12 Exciting Things To Do In Central Florida Besides Disneyland!

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When you ask people what are some popular things to do in Central Florida, they will always recommend Disneyland Florida in Orlando.

And of course, it’s one of the most iconic attractions you must visit, but once you are done with Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and all the other theme parks, you might be wandering what else Central Florida has to offer.

the legoland  Welcome sign

In this guide, we’ve shared our top Central Florida attractions for families to enjoy for when the main theme parks get tiring.

We’ll be focusing on Polk County region, which is located roughly about halfway between downtown Orlando and Tampa Bay.

Things to Do in Central Florida

1. Be Amazed at Legoland Florida

The first one is another theme park in Florida that I’m sure you’re at least aware of, but it’s one that often goes unnoticed for the more iconic parks like Universal Orlando Resort.

family posing in front of Legoland Florida entrance

If your kids are big fans of Lego, like ours, then consider putting a visit to Legoland Florida on your itinerary.

I think it’s fair to say that most kids grew up with Lego in their lives. I know I did and that my own kids love playing with their own Lego and keep requesting more!

So our kids were naturally excited to visit a Lego based theme park and get up close with some of their favorite life size Lego friends, and ride more rides of course!

girls posing next to legoland figurines

Located in Winter Haven, just a 45-minute drive from Orlando, Legoland Florida Resort is the largest Legoland theme park in the world.

If you’re familiar with the old Cypress Gardens theme park, Florida’s first theme park, that’s the location of Legoland.

The 150-acre property now offers a unique mix of more than 50 rides, shows and attractions. Plus restaurants, shops and a beautiful botanical garden (unfortunately this was closed during our visit due to damage from hurricane Irma).

The Legoland theme park is geared towards children ages 2 to 12. Our kids are aged 10 and six and most of the attractions and rides were suitable to their age, so that seems to be the sweet spot.

But like I said, my mom is a Lego fan so it depends on your family and their interest levels.

2. Get Wild at Safari Wilderness Ranch

ostrich looking at woman in safari truck

If you’re a nature lover and adore wildlife, then how about a safari? Caroline and I spent 5 months backpacking through East Africa in 2003 and went on many game drives, so when it comes to wildlife viewing, we are hard to please…

Some places throw around the term “safari” very loosely and we always have our reservations about what it’s going to be like.

However, Safari Wilderness in Lakeland was named one of the “10 Best Safaris in the U.S.” by Fodors.com, and we were pleasantly surprised.

antelopel in tall grass

This 260-acre preserve is surrounded by Florida’s Green Swamp, an 870 square mile pristine watershed that is source to five of Florida’s finest rivers.

We went on a two-hour customized vehicle safari that provided up-close encounters with wildlife such as ostrich, eland, zebra, kudu, water buffalo and other unique and endangered species in large herds!

zebra and deer in water

And we got so up-close that we got to hand feed several of the animals.

girl feeding goat in safari park

Not only did we get the interaction with the animals, but our safari guide provided expert commentary and knowledge which was both interesting and educational for our kids!

Feeding the Lemurs at Wilderness Safari in Central Florida

We entered the ring-tailed lemur habitat at Safari Wilderness with a guide and hand feed grapes to a group of Lemurs. And it was beyond awesome!

Some of them gently touched our hands to get the grapes and they were playful yet polite.

Feeding the Lemurs at Wilderness Safari in Central Florida

This activity is limited to a few participants per day so plan to book ahead. If you love lemurs, you’ll can have a fun experience with them in Monticello, Florida.

3. Relax at Bok Tower Gardens

Bok Tower Gardens in Central Florida

If you’re looking for things to do in Central Florida that offer a slower pace and a relaxing atmosphere after all the theme park craziness, then you should make sure to check out Bok Tower Gardens.

Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales was voted “Florida’s Best Garden” by Florida Monthly magazine, and is considered a National Historic Landmark.

It was dedicated to the American people as a gift from Dutch immigrant and world peace advocate Edward Bok, in 1929.

Our kids enjoyed the Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden which provided them the opportunity to experience 3-acres of nature play, plus interactive art and music discovery areas.

girls playing in Bok Tower Gardens

During our visit they learned how to make tie-dye prints.

After a play at Hammock Hollow we took a relaxing walk to see the Singing Tower.

young girls making tie dye

The 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco Singing Tower carillon is impressive and a must see.

Designed by famed architect Milton B. Medary, the Tower houses one of the world’s finest carillons. Concerts from the 60-bell carillon at 1 and 3 p.m. fill the Gardens daily.

girl looking up at Bok Tower

Bok Tower Gardens sits on one of peninsular Florida’s highest points, providing a haven for rare plants and animals found nowhere else in the world.

Other activities include:

  • Hiking trails
  • Relaxing gardens
  • Carillon concerts
  • Blue Palmetto Café
  • New boardwalk and outdoor kitchen.

You could spend anywhere from two hours here to half a day – depending on your interest level and time available.

Open 365 days a year from 8am to 6pm.

4. Airboat Ride the St. Johns River

alligator in pond with lily pads

One of the most iconic things to do in Florida, besides the theme parks, is go out on an airboat tour to look for the state’s native wildlife; crocodiles and alligators.

While the Everglades National Park in South Florida is the most popular place for this adventure, those wanting to stay closer to Central Florida can explore the swamps around St. Johns River, which is less than an hour away from Orlando.

