Central Florida is known for its world class attractions and major theme parks. We would like to invite you to discover the other side of Florida. All of our day trips are within an hour and a half of our vacation homes. Some are free to enjoy and some charge a nominal fee. Below is just a small sampling of the softer side of Florida. We invite you to start your journey on the less traveled roads of Florida. Please check back often, our list is ever growing.
Kelly Park / Rock Springs
This 248-acre park is built around one of the Apopka areas crystal clear springs. As its name suggests, Rock Springs bubbles up from a cleft in a rock outcropping and, instead of spreading out into a pool, becomes a swiftly running stream that quickly slows to a meander. The activity of choice here, and the major reason for the parks obvious popularity, is riding down the stream in an inner tube or on a float. Kids, and grown-ups, jump into the headwaters by the dozens and bob and splash their way downstream for about a mile. The trip takes about 25 minutes at a leisurely float. There are exits from the river along the way, and an excellently maintained network of boardwalks (with flooring designed to protect the barefooted) lets you carry your tube back to the beginning for another go. You can also go down without a tube but, for most adults at least, the stream is too shallow for swimming during most of its course. At the middle of the tubing course, the stream blossoms into a series of lagoons and pools that form the centerpiece of the park. This is the place to come for a cooling swim. Or join the sunbathers thronging the shores and islands. This is a great park for kids and adults alike. Tubes are not available in the park, so unless you bring your own, stop at one of the tube rental shops near the park entrance. The cost is modest, about $5 for a days rental. 400 East Kelly Park Road, Apopka (407)889-4179
The number and variety of gift shops, fashion boutiques, decorative art galleries, interesting cafes and more...astounds. All within easy walking distance of each other and beautiful Lake Dora. Each shop is unique and reflects the unbounded taste of the owner. Most stores are open every day. The perimeter of Mount Dora (U.S. 441) offers other shopping opportunities, services and independent businesses. Set sail on a sunset cruise, fish off a pier next to the inland light-house, enjoy the nature walk on Palm Island(our little island wilderness) or stroll around the neighborhoods enjoying the sunsets and the lake views. For those who like their fun less strenuous, an evening sunset cocktail at one of the outside cafes or on the porch of the Lakeside Inn is the thing.
The best time to view manatees is early in the morning on a cold winter day. Blue Spring is a designated manatee refuge. To provide a safe warm water refuge for manatees during the winter season, the spring and spring run is closed to all water related activities including swimming, snorkeling, scuba diving and boating from November 15 through March 1. A mere 35 miles from hustle and bustle of Orlando and the Attractions, Blue Spring draws a year-round mix of families, nature lovers, picnickers, water enthusiasts, sun-worshipers and romantics. A single day can include a scenic river boat trip, a guided or solo canoe or kayak trip, bird or wildlife viewing, a picnic under the spreading Live Oaks, and a classic sunset over the historic St. Johns River. Activities include St. Johns River Nature Cruises and guided canoe or kayak trips by a Florida Park Service Visitor Services Provider located along the banks of the river, and canoe rentals at the park snack bar. Pack binoculars and plenty of curiosity. 2100 West French Ave., Orange City, FL (386)775-3663
Touted as the largest Flea Market in Florida, Flea World in Sanford has over 1500 vendors to visit. Stroll through the multitude of isles offering unique, antique, used and new items. Everything from fresh produce to animals are offered for sale. The paved walkways take you through a maze of covered and occasionally air conditioned areas. For ease of shopping site maps and vendor directories are available throughout the market. Admission and parking at Flea World are free. This Sanford market, which is open year round on Friday through Sunday from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm has a multitude of vendors selling fresh produce, jewelry new furniture exotic birds, plants, lingerie. A large selection of surplus merchandise such as tools, jeans, socks, shoes and t-shirts are offered at discount prices. In addition to the shopping adventure at Flea World, this location is also home to Fun World Family Fun Park. A mini fair of sorts for children is located adjacent to Flea World. Take the family out for a day and indulge them in their favorite fair food treats then check out the rides, go kart tracks and mini golf course. Fun World also offers birthday party packages and facilities. 4311 Orlando Ave. (17-92) Sanford, FL (407)330-1792
Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park is a showcase for Florida Wildlife. It offers visitors an excellent opportunity to observe native animals, birds and plants in their natural setting. Walk along a naturally beautiful boardwalk and view many Florida species such as cougars, bear, white-tailed deer, bobcats, otters and fox. Informative educational programs are offered daily on West Indian manatees and Wildlife Encounters feature alligators, birds of prey & Florida snakes. A large natural spring, from which millions of gallons of water bubble every hour, flow along with the Park's "Fishbowl," the centerpiece of this 180-acre park. 4150 S. Suncoast Boulevard Homosassa, Florida 34446 (352)628-5343
Central Florida Zoo
Besides seeing over 400 animals, you can take to the sky and enjoy the aerial adventure course, ZOOm Air Adventure Park or bring your flip-flops and swimsuit to cool-off in the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground. Have you ever stood close to a goat or a sheep? You can see domestic animals in the Animal Adventure Childrens Zoo. Or you may want to visit one of the largest collection of venomous snakes and non-venomous reptiles in the Southeast in the Herpetarium. On the weekends, you may want to participate in special animal education presentations; like the Keeper Chats and Elephant Encounters. The zoo offers free parking and picnic areas, rentals for child strollers or adult wheelchair rentals (from $5.00 to $8.00), a Snack Bar and ZOOfari Outpost Gift Shop for those special gifts. Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens 3755 NW Hwy 17-92 Sanford, FL (407)323-4450
