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
Water Sports at Elite Cable Park
Ready for some ultra-fun water sports? Bypass the boat and head to Elite Cable Park. Located in Auburndale (about 20 minutes from Lakeland), this innovative water park boasts a two-tower cable system that tows you along the water as you hold onto a rope. Wakeboarding is the popular sport of choice here, but you can also opt to water ski, kneeboard or water skate (a lot like skateboarding on water without wheels). Don’t shy away if you’ve never attempted wakeboarding; people of all skill levels can enjoy an afternoon of thrills on the water. First-timers will want to take a one-on-one lesson, which guarantees you’ll be able to get up on the wakeboard and cruise around the lake after brief instruction. After gliding around the lake, head to the Pro Shop to shop for trendy hats, cool apparel and wakeboarding gear. Hang out a little longer at Tantrums Lakeside Grill for tacos, sandwiches and jasmine rice bowls to top off your lakeside leisure.
Learning to wakeboard from the experts at Elite Cable Park
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.
Surrounded by nature on a pontoon boat tour with The Living Water Boat Cruises
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