, venturing a bit west into Polk County and the heart of Central Florida. However, be warned, there are so many unique things to do in Central Florida that you may just want to plan a trip without even visiting Mickey at all. Here are 42+ things to do in Central Florida that will certainly add lifetime memories and guarantee family fun for everyone. 

central florida

This and all photos courtesy of Visit Central Florida

Top Central Florida Attractions

  1. The LEGOLAND Florida Resort, located 45 minutes from Walt Disney World, is the perfect addition to an Orlando family vacation. We have shared tips for saving money on LEGOLAND Florida tickets and if you only have one day, here is how you make the most of a one day LEGOLAND Florida ticket.
  1. The Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden at Bok Tower Gardens is a must visit for families. The new section of this National Historic Landmark provides a unique hands-on exploration of the gardens.
  1. Westgate River Ranch is an authentic guest ranch where families can experience the Old Florida cowboy lifestyle as a day visitor or overnight guest. Here you can go horseback riding, take swamp buggy rides, and watch the longest running championship rodeo in the USA.
  1. A creative treasure that many do not know about is the Frank Lloyd Wright Tours on the Florida Southern College campus in Lakeland, Fl. There are four tours, ranging in price from $7 to $55, each provides an interesting and educational look at the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. We strongly advise you to make reservations online to ensure your spot on the tour.
  1. Safari Wilderness provides a one of a kind safari experience in central Florida that guarantees family fun for everyone. During this 2 hour vehicle guided tour you will have up close encounters with a number of endangered species and unique animals like Kidi, lemurs and lechwe. The Safari Wilderness Ranch is accredited by the Zoological Association of America and rated by Fodor’s International Travel Guide as one of the “Top 10 Safaris in the USA.” 

Things to do in Central Florida: Airboat Rides

Things to do in Central Florida: Exploring the Outdoors

  1. Circle B Bar Reserve is a treasured central Florida environmental area providing numerous family recreational opportunities from bicycling trails to bird watching and fishing. The kids will love the Polk County Nature Discovery center.
  1. Hollis Garden is a free 1.2 acre botanical garden with over 10,000 different plant species.. The patterned flower beds and ornamental fountains are a beautiful sight to see.
  1. While in Central Florida we suggest touring the citrus groves and pick your own berries at Ridge Island Groves. Try your hand at hydroponic gardening with a take home do-it-yourself kit available at the gift shop.
  1. Sightsee through the waterways of Central Florida with an Eco Tour from Central Florida Nature Adventures or TMC Guide Services.
  1. Take an airboat Tour along the shoreline of Lake Kissimmee with Floridian captains from the family-owned marina at Grape Hammock Fish Camp.
  1. Canoe or kayak through the serene environment that surrounds the Peace River Paddling Trail.
  1. Lake Kissimmee State Park has over 13 miles of trails to hike, opportunities for boating, canoeing and fishing. The park offers living history demonstrations.
  1. Back Trail Adventures of Florida gives you the chance to glide through the landscape of Lake Kissimmee State Park with a guided Segway tour.
  1. Feed the swans at Lake Morton Bird Sanctuary.
  1. Lake Mirror Park is known for its promenade and glassy appearance. This is a great place to take a morning or afternoon walk, feed the ducks then play in Barnett Family Park to let the kids run off some energy. If you have little ones, Sunflower Preschool Playground provides shaded play designed for children under 5.
  1. Fly high in the sky  in Central Florida with Waldo Wright’s Flying Service. Enjoy seeing Central Florida from a new perspective in a biplane, stearman or a seaplane. No age limits, and prices are very affordable.
  1. Kids will love the free orange juice samples while everyone takes in the history of Florida’s official fruit at Florida’s Natural Growers Grove House. 
  1. Lake Hollingsworth is an urban lake and focal point of Lakeland, Fl. The home of to the annual Orange Cup Regatta provides a walking trail, wonderful bird sightings and is home to some historic landmarks.
  1. You can enjoy a self-guided walking tour of the outdoor Public Art found throughout Munn Park, Lemon street Promenade, Curtis Peterson State Building and around Lake Mirror.
  1. BeFly Bike Tours offers the opportunity to  explore downtown Lakeland on bikes.
  1. Ridge Island Groves is an open-to-the-public citrus packing house. Take a tour of the groves and pick your own fruit to enjoy the homegrown taste of Florida.
  1. Balloons & Beyond will provide the adventure of a lifetime with a sunrise hot air balloon flight over Central Florida.
  1. Fly like a superhero above one of Winter Haven’s beautiful lakes on a flyboard at Absolute Aqua Sports. If flying is not your thing you can still have a some water sports fun with ski lessons or tube rides. 

