Orlando North, Seminole County is widely celebrated as an outdoor wonderland, where visitors can hike, bike, swim, kayak, fish and explore to their heart’s content. Our destination also has its share of attractions — places where you can have organized adventures and inexpensive fun. In keeping with the culture of our area, many of our attractions involve physical activity. Here’s an overview:
This is simply one of the finest attractions of its kind in Florida. Conveniently located in Sanford amid a lovely layout of Florida fauna and green space, you’ll see an exotic array of animals: all sorts of unique frogs, snakes aplenty, gators and the American crocodile, leopards, bears, cheetahs, monkeys and more. But there’s way more to do here than look at cool animals. You can mingle with “barnyard buddies” (goat, llama, alpaca) in the Children’s Zoo; feed the giraffes; interact with one-horn Indian Rhinos; take a ride on the Miniature Train or a whirl on the Animal Carousel. And if you need to beat the heat for a spell, you’re invited to frolic in the Tropical Splash Ground.
Test your balance, strength, endurance and derring-do at this attraction, part of the Central Florida Zoo. Traverse rope-suspended platforms and bridges, climb ladders and conquer other tests. And what’s an aerial escapade without ziplines? Seminole Aerial Adventures offers three separate courses: Youngsters (36 to 60 inches tall) can tackle the 45-minute Kid’s Course, with 22 elements, two ziplines and one sky swing. The 90-minute Upland Course, designed for climbers of all ability levels, has 15 elements and seven ziplines. For those ready to go full tilt, there’s the Rainforest Course, with 33 elements and 13 ziplines. Plan about two-and-a-half hours for this one. These aerial challenges can be strenuous, but you can be confident that Seminole Aerial Adventure implements the highest safety standards.
If you’ve never experienced the wind-in-your-hair exhilaration of an airboat ride — or even if you already have — Black Hammock is the place to do it. Located on the shores of Lake Jessup in Oviedo, these tours wind through seagrass, whip around mangrove islets and through tight natural canals and canopies, and also cruise out into open water. A tour guide narrates your trip, answers questions, and lets you know what to look out for! (Fun fact: Lake Jessup has the largest alligator population in Florida.) Black Hammock tours run the gamut, from half-hour rides to group excursions to a six-person VIP Airboat Eco-Tour. The rustic Black Hammock Adventures compound features a restaurant, alligator and bird exhibits, souvenir shops, and more.
Any visit to Orlando North, Seminole County would not be complete without spending (at least) a few hours in downtown Sanford. The quaint town of roughly 50,000 borders beautiful Lake Monroe, and has become a haven for creative culinary, craft beer and spirits, art galleries, boutique shopping, live performances, and more festivals than you can keep track of. Incorporated in 1877, Sanford deftly combines authentic old Florida with the latest trends and cultural innovations. And it’s eminently walkable.
How does enjoying lunch or dinner while cruising the St. Johns River on a restored 123-year old paddle boat sound? We thought so. The Barbara-Lee departs from historic downtown Sanford and offers an array of cruises, from luncheons to dinner-dances. She measures 105 feet and features wrought-iron railings and massive wooden paddle wheels. This five-story “sternwheeler” accommodates up to 194 guests. All enclosed decks are climate controlled, but we encourage you to spend at least part of your trip out in the fresh air and sun.
Orlando North, Seminole County has lots of intimate museums that won’t eat up your day or hit you with a case of museum fatigue. Start with the Museum of Seminole County History to get an overview of the area. The exhibits go back to Native American times, through early forts and settlements, industrial and agricultural development, and include a 1926 “Old Folks Home.” Historical societies are big in the county, so check out the Sanford Museum, the Lake Mary Museum, the Museum of Geneva History, the Goldsboro Historical Museum (about an early African-American town), and others. Here’s a suggestion: Try planning your own historic museum tour.
The cultural beacon of quaint downtown Sanford — you can’t miss its neon sign — this art deco theater hosts plays, live music, dancing, movies, festivals and other special events. The building, which dates back to 1923, has been on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places since 2001. There’s an eclectic mix of programming and the sightlines are terrific. With a capacity of only 490, there isn’t, as the saying goes, a bad seat in the house.
The only dedicated climbing facility in the Orlando area, Aiguille will test your rock-climbing abilities. This vast indoor facility in Longwood has 10,000 square feet of climbing walls that reach up to 36 feet high, 27 top rope walls, and several bouldering areas designed for all ability levels.