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Destination: Family Adventure

Family-friendly day trips that offer something for everyone.

With spring break just around the corner, it’s a great time for the whole family to rejuvenate and reconnect while getting back to nature and exploring some of the real Florida. What’s more, there are numerous locations within easy driving distance of Greater Orlando where you can gaze into crystal-clear springs, smell the blossoming flora, breath in fresh ocean air, observe interesting wildlife and enjoy other memorable activities. We’ve made it easy for you with these quick getaways that offer plenty of options for every member of your family, and you can do each in a day or plan to stay overnight. So, put down those smartphones, grab some sunscreen, and let’s hit the road for adventure.

Blue Spring State Park
Orange City
Approximate Drive Time: 40 minutes

This park’s 2,600-plus acres shelter at least 15 threatened or endangered species, including the Florida scrub jay, gopher tortoise and black bear, and West Indian manatees—hundreds of which flock to the spring between mid-November and March. While the constant 73-degree water is closed to humans during those months, summertime visitors can swim, tube, snorkel and dive. Year-round options include a self-guided tour of a historical house, picnicking and barbecuing, and hiking the Pine Island Trail. Plus, the adjacent St. John’s River offers fishing, canoeing and kayaking, as well as daily guided boat tours, and a full- facility campground and six air-conditioned cabins are available. Prices vary, (386) 775-3663, FloridaStateParks.org

More Family Fun

Attractions:

Family Fun Town, Ray’s Airboat Rides, Reptile Discovery Center, Stetson Mansion

Best Dining

High-End: Cress Restaurant, CressRestaurant.com
Mid-Range: The Draft House,
The-Draft-House.com
Cheap Eats: Angelina’s Pizza,
BestPizzaInDeLand.com

Best Shopping

Dressed Boutique, DressedBoutique.com
Marketplace at Rivertown,
MarketplaceAtRivertown.com
Pretty Little Things,
PrettyLittleThingsOfDeland.com

Bok Tower Gardens
Lake Wales
Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

Encompassing lush gardens, the majestic Singing Tower with its 60- bell carillon, and the Reflection Pool, Bok Tower Gardens provides food for migrating birds, as well as refuge for squirrels and 126 bird species. Music lovers can listen to the daily carillon concerts, art lovers can take pictures of one of Florida’s most-photographed sites and admire the architecture of the Singing Tower, and nature lovers can enjoy geocaching, hiking and birdwatching. Plus, Discovery Backpacks, available at the Visitor Center, prompt children and families to explore the gardens through fun and educational activities. $10-$20, (863) 676-1408, BokTowerGardens.org

More Family Fun

Attractions: Depot Museum, Florida Skydiving Center, Legoland, Spook Hill

Best Dining

High-End: Arabellas, Arabellas.us
Mid-Range: Crazy Fish Bar & Grill,
LakeWalesCrazyFish.com
Cheap Eats: Lake Wales Family Restaurant,
LWDinerWixsite.com/Page

Best Shopping

Eagle Ridge Mall, EagleRidgeMall.com
Lake Wales Main Street,
LWMainStreet.com
Village Kitchen Shop,
VillageKitchenShop.com

Clearwater Beach
Clearwater
Approximate Drive Time: 2 hours

Voted the No. 1 beach in the U.S. by TripAdvisor travelers, Florida’s best beach town by USA Today readers, and one of the top 10 beaches in Florida by Travel Channel, Clearwater Beach is located on the Gulf of Mexico and boasts miles of white sand and gentle surf. In addition to a relaxing day of sunbathing and swimming, beachgoers can also visit one of the many area attractions. Get a bird’s eye view of the coastline while parasailing, go deep-sea fishing, hop aboard the Sea Screamer for a speedboat dolphin adventure, or set sail on Captain Memo’s Pirate Cruise. The “things to do” list is endless. Free, (727) 447-7600, BeachChamber.com

More Family Fun

Attractions: Caladesi Island State Park, Florida Botanical Gardens, Tarpon Springs Aquarium, Wall Springs State Park