Located along the Space Coast, this region is known for its natural beauty and thriving wildlife, not just alligators, but turtles, frogs, and several bird species.

Airboat rides usually last between 1-2 hours, depending on the package you pick.

5. Have A Dude Ranch Experience at Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo

Experience life on an authentic dude ranch at the Westgate River Ranch & Resort, where you can combine glamping with a real-life cowboy experience.

With 1,700 acres of land, you can either kick back and relax on this wild and open range overlooking the Kissimmee River, or embark on a horseback riding tour, learn about ranching at the Cowboy Adventure Park & Florida Fair, or watch competitive bull riders at the award-winning Saturday night rodeo.

It’s not just a place to stay, but an experience!

6. Relax on a Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour

Winter Park is a picturesque chain of lakes just outside of Orlando which are best seen from a scenic boat tour.

As you glide along the tranquil waterways on a charming pontoon boat, you’ll see the towering cypress trees, swamps, man-made canals, vibrant flora, and even some opulent homes.

The boat tour only carries 18 passengers, so the beauty of the area is not lost to overcrowded boats.

7. Visit Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

parrot at the Central Florida Zoo

If you’re planning a vacation to Florida with kids, then you may want to spend a day at Central Florida Zoo.

Most people who want to see exotic animals in Florida head to places like Magic Kingdom which are highly touristy and are all about the “experience” than the conservation.

However, Central Florida Zoo is dedicated to conservation and wildlife education. They are a conservation facility specifically for the propagation of the rare Eastern Indigo Snake, and also contribute to the breeding of endangered clouded leopards.

You can attend feeding shows, wildlife talks, and even feed the giraffes. Younger kids will appreciate the train ride, while thrill seekers will love the zip-line in the park.

8. Swim With Manatees at Crystal River

manatees under water

There are a few places in Central Florida where you can see manatees, such as Blue Spring State Park, which has the largest manatee gathering in the state.

However, there are not many places where you can get in the water and go snorkeling with these gentle giants.

Crystal River is the place to go if you want to get in the water with manatees. These creatures migrate here to swim in the warm waters that come from the natural springs releasing thermal waters, which mixes with the cool sea water.

It’s estimated that there are at least 100 manatees here all year round, though numbers are higher in the winter.

9. Ride the Swan Boats at Lake Eola Park

fountain Lake Eola Park at night in neon lights

Lake Eola is a nearly one-mile (1.9km) lake that is known for its iconic Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain which lights up in a rainbow of colors and on selected nights in a show of synchronized water dancing and music.

However, Lake Eola is also a great place to visit during the day too. One of the most popular things to do is to rent a swan boat and head out on the lake. You can also take the kids to the playground, or simply relax on the lawns.

The fountain display takes place at 8.00pm and 9.30pm most nights.

10. Go Tubing Down The Rock Springs Run in Kelly Park

people tubing in crystal clear water in Kelly Park
Kelly Park

Let’s face it, there are not many places in Florida where you can get into the water, however Kelly Park is one of the best places to go if you need to cool off in the water (safely).

Located about 30 minutes from Orlando, Kelly Park is home to the Rock Springs Run, a famous river that has gentle and fast moving rapids that are a popular spot for tubing.

The tubing run takes about 30 minutes to do, and while there are no tube rentals in the park, you can buy a rubber ring from Rock Springs Bar & Grill, not far from the entrance to Kelly Park Rock Springs.

This is one of our favorite activities near Orlando for those who want to escape the theme park crowds.

11. Take a Bioluminescent Kayaking Tour

bioluminescent waters

Did you know that Florida is home to bioluminescent waters which glow a bright turquoise blue at night? This phenomenon is caused when dinoflagellates, microscopic single-celled organisms, are aggitated, causing a reaction that makes them glow.

The best place to witness this in Central Florida is along the Indian River Lagoon on the East Coast of Florida, specifically from the Cocoa Beach area.

The best time of year to see this is during the summer, from late May until September.

12. Cool Off at Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiwa Springs State Park

Wekiwa Springs State Park is one of the closest state parks to Orlando and as such, it’s usually very busy.

However, it’s a great place to go if you want to cool off in the azure, turquoise waters, go for a hike, or kayak along the Wekiwa River.

Best Time To Visit Central Florida

The best time to visit Central Florida is in October until April, when the weather is warm but not too hot. November is usually a quiet time to visit, after the Halloween rush and before Thanksgiving.

January and February are also a quiet time to visit as most people plan their trips around the holidays.

From May onwards, crowds start to form as it’s closer to the summer. The summer is not only crowded, but there is always the looming threat of a hurricane interrupting your trip – though the likelihood for that is minimal.

Here’s what’s new in Florida for 2024.

Final Thoughts

people in small boats

So there you have it, those are our favorite things to do in Central Florida, and as you can see, there’s a lot of amazing attractions to check out besides the theme parks.

We hope this guide gave you some inspiration for things to add to your itinerary and helped you plan your trip!

Here are a few more travel ideas for destinations near Central Florida:

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Things to do in Central Florida beyond Orlando. Once you've done Walt Disney World and Universal Studios, consider these attractions.

Can you suggest things to do in Central Florida? Or do you have any questions on these Central Florida activities? Leave us a comment down below.

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