From Orlando, take I-4 to Highway 27 South for a pleasant day trip through Florida’s rolling hills and citrus groves. Open your windows and smell the blossoms or ripening oranges.
Stop in Winter Haven (take Highway 17, located east off Highway 27, to Route 540), the home of the American Water Ski Association. The organization recently completed a new, spiffy Water Ski Hall of Fame with state-of- the-art interactive exhibits.
Cross back to Highway 27 and continue 15 miles south to Route 60 in Lake Wales.
Turn east on Route 60 to reach the amazing Bok Tower Gardens. The centerpiece of the lovely gardens, a 205-foot, 57-bell carillon tower, chimes classical music every 30 minutes from atop its 298-foot perch, the highest point in peninsular Florida.
Besides showy camellias, azaleas, and other plants native and exotic, the 157-acre gardens are home to 120 different species of wild birds.
Back on Highway 27, you’ll see Chalet Suzanne Inn Village, a fairy-tale kind of place you should stop and visit. Even if you can’t afford the pricey restaurant, have a peek inside at the charming lakeside setting. Walk the cobbled paths, visit the gift shop, and buy its trademark canned soup.
The romaine soup went to space with Apollo 16.
If you branch off Highway 27 along Scenic Highway (Alternate 27), you’ll end up in downtown Lake Wales, a pretty little town that sits on one of Central Florida’s many lakes. Lake Wales Depot Museum focuses on the arrival of the railroad, and owns a historic railroad car. Continuing on, take Route 60 east of town to Lake Kissimmee State Park on Camp Mack Road.
Besides the usual hiking, fishing, canoeing, and camping, this state park boasts a circa 1870 cow camp peopled by reenactors playing the part of Florida cow hunters. Ask them questions about their lifestyle, but don’t expect them to know what cars and televisions are-they stay true to the period.
This tour: about 65 miles
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