Central Florida has so many attractions for you and your family to explore! Central Florida’s Polk County is conveniently located between Orlando and Tampa, and an easy drive to many area attractions and the Gulf and Atlantic beaches. The location offers something for everyone, including LEGOLAND Florida Resort and Safari Wilderness; and some of Florida’s most historic; including Bok Tower Gardens, Westgate River Ranch Resort (the Southeast’s largest dude ranch), and the Frank Lloyd Wright “Child of the Sun” collection at Florida Southern College. With 554 fresh water lakes, the area offers great fishing, adventurous airboat eco tours and exciting water sports. Wonderful parks, preserves and trails captivate visitors with Polk County’s natural beauty.
LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is designed for children 2 to 12 years old. As the largest LEGOLAND® Park in the world, the 150-acre property offers a unique mix of more than 50 rides, shows and attractions; plus restaurants, shops and a beautiful botanical garden (the former Cypress Gardens). Spectacular LEGO® models are found throughout 11 themed zones which include Miniland USA, LEGO Kingdoms, Imagination Zone, Pirates’ Cove and DUPLO® Village. The resort offers a five-story, 152-room LEGOLAND® Hotel, located just steps from the theme park entrance. Rooms and suites feature décor in four themes: Pirate, Kingdom, Adventure and LEGO® Friends. Hotel guests enjoy early access to the park, free full breakfast daily, interactive play areas, daily and nightly entertainment, disco elevators, resort pool and exclusive access to a Master Model Builder Workshop. In addition to the new hotel, the resort has upgraded with several expansions since opening in late 2011, including the LEGOLAND Water Park, LEGO® Star Wars™ Miniland Model Display, The World of Chima™ and Heartlake City, based on the popular LEGO Friends line of toys. The resort will double its lodging capacity in mid-2017 with the debut of LEGOLAND Beach Retreat, a whimsical village-style, lakefront resort with 83 single-story beach bungalows, offering 166 separate accommodations that sleep up to five.
Safari Wilderness was named one of the “10 Best Safaris in the U.S.” by Fodors.com. Witness the dramatic landscapes of the Serengeti without setting foot on an airplane. At Safari Wilderness, you will be guided through lush wetlands and open grasslands, and enjoy spectacular close-up encounters with huge herds of exotic hoof stock. This 260-acre preserve is surrounded by Florida’s Green Swamp, an 870 square mile pristine watershed that is source to five of Florida’s finest rivers. Tours are available by safari vehicle, on camel back or now by kayak (NEW in 2016). Reservations are required and tours operate daily at 9 am and 1 pm. Optional extras include lemur and budgie feedings. Safari Wilderness is a family-run agri-tourism venture.
Bok Tower Gardens has been undergoing the largest expansion in its 87-Year History. Voted “Florida’s Best Garden,” this National Historic Landmark was dedicated in 1929 as a gift to the American people from Dutch immigrant and world peace advocate Edward Bok. Nearly 700 acres of conservation lands and gardens surround the 205-foot neo-Gothic and art deco “Singing Tower” carillon and the Pinewood Estate, a 20-room, Mediterranean-style 1930s winter retreat. Bok Tower Gardens sits on one of peninsular Florida’s highest points, providing a haven for rare plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. The attraction’s new Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden (including dancing water features and stone mosaics) is set to open in September, bringing to fruition a $12 million capital improvement project that includes the interactive children’s area, wild and pollinator gardens, outdoor kitchen, edible garden and a new entrance that features an oval lawn.
Westgate River Ranch Resort is the largest dude Ranch East of the Mississippi. Rooted in the history of the nation’s first cowboys, Westgate River Ranch lies on 1,700 lush acres in the heart of Florida’s cattle lands, offering cowboy-themed accommodations ranging from tent camping and the lodge, up to luxurious two-bedroom cabins, Glamping tents (glamour camping) and, NEW in April 2016, Luxe Teepees. Recreational activities include horseback riding, airboat and swamp buggy rides, zip-lining, swimming, golf, a petting farm, nature hikes, trap and skeet shooting, a mechanical bull, hayrides, cookouts and a full-service marina complete with boating and fishing. The resort also features the River Ranch Saloon and the longest-running Saturday night championship rodeo in the United States, showcasing trick riding, bull riding, calf roping and barrel racing in a 1,200-seat rodeo arena.
