Vacation time is here, and families are headed to Orlando, Florida, with plans to go to Disney World and Universal Studios. But there’s so much more to Central Florida than those theme parks. There are incredible places to see that have nothing to do with long lines and animatronics.
Just south of Orlando, Polk County is packed with super family-friendly activities. It’s a sportsman’s paradise, with everything from championship golf courses to bragging rights for being the largemouth bass fishing capital of the world, thanks to the bountiful Winter Haven Chain of Lakes. Other water sports include leisurely kayaking or wild airboat rides on some of the 554 lakes in the area.
A great place to soak up some of the local excitement is Florida’s very first tourist attraction, Cypress Gardens
. Founded in 1936, it has been entertaining families for generations and is now better than ever with an expanded Adventure Park.
In the heart of Winter Haven
, less than 60-minutes from Orlando
or Tampa, Cypress Gardens still has the same entertaining Ski Show Spectacular that made it world famous. The young athletes who perform are amazing, defying gravity as they slice through beautiful Lake Eloise on their water-skis. The signature human-pyramid of skiers along with the aqua-acrobatics is a treat for all ages, with shows scheduled three times a day.
The must see place is a photographer’s delight, with the lovely “Southern Belles” in their traditional hoop skirts, strolling the well manicured Botanical and Plantation Gardens, and the colorful and comical Topiary Trail.
In addition to the Swamp Critters animal show, Shenaniguns Wild West comedy show, and the Treasure of Cypress Cove comedy pirate show, there’s a lot of other entertainment throughout the park. Plus shops and dining places to suit every taste.
But let’s face it, kids (and adults who never grew up) love thrill rides, and Cypress Gardens’ Adventure Grove has a bunch– more than 30! For folks who enjoy “old school” thrills, there’s a couple of heart-pounding classic “woodie” roller coasters called Triple Hurricane and Starliner. The Okeechobbee steel coaster, the Swampthing suspended coaster, and the Thunderbolt strap-in-and-hang-on, are a variety of ways to produce screams of delight.
And you’ve got to love the Storm Surge- a six-person raft ride that carries passengers more than 60-feet into the air before careening down a twisted river route, while spiraling. Oh my!
If that’s not enough, cool off at Splash Island, a great water park within Cypress Gardens, included with your very reasonably priced admission ticket. They also have special events and a summer all-star concert series at their amphitheatre. And, yes, general seating is included with your admission price, which includes a second day free within six days of your first visit. It’s an unbelievable bargain for families who can introduce the next generation to the classic Florida destination.
Information & Images courtesy Entertainment Today