Although Orlando is full of theme parks and water worlds, there is more to this city than just fun and games. Orlando is nicknamed the City Beautiful because it is so attractive to the eye with all the palm trees, lush green valleys, and stunning architecture. And Orlando is one of the most visited cities in the world, having over 75,000,000 visitors per year. Whether people come for the beaches, theme parks, or to play golf, it is definitely the most popular place to visit in the United States.
However, it is true that this is the Theme Park Capital of the World. In fact, it has 15 major theme parks including four Disney parks, two Universal parks, two SeaWorld parks, two Fun Spots, and several individual parks like Gatorland, GatorWorld, and the Kennedy Space Center. What about the other attractions, though? There are so many more. Central Florida Zoo, the Holy Land Experience, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, and WonderWorks are just a small sample.
If you want to learn more about Orlando and the area around it, check out some of the museums in town. These include the Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Science Center, Orange County Regional History Center, and Mennello Museum of American Art. But don’t forget to visit some of the parks like Wekiwa Springs State Park, Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park, and Lake Louisa State Park.
About 85 miles to the southwest, you can reach Tampa in just over an hour by I-4 or about two hours by I-75. If Orlando is the theme park city, Tampa is the beach city with most of its land surrounded by the Hillsborough River, Hillsborough Bay, and of course, Tampa Bay. In fact, there are over two dozen major beaches within 30 miles of the city. Some of the most popular are Clearwater, St. Pete, Indian Rocks, and Honeymoon Island.
But Tampa does have parks to enjoy too. In fact, there are more than 165 parks and beaches in Tampa. That includes Hillsborough River State Park, Caladesi Island State Park, and Skyway Fishing Pier State Park to name a few. You may also want to take a walk along the downtown area to do some shopping for souvenirs and other unique items.
If you want to see some animals, there are more than 9,000 of them at the Florida Aquarium to visit. Or you can check out the ZooTampa where you and the kids can spot some rhinos, zebras, giraffes, and painted dogs. Speaking of giraffes, if you go to Busch Gardens, you can feed some. You’ll also have the opportunity to ride some of the park’s 17 carnival rides and enjoy one of their live shows before heading to your next adventurous spot.
Myakka River State Park is only about an hour down I-75. This park belonged to the wildlife that lived here until the 1930s when the state of Florida purchased the 17,000 acres to develop a park for everyone to enjoy, which is now 37,000 acres of wildlands. You will have plenty of choices for water sports from boat tours on the Upper Myakka Lake to fishing in the Myakka River. If you have a kayak, canoe, or other paddle boat, take your own tour along the lake or the river. Even if you didn’t bring one, you can rent one at the Outpost.
If you brought your bikes, there are seven miles of bike roads for you and the family to explore and enjoy at Myakka River State Park. Pedal through the marshes, shady hammocks, and along the waters of the Myakka River. No bike? No problem. You can enjoy one of the hiking trails that weave in and out of the woods and waterscapes. The Myakka Trail is almost 40 miles of loop trails, but you may want to save some of them for another visit when you have more time. Now you have to get back on the road for your final destination.
You only have about two hours to go on I-75 to get to Naples. If you are looking for a place to park the rig for the night, make a reservation at the Naples / Marco Island KOA, just eight miles to the southeast. They have 160 pet-friendly campsites with utilities that can accommodate motorhomes up to 72 feet long. The kids will enjoy the playground, pool, and horseshoes, and your furbaby will love the Kamp K9. See what you can catch in the Henderson Creek while you are there.
Collier-Seminole State Park is a fun place to camp as well as play. In one of the largest mangrove swamps in the world, you and the family can enjoy fishing, swimming, hiking, and biking before retiring to your campsite right nearby. There are 77 RV campsites to choose from that can handle rigs up to 40 feet long. They each have electric and water hookups, a picnic table, and a fire ring with a grill to cook on. Make a reservation in advance because this is a popular place.
While you are in town, be sure to visit some of the dozens of attractions in the area. The Naples Train Museum is an interesting place to visit with the family where you can even ride on a small scale train and see hundreds of model train sets. Or you can check out the Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens. They have several hundred animals to visit in different habitats like the primate expedition boat cruise, the rainforest grove, and safari canyon. You can even feed the giraffes and visit the café and souvenir shop before heading out.