The City of Avon Park is located in the central portion of Florida in Highlands County.
Its nearest metropolitan neighbor is Orlando to the north. It’s also equidistant from the Atlantic coast to the east and the Gulf Coast to the west, giving visitors easy day-trip access to world-class beaches, state and national parks, and a variety of historical and cultural attractions as well.
At the time of the last census, Avon Park had a population of just more than 10,000 residents. It is surrounded by abundant lakes of varying shapes and sizes that offer visitors plenty of outdoor recreation options.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Avon Park.
1. Donaldson Park
Avon Park’s Donaldson Park is located on East Main Street not too far from the downtown area. For those looking for convenient, inexpensive, and activity-filled attractions, it’s really in a class of its own.
The park’s big draw is its sandy, white, lakeside beach that’s the perfect place to take the kids swimming or just relax under the sun with a cold drink and a good book.
Paddleboats both large and small are available to rent as well; they’re a great way to explore the lake, see lots of cool wildlife, and burn some excess calories in the process.
2. Pinecrest Golf Club
Pinecrest Golf Club in Avon Park features a much-loved 18-hole course that plays just longer than 6,700 yards from the blue tees.
The course has been around since the mid-‘20s and is semi-private, meaning that memberships are available and that during peak season when tee times become scarce, members have precedence over casual players.
Pinecrest is known for its well-manicured greens and fairways, changes in topography, and strategically placed sand and water hazards that keep things interesting without being overly annoying.
The Sandhill Grill is the course’s new restaurant and has become one of the town’s favorite dining destinations, so consider a post-round meal.
3. Avon Park Depot Museum
Located on North Museum Avenue, the Avon Park Depot Museum is a must-visit attraction for lovers of history and railroads who find themselves with a free hour or two.
The museum is located inside an old depot building from a now-defunct railway. It’s staffed with enthusiastic and knowledgeable local volunteers who’ll be happy to show you around and impart lots of interesting historical insights.
The museum’s exhibits include refurbished railroad equipment, a newspaper library, photographs, and lots of first-hand accounts. There’s a renovated dining car that’s open for meals too, but only on special occasions, so check before heading out.
4. SFSC Museum of Florida Art & Culture
The SFSC Museum of Florida Art & Culture is located on the campus of South Florida State College on West College Drive in Avon Park.
The museum is a free attraction that features a unique blend of art and historical items that go a long way toward giving visitors insight into the area’s singular past and culture.
The facility is staffed by docents who are more than happy to answer questions from curious guests. Though you wouldn’t necessarily know it from the name, it’s also a great place to take kids.
The museum’s exhibits and displays touch on Native Americans, the economy, and the roles of women and African Americans in the state’s history too.
5. Little Italy
Museums, beach parks, and hours spent on hot golf courses tend to leave many weary vacationers feeling famished. For those who prefer to fill up on hearty, inexpensive fare, there’s no better place to do it than Little Italy on West Main Street.
It’s just a few blocks southwest of the Depot Museum and features a variety of delectable pizza options, as well as other traditional Italian favorites like chicken and eggplant parmesan, Caesar salad, and lasagna.
Previous guests noted that the restaurant was no-frills but comfortable, and that the portion sizes were big and the prices reasonable.
6. South Florida State College Wildstein Center
The South Florida State College Performing Arts Center is home to the Wildstein Center, a live entertainment venue that hosts a variety of performances throughout the year.
Season tickets are available for those who’ll be in the area for a while, as are tickets to individual shows. Locals have raved about the diversity and quality of performances they’ve seen.
The cost of tickets is noticeably less than what you’d pay at similar venues in larger cities, and the state-of-the-art facility includes great lighting and acoustics. According to regulars, there’s not a bad seat in the house.
The center’s productions include both traditional and contemporary theater productions and music.
7. Maryland Fried Chicken
Though it may seem strange to have a fried chicken restaurant named after a state nearly 1,000 miles away, Maryland Fried Chicken on West Main Street in Avon Park is an iconic dining attraction. According to many regulars, it has the best fried chicken in the state.
The restaurant’s seating area is pretty small, and many voracious eaters get their orders to-go. In addition to their namesake chicken, they offer a variety of other options like fried shrimp and tasty sides like macaroni and cheese and corn fritters.
Prices are surprisingly reasonable, and many combo options include a few sides, making them affordable for those trying to feed a family without spending an arm and a leg.
