There are so many reasons why Central Florida is a family favorite. World-class theme parks provide awe-inspiring fun for all, while nature provides a backdrop found only in this region of the Sunshine State. Revel in its mix of culture, attractions and outdoor gems as you embark on your family’s vacation of a lifetime. By Kevin Fritz
Getting up before dawn is well worth it when you take in the sights of the theme parks and landscape from a hot-air balloon as the sun rises. Then continue your morning exploring the natural beauty of “Old Florida” as you paddle through the head-waters of the Florida Everglades at The Paddling Center at Shingle Creek. Historic Downtown Kissimmee is the perfect place for lunch as quaint Kissimmee Main Street offers great dining options, antique shopping and even ice cream made with liquid nitrogen.
Begin with a beverage from Barnie’s Coffee Kitchen on Park Avenue in picturesque Winter Park. Take a Winter Park Scenic Boat tour through lush canals and peaceful lakes. Visit the Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art to view the world’s largest collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Lunch at East End Market in trendy Audubon Park. Stop to smell the roses at Harry P. Leu Gardens. Enjoy a cocktail at The Woods in downtown Orlando. End with dinner at the French brasserie Dovecote followed by a performance at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
Stop and smell the orange blossoms as you begin a day of citrus delight. Polk County (VisitCentralFlorida.org) offers delicious options, October through May, as one of the top citrus- producing counties in Florida. Watch citrus candy being made at Davidson of Dundee and pick up some citrus souvenirs in the gift shop. Have lunch at Lang’s Taste of Florida Cafe—don’t miss the award-winning grapefruit pie. Complete your day with an authentic Florida experience, picking fresh oranges from the tree at Ridge Island Groves.
Start with a sunrise cycle or walk along the Cypress Trail boardwalk at Highlands Hammock State Park. Golf the Citrus Golf Trail featuring Florida’s most affordable courses. Stroll in charming Lake Placid with nearly 50 outdoor murals and small-town shops. Lunch at McLane’s Garden Cafe in historic downtown Sebring, then browse through “City on a Circle” boutiques and artist galleries. Sample creative treats at the Sebring Soda & Ice Cream Works. Finish with dinner at trendy 18 East Main and a performance at the Alan Jay Wildstein Performing Arts Center.