Kalin’s Chronicles: Florida Beyond Theme Parks

I love visiting Orlando, Florida.  It’s the capital of theme parks in the United States with Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Seaworld, Gatorland, and more.  But there’s a lot more to see in the Orlando area than theme parks.  About 30 minutes north , along I-4, is Sanford, Seminole County; where tourists can enjoy outdoor adventures by land, air, and sea…

Start out at the Historic Sanford Welcome Center for a one-hour Historic Downtown Walking Tour, to learn about the history of the city.  For a more extensive workout, take a walk along the 14-mile Seminole Wekiva Trail which will take you through parks, recreation, and retail areas.

To get a bird’s eye view of Sanford’s wildlife, head over to the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens and zip through the trees on Zoom Air, with 100 tree-top challenges and zip lines for the whole family.

All of that action will work up a healthy appetite for lunch; and Shula’s 347 Grill has just the ticket.   Named for the coach with the most wins in NFL history, the restaurant is known for its steaks, seafood and desserts.  Don’t leave without ordering the Key Lime pie.

To see the natural beauty of Sanford, head to Wekiwa Springs State Park for a leisurely canoe trip down the Wekiva River.  Here you’ll see wildlife living among the beautiful cypress trees such as: egrets, herons, American bald eagles, and alligators.

For a more adventurous look at alligators, jump on Central Florida Airboat Tours.  Captain Bruce Fryer gives an entertaining, high-speed tour of the marsh area with an abundance of up-close gator sightings.

And if you’re game for something gamey, try a snack of fried alligator tails at the Jolly Gator Fish Camp Bar and Grill, at the end of your tour.  They don’t taste like chicken, but they’re pretty tasty – just don’t let the gators see you eating them.

It’s been a long day, but the action isn’t over yet.  Head back to your hotel to get cleaned up for dinner.  The Courtyard by Marriott Orlando/Lake Mary provides free wifi, a 24-hour business center, a 24-hour refreshment bar, and a big screen monitor in the lobby with updated flight and tourist information.  Enjoy a glass of wine at the Bistro’s happy hour before heading to dinner at sea.

More of Sanford’s natural beauty unfolds along the St. John’s river, aboard the Rivership Romance.  Enjoy a scenic dinner cruise and a perfect sunset.

Sanford, Seminole County is the perfect getaway for travelers who want a break from Florida’s theme parks.  For more information, go to www.visitseminole.com.  And remember:  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” – Mark Twain

Kalin Thomas is Women at Forty’s Travel & Leisure Editor. She is also Senior Writer/Photographer for SoulOfAmerica. Before starting her own multimedia company, Kalin spent 17 years at CNN where she won several awards for her work as producer/correspondent for CNN’s weekly travel program, CNN TravelNow. She is currently writing a book about her travels. For more information on Kalin, visit www.seetheworldproductions.com.

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  • Pam

    the picture looks like a monet. . .with you in it! I’ve been to that area and everyone should venture out beyond the parks.

  • Kalin

    Thanks, Pam.  That’s actually not me — it’s another travel writer who was on the trip.