Bok Tower and Gardens
The meandering garden is one of the greatest achievements of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Tranquil resting places, shady recesses, picturesque vistas and expansive splashes of color create a contemplative setting for your personal renewal and enjoyment. There are also many family-friendly garden areas which give children the chance to learn about the gardens while playing in a vine-covered arbor or observing butterflies.The acres of ferns, palms, oaks and pines create a year-round backdrop of 1,000 shades of green for the seasonal bursts of azaleas, camellias and magnolia blooms that form an ever-changing work of art. One of the best spots to observe the Gardens native birds, wildlife and wetland plants is inside the nature observatory known as Window By The Pond. Situated on the edge of a pond, the small wooden building has benches that face a large picture window where visitors can observe birds, reptiles, butterflies and native species in their natural habitat. On the back wall are drawings of some of the animals that visitors may catch a glimpse of from this unique human vantage spot. But a sign also reminds visitors: this is natures show not ours. No scheduled performances. Looking up at the 205 foot neo-Gothic and art deco Singing Tower carillon is an experience like no other. Designed by famed architect Milton B. Medary and ornately crafted by noted stone sculptor Lee Lawrie, the Tower houses one of the worlds finest carillons. Concerts from the 60 bell carillon at 1 and 3 p.m. fill the Gardens daily. Bok Tower Gardens is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with last admission at 5 p.m. The Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. General admission tickets are good for one day only and do not include specially ticketed events. Voted Floridas Best Garden by readers of Florida Monthly Magazine. 1151 Tower Blvd. Lake Wales, FL 33853 (863)676-1408
Witness your car going uphill in neutral! One of Florida's best-known free attractions is Spook Hill, in Lake Wales. Located on North Wales Drive (Fifth Street) just a few blocks from the National Historic District, this mystery of nature attracts many thousands of visitors each year. Children and adults get a thrill as the family car rolls uphill while in neutral, tugged by invisible forces which defy the laws of gravity. There's a large sign on North Wales Drive explaining "The Legend" and how to experience the effect. Spook Hill is located just minutes from Bok Tower and makes for a great combo day trip.
Paddle a canoe or kayak down Spring Garden Run into the Woodruff Federal Wildlife Refuge. The 19,500 acre refuge boasts an incredible 212 species of birds, many of which may be seen along the Run. Alligators abound and the occasional manatee may wonder by. Swim in the refreshing 72 degree waters of our spring fed pool. Legend has it that this is Ponce De Leon's fabled Fountain of Youth. Tube rentals are also available for use in the Spring Pool area. Walk the nature trail or explore the Wild Persimmon hiking trail as it winds along the edge of the swamp. Stroll the grounds or simply sit on a bench and watch the herons, egrets and osprey along the spring run. Ride the Fountain of Youth Echo History Tour Boat and let Captain Frank fill you in on the history, flora and fauna of our area. Watch closely and you're sure to see wildlife along Spring Garden Run. Tour boat excursions into the Woodruff Refuge on Spring Garden Road available everyday for 50 minutes at 10am, 11am, 12pm and 1pm. The Old Spanish Sugar Mill is a unique restaurant located inside the DeLeon Springs State - Park Recreation Area . Opened in 1961 by Peter and Marjorie Schwarze, they have been serving in the same unusual style ever since. Each of the tables are equipped with a griddle and servers bring you pitchers of homemade pancake batters (both a stone ground mixture of five different flours and an unbleached white) and you pour them on and flip them over right at the table. You may order blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, pecans, chocolate chips, apples or apple sauce to create whatever sort of pancakes you choose. Sausage, bacon, ham, eggs, homemade breads and an assortment of other treats can accompany your pancakes. 601 Ponce DeLeon Blvd. DeLeon Springs, Florida 32130
Cassadaga is one of those quaint little Central Florida towns that you might just drive through on the way to somewhere else with hardly a glance. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and thus provides a step back in time. It is filled with residents that don't look any different from you or me. There is nothing scary or spooky about Cassadaga. Cassadaga was founded in 1894 by spiritualists who were looking for a warm weather retreat from the harsh New York winters. Today, Church members occupy fifty-seven acres of land that is collectively owned. Defined by its folklore, this religious group is really not very different from other religious groups. They believe in God and the Golden Rule. They are different only in their belief that they can communicate with the dead. Readings by the Camp's certified mediums are intended to give you insight into your life or perhaps let you commune with the dearly departed. Other services include psychics, palm and card readers, tarot readings, and handwriting analysis. If ghostly gatherings and "reading" retreats are your thing and you'd like to spend some time in Cassadaga, the Cassadaga Hotel is located in the center of the spiritualist community. Or, if you would rather put a bit of distance between you and the spiritualists, there are two nearby bed & breakfasts. The Ann Stevens House, just blocks from the center of Cassadaga, and Cabin On The Lake, two miles from the town.
Harry P. Leu Gardens, near Forrest and Corrine drives in Orlando, This lovely 50-acre botanical garden situated on Lake Rowena offers visitors a chance to escape into Old Florida. Wander miles of paved paths through forests of giant camphors, oaks and palms. The formal Rose Garden is the largest in the South, but don't pass up the opportunity to visit the herb, butterfly, palm and bamboo gardens as well. Towering over all this natural wonder is the Leu House. Built in 1888, it now serves as a decorative-arts museum. Tours occur on the half hour. Classes on landscaping, horticulture, fine arts and crafts are offered. 1920 North Forest Ave. Orlando, FL 32803 (407)246-2620
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