You will no doubt have looked up all the Theme Parks so I won’t tell you about them other than to say get there early and head to the back first to start your rides. Others will get distracted on the way so the queues will be lighter.
Florida has a lot more to offer and these are just a few we have enjoyed
- Celebration is a Disney inspired small town/village. On the 192 towards Kissimmee just after the I4 turning. Park free in the centre. Market street has a few upmarket shops and restaurants. There are 2 lakes which are about a mile each to walk around. You might see small alligators and turtles. Sit by the lake on the rocking chairs or let the kids play in the water fountain. (Take a towel!) Treat yourself to a Kilwins ice-cream – the best around. (See the dining in/out page)
- Blue Springs State Park about an hour north on the I4. Visit between November and February to see the Manatees in the warm crystal clear river. Take a picnic.
- Kissimmee Rodeo. Off the 192 past Kissimmee – you will think you have gone wrong but you haven’t, it’s at the end of a dirt road! Only on once a month. Steak meals, hot dogs and burgers. Watch the bull riding or falling off, (Why would you allow your teenager to do that?!!!), and horse games.
- Lake Louisa State Park is 5 miles north on the 27. Only $5 for a car then you drive for a couple of miles to the lake which has a play area and a beach. Picnic tables and BBQ pits complete this idyllic place. There are toilets but no shop so take drinks and a picnic. There are several nature trails too. A real away from it all place.
- Lakeridge Winery is further north on the 27 past Clermont. Free tours and wine tasting. They have music festivals once a month at the weekend which are great fun. It’s only $10 to a charity to get in all day with different live bands. You can buy drinks and lots of different choices of food. They also have craft stalls at some events. Take something to sit on.
- Tavares is a sleepy old town about 50 minutes from the villa. North on the 27 and then off left. There isn’t a decent sign telling you where to turn into the town. Just follow Main Street. There is a restored steam train that chugs along the lakeside to Mount Dora. Check the times of running on the Orange Blossom Cannonball train website. By the side of the station are 2 children’s play areas. One is a free huge wooden play zone that will keep the kids entertained for hours. Next to it is a water play park with fountains etc which is closed in the winter. There are picnic tables and a lovely walk along the lakeside. Again, take a picnic as the rest of the town feels a bit like a ghost town.
- Mount Dora is a lakeside town a little further on from Tavares. Some celebrity size houses to view, pretty little shops to wander around and a lovely harbour/pier for beautiful views. Take a boat trip or enjoy one of the relaxing restaurants.
- Lake Toho is part of Disney’s commitment to conservation. We always see alligators here. Don’t follow the google maps! Take the 192 to the John Young Parkway (about 30 to 40 minutes). Turn right and fairly soon turn left into Emmett Street. If you miss it don’t worry about the next 2 take you there. Ruby Street takes you to lake Toho. Again there is a lovely big play area for the kids with a water play area in the summer. There is a cafe but lots of picnic areas. Tables and chairs under a roof with a fan to keep cooler. Again lovely walk along the lake side and along to the mini lighthouse. It’s fun watching the long Amtrack trains go past too.
- Citrus Tower is about a mile north on the 27. Ideal for an hour or two. You can pick your own oranges and other citrus fruit. There is a weathered play area for the kids with an old boat full of sand. Perfect whilst you have a fruit smoothie made where it’s grown. There are monster truck rides. We haven’t done it so can’t recommend it. The “farm animals” entertain for 2 minutes! One pig, 2 sheep, 1 Emu etc!! We had a good time with a 2 and 4-year-old but the fruit picking was the best bit.
- Winter Park is a very upmarket town north off the I4. It’s ladies that lunch and dogs in handbags!. Having said that there are lovely boutique shops along the side of the park and the Amtrack train runs on the other side. Some nice restaurants and cafes or have a picnic in the park. Whilst there you really must visit the Morse Homer Museum which houses the largest collection of Tiffany work. Beautiful stained glass windows, lamps and mosaics. Just half an hour will do if that’s all the time you can spare.
- Bok Tower (Sanctuary) is about 40 minutes south on the 27 and off on the left. The tower is a Campanili and there is bell music each day. It’s a beautiful garden to stroll through up to the tower and has little lakes on the way up with giant lily pads. (Just like in Rupert Bear story books!) There is a cafe and shop on site. It’s very peaceful here.
- Legoland is good on the 27 south off to the right. They have retained some of the gardens from when it was Cypress Gardens and they are lovely to go around too.
- Busch Gardens is just over an hour away. Go south on the 27 to pick up the I4 west.
- The Crayola Experience is in the Florida Mall. (see below) Indoor play zones, every conceivable drawing experience and cafe. Adults pay which I think is expensive for what you can do so try all children with one or two adults and let the rest shop in the Mall!
- Cocoa Beach is about an hour further on from the airport. First, you come to Cocoa which is a quaint town with lots of little shops mainly selling homemade American goods. Then over the bridge to the beach and enjoy the long sandy beach and sea. That’s the nearest beach
- Daytona is the home of the speedway and tours are available. However, the beach is the place to go. You drive onto the beach (at low tide) Its $10 and great fun. Beach and sea are lovely.
- Cape Canaveral is another must. About 45 minutes past the airport. A full day is needed and the tour drops you off at the main parts for you to have an interactive experience. Touch the moon rock. Buy space rocket ice cream to bring home. There is something for everyone there. There is a Police Academy Museum not far from there which is excellent (maybe not with small children)
- Old Kissemmee is a bit tacky! It has pubs and bars with “Blackpool” type shops BUT…. On most Wednesday and Saturday evenings they have a display of Hot Rod Cars which you can look around from about 4pm and then all the cars drive through the main street about 8pm. Look it up before going.