8. Highlands Hammock State Park
Located just down the road from Avon Park in Sebring, Highlands Hammock State Park is comprised of nearly 10,000 acres of unspoiled nature that’s been open to the public for almost 100 years.
Its distinct environments are connected by a network of multi-use trails open to walkers, runners, and bikers. It’s common to see a variety of wildlife along the way, particularly in the morning and late afternoon hours when most animals are active.
Whitetail deer, foxes, gators, and a variety of birds call the park home. There are multiple playgrounds and covered seating areas that are perfect for families with kids and picnickers.
9. Peter Powell Roberts Museum of Art & Cultural Center
Though its name is a bit of a mouthful, the Peter Powell Roberts Museum of Art and Cultural Center is home to an impressive collection of oil paintings done by famous artist and long-time Florida resident Peter Powell Roberts.
Roberts was particularly well-known for using wood for many of his works instead of canvas, and there are pieces in a variety of mediums by other local, state, and national artists as well.
Sculpture, jewelry, and antiques are also present in the museum’s collection, and the center also periodically offers instructional and educational art programs as well.
Most guests spend between one and two hours at the center.
10. Military Sea Services Museum
Though most visitors don’t associate its landlocked position in the central portion of the state as a likely place to find a naval history museum, the Military Sea Services Museum is a popular local attraction.
The museum is dedicated to preserving and promoting the history and traditions of the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard – the three armed service branches that operate in the sea.
The museum’s exhibits include equipment, weapons, and other historical memorabilia stretching back to the nation’s founding, and include World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, and contemporary conflicts well.
The museum is free to visit, and staffed by knowledgeable local docents.
11. Sebring International Raceway
According to race fans and local historians, Sebring International Raceway is the oldest facility of its kind in the country and has been continuously operating as a racetrack since 1950.
Each year during the third weekend in March, the central Florida town of Sebring experiences a world-class road racing event that draws crowds from all over the world.
Even for those who don’t consider themselves race fans, it’s a festive occasion that always includes lots of live entertainment, great food, fun activities, and an all-around festive vibe.
Local hotels fill-up well in advance of actual race dates, so if that’s when you you’ll be visiting, plan accordingly.
12. Archbold Biological Station
The Archbold Biological Station has a unique history that dates back decades. It was initially the brainchild of a concerned group of ranchers and scientists interested in working together to promote preservation and scientific discovery.
The station is open to the public and is comprised of more than 5,000 acres near Lake Placid, just a short drive from Avon Park.
Most guests stop at the station’s interactive learning center to get a complete historic and ecological overview of the things they’re about to experience before heading out to explore. Guided tours and special programs are offered regularly as well.
13. Highlands Museum of the Arts
The Highlands Museum of the Arts was first open to the public more than three decades ago and was founded by a group of locals who realized that the central Florida region around Avon Park and Sebring was lacking in cultural and art-related attractions.
Since then, the museum’s collection has been expanding. Much of what’s on display is the work of local and regional artists created in a variety of mediums.
The museum is located in the Alan Altvater Cultural Center on the shores of Lake Jackson and includes paintings, prints, sculptures, photographs, and mixed-media works. The museum’s staff offer an array of programs and activities, including workshops, guest speakers, and temporary exhibits.
14. Highlands Lakeside Theater
Local community theaters and playhouses are often-overlooked entertainment venues that typically pack a big bang for culture-minded travelers’ hard-earned bucks.
Highlands Lakeside Theater is located on West Center Avenue in Sebring on the eastern shore of scenic Lake Jackson. It’s one of the go-to destinations for dramatic theater produced and performed exclusively by local talent.
Throughout the year, they offer a number of productions. In addition to drama, they often host evening events that may include stargazing, sipping cocktails, and mingling with artists, performers, and local theatre enthusiasts.
Check the calendar of events on their website before making a special trip.
15. Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park includes more than 50,000 acres of unique Florida habitat and is the largest remaining intact portion of dry prairie in the state.
Historically, Florida’s prairies were naturally shaped by the endless cycle of fires and floods, and the park’s location near the headwaters of the Everglades makes for fantastic scenery and a diverse population of wildlife.
The park includes more than 100 miles of multi-use trails that are open to hikers, mountain-bikers, and horseback riders. For visitors without their own wheels, bike rentals are available at the preserve office, but you’ll need to wear a helmet.