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BellaOnline's Florida Editor

Central Florida

This area of lakes, rolling hills, and small towns has many natural attractions

Florida State Fairgrounds – History and Events star
The Florida State Fair began over a century ago, but has been held at the Florida State Fairgrounds in eastern Hillsborough County only since 1977. Read a short history of the state fair and find out about upcoming events at the state fairgrounds.

A Day Out at DeBary Hall star
Those who enjoy seeing how the other half live will enjoy a trip to DeBary Hall, a lovely Victorian mansion which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Read about my recent visit which included a guided tour of this historic home and estate

A Walking Tour of Winter Park star
Winter Park, a city northeast of Orlando, is worth visiting for its downtown shopping area and its art museums. A walking tour route is suggested, but a narrated boat ride through the Winter Park Chain of Lakes is another option.

Alafia River Rendezvous at Homeland star
Every January brings the Alafia River Rendezvous to Homeland in Polk County. It is the largest frontier living history encampment in the southeast U.S. If you enjoy historical reenactments, make plans to attend the next rendezvous in 2019.

Chain of Lakes Trail star
The Chain of Lakes Trail in Polk County is an urban trail that runs from Lake Alfred on its north end south to Winter Haven. Its primary appeal lies in the historic corridor through which it passes.

Circle B Bar Reserve star
Circle B Bar Reserve, a former cattle ranch, is one of Polk County's environmentally-sensitive land purchases. It is free to the public for educational and recreational purposes. It is renowned as a world-class birding and wildlife-viewing area.

Colt Creek State Park star
One of Florida's newer state parks, the 5067-acre Colt Creek State Park is located 16 miles north of Lakeland in the Green Swamp. The land, once a working cattle ranch, was purchased from the Overstreet Family in 2006. The park plans to open a full-service campground in February 2018.

Day Out at Silver Springs star
Just outside Ocala, Florida is the 350-acre Silver Springs nature theme park. It's a great place to see alligators and monkeys from the glass-bottomed boat trips.

DeBary Hall Historic Home near Sanford star
The plantation home and estate of DeBary Hall was built in 1871 for a wealthy New York businessman, Frederick DeBary. Discover more about this beautifully restored home with its elegant furnishings where he entertained presidents, royalty, family and friends.

Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing star
Few people realise that The Villages is just around the corner from one of the most comprehensive collections of specialized vehicles in the world at the Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing. Read about my day trip to this fabulous museum of dragsters and classic cars.

Elephants at Two Tails Ranch star
If you have never seen an elephant paint, or fed carrots to one of these gentle giants, you are in for a wonderful experience at Two Tails Ranch at Williston. Read on to find out what else the visit will include…

Endangered Animal Rescue Centre at Citra star
Want a truly wild day out? Then make an appointment to visit the EARS Animal Rescue Sanctuary in Citra. It was one of the best animal experiences I have ever had with big cats, watching them move, purr and interact just inches away from where I stood!

Florida National Cemetery star
Florida National Cemetery, located near Bushnell, is worth a visit, even if you don't have a loved one buried there, as a way to pay tribute to those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. It is a place of peace and beauty.

Florida Polytechnic University star
Florida Polytechnic University, located in Lakeland, is the newest unit of the State University System of Florida. Now fully accredited, it offers bachelors and master's degrees in engineering and computer-related areas of study.

Ft. Fraser Rail Trail star
The Fort Fraser Rail Trail is a 7.75-mile paved trail connecting Lakeland to Bartow in Polk County. It follows a former CSX route. The trail has 3 trailheads and 2 spur trails that track east. Amenities include a restroom, picnic tables, and sheltered benches.

Lake Okeechobee – Florida's Largest Lake star
Learn fascinating facts about the vast Lake Okeechobee and its surrounding cities. Fishing, airboat rides, rodeos and museums are part of the lifestyle in this area of SE Florida.

Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve star
The Mackay Gardens and Lakeside Preserve in Lake Alfred, Polk County, offers recreational and nature education opportunities that are generally free of charge. It is the historic estate of the Alexander Mackay family. The house can be rented for weddings and other events.

Manatees and More at Homosassa Springs star
The Homosassa Springs State Park is a great day out for anyone in the Central Florida area. Admission includes a boat trip, entry to the underwater observatory, native Florida animal exhibits and several ranger-led Animal Encounter shows.

See Manatees at De Leon Springs State Park star
During a cold snap, manatees head inland to enjoy the warm waters of Florida’s natural thermal springs. De Leon Springs is a great place to see manatees and other wildlife. The boat tour is highly recommended – along with swimming, kayaking, hiking, and fishing. Here’s what to expect on your visit…

Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In & Expo star
The Sun 'n Fun International Fly-In and Expo is an annual aviation event held in Lakeland. It is the second-largest fly-in in the country. In addition to the fly-in, Sun 'n Fun has its own campus adjacent to Linder Regional Airport that is open year-round for aerospace education.

Take a Tour at Lakeridge Winery star
Whether you are a keen oenophile or simply want to see how wine is made, Florida’s largest premium winery at Clermont offers fascinating free guided tours. Even if you are not a wine-lover, you will enjoy the live Jazz events offered on weekends at the vineyard.

The Quaint Lakeside Town of Mount Dora star
The small town of Mount Dora in Central Florida has a population of around 9,400 residents. It is a delightful place to spend the day, with its quaint shops, cafes, lake views, museums and many festivals.

Tiger Creek Preserve star
Take a hike through old Florida at the Nature Conservancy's Tiger Creek Preserve near Babson Park in Polk County. Six trails comprise over 10 miles of hiking through a variety of ecosystems.

Van Fleet and TECO Rail Trails star
If you enjoy biking, skating, or walking on paved trails, the 29-mile-long Van Fleet National Trail and the connecting 6.6-mile-long TECO trail may be just what you're looking for. The Van Fleet Trail is Florida's most rural trail. You are quite likely to see wildlife along the way.

Visiting Bok Tower Gardens star
If you enjoy a peaceful meander through botanical gardens, Bok Tower Gardens in Lake Wales, Florida, is a good place to spend some time. Here is what you can expect to find there.

Wild Bill’s Airboat Rides near ‘The Villages’ star
This fantastic wildlife safari near Wildwood combines the excitement of riding on an airboat at high speed along the beautiful Withlacoochee River with wildlife spotting, bubbling springs and the opportunity to handle a baby alligator yourself!

Withlacoochee State Trail star
The 46-mile-long, multi-use Withlacoochee State Trail is one of Florida's longer rail trails. From Citrus Springs in Citrus County, it runs south through a variety of landscapes and ends north of Dade City in Pasco County. Five designated trailheads provide access to the trail.

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