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10 Surprisingly Fun Things To Do In Central Florida

TheTravel logo TheTravel 7/28/2022 Natalie Hetherington

Everyone loves a visit to Disneyland, but there is so much more to Central Florida. Add on a few extra days to explore some of these unique Sunshine State experiences, or with so many fun attractions and expansive natural beauty, you might even find yourself booking a theme park-less trip!

Kennedy Space Center

A unique day trip away from Orlando is a visit to the Kennedy Space Center! This exciting family-friendly museum is found on Cape Canaveral, where visitors can watch space shuttle launches, learn about the history of space travel, and go on the Astronaut Training Simulator to see replicas of the Mars Rover. Plan for a full-day visit because there is so much to do, see and learn at this popular NASA base.

JC Newman Cigar Company

A surprisingly fun thing to do in Tampa is to visit El Reloj, the JC Newman Cigar Company in the Ybor City region. Built in 1910, it is the only cigar factory in the 'Cigar City' of Tampa, which is still operating. Visitors can tour the factory to see how cigars are made by hand vs. machinery, watch old cigar films and browse through their unique selection of gifts and cigars. For a completely unique experience, attend a hand-rolling class run by Master Rollers.

The Dali

The Dalí, a distinctive museum found just southwest of downtown Tampa in St Petersburg, is dedicated to the life and art of innovative artist Salvador Dalí. It is home to an unmatched collection of over 2,400 pieces by Salvador Dalí, along with numerous rotating exhibits. A surprisingly good addition to the museum is the café, which offers Spanish-style tapas for visitors to enjoy.

Take An Airboat Tour

Many people are surprised to learn that the headwaters of the Everglades actually begins up in Central Florida at Lake Kissimmee, making Central Florida a wonderful place for an airboat ride. These unusual boats glide across the top of the water so visitors can explore the wetlands and their wildlife, including alligators, American Bald Eagles, and Great Blue Herons. Many companies across Central Florida offer airboat tours, and for those wanting to make it a full-day trip, Wild Florida is a great option. Just 45 minutes from Orlando, this park has more than 200 native and exotic animals alongside various airboat tours.

See The Singing Tower At Bok Towers

Another hidden gem in Central Florida is the beautiful Bok Towers. Found in Lake Wales, about 90 minutes east of Tampa or 2 hours south of Orlando, Bok Towers is home to a calming, meditative garden with a beautiful reflection pool and huge grounds for visitors to explore. The tower itself is a Carillon - an instrument of at least 23 tuned bells in chromatic series, making it particularly unique. For those wanting to stretch their legs, there is also a 1.5-mile Preserve Trail through the original Longleaf Pine forest.

Related: Bridge To Nowhere: Investigating Florida's Abandoned Attraction

Take A Dip In The Crystal Clear Waters Of Rock Springs

Natural springs are another wonderful Central Florida experience, and one of the best is found in Kelly Park, about 30 minutes north of Orlando. Rock Springs is a free-flowing natural spring that stays roughly 68F degrees, making it wonderful all year round. The beautiful waters are renowned for being crystal clear, and visitors can rent tubes to relax or bring their own floats of pool noodles to enjoy.

Go Scuba Diving At Wekiwa Springs

Wekiwa Springs is another beautiful natural spring close to Orlando but offers a very different experience to Rock Springs. Here there are miles of trails to be explored, and visitors can go swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, or canoeing in the emerald waters of the springs. This State Park is a wonderful way to get away from the hustle and bustle for a day.

Related: 10 Natural Springs In Florida Which Are Perfect For Swimming

See The Manatees At Blue Springs State Park

A truly Floridian experience can be found just 45 minutes north of Orlando along the St. Johns River. This park is an excellent example of conservation measures producing astounding results. Back in 1970, before Blue Springs State Park was established, 14 manatees were tracked in the springs, but in 2022, after years of conservation efforts, over 700 manatees were found in Blue Springs State Park! As well to the wonderful manatees, Blue Springs State Park is also home to a variety of wading birds, ospreys, eagles, and kingfishers, and visitors can explore the 4.5-mile Pine Island Trail or rent canoes or kayaks to explore the river.

Take A Bioluminescent Kayaking Tour

For a truly unique experience, visitors to Central Florida can try a bioluminescent kayaking trip. Similar to fireflies, algae can produce bioluminescence which is light produced by energy released by chemical reactions inside the algae. And some of these species of algae are common in the rivers and oceans of Florida. The best time to see this breathtaking spectacle is between May and October, and it is often thought that the days after the full moon is the optimal time. There are several places in Central Florida to see bioluminescence, but one of the best is on the Haulover Canal at Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, a designated national reserve.

Safari Wilderness

For a fun wildlife experience, take a trip to Safari Wilderness in Lakeland. With over 250 acres of land filled with zebras, water buffalo, warthogs, and red lechwe and surrounded by miles of watershed, it can be difficult to believe you are still in Central Florida. There are many ways to explore the park, with several safari options, including on an ATV or kayak or even a camelback adventure. They recently opened a new option for staying overnight in the park, with ten safari tents, each sitting on its own wooden deck with panoramic views of the animal herds.

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