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Winter Haven was once a transport hub for the citrus industry but today it is better known as a visitor hub for those looking for the thrills and spills of Florida’s theme parks. The first commercial theme park in the state opened here in 1936 – its site now hosts LEGOLAND® Florida, and a visit here is a must for the young - and the young at heart. Just 30 minutes away by car you can drive to Walt Disney World and there are many other theme park attractions in striking distance. There is a calmer side to Winter Haven, however, which can be found in the excellent restaurants of its historic Downtown area, within the delights of Bok Tower Gardens and along the Chain of Lakes which was created when a few dozen lakes were linked by canals in the early years of the last century. If all that twisting and turning on the electric rides gets too much a walk along the tranquil lakes offers the perfect antidote.
Lakeland – Lakeland is 45 minutes east of Winter Haven and essential for architecture fans. Here you can find a dozen buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright which you can tour on the campus of Florida Southern College.
LEGOLAND® – Almost a city in itself, LEGOLAND is a thrilling hymn of praise to the iconic Danish brick. As this is Florida there are plenty of local twists such as the Southern belles made from Lego that greet you as you arrive. Amidst the family-friendly fun there are also incorporated several elements from the first ever theme park in Florida, whose site Lego took over in 2011, including the botanical gardens, canals and the water ski show.
Lake Wales and Lake Kissmere - Historic Lake Wales lies just 15 miles away and here, at Grove House, you can explore the history of the citrus industry in the area. Bok Tower Gardens sits atop the highest point of the Florida peninsula and is an ideal spot for a relaxing picnic in beautiful surroundings. It is also the place to get your adrenaline pumping as it is known as the skydiving centre of Florida. If you want to stay in the air a bit longer you can take scenic airboat tours from Lake Kissmere.
The lakes that dominate the area that contains Winter Haven offer several scenic opportunities that you should avail yourself of. You can paddle through the Chain of Lakes to enjoy the tranquil surroundings, take in the sights and spot the wildlife. A short trip away at the Wildlife Park of Wild Florida you can enjoy the peace and serenity of the verdant landscape whilst spotting gators, porcupines, tamarins, wild boars and many more animals. Further afield a trip to the atmospheric city of St. Augustine is also an enjoyable day out that allows you to learn about the oldest permanent settlement in the United States, founded by Spanish colonists in 1565.
Activities around Winter Haven and the Chain of Lakes, when not associated with theme parks, tend to be water-based. The lakes are known for excellent fishing and regularly host local and national fishing tournaments. Water skiing, water tubing, and zipping around on jet skis and wake boards offer you plenty of opportunities to make a real splash. More water fun can be had in a day trip to SeaWorld or the Sea Life Aquarium in Orlando.