Streamsong® Resort – Adding to its World Class Golf Offerings. While Streamsong® Resort continues to receive rave reviews from travel and golf publications for its spectacular destination resort, a new addition was recently announced. Streamsong® Black, being designed by world-renowned course architect Gil Hanse, is scheduled to open in 2017. Streamsong Resort’s courses join a list of more than 40 historic and championship golf courses in Polk County that includes Southern Dunes and The Club at Eaglebrooke, offering golfers an enticing array of options.
Circle B Bar Reserve – Named one of the “Top 50 Places to see Wildlife” by USA Today. Once a functioning cattle ranch, Circle B Bar Reserve has been restored to its original natural state as one of the most impressive bird habitats in Central Florida. Birders, hikers, photographers, painters and nature lovers come from all over the world to experience this natural treasure. The reserve, which is made up of freshwater marshes, hardwood swamps, oak hammocks, creeks and lakes, is home to an assortment of wildlife, including waterfowl, ospreys, eagles and alligators. For the best opportunity to spy a gator, don’t miss the 1.2 mile Alligator Alley trail which overlooks Lake Hancock. The on-site Polk Nature Discovery Center helps visitors of all ages understand the delicate ecosystem of Central Florida with indoor and outdoor classrooms and numerous exhibits specifically designed to engage and excite young minds. Admission is free for both the reserve and the Discovery Center.
Local Dining – With more than 550 freshwater lakes dotting Polk County, locals – and visitors alike – all have their favorite lakeside dining spot. To name just a few, Winter Haven is home to Harborside Restaurant on Lake Shipp and Harry’s Old Place on Lake Ned; Cherry Pocket Steak and Seafood Shak is nestled on Lake Pierce in Lake Wales and Texas Cattle Company overlooks Lake Mirror in downtown Lakeland. Local inland favorites include Peebles B-B-Q in Auburndale and Gary’s Oyster Bar and Seafood House in Lake Alfred. If you find yourself in Central Florida from October through May, a lunch stop at Lang’s Taste of Florida Café is a “must do.” The café is best known for Mary Lang’s award-winning Grapefruit Pie, which has been featured on the Food Network show “Epicurious”. If you’d prefer to snack on an orange picked fresh from the tree, visit Ridge Island Groves in Haines City and take a citrus grove tour (seasonally, October to May). You can pick your own fruit, sample fresh Florida citrus and juices, indulge in homemade ice cream, watch the packing process and ship fresh fruit right to your front door! BBQ loving visitors will find many opportunities to savor mouthwatering barbeque throughout the year, at well-known annual competitions such as the Lakeland PigFest, Smoke on the Water, Ribs on the Ridge, Fine Swine at the Pit and When Pigs Fly South. For fine dining, make reservations for Arabellas Ristorante in Winter Haven and the Terrace Grille in Lakeland.
Architecture and Art – at the Heart of Central Florida. Visitors can tour the largest one-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world, consisting of thirteen completed structures, including the Usonian House, finished in 2013 – based on a 1939 design. The collection is located on the Florida Southern College campus in Lakeland, and both paid and self-guided walking tours are available. The Polk Museum of Art, also in Lakeland, offers a permanent collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts along with various collections and rotating exhibits on display in eight galleries and a sculpture garden.
Vacation Rental Homes – Spread Out and Soak Up the Sun. Central Florida’s Polk County offers comfortable accommodations in its more than 7,000 luxury vacation homes and condominiums. Just minutes away from Florida’s major attractions and a short drive to the Gulf and Atlantic beaches, these convenient and affordable properties are the perfect “home away from home,” with amenities including full kitchens, spacious furnished living areas and washer/ dryer units. The properties range from two to seven bedrooms and most include private, screened-in swimming pools. They are also ideal for golf vacations since many of these homes are located in communities right on some of Central Florida’s best golf courses.