Best Dining

High-End: The Black Pearl, TheBlackPearlDunedin.com
Mid-Range: Cristino’s Coal Oven Pizza, CristinosPizzeria.com
Cheap Eats: Lenny’s Restaurant, LennysFood.com

Best Shopping

Illume Eco-Boutique, EcoLunatik.com
Nancy’s Fancy,
Nancys-Fancy.com
Poolside Sand Key, PoolsideSandKey.com

Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park
Homosassa
Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour, 35 minutes

Visitors can see West Indian manatees every day of the year from the park’s underwater observatory, plus other native Florida wildlife, including black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American alligators, American crocodiles and river otters. Wildlife Encounter programs feature snakes and other animals, and the children’s education center provides hands-on experiences about Florida’s environment. In addition, visitors can hike the 1.10-mile trail that runs throughout the park, and enjoy a picnic at one of the park’s pavilions or picnic tables. $5-$13, (352) 628-5343, FloridaStateParks.org

More Family Fun

Attractions: Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, Manatee Tour & Dive, Weeki Wachee Springs, Yulee Sugar Mill Ruins Historic State Park

Best Dining

High-End: Nouvelle Cuisine, TheNouvelleCuisine.com
Mid-Range: Fat Daddy’s Road House Bar & Grill,
FatDaddysRoadhouse.com
Cheap Eats: Havana House Café & Grill,
HavanaHouseCafe.com

Best Shopping

Irish Ann, IrishAnn.com
Mertailor, TheMertailor.com
The Shoppes of Heritage Village, TheShoppesOfHeritageVillage.com

Florida Citrus Tower
Clermont
Approximate Drive Time: 35 minutes

As one of Florida’s first “attractions,” this edifice is a tribute to our area’s citrus roots. Built in 1956 on one of the highest hills in Florida, the tower stands 226 feet (22 stories) tall, and its glass-enclosed observation deck provides a 360-degree view of eight different Central Florida counties. Lilly’s Gift Shop offers gifts and home décor with a unique Florida feel, and if you visit during December, you’ll get to see the Citrus Tower’s nightly Christmas lights show, which features more than 100,000 lights set to music. $4-$6, (352) 394-4061, CitrusTower.com

More Family Fun

Attractions: Clermont Historic Village Museum, Lake Louisa State Park, Showcase of Citrus, West Orange Trail

Best Dining

High-End: Chef’s Table at the Edgewater, ChefsTableAtTheEdgewater.com
Mid-Range: Corelli’s Italian Restaurant & Pizzeria,
CorellisRestaurant.com
Cheap Eats: Uncle Kenny’s BBQ,
UncleKennysBBQ.com

Best Shopping

The Barn Yarn, TheBarnYarn.com
Clermont Bicycles,
ClermontBicycles.com
Plant Street Market,
PlantStMarket.com

K.P. Hole Park
Dunnellon
Approximate Drive Time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

Long before air conditioning came along, K.P. Hole was the spot to cool down. Located on the Rainbow River, which is fed by more than 500 gallons of spring water at a constant 72 degrees, the park offers visitors an opportunity to float down river in a tube, or paddle through in a kayak or canoe. The river, designated as a registered national landmark in 1972 and as an aquatic preserve in 1986, boasts almost perfectly clear water with visibility to 150 feet plus. The river runs about six miles and originates at Rainbow Springs State Park, located up river just about one mile north. $5-$20, (352) 489-3055, KPHole.com

More Family Fun

Attractions: Happy Acres Ranch, Rainbow Springs State Park, Silver Springs State Park, Withlacoochee State Trail

Best Dining

High-End: Katch Twenty-Two, KatchTwentyTwo.com
Mid-Range: The Blue Gator,
Blue-Gator.com
Cheap Eats: BubbaQue’s,
BubbaQuesBBQ.com

Best Shopping

Dunnellon Historic Village, DunnellonHistoricVillage.com
Grumbles House Antiques & Garden Shop,
Dunnellon FloridaAntiques.com
The Home Outfitter,
TheHomeOutfitter.com

This article originally appeared in Orlando Family Magazine’s March 2017 issue.

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