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Central Florida Attractions Offer Many Healthy Outdoor Activities

by Christine OKelly

While the area may be best known for theme parks, there are many other exciting things to do in Central Florida that involve the great outdoors. The area's collection of state and local parks offers walking trails, cycling, wildlife viewing and fishing. The variety of natural, outdoor Central Florida attractions available allow you and your family to enjoy the area's beautiful landscape. Whatever your interest, there's something for the nature enthusiast in everyone.

Circle B-Bar Reserve And Polk's Nature Discovery Center

There is no shortage of chances to experience Florida nature at its finest at one of the many parks throughout the area. As an alternative to more traditional Central Florida attractions, parks offer a variety of family-friendly activities to enjoy, including walking paths and nature trails where you can stroll at a leisurely pace, jog or even bike, while taking in the area's natural beauty.

Located on S.R. 540 in Lakeland, Circle B-Bar Reserve provides some of the most natural and fun things to do in Central Florida. Here, visitors can choose from multiple hiking opportunities on unpaved paths. The Oak Hammock Interpretive Trail is 3.4 miles roundtrip and takes hikers from the parking lot to Lake Hancock. The Lake View Trail is a short .5 miles roundtrip path that runs along the lake.

Visitors to the reserve will see a variety of natural, beautiful Central Florida attractions, including oak hammock stands, hardwood swamps, freshwater marshes, lakes and creeks, which are home to alligators, osprey, eagles and many other native species.

While at Circle B-Bar Reserve, explore the area's water, wilderness and wildlife at Polk's Nature Discovery Center. This on-site facility has a variety of hands-on exhibits, aquatic plants and animals and offers a unique and fun approach to learning. Monthly workshops include topics such as birding, photography, native plants and animals.

Colt Creek State Park

Colt Creek State Park is one of the newest Central Florida attractions. Located adjacent to the Green Swamp Wilderness Area, the park is comprised of cypress domes, pine flatwoods and open pastures, making it perfect for wildlife viewing. Animals that call Colt Creek their home include gopher tortoises, white-tailed deer and bobcats.

Visitors to the park can take advantage of picnic areas and grills, and then take in the scenery and wildlife while fishing, hiking or horseback riding on 12 miles of trails on just over 5,000 acres of pristine nature.

Fort Fraser Trail

For Polk County residents and visitors who enjoy healthy outdoor activities such as walking, jogging, and cycling, Fort Fraser Trail will be one of your favorite things to do in Central Florida. At nearly 8 miles long and 12 feet wide, the paved trail accommodates both foot and bike traffic, and is easily accessible from one of two trailheads: behind the Polk County Sheriff's Office or in Highlands City.

Several other bicycling routes in the area entice cycling enthusiasts. Routes in Polk County lead bikers through historic downtown areas and aromatic orange groves. For more adventurous cyclers, the unique valleys and hills of the area make mountain biking a popular activity when considering things to do in Central Florida.

Trek Ten Trails And Geocaching

Between now and mid-October 2009, visitors can go in search of geocaches on a variety of area trails. As one of the area's most unusual and exciting things to do in Central Florida, geocaching is a high-tech version of treasure hunting where hunters are equipped with GPS devices to help them locate geocaches located throughout a park. Geocache hunters have the option of trekking any 10 of the 15 delegated trails during the time frame.

Lake Kissimmee State Park Cow Camp

A visit to Lake Kissimmee State Park Cow Camp is one of the most beautiful outdoor things to do in Central Florida. The land that is now Lake Kissimmee State Park was once used by Native Americans because of the abundance of fish and game in the area, making it an ideal place to live for thousands of years. The park is named for Lake Kissimmee, the third largest lake in the state. The 5,930 acres of Lake Kissimmee State Park are teeming with plant and animal life.

As one of the most popular, natural Central Florida attractions, the park offers outstanding fishing, bird watching, camping, boating and hiking on 13 miles of beautiful trails. For nature lovers and photographers, few parks offer the variety of plant and animal life that Lake Kissimmee State Park has to offer. In addition, Florida's cowboy heritage comes alive with living history demonstrations of the early Florida "cow hunters" in an 1876-era cow camp.

Van Fleet State Trail

The Van Fleet State Trail is designated as part of Florida's Statewide System of Greenways and Trails. This rail-trail is one of the most rural in Florida and offers visitors more than 29 miles of nature viewing and recreational trails. Filled with biking, hiking and horseback trails, the Van Fleet State Trail offers plenty of exciting things to do in Central Florida for the entire family. The beautiful trail wanders through dense forests full of oak trees more than 300 years old.

It runs through the Green Swamp, the headwaters for some of Florida's most canoed rivers, the Withlacoochee (South), Hillsborough, and Peace Rivers. With only one curve in the entire trail, cyclers or hikers can enjoy it at a brisk pace or go slow and view the wildlife.

Regardless of what type of healthy outdoor activity you're interested in, there are countless things to do in Central Florida to allow you to take advantage of the natural beauty of this unique area.

About the Author

Christine O'Kelly is an author for Polk County Visitor's and Convention Bureau, an organization that helps tourists find fun and exciting things to do in Central Florida. The area has something to please nearly everyone when it comes to Central Florida attractions that offer healthy outdoor activities.

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