I have a theory about flying into Orlando airport. People are really happy here..either to be arriving or departing. I suggest heading west to Central Florida, where you’ll see a completely different side, more natural part of the state.
Lush, natural surroundings, epic outdoor adventures, and unique experiences await you in Polk County, Lakeland and Winter Haven areas. Check out their website VisitCentralFlorida.org for special deals and offers.
Accompanied by my husband and two 10-year old grandsons, we discovered great adventure the boys had never experienced before. Everything from boat rides and discovery safaris to new parks to the always-wonderful Legoland.
We stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn in Winter Haven, which gave us an opportunity to extend our stay and see even more. The Hampton Inn had the perfect room for all of us with complimentary breakfast the boys adored. Loved watching them make hot chocolate by themselves. Free Wi-Fi, free parking, outdoor pool.
Build Memories at Legoland
The granddaddy of them all is Legoland/Peppa Pig Theme Park. I knew the boys would have a ball and they did discovering the different opportunities to play and explore.
There is so much to do at LEGOland with a theme park, rides, and shows. Cool off at the water park. Stay at one of three hotels; LEGOland Hotel, Pirate Island Hotel, or the Beach Retreat.
We stopped in the LEGOLAND Hotel just to see it and wow, I had to drag the boys away from the endless supply of Legos in the lobby.
Built on the grounds of the former Cypress Gardens amusement park, Legoland has taken full advantage of the lovely canals. Opened last year is the Pirate River Quest which lets big and little captains navigate the waters with a rowdy pirate crew, brick by brick, On this 25-minute boat ride, you can watch the LEGO pirates fight it out and recapture the lost treasure of Captain Redbeard.
Our favorite ride was the “Lost Kingdom Adventure” where you ride in little cars and try to score points with your built-in laser shooter. The boys, of course, left us shamelessly in the dust with their high scores.
For those seeking thrill rides, there are plenty of coasters like The Dragon and Coastersaurus and you can dodge water blasts with the Aquazone Wave Racers. The boys wanted to do Driving School.
We were all amazed at “Mini Land,” recreations of national landmarks such as the Daytona Race Track, Las Vegas, New York and Washington, D.C., all made out of Legos. ”
Opening soon is the “Ferrari Build and Drive” where you can experience a life-sized LEGO Ferrari 296 GTS, built entirely out of LEGO bricks. You can sit in the driver’s seat before starting your own Ferrari-building adventure.
Coming this fall is the Sea Life Florida Resort, a colorful, family-friendly aquarium (separate admission required) where families get up close and personal with marine life. Embark on “a voyage of oceanic exploration,” culminating in “The Theme Park Under the Sea.” Sounds like great reasons to come back.
The first ever Peppa Pig Theme Park, located right next door (requires separate admission) brings the popular Peppa Pig and her family to life with rides, shows, and attractions. For kids who like to jump in “muddy puddles” like Peppa, this is the ultimate place to go.
The next morning, we headed to the Rue Denton Pontoon Boat Tour located at the Legoland Florida Docks for a ride around the Chain of Lakes. Here we looked for alligators, turtles, bald eagles, Blue Herons and pelicans. Choose from lunch or dinner cruises, sunset cruises, and more. The boys had a great time and even had a chance to drive the boat. Rue Denton (863-514-7975)
Go Wild at Safari Wilderness
Afterwards, we went to Safari Wilderness which we had enjoyed last year and was anxious to share with the boys. At their working game ranch, our knowledgeable driver took us around large herds of exotic animals like buffalo, ostriches, deer in over 260 acres of pristine wilderness in custom safari vehicles. Or go with your own vehicle on a drive-through tour.
The boys loved feeding the animals and holding the young puppies. They were fascinated with the ostriches that followed us around.
If you prefer a more adventurous mode of transport, ride a camel, ATV, or kayak. They also offer exclusive animal encounters like feeding the ring-tailed lemurs and guinea pigs!
For something really exotic, they offer camping/glamping tents for an overnight experience. Or interact with a cheetah, the fastest mammal on the planet, as he goes about his daily routine.
Looking back, I think this was one of the boys’ most memorable experiences. I know it was for me. Online reservations required.
Playtime at Florida Children’s Museum
Bring the kids to this oasis of exploration at the Florida Children’s Museum featuring two floors of interactive galleries. The boys loved climbing on the outdoor Blinky alligator and were fascinated with the Tik-Tok TBD Gallery to produce videos.
While you’re there, be sure to visit Bonnet Springs Park, an urban park on the grounds of the Children’s Museum with its innovative playground, botanic gardens and nature center. /about/plan-your-visit/
For more information, go to visitcentralflorida.org and share the natural side of Florida with your family.