Our last post featured cool coastal escapes, but not everybody loves the beach. Some people sunburn easily (my sister had a severe allergic reaction to the sun once) and then there’s the sand- it gets everywhere! Kids are rubbed raw because of sand in their swimsuits. I used to think they put it there on purpose but realized that sitting in the surf results in mass sand accumulation. And the car- I swear I still have sand in the car from our Fort DeSoto Beach trip 9 years ago! And of course, the weather, with our up and downs of temperature may not be so conducive to a beach trip- a windy frigid day may be great for an hour’s walk but after that? So here comes Part Two of our Spring Break Escape series to give you some off-beach ideas. Some are day trips, others an hour or two. Hopefully, they will provide some inspiration for your family adventures!
More Spring Break Escapes for Families
Build your Adventure at Legoland. This park, made up of more than 58 million Lego Bricks, is on the former Cypress Gardens Florida attraction site, and they kept the historic gardens. So if the kids get bored of riding in Lego Cars, on Lego-Coasters and oohing & aahing over, yes, cool Lego displays – if they do get bored, haha- you can drag them into the depths of old Florida history in the gardens. Check out the giant banyan tree (from the 1930’s), and the Japanese Garden. And then rest your feet and relax at the water-ski show on the lake.
- Located: 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, Florida 33884
- Contact: (877) 350-5346
- Fees: Ticket prices start at $73 for kids 3-12 & seniors and go up from there. Check out their website for more information. Keep an eye out for discounts- buy an adult, get one child free is one that tends to float around at times.
- Tips: It gets buggy in the gardens! Bring bug spray or keep some citronella bracelets on hand.
- Also, there is a water park there in case you need to cool off!(Extra fees apply)
- Legoland is geared for kids 2-12, but older children may appreciate the water ski show & chilling out in the wave pool or on the lazy river at the water park.
Of course, if you are in Winter Haven, be sure to check out the singing tower in nearby Lake Wales:
The highest point in Florida and home to a romantic Rapunzel –styled Carillion tower on top on a hill, set high above gently rolling orange groves. This old Florida attraction and world famous gardens have morphed through the ages, becoming more family-friendly while retaining its former elegance and dignity. Take the winding garden paths up the hill to the tower. The Carillion bells chime every hour and half hour, but the spectacular concerts are at 1 pm & 3 pm. Investigate the Edible Kitchen Garden, Endangered Plant Garden and of course the numerous koi fish in the reflection pool at the base of the tower. I used to tell my daughter a princess lived up there.
The Hammock Hollow Children’s Garden is a great place for kids to stretch their legs and run. This is a playground and garden meant for young explorations. There is a splash area on the River Walk, so bring a change of clothes.
- Located: 1151 Tower Blvd, Lake Wales, Florida 33853
- Contact: (863) 734-1222
- Fees: Adults $14; Children 5-12 $5; Under 5 free.
- + There are combo tickets for exploring the old Pinewood Estate ($20 adults & $10 kids) but they do have blackout dates in April & October, so check first.
- Tips: Bring a picnic lunch, sunscreen & bug spray!
Be sure to test the gravity hole at nearby Spook Hill while you are there. There are several ‘gravity-pocket’ areas around the world, where the laws of gravity don’t seem to apply so much. This one in Lake Wales is on Spook Hill. Put your car in neutral and watch as it rolls uphill. Yes, very spooky. Look for the sign on North Wales Drive in Lake Wales.
Old Florida eats can be found down a long drive at Cherry Pocket. This was the first place we tried fish tacos. Deck overlooking Lake Pierce. It’s not fancy by a long shot- more fish camp laid-back style but makes for a neat alternative to the main drag restaurants.
- Located: 3100 Canal Road, Lake Wales, FL 33898
- Contact: (863)439-2031
We used to live in Lakeland. I must admit it was one of the most family-friendly places I have ever been. The kids were little and we didn’t have land to roam, so I would take them out to all of the parks around town- and there are quite a few of them, still beautifully maintained, great places for picnics and most of all: FREE!
Lake Mirror, in downtown Lakeland, seems to be the hub of fun.
Places around Lake Mirror:
A 1. 2 acre botanical garden in downtown Lakeland. Wander through the paths and over the water. Fountains and lots of steps.
- Located: 7072 E. Orange St, Lakeland, FL 33801
- Contact: (863)- 834- 2280
- Fees: haha it’s free!
- Tips: This park is closed on Mondays!
When the kids get bored of the plants, walk over to Barnett Park, right next door. Giant playground and splash pad. This is where the locals hang- and the kids run free. It can get very crowded on weekends. Very sunny area.
- Located: 730 E Orange St, Lakeland, FL 33801
- Contact: (863) 834-2280
- Fees: Free!
- Tips: Park is open 8an to sunset, but splash pad is 10-5 and closed on Wednesdays.
In case you need to escape the heat- head over to Munn Park and check out the local hands-on, interactive Children’s Museum. Explorations V is unlike most museums, as it encourages kids to play with everything. There’s an orange factory, a supermarket, a news weather station, a theater and lots more. My kids took science and cooking classes here, and my daughter spent so many hours with her grocery cart “shopping” from the bakery & meat department that I seriously wondered if I would have a future shopping addict on my hands.
Exploration V Children’s Museum
- Located: 109 N. Kentucky Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33801
- Contact: (863) 687-3869
- Fees: Children & Adults $9; discounted fees for military & families, teachers & families, EBT cardholders & families, and AAA members.
- Hours: 9 am to 5 pm Monday thru Saturday. Closed on Sunday.
- Tips: This place gets busy on weekends, so come early.
Crispers is catty-corner to Munn Park- (just cross over the train tracks) and good for healthy eating fans. They have a couple of tables outside where you can eat your food (or ice cream) and watch the trains roll by. Cool experience for kids.
