Located between Orlando and Tampa, Central Florida’s Polk County offers more than a place to lay your head between theme park destinations. From unspoiled lakes and wetlands to historic landmarks, urban offerings to citrus groves to, yes, theme parks, there is a reason many Floridians say that Polk County offers everything. Here’s 3 reasons why this hidden gem is the perfect Florida vacation for families:
The Great Outdoors
If you are looking for outside adventures, Polk County offers many opportunities. Home to more than 550 fresh water lakes and 25,000 acres of unspoiled recreational parks, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors, including air boating, kayaking and world-class fishing.
Of course, when people visit Florida, most want at least one not-so-close encounter with our state reptile, the alligator. The prime spot in the state to see these creatures in their natural habitat just happens to be in Lakeland at Circle B Bar Reserve, where you’ll also see everything from egrets to bald eagles. The ecosystem at Circle B Bar is so diverse, this 1267 acre park is home to 45 different butterfly species. It is easy to see why it is often called the best places to see wildlife in Florida.
World Renowned Architecture
For a more placid stroll outdoors, Central Florida is home to two historic area attractions, Bok Tower Gardens and Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Child of the Sun” collection of architecture on the Florida Southern College campus.
More than 80 years after then-campus president Ludd M. Spivey convinced famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright to construct a “College of Tomorrow” on the grounds of Florida Southern College in Lakeland, the campus remains both the architect’s largest one-site collection of his work as well as its Southern-most example.
Featuring 13 structures, Florida Southern is still considered one of the country’s most striking campuses. Whether you choose to take the guided tour or explore on your own, you’re sure to leave inspired. Don’t miss the crown jewel, the Annie Pfeiffer Chapel, or Wright’s recently brought to life piece of domestic bliss, the Usonian House.
Bok Tower is Lake Wales’ world-famous 205-foot art deco and neo-Gothic “Singing” carillon tower surrounded by gardens that are kept with the utmost care. Featuring the highest elevation in peninsular Florida, guests can stroll in the shadow of the tower while listening to music from the carillon – a series of bells played by a keyboard – and see scenic vistas of Florida unlike anywhere else in the state. Bok Tower has literally reigned as a popular tourist attraction since the late 1920s.
LEGOLAND Florida Resort
Polk County is also home to Florida’s newest attractions, LEGOLAND® Florida Resort. LEGOLAND is a theme park built around, well, LEGOs, offering everything from roller coasters and a water park to 3-D movies and plenty of opportunities to build with those favorites from childhood.
Ongoing is the premier of LEGOLAND Florida Resort’s newest land, LEGO Movie World. Incorporating elements of the smash hit “The LEGO Movie,” as well as the sequel, “The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part,” it continues the park’s focus on play-centric interactive experiences. LEGOLAND Florida Resort is located in the heart of Central Florida, Winter Haven.
Once in LEGO Movie World, kids can hop aboard Emmet’s Triple Decker Flying Couch on The LEGO Movie Masters of Flight ride. Whisked away thanks to a full-dome virtual screen, riders fly along with characters from both the first and the second movies. Or they can walk through a rainbow portal to join in the fun at Unikitty’s Disco Drop, which sweeps guests to the tiptop of Cloud Cuckoo Land, then drops, spins and bounces them back home, all while basking in Unikitty’s many personalities.
Not to be forgotten is the Battle of Bricksburg, which features the aliens from the first Lego Movie who can only be stopped by spraying water at targets. And finally, guests can finish off the day in downtown Bricksburg, the home of Emmet’s Super Suite, a character meet-and-greet experience where guests can hang out with Emmet and all of his friends inside his apartment or stop into the Taco Tuesday Everyday eatery for a quick bite. The downtown area also has a space-themed playground structure inspired by Benny’s spaceship, plus special photo opportunities.
Built for kids ages 2-12, LEGOLAND Florida Resort is a multi-day vacation destination includes an interactive, 150-acre theme park with more than 50 rides, shows and attractions plus a water park, the 152-room LEGOLAND Hotel and the 166-room LEGOLAND Beach Retreat.
No matter what you have in mind as you visit The Sunshine State, a visit to Florida would be incomplete without a visit to Central Florida’s Polk County.