Things to do in Central Florida: West Gate River Ranch

Things to do in Central Florida: Top Places to Hike 

Florida is home to many types of ecosystems; Polk County is the perfect location for those looking to explore a range of natural communities.

  1. Down a quiet dirt road you will find the Lakeland Highlands Scrub that offers two short and easy multi-use loop trails.
  1. SUMICA is located in Lake Wales offering nine miles of nature views among pine flatwoods, oak hammock and marsh habitats.
  1. Crooked Lake Sandhill is one of the best examples of a sandhill ecosystem remaining in Polk County. This 25-acre land is home to four rare animals: sand skinks, scrub lizards, eastern indigo snakes and gopher tortoises.
  1. On the Eastern edge of Lake Wales Ridge, known as one of the “ancient islands,” is Tiger Creek Preserve. Hiking through this diverse biological hotspot will get you up close with many endangered plants and animals.
  1. The Hampton Tract of Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve provides approximately 30 miles of wet hiking trials.
  1. Colt Creek State Park covers over 5,000 acres in the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve with more than 12 miles of marked trails. The park is home to the American Bald Eagle, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobcat, feral hogs and Sherman’s fox squirrel.

Things to do in Central Florida: Bok Tower

Things to do in Central Florida: Must visit Museums and More

  1. Discover the world of aerospace at The Florida Air Museum. At Florida’s official Aviation museum the family will experience unique educational experiences with flight that include displayed aircrafts and flight simulators.
  1. Admission is always free at the Polk Museum of Art (free family workshops)
  1. Bartow Air Base Museum is a free museum that showcases memorabilia from WWII.
  1. If you are a sports fan family you will enjoy visiting the Florida Sports Hall of Fame.
  1. Explorations V Children’s Museum provides hands-on exhibits covering three floors. The museum focuses on using the five senses to explore and learn.
  2. Fantasy of Flight Collection Museum is the home of the World’s Greatest Aircraft Collection. Guests get upclose with vintage aircraft like the 1945 Grumman Duck.
  1. Climb aboard a 1968 red caboose at the Historic Dundee Depot Museum.
  1. See 19th-century pioneer life at Homeland Heritage Park. This park is home to unique structures like an 1800s farmhouse, school and church.
  1. Webb’s Citrus Candy Factory provides a free fun family experience touring the candy factory and tasting their famous goat’s milk fudge.
  1. Davidson of Dundee gives free tours to watch candies, chocolates, marmalades and jellies being made. Plus free samples!
  1. If it is a rainy day you can take the kids to Family Fun Center in Lakeland for laser tag, arcade games, a laser maze and an indoor playground that spans four stories.
  1. Silvermoon Drive-In Theater is open seven nights a week, giving your family a unique way to take a break from attractions while enjoying a first-run movie.
  1. PicassoZ Art Café is a do it yourself art studio perfect for a creative family night.
  1. Spook Hill will fascinate your family as your car defies gravity and rolls up the hill.

Things to do in Central Florida: LEGOLAND Hotel

Where to Stay in Central Florida 

There are so many things to do in Central Florida, that you may just need to spend the night. The LEGOLAND Hotel is the only thing cooler than spending the day at LEGOLAND Florida Resort. The hotel is located in Winter Haven, Florida. The colorful, detailed hotel is made of more than two million LEGO bricks providing an extraordinary hotel experience. In April the LEGOLAND Florida Resort is adding a new overnight stay experience. The LEGOLAND Beach Retreat will offer beach-themed bungalows that will sleep up to five guests.

Get closer to nature with a stay at Westgate River Ranch Resort. This authentic dude ranch offers a number of accommodation types from tent and teepee glamping to lodge suites and cabin rentals. With a rock wall, miniature golf course, zipline, archery range, boat rentals and more, you will not get bored. Here are six reasons to go glamping here.

To see all options for accommodations in Central Florida, check out the Visit Central Florida directory.

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There are a large number of things to do in Central Florida for families beyond just Orlando and Walt Disney World. In fact, there is so much to do that you might want to add a few days to your next Disney trip, venturing a bit west into Polk County and the heart of Central Florida. However, be warned, there are so many unique things to do in Central Florida that you may just want to plan a trip without even visiting Mickey at all. Here are 42+ things to do in Central Florida that will certainly add lifetime memories and guarantee family fun for everyone.

Mandy Carter is a freelance travel writer and speaker based in Southwest Florida. She owns a digital marketing business and covers family travel for a variety of outlets, including her website A Cupful of Carers.

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