- Located: 217 N. Kentucky Avenue, Lakeland, FL 33801
- Contact: (863) 682-7708
- Hours: 10.30am to 8 pm
Another uber cool place to play for kids is the Common Ground Park. When you come here, you can tell that Lakeland loves their kids. It is set up so that disabled children can play alongside everyone else. Bring a picnic lunch and make it a long outing.
Common Ground Inclusive Playground
- Located: 100 E. Edgeware Drive, Lakeland, FL
- Contact: (863) 834-2280
- Fees: Free
Escape the city and check out some quiet nature at Peterson Park. We found this place by accident, and what a nice accident! There’s a (small) boat ramp, a fishing boardwalk, playground (there are SO MANY playgrounds in this town!) and a giant boardwalk path that goes up and over the trees and gives you a great lake view. Take a picnic or bring a football or Frisbee to toss.
Curtis Peterson Park
- Located: 3700 Cleveland Heights Blvd, Lakeland, FL
- Contact: (863) 834-2280
- Fees: Free
If you’re looking for a wilder adventure, head out to Circle B Bar Reserve. This 1,267-acre conservation area is part of the Southwest Florida Water Management District and named from the old cattle ranch that was there. Made famous recently by the 13-15 foot alligator on the Alligator Alley strolling across the trail(Check out Kim Joiner’s viral YouTube video). Circle B is a good place to explore wild-Florida. The park is situated on the edge of Lake Hancock, and yes, there are lots of alligators- birds and other wildlife as well. You can learn about them at the Polk Nature Discovery Center before you set out on your adventure. Fishing, hiking & cycling. As on La Chua Trail in Gainesville, respect the gators- you are in their land!
Circle B Bar Ranch
- Located: 4399 Winter Lake Rd, Lakeland FL 33803
- Fees: Free
Other reading: 10 Things You Should Know About Florida Gators
By-passing the hot mess of Orlando for the sleepier small towns:
Horse country, spring hunting, zip lining and more.
Check out these adventures in and around Ocala:
- Zip Lining Across Canyons
- Spring Hunting on the Silver River
- Changes at Silver Springs (video)
- Scott Springs: A Secret Grotto in the Heart of Ocala
- Paddling Dunnellon’s Rainbow River
- Paddling Juniper Run in the Ocala National Forest
- Salt Springs Run
Hop on I-75 North, or choose the quieter HWY 441 towards Micanopy and head out to Cross Creek, former home of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and setting for The Yearling and Cross Creek. This 1930’s homestead is in the middle of nowhere, and clear to see why it made the perfect writer home. Tour the grounds or pay the fee and take the house tour (may bore younger kids), then hike out on the trail through the citrus groves.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park
- Located: 18700 S. CR 325, Cross Creek, FL 32640
- Contact: (352) 466-3672
- Fees: $3 per vehicle (honor box system)
- + house tour Adults $3; Kids 6-12 $2; 5 & under free
- Tips: House available for guided tours only. Tours Oct – July, Thursday thru Sunday from 10 to 4 (usually on the hour)
- Park Hours: 9 am to 5 pm
Be sure to have a wander through historic Micanopy while you are in the area. Neat general store with local products & ice cream parlor to tempt the kids on a hot day.
Paynes Prairie State Park main entrance is just up the road. This vast prairie, home to wild horses, buffalo, and some really huge gators, has many different entrances. The main entrance has a visitor’s center, nature trails and observation tower for sweeping vista views of the prairie. Oh yes, you can also camp here (reservations required).
Paynes Prairie State Park
- Located: 100 Savannah Blvd, Micanopy, FL 32667
- Contact: (352) 466-3397
- Fees: $6 per vehicle (up to 8 persons)
You can read about our Paynes Prairie North Rim adventure at Hiking with Gators on La Chua Trail.
This town, made famous by the University of Florida is a sprawling college town. The Florida Museum of Natural History is located on campus, yet minutes from the bustling stores and restaurants on Archer Road.
But bustling or not, there’s plenty of nature packed into the city.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park
Boardwalks over marshes & gravel trails and a good alternative to families with young kids who can’t do the La Chua hike.
- Located: 325 SW Williston Rd, Gainesville, FL 32608
- Contact: (325) 393-8520
- Fees: $5 per vehicle
On the edge of the city (near I-75) is Kanapaha Botanical Gardens- a neat place to escape the city noise. Gardens upon gardens, from the bamboo garden, the kitchen garden, the children’s garden and the cacti garden. Check out the giant lily pads and koi fish in the lake from the steel bridge.
Kanapaha Botanical Gardens
- Located: 4700 SW 58th Drive, Gainesville, FL 32608
- Contact: (352) 372-4981
- Fees: Adults $8; Kids 5-13 $4; Under 5 free.
- Tips: Bring your own lunch and have a picnic.
Heading out of town, you may want to check out Dudley Farm in nearby Newberry. This 1930’s homestead is a step back in time and a great learning adventure for kids. Park rangers in period costumes are on hand to help them learn how to run laundry through a real wringer, grind corn to make cornmeal, pump water from the well and explain how life was back in the good-old-days. A real eye-opener that will make you appreciate today’s creature comforts!
Dudley Farm State Park
- Located: 18730 W. Newberry Road, Newberry, Florida 32669
- Contact: (352) 472-1142
- Fees: $5 vehicle (up to 8 persons) Honor box system.
So whether you prefer the sandy zones or the cool interior, Florida has got you covered! Spring Break adventures don’t have to break the bank. Have a short break or combine a few adventures. Pack picnic lunches, bring a soccer ball or Frisbee.
Other Posts That May Interest You: