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The Heart of it All

Central Florida’s Polk County has plenty of family-friendly activities to help you create a vacation everyone can love.

When thinking of Florida, what comes to your mind? Orlando? Miami? Palm Beach? Certainly, these cities are popular destinations. For your next Florida getaway, however, keep Polk County in central Florida in mind. In Polk County, you can build a fortress at LEGOLAND® Florida Resort, go animal sightseeing at Wilderness Ranch, and get back to nature at Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo.


Above: LEGOLAND Hotel at LEGOLAND Florida Resort boasts 152 rooms, all of them built with children in mind. Chip Litherland for LEGOLAND Florida/Merlin Entertainments Group Inc.

Below: The comforts of home are offered at the “glamping” sites at Westgate River Ranch Resort. Villas, cabins, and suites also are available to guests at the resort. Westgate River Ranch Resort


“Roughing” It

Westgate properties can be found throughout the U.S., but Westgate River Ranch Resort & Rodeo is quite a destination. More than just a lodge, this western-themed resort located an hour south of Orlando in River Ranch, Fla., has a myriad of activities, as well as “glamping” sites.

These glamping (glamorous camping) sites combine the outdoor feel of camping with the comfort of electricity, heating and air conditioning, and beds. With a makeup of a king-size bed and two singles, a private, locked bathroom, and a screened-in porch complete with two rocking chairs, it is clear why these units are the best of both worlds.

In addition to the glamping option, there are luxury villas, lodge rooms, and suites. Tent camping and RV sites are also options at the 1,700-acre resort. AAA members receive a 10-percent discount.

While the accommodations are impressive, the outdoor activities are larger than life. Take a tour on the swamp buggy, practice target shooting at the Trap & Skeet range or the archery range, be part of the audience during the weekly Saturday night rodeo, or take in the scenery via horseback. Fishing and boat rentals can be found at the full-service marina.

Dining options are just as plentiful at the River Ranch. The Westgate Smokehouse Grill offers hearty buffets. You can also order steaks, seafood, and baby back ribs off the menu. Try an unusual appetizer by ordering some gator bites.

If a salad, sandwich, or pizza is desired for lunch, head over to the Deli, located inside of the General Store. While waiting on the order, browse through the eclectic gift shop for the perfect souvenir.

Building It

LEGOLAND Florida Resort in Winter Haven, Fla., provides a one-stop location that is jam-packed with fun, building “bricks,” and coasters.

The hotel rooms are divided into four themes: Pirate, Adventure, LEGO® Friends, and Kingdom. Choose the theme desired when booking one of the hotel’s 152 rooms. With more than 2 million LEGO bricks and 2,000 LEGO models throughout the hotel, there are building supplies and surprises at every turn.

The resort also has surprises around every corner. Each of the 12 areas has a specific theme and includes a ride or two, along with hands-on building fun. In Imagination Zone, there is a workstation called LEGO® MINDSTORMS robots that allow children to build and program computerized creations. In the same area, find Kid Power Towers, a ride where kids use a rope to pull their basket seat to the top, only to experience a free fall back down to the ground.

Fun Town houses a carousel and a 4D movie experience, A New Adventure, that opened in January. Shopping for a souvenir? Pick a Brick allows guests to sort through hundreds of LEGO elements and accessories and create their own creation.

After spending a day at the LEGOLAND® Theme Park, plan on a second day at LEGOLAND® Water Park. Tube slides, wave pools, and build-a-raft lazy river are just a few of the options here.

Discover It

At Safari Wilderness Ranch, a memorable experience awaits. Take your seat aboard the safari vehicle to view several herds of exotic animals. Thanks to the canopy top, the Florida sun will be blocked, but gentle breezes will still flow, allowing for a comfortable tour.

For a different viewpoint, see the ranch from atop a camel. From your perch on the back of a camel, the tour provides a feeling of being part of the herd, while allowing the exotic animals to be viewed in their environment. The camel safari lasts about 90 minutes, and is led by two experienced camel handlers.

The safari is open year-round and in addition to the tours, additional activities can be purchased, although choices may vary from month to month. Examples include feeding ring-tailed lemurs, guinea pig colonies, and parakeets.

Fly It

The annual SUN ‘n FUN International Fly-in and Expo will be held April 5–10 in Lakeland, Fla. Directors expect an average of 200,000 people to be on hand during the event. There will be 500 exhibits and more than 4,500 aircraft available for viewing. The planes range from homebuilt models to warbirds, and are spaced out over 2,200 acres. In addition to the exhibits, there are two evening air shows that offer an illuminated sky, complete with music and narration. Food vendors, airplane rides, and programs for youth round out the event. SUN ‘n FUN is the second-largest fly-in in the U.S., and is Florida’s largest convention.

For your next springtime outing, Polk County has all the aspects for a fun and memorable time.

Debra Pamplin is a contributor from Kingsland, Ga.

March/April 2016 Issue


For more information, contact Visit Central Florida at (800) 828-7655.

To visit central Florida, first stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks® and TourBook® guides.

Order free information about Florida through the Free Travel Information Card found online.



An even greater variety of family vacation options can be found just northeast of Polk County in Orlando, Fla. Walt Disney World Resort, Universal Studios Orlando, and SeaWorld Orlando are the well-known attractions, but there are plenty of other activities in town. Pirates or medieval knights are the themes to some of the popular dinner show attractions.

Check out the new I-Drive 360, a $250 million entertainment complex and home to The Orlando Eye, a 400-foot observation wheel.

AAA Travel offers complete packages to Walt Disney World Resort and Universal Orlando. Visit a AAA branch office near you for more information.


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