Leesburg is a small city found in the center of Florida, just a short drive from well-known Orlando and almost exactly halfway between the eastern and western coastlines of the Floridian peninsula.
Leesburg is in Lake County, and the city is built between the beautiful banks of Lake Harris and Lake Griffin, while in the surrounding area, there are countless more lakes and waterways too.
This is a place for nature lovers; there are endless outdoor opportunities in Leesburg. Explore the lakes, visit the nature preserves and conservation areas, and enjoy Florida’s great open air.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Leesburg, Florida.
1. Lake Harris
Leesburg is in the heart of Lake County, so named because the county is home to at least 250 large lakes, not to mention countless other rivers, creeks, and smaller bodies of water, many of which have no name at all.
Lake Harris is one of those many lakes, and the city is built around it. One of the largest lakes in the area, it’s split into Big Lake Harris and Little Lake Harris. You can take to the water in boats, kayaks, or canoes, or enjoy casual walks around the edge of the lake from Leesburg.
2. Lake Griffin
Lake Griffin is found to the north of Leesburg, and the city’s suburbs stretch to the lake’s edge. It’s another vast lake, and the area is known for its swampy marshes and unique ecosystem.
While you can explore much of the lake, the best place to start is the small protected area on the southeastern shore – not far from Leesburg – that forms the Lake Griffin State Park. Here, you’ll find camping spots, boat ramps, and a wonderful nature trail that allows you to hike into this secluded area of wilderness.
You can find an array of different bird species in the trees, but be careful in the marshes; there are a lot of alligators that call Lake Griffin home.
3. Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area
On the northwestern shore of Lake Griffin, you can find another beautiful protected area that makes for a great outing from Leesburg. The Emeralda Marsh Conservation Area is just a 20-minute drive from the city, but a world away from urban life.
The conservation area is home to plenty of wildlife. It’s a great place to go birdwatching or simply stroll around the short walking trails that take visitors through the marsh and along the edge of Lake Griffin.
4. Venetian Garden Parks
The Venetian Garden Parks are one of the best things to do in Leesburg – and one of the most popular places to visit in the city.
The gardens are found on the city’s waterfront overlooking Lake Harris. You’ll find a charming, public space that is a beautiful place to walk and get in touch with nature.
The Venetian Garden Parks take their name from the fact that there are a collection of beautifully designed bridges crossing over the many waterways found within the park.
The bridges connect the various islands in a scene reminiscent more of Venice than of anywhere you would expect to find in central Florida.
5. Leesburg Heritage Museum
If you’re looking for a change from the lakes and waterways, one of the best things to do in Leesburg is to visit the local Heritage Museum.
It’s a small museum – this is a small city, after all – but if you’re looking to learn more about local history and heritage, then it’s the best place to visit.
Found in one of Leesburg’s oldest buildings, the museum has a wonderful collection of exhibits collected from around the city. It tells the story of the local area – from Leesburg’s founding in the mid 19th century through to the present day.
6. Paquette’s Historical Farmall Tractor Museum
You can find Paquette’s Historical Farmall Tractor Museum just outside the city center.
This is one of the best places to visit in Leesburg if you’re interested in local history, as this curious museum holds a wealth of exhibits relating to farming; in particular, to tractors.
The museum aims to preserve historic farming equipment, and at the same time, show visitors the importance of farming equipment – not just in Florida, but across the country.
It’s a quirky look at an often overlooked part of history.
7. Bourlay Historic Nature Park
The Bourlay Historic Nature Park is another intriguing place to visit in Leesburg if you’re interested in local heritage.
Found on the edge of Lake Griffin, the nature park is home to an old ‘Cracker-style’ house – a common type of frontier home built through the 19th century in Florida.
Additionally, the park is full of wildlife and walking trails to explore.
8. Howey Mansion
Overlooking the peaceful waters of Lake Harris, you can find the historic Howey Mansion, which offers guided tours of its heritage rooms and gardens.
Dating back to the 1920s, the house was built by the Howey clan – a wealthy family who bought much of the land in Lake County.
The mansion is an unusual work of architecture and often used as a movie set or wedding venue throughout the year.
9. Flat Island
Flat Island is a lovely preserve found just off the coast of Leesburg, within Lake Denham.
It’s very close to the city; you can even walk here from downtown Leesburg.
Offering a quiet retreat from the city, you can find some short nature trails meandering across the preserve, and all manner of birds and other wildlife.
10. Lake Apopka
Just south of the Howey Mansion lies one of the most beautiful lakes in Lakes County.
Lake Apopka is one of the largest lakes in Florida, and the North Shore is protected as a nature preserve.
Here, you can explore hiking trails, kayak, and canoe on the water, and search for alligators in the marshes.
11. Ocala National Forest
North of Leesburg, Ocala National Forest is one of Florida’s most pristine wilderness locations. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forest are protected within this preserve, and Ocala forms the most southernmost area of forest in the United States.
There are hiking trails, hundreds of lakes, rivers, and marshy areas, and a vast number of unique species, including bears.
You can visit crumbling pioneer homes in the forest for a glimpse into Floridian history, camp out in the wild, and even enjoy the excellent natural springs feeding into crystal clear swimming areas where you can also snorkel.
An adventure playground for outdoor lovers, it’s one of the best places to visit when you’re staying in Leesburg.
12. Crystal River
If you love crystal clear water, then spend the day on the west coast at Crystal River.
Just an hour by car from Leesburg, Crystal River is a small city that’s built around beautifully pure mineral springs.
The rivers are literally crystal clear, while the ocean on the Gulf of Mexico is warm and equally as inviting.
You can even find manatees living in the water; if you head out snorkeling, you might just have a close encounter with these friendly animals.
13. Daytona Beach
If you’re looking to get out of the lakes and see the coastline instead, then you can find Daytona Beach just an hour and a half away.
This is a city that’s known for two things – beaches and car racing.
It’s the home of NASCAR; you can visit the International Speedway to learn more, and perhaps even catch a race.
Daytona Beach has some of the most spectacular stretches of sandy beach in Florida and is the perfect place to see the Atlantic Ocean in all its glory.
14. Tampa Bay
An hour and a half’s drive towards the west coast of the Floridian peninsula will bring you to the city of Tampa Bay.
This is a great place to explore the beautiful Gulf of Mexico and the warmer waters found here.
Tampa Bay is home to theme parks, shopping, restaurants, and museums, but more than anything, it’s a great place to visit if you’re looking to enjoy the outdoors.
You can find beautiful beaches, dramatic coastline, and crystal clear water that’s perfect for swimming and snorkeling.
Orlando is one of the most well-known cities in Florida, and if you are staying in Leesburg, then it’s just a short day trip away.
Orlando is home to famous amusement parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios – amongst many more. You can spend fun-filled days exploring the theme parks and getting your thrills riding rollercoasters.
The city center of Orlando itself is also a great place to visit, although it’s often overlooked in favor of the theme parks.
You can dine out at excellent restaurants, enjoy a few drinks in downtown, or get cultural at the museums and art galleries.