Florida is analogous to entertainment, whether that’s in the form of sports, gambling or nightlife.Central Florida attractions cover a variety of interests, such as zip line safaris at Florida Eco Safaris, miniature golf at Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf, or swimming with dolphins and snorkeling with manatees at Florida Dolphin Tours. When it’s time for fresh air, the Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park in Polk County covers more than 8,000 acres of scrub, sandhill and flatwoods land. Enjoy six miles of hiking trails, fishing and excellent wildlife-viewing opportunities, including several protected animal species: Florida scrub jays, bald eagles, gopher tortoises and Florida scrub lizards.
In the southern reaches of the region, Dock 633 in Lake Placid is famous for its Dock Onion and fresh seafood. Be treated like family and try the fried pickles. Fueling up for all the fun to be had in Central Florida is one of the best parts of visiting the area; the foodie scene here is on fire. With a multitude of independent eateries in eclectic dining districts, as well as all the national favorites, the options for breakfast, lunch and dinner are never-ending.
For an adventure the family will never forget, point your wagon toward Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo in Lake Wales. This authentic Florida cowboy-themed property hosts a championship rodeo with trick riding, bull riding, calf roping and barrel racing every Saturday night.
Golf fans flock to Bay Hill Club & Lodge in March to see their favorite duffers at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The month begins and ends with Major League Baseball’s spring training, a staple in Central Florida for more than a century. Locally, cheer on the Detroit Tigers (Lakeland) and Atlanta Braves (Lake Buena Vista).
A lively scene can always be found at both Disney Springs and Universal CityWalk, the latter of which will keep you jumping between Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and the Hard Rock Café. Disney Springs is home to the House of Blues and Planet Hollywood.
Visit the 260-acre Safari Wilderness Ranch and take a jeep safari ride to spot 400 species of African, Asian and American animals. If your plans land you in the Lakeland area in April, SUN ’n FUN, the annual International Fly-In & Expo, educates generations with the finest classic aircraft in the world, a variety of hands-on activities and daily air shows.
When it comes to airboat ecotours, there is simply no comparison to Wild Florida Airboats. By day, at sunset or by the light of the moon, airboat tours at the Wild Florida Airboat & Wildlife Park in Kenansville on Cypress Lake will present you with a glimpse of Old Florida at its best. Get an in-depth look at the ’gators, birds, eagles, trees and plants as you glide through more than 100,000 acres of wetlands.
In the Orlando area, the foodie scene is phenomenal, starting with Restaurant Row on the fabled International Drive. Here you will find some of the most sought-after culinary favorites, including Morton’s The Steakhouse, Roy’s and Seasons 52.Try ICEBAR Orlando, the largest ice bar in the world—you can enjoy a frosty beer or cocktail in a 22˚F chill while sitting on ice blocks, then thaw out in the FIRE Lounge. Down the street, Kings Bowl Orlando boasts a chef-created menu and an innovative list of cocktails.
If you want to make an adventure out of your evening meal, Orlando-area themed dinner theaters Capone’s Dinner & Show, Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament and Pirate’s Dinner Adventure will entertain and satisfy the whole family, while the Treasure Dinner Theatre features a cabaret dinner show suitable for adults only. The Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show at WonderWorks presents comedy with your supper, and Titanic the Experience gives diners the feeling of eating with Titanic notables and an opportunity to experience life on board the ship.
Just north of the city, Park Avenue in Winter Park features a collection of upscale eateries, most with patio seating and views of the swanky, brick-lined street.The COOP is a new southern-food favorite, serving up chicken and waffles, deviled eggs, buttermilk biscuits and po’ boys. Once a hub for antique shopping, the newly rebranded Ivanhoe Village is emerging as one of Orlando’s best dining destinations thanks to a handful of boutique but unfussy eateries.
Orlando’s antique district offers classic Italian dishes at Gargi’s Lakeside Italian Ristorante while the venerable White Wolf Café & Bar features a popular $3 mimosa and Bloody Mary brunch on Sundays. Downtown’s historic Church Street Station, once bustling with activity for locals and visitors alike, is making a comeback, offering a number of clubs and restaurants, such as The Rusty Spoon, Cevíche Tapas Bar & Restaurant and Hamburger Mary’s Bar & Grille, which doubles as a cabaret lounge.
Lovers of the farm-to-fork movement are flocking to restaurants such as PRIMO at the JW Marriott Orlando, which sources some of its ingredients from its on-site organic garden. Others known to jump on the sustainable-food bandwagon with delicious results are Napa at the Peabody and The Ravenous Pig in Winter Park.
