The Explorer's Guide to Central Florida

March 6, 2023

Welcome to the Sunshine State! We rounded up some of the must-dos during your stay. Whether you need ideas for a family outing, date night, or just because, this guide has a bit of everything. Thrill seekers will love the amusement parks while history buffs will appreciate the spectacular museums. There truly is something for everyone here and we’re so excited for you to experience it.

You grand tour starts here!


Hyde Park Village in Tampa is a beautiful open-air shopping area with both high-end favorites and local gems, plus amazing restaurants and a dine-in movie theater. Support local at shops like Albisia, Salt Pines, The Candle Pour, and Leafy Luv Affair. Don’t forget to treat yourself at the Sprinkles Cupcake ATM!

There are several notable shopping districts in Orlando; you can’t go wrong with any of them! Thornton Park District is where you’ll find the dog-friendly Orlando Farmer’s Market and the Thornton 2nd Thursday Art and Wine Walk. The Park Avenue District has 140 small businesses and wonderful home goods stores like Antiques on the Avenue, Washburn Imports, New General, and Adjectives Market. The Mills 50 District is covered in murals and features hidden gems like Remix record shop and Bark Orlando. 


Spend a day at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex where you can honor heroes in the U.S Astronaut Hall of Fame, ask a real astronaut all your questions, get onboard for a shuttle launch simulation, and so much more. On rocket launch days, take a bus from the Visitor Complex to spaceport viewing locations and watch as the rocket blasts off into outer space. 

Admire original works by Salvador Dalí and other surrealists at The Dalí. You can visit for the museum's unique architecture and waterfront location alone, or go in and learn all about Dalí’s interesting life. In the new Dream Tapestry exhibition, AI technology will turn a dream you’ve had into a Dalí-inspired artwork to display in the gallery.

Ca' d'Zan mansion on Sarasota Bay is the former home of John and Mabel Ringling of the Ringling Circus. The 36,000 square foot terra cotta palace was influenced by their travels in Venice, Italy, and the iconic terrace is popular for weddings and parties. As one of the wealthiest people in America at the time, John Ringling collected thousands of exquisite paintings, sculptures, and ancient artifacts that are now on display in this Renaissance-style Museum of Art. The museum was gifted to the people of Florida and is his lasting legacy. The property also has a Circus Museum featuring a clown car and the performer’s intricate wardrobes and props. 


The list is not complete without the plethora of world-famous amusement parks in the Central Florida area that attract the hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.  Get your Mickey ears and your Harry Potter wands, and take advantage of Florida resident deals for Disney and Universal Studios. You can count on Busch Gardens Tampa Bay for more intense roller coasters like the SheiKra and the Tigris. At LEGOLAND Florida, explore MINILAND's millions of LEGO bricks built into iconic US landmarks and then create your own at the Imagination Zone.

Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts consists of three theaters: Walt Disney Theater, Steinmetz Hall, and the Alexis & Jim Pugh Theater. Steinmetz Hall, famous for its perfect acoustics, is home to the outstanding Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. From Broadway musicals to comedy sets, there is always something great on the calendar. Seneff Arts Plaza, the adjacent outdoor venue, welcomes the community to an array of cultural festivals every year with live music and food trucks. 

See a double feature at the nostalgic Silver Moon Drive-In Theatre, open since 1948. For as little as $7 (ages 10+) you can see all the latest movies from the comfort of your car. Pets are also welcome! 

Outdoor Activities 

You can’t go to Central Florida without experiencing an airboat ride and getting a front row seat to the region’s wildlife. Airboat Rides at Midway is a top-rated, Coast Guard-certified tour exploring St. Johns River. Get your cameras ready to photograph alligators, herons, otters, and more as you listen to the captain's stories about the area. At the end of the venture, meet the pet pig “Porkchop” and hold a baby alligator. 

Stroll through Hollis Garden in Lake Mirror Park, a 1.2-acre botanical garden open to the public. You’ll notice the neoclassical inspirations in the design of the flowerbeds and architecture. The gorgeous grounds feature exotic flowers, herbs and vegetables, a lily pond, enchanting fountains, and abstract sculptures. 

Silver Springs State Park offers water sports of all kinds, hiking, and glass bottom boat rides. Kayak, canoe, or paddleboard downriver to Ray Wayside Park, then catch a ride back upstream in the shuttle. Beat the heat and head inside the onsite museum to learn about the park’s fascinating history and the Hollywood movies filmed there. For an extended adventure, stay in a cabin at the campground, or bring your RV or tent. 


Fresh orange juice, Cuban sandwiches, and key lime pie are all Florida staples to try. Red Hill Groves is a family-owned farm that sells their own citrus fruits, freshly squeezed orange juice, and gourmet gift baskets. Ybor City or Cigar City, Tampa’s Latin quarter, was once the cigar capital of the world. Now it's the best spot to track down authentic Cuban sandwiches, check out the historic buildings, or watch the local pros hand rolling cigars. King Corona is a cigar bar with a well stocked humidor plus homemade Cuban sandwiches and Cuban coffee. Just about any bakery will offer key lime pie, but we recommend Sister Honey’s or Mike’s Pies

Armature Works on the Hillsborough River is a paradise for foodies as it offers so much variety in a restored mixed-use building. If you’re not sure what you’re craving yet, they have options from birria tacos to hand carved gyros to wood fired pizza. Ready to up your foodie game? The fine dining restaurants Steelbach (Southern Steakhouse) and Oak & Ola (European) both earned a spot in the 2022 Michelin Guide, so be sure to make a reservation.

Central Florida is full of one-of-a-kind experiences, so get out and make memories! We hope this guide will make your time here as special and exciting as possible.