Captivating Central Florida

Mar 21, 2024

Central Florida is sometimes overlooked by vacationers, ensconced between two major cities and a whole lot of theme parks, but it’s a treasure trove of family fun. A less hectic holiday awaits just off the beaten path filled with lush gardens, river tubing and well-manicured lakeside towns— plus its world-famous LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is bigger and better than ever.

Not only is the region within an hour’s drive to Orlando and Tampa, making it easy for Canadians to access with dozens of direct flights across the country, but it's close to beaches and accessible attractions. And though it neighbours a certain mouse’s theme park, Central Florida offers more spacious accommodations at a better price point with a less chaotic atmosphere. 

Here’s some of our favourite reasons why Central Florida is the Sunshine State’s sweet spot, where a myriad of activities, attractions and joy await the whole family. 

Inclusive Vacations

Peppa Pig is America’s first Certified Autism Centre (CAC) theme park

Florida remains one of the top travel destinations in the United States for family vacations, but the region of Central Florida is leaps and bounds ahead when it comes to sensory accommodations and accessibility. The area has made a significant effort to accommodate all families—the Peppa Pig Theme Park, which opened in 2022, is the country’s first Certified Autism Centre (CAC) theme park. It offers sensory guidelines on all the rides (many of which are wheelchair-accessible) and a great pre-planning sensory guide designed for parents by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Educations Standards (IBCCES).

LEGOLAND® also has CAC designation, and the Florida Children’s Museum found within Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland has ADA-compliant access. The museum has worked with the Center for Autism and Related Disabilities (C.A.R.D) at the University of Florida to ensure it is Autism Friendly, with a particular focus on the colour scheme throughout the museum, along with quiet rooms and sensory kits. The lush Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales also has the Autism Friendly designation to ensure all who wander through the almost-century-year-old gardens can enjoy the sculptures and plant life.

Fun, brick by brick

LEGOLAND® Florida Resort is located near Lakeland, just a short drive from Interstate 4

LEGOLAND® Florida is one of the biggest draws in Central Florida, especially for younger kids, as there are rides and attractions (more than 50) suitable for children as young as two up to 12. But this year, new attractions and seasonal events are making it a must-visit theme park for the whole family. LEGO® Ninjago Weekends are back, where kids can hang out with their favourite ninja heroes and enjoy martial arts activities. Plus there are fun summer Block Parties (get it?), Halloween Brick-or-Treat and holiday fun events on offer throughout the year. 

The newest LEGOLAND® water attraction, Pirate River Quest, opened in 2023 and offers up a fun-filled 20-minute cruise through the canals of Cypress Gardens (which also happens to be Florida’s very first attraction). While adults take in the beautiful nature scenes, kids will be captivated by pirate LEGO® characters and life-sized LEGO® octopus tentacles stretching out of the water. Beginning in Spring 2024, the LEGO® Ferrari Build & Race Experience allows builders to create their own cars and race them on the three test tracks, all after gawking at the life-size LEGO® Ferrari on display. In the Fall of 2024, LEGOLAND® visitors will be able to experience the new aquarium and its exciting underwater wildlife at SEA LIFE Florida Resort.

Sweet-spot savings

Central Florida has tons of homes or villas you can rent that can accommodate the whole family

The regions neighbouring Central Florida attract more than 75 million visitors every year, so sometimes their theme parks and accommodations can get chaotic and expensive. The slower pace of the Central Florida region can offer a more relaxing atmosphere for your vacation, complete with small-town charms, gorgeous lakeside resorts and eclectic enclaves. The wait times at local theme parks are shorter, and so are the drive times, which means you can appreciate more moments with your family while exploring the diverse towns, boating on one of the 550 lakes in the region or just enjoying some downtime. Plus, Central Florida lets you keep your options open; you’re still close to Orlando and Tampa’s theme parks.

One of the biggest bonuses for choosing Central Florida is exactly that: bigger. More spacious accommodations are on offer just off the beaten path between Tampa and Orlando, which will make the whole family (and the vacation budget) happy. There’s a wide range of accommodations to choose from, whether you opt for a large holiday villa rental with a pool and a lanai, a place to park the RV, tee times at a world-class golfing resort or a spacious cabana cabin at Camp Margaritaville.

Rules of attraction

Catch an authentic rodeo show at the Westgate River Ranch Resort on Saturday nights

Central Florida’s theme parks are a draw in their own right, but this region also offers up a variety of activities from rodeos to citrus grove tours, making it a great option for multi-generational families who want to vacation together. A plethora of activities and attractions make for a big happy family. Sit back and take in the natural scenes on a Living Water Boat Cruise on the Chain of Lakes, cheer on the cowboys at the Westgate River Ranch Resort’s Saturday Night Rodeo or marvel at the zebras and lemurs at the Safari Wilderness Ranch, which Fodor’s Travel says is one of the “10 Best Safaris in the U.S.” 

Lakeside activities are available year-round in Central Florida, with something for everyone in the family to partake in. Charter a boat to do some freshwater fishing, watch the Cypress Gardens Water Ski Team put on a free show at Lake Silver as they create human pyramids on the water, or visit downtown Lakeland for shopping and dining. As the biggest city in Polk County, the centre of the region, Lakeland offers tons of cute cafes, great antiquing and boutique shopping, as well as fantastic playgrounds to delight everyone.

Ready to go? Start planning at Visit Central Florida.

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