Family Fun Near Orlando


By Gabriele Walkow

Whether you are cruising the beautiful St. John’s River, exploring a colorful zoo and botanical gardens or experiencing the cosmos, the whole family will have fun in sunny Sanford. Only minutes from the Orlando Sanford International Airport, this charming city is home to a variety of family-friendly attractions. Here are three sure to keep everyone smiling and stimulated.


Experience a more adventurous, romantic era aboard the Rivership Barbara-Lee, an authentic sternwheel paddleboat. From its homeport on Lake Monroe in downtown Sanford, the Barbara-Lee plies the historic St. Johns River on three and four hour lunch and dinner cruises. Passengers enjoy freshly prepared entrees, such as prime rib and savory seafood, from the ships’ kitchen, live music, dancing and close up views of the area’s abundant wildlife, including manatees during the cooler months. Book unforgettable celebrations such as weddings, anniversaries and birthdays and evening party cruises. Lunch cruises depart Wednesday through Sunday while dinner cruises are offered on Saturday night. Reservations are required.


Photo courtesy of the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens

A handsome green-winged macaw

Walk on the wild side at the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens, home to over 400 animals representing over 100 species. From rhino encounters to giraffe feedings, there is a lot to see and do here! Visit the Herpetarium to view one of the most diverse collections of venomous and non-venomous reptiles in the Southeast before cooling off in the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground. The Barnyard Buddies Children’s Zoo, Keeper Chats and animal demonstrations are not-to-be-missed. You can also take to the treetops in ZOOm Air Adventure Park’s aerial courses, which include four zip lines.


Photo courtesy of Seminole State College of Florida

Enjoy out-of-this-world experiences at the planetarium at Seminole State College

Featuring live, interactive shows and full dome video presentations, the whole family will enjoy unforgettable out-of-this-world experiences here. From traditional star displays to mind blowing feature presentations that whisk visitors through the depths of outer space, this is a fun and educational place for curious stargazers of all ages. Learn about Earth and travel the solar system and beyond. To further experience the fascinating world of astronomy, attend an evening show such as Central Florida Nights and the Cultural Astronomy Series. Serving Central Florida for more than 25 years, the planetarium is also home to the Central Florida Astronomical Society.

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