Nothing is more casual than grabbing something from a local food truck. The mobile meal scene has become increasingly popular in Orlando, where weekly and monthly food truck events across the city offer a wide variety of eclectic yet gourmet delights. Visit dailycity.com for a full listing.
North of Orlando, Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café in Sanford has served freshly prepared German food in Central Florida since 2001.
Orlando isn’t just great for food; when it comes to nightlife, Downtown Orlando offers a slew of clubs and bars where live music is played almost every night. Rock out at Backbooth, discover the blues at Tanqueray’s or skip the light fantastic at Independent Bar.
Orlando’s Camping World Stadium hosts three year-end football bowl games: the Cure Bowl, the Russell Athletic Bowl and the Citrus Bowl. If you prefer soccer to American football, the Orlando City Soccer Club plays in the Major League Soccer (MLS) organization from March through October. Orlando is also home to the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association.
Fun Spot America features White Lightning, Orlando’s only wooden roller coaster, Freedom Flyer, a suspended family coaster, and a 250-foot SkyCoaster, the world’s second-largest of its kind. (The world’s tallest is at Fun Spot America in Kissimmee, lifting you 300 feet in the air.)
Speaking of heights, Ihu’s Breakaway Falls at SeaWorld’s Waterpark, Aquatica, is Orlando area’s tallest and steepest free-fall waterslide, which drops an exhilarating 80 feet—the steepest of its kind in Orlando. For a shorter fall, try the six-story Super 8 Aqua Drag Racer slides at Wet ’n Wild Orlando on International Drive. iFly Indoor Orlando treats visitors to the ultimate indoor skydiving experience.
In Orlando’s WonderWorks, hands-on simulators allow children to ride a virtual submarine and experience many other interactive activities.
Hot-air ballooning is a popular aerial adventure at Orlando Balloon Rides and Magic Sunrise Ballooning. In Polk County, Fantasy of Flight offers aerial displays, hang-glider simulators, biplane rides and tours of the world’s largest private collection of aircraft.
For a unique evening of dinner, drinks and dancing, board the Rivership Romance in Sanford, an authentic sternwheeler paddlewheel ship, for a three-hour tour along Lake Monroe and the St. Johns River.While there is little casino action in Central Florida, Ocala Poker and Jai Alai in Reddick host poker tournaments and live games, as well as simulcast wagering.
Families can play cowboy on trails near Ocala at Double K Stables and Makin’ Tracks Trail Rides. Western fun and adventure also await you at the Westgate River Ranch Resort near Lake Wales.
Have the family experience the tranquility and adventure of an early-morning hot-air balloon ride with Orlando Balloon Adventures in Kissimmee. Later, take the controls of a restored antique fighter plane at Warbird Adventures at Kissimmee Gateway Airport.
Old Town in Kissimmee features rides for the kids, go-karts, a haunted house, themed restaurants, an arcade and shopping. Or try your luck at the AMPVenture Experience, an adventure course with a four-story ropes challenge course, a 300-foot-long zip line and a 35-foot rock-climbing wall. Green Meadows Petting Farm in Kissimmee offers a hands-on experience with more than 300 animals, such as pigs, chickens, goats and sheep. Kids can enjoy a pony ride and milk a cow at Central Florida’s most popular petting farm.
For less petting and more thrills, Gatorland is the alligator capital of the world. Watch live feedings, learn about exotic reptiles and cheer on the ’gator wrestlers. Say hello—from a distance—to Bonecrusher II, a resident 15-foot, 1,400-pound American crocodile, and visit Abiaka and Osceola in their Bobcat Bayou habitat. There’s also a splash park for kids and the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line for the more adventurous.
In Disney Springs, Splitsville Luxury Lanes is 50,000 square feet of bowling, billiards and great food, offering hours of family entertainment.
If you are looking for some of the finest Italian and Mediterranean cuisine, Arabellas Ristorante in Winter Haven is known for its Chateaubriand in a casually elegant atmosphere. In Kissimmee, Chef John’s Place offers a fusion of mouth-watering steaks and seafood.
The Showcase of Citrus in Clermont is a family-owned roadside citrus farm and cattle ranch at which families can meander and pick grapefruits, lemons, tangerines and oranges. Enjoy its Swamp Safari/Eco Tour on board the world’s largest 4×4 for a unique look at the groves. There’s also a picnic area, a playground and a petting zoo on the grounds. Don’t forget the handcrafted creamsicles, made on-site, before you leave.
For relaxing family fun, the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour takes 18 guests at a time through the city’s chain of lakes and canals, passing by beautiful lakeshore mansions of yesteryear.
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