After your foray at world-famous LEGOLAND® Florida Resort, why not get lost in the scenic outdoors of Central Florida?
Experience close-up wildlife encounters on an impressive wilderness ranch, try out a new water sport or take a lazy pontoon cruise through a scenic chain of lakes. Polk County is in the heart of Central Florida, and nature is trying to get your attention. Here’s where to get out and explore.
A Day at Safari Wilderness Ranch
Fulfill the dream of going on safari at Safari Wilderness Ranch in Lakeland, about 45 minutes from Tampa and an hour from Orlando. Fodor’s Travel ranked it as one of the “10 Best Safaris in the U.S.” Marvel at this 105-hectare wilderness habitat featuring extraordinary encounters with water buffalo, red lechwe, zebra, scimitar-horned oryx and large herds of Defassa Waterbuck in an expansive green space. Sign up for one of four safari types: board a customized safari bus, ride an all-terrain vehicle, take a camel expedition or embark on a kayaking excursion. Whatever option you select, an expert tour guide will share fascinating facts and intriguing stories about the extraordinary animals that call the ranch home. One of the best parts? Hand-feeding grapes to curious and gentle lemurs – a highlight that’s well worth an additional fee.
A zebra encounter at Safari Wilderness Ranch
Beautiful Blooms at Bok Tower Gardens
Surround yourself with lush gardens on a visit to a Central Florida treasure. Located just outside the town of Lake Wales, serene Bok Tower Gardens has been immersing visitors in natural beauty since 1929. Wander down two nature trails, each taking you from the manicured landscapes of Olmsted Gardens to the towering longleaf pine forests of the surrounding Lake Wales Ridge. The centerpiece of the gardens is the Singing Tower, a striking Art Deco bell tower that comes alive with carillon music every half hour. Little ones will love Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden, an immersive experience where kids of all ages can splash in the River Walk water area, climb whimsical sculptures and learn about the diverse ecology of the area through hands-on play. Don’t miss community events including live concerts and crafting classes, all set against the gorgeous backdrop of lush foliage. Looking to spot native wildlife? You’re in luck: Bok Tower Gardens is a designated stop on the Great Florida Birding Trail.
The Singing Tower rises above the lush landscapes of Bok Tower Gardens just outside Lake Wales
Cruising the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes
Switch gears by enjoying a slow and steady pontoon cruise of the famed Winter Haven Chain of Lakes. Schedule a boat ride with The Living Water Boat Cruises that winds through pretty lakes connected by scenic canals and surrounded by verdant cypress trees. Not only is this a dreamy off-the-beaten-path outing, it’s also a chance to spot Florida wildlife like alligators and osprey in their natural habitats. Boat captains offer rich storytelling, from local history to amusing anecdotes about these beautiful bodies of water and the homes alongside them.
With 21 boat ramps, 30 waterfront parks and 14 public docks, the Winter Haven Chain of Lakes is also ideal for laid-back kayak and paddleboard outings. Several local vendors offer rentals. Make the fun last with lunch or dinner at one of the casual waterfront restaurants along the chain. A heavenly sunset streaked with orange and pink hues is the cherry on top of a perfect day on the water.