Sanford is the county seat of central Florida’s Seminole County and had nearly 54,000 residents at the time of the last census.
Conveniently close to the St. Johns River and Lake Monroe, the area is a popular destination for watersport enthusiasts, nature lovers, and fishermen. It’s also within an easy drive from some of the state’s largest tourist attractions, many of which are nationally known theme parks.
The area has fascinating Native American history and culture too, so regardless of interests, finding things to do in the area won’t be a problem.
Below are 15 things to do in and around Sanford, Florida.
1. Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens
The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens are the Sanford area’s most popular destinations for those interested in enjoying the natural world in all its splendor.
Conveniently located just off Interstate 4 near Orlando, the zoo and botanical gardens can trace their histories back to the early ’20s and have been at their current locations since the mid-’70s.
Including nearly 400 animals and a variety of distinct cultivated gardens, the facility is the kind of place that can keep guests entertained and engaged for the better part of a day.
Parking is included in the cost of admission, and same-day reentry is allowed with ticket receipt.
2. St. Johns Rivership Company
Measuring more than 100 feet and powered by safe and powerful diesels instead of dangerous steam engines, the St. Johns River Company’s flagship Barbara-Lee is the only vessel of its kind on the St. Johns River.
The boat was originally built in the ’80s but received an extensive overhaul in the last decade. In many ways, stepping aboard is like taking a step back in time.
With its traditional appointments, massive paddlewheel, and five decks, the ship can hold nearly 200 guests at a time. There’s no better way to get access to amazing views and experience local history than by booking a river tour.
3. Delirium Band at Buster’s Bistro
There’s something about Florida’s abundance of sun that makes it a natural venue for live entertainment.
Delirium Band is the official house entertainment provider at Buster’s Bistro in historic downtown Sanford, and for many loyal fans, their shows are not to be missed.
The band’s music appeals to a diverse audience and includes songs from as far back as the ’50s all the way up to today.
Country, pop and classic rock are all popular, and the band is comprised of many of the area’s most talented musicians. Since they have a variety of lead singers, they may be a little different each time you see them.
4. Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center
Located on South Magnolia Avenue in Sanford, the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center offers the community an array of performing art options, including plays, musicals, films, and concerts.
The historic theater that’s the center’s lifeblood was built in 1923, and though it features modern lighting and acoustics, its modest size gives visitors an intimate experience that they probably wouldn’t experience at larger contemporary venues in more urban areas.
The best way to keep abreast of their offerings and what’s on their calendar of events is to check out their Facebook page periodically, or for those technically challenged, give them a call.
5. U-SAIL of Central Florida
Florida’s St. Johns River and Lake Monroe are some of the state’s most scenic waterways.
A variety of tour options are available to explore these natural wonders, but for those looking to kick things up a notch, have a great time, and possibly launch a new and enriching hobby, U-SAIL of Central Florida might be the perfect place to do both.
Featuring trained captains and teachers with decades of experience and a fleet of boats of varying sizes, it’s a one-of-a-kind facility that’s been consistently ranked among the best sailing instruction businesses in the country.
They’re located on North Palmetto Avenue in Sanford.
6. Sanford Museum
Traveling can be an exhilarating experience. Depending on where you go and what you do, it can also be a significant drain on your bank account. So when visiting new areas, it’s a rare treat when you stumble upon a free attraction, especially when it’s an educational one as well.
Since 1957, Sanford Museum has been the city’s most complete repository of all things related to local history, culture, and the economy. It’s open every day except Sunday and Monday.
Items on display include historic photos, documents, and first-hand accounts of life in years past, as well as a variety of items related to the nearby Naval Air Station.
7. Limo Cycle Tours
For fun, fit, and adventurous groups of up to 15, there’s no better way to get the lay of the land than via a professionally guided bicycle tour.
Keep in mind that this isn’t one of those tours where everyone gets their own bike and nearly keels over from exhaustion; Limo Cycle Tour’s bikes are multi-seated, which means every guest rides the same one.
All packages include a guide, and options include pub tours, bachelor, bachelorette, and birthday parties – and even cool scavenger hunts.
Guests are encouraged to bring their own food and drinks. They’re open every day except Sunday.
8. Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe
Located on East 1st Street in Sanford, Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café has been a local favorite for more than a decade and specializes in traditional German cuisine.
They offer a selection of non-German items as well, but for most visitors, it’s the sausages, deli meats, schnitzels, and fresh desserts that keep them coming back time and time again.
It’s a family owned business that prides itself on its friendly staff, high-quality food, reasonable prices, and comfy family-friendly atmosphere.
Conveniently located in town, it is the perfect place to spend a relaxing evening replenishing all those calories expended during the day.
9. Palate Coffee Brewery
Whether it’s enjoyed in the morning or afternoon, in all its wonderful varieties, coffee is a tasty and energy-producing beverage that’s loved the world over.
Located on West 2nd Street in Sanford, Palate Coffee Brewery is a unique local business that’s staffed by volunteers and dedicated to doing its part to eradicate the thriving global human trafficking industry.
In addition to their dedication to such a worthwhile cause, the brewery is known for its freshly roasted beans and talented baristas that have taken coffee to a whole different level.
It won’t be the cheapest cup of java you’ve ever had, but those few extra cents might just change a life or two.
10. Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park
Spanning nearby Lake and Seminole Counties, Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park includes portions along the St. Johns and Wekiva Rivers and is a critical wildlife habitat that also offers guests a variety of recreation options.
Comprised of nearly 20,000 acres, the park’s most popular activities include horseback riding, fishing, hiking, and wildlife viewing. There is a variety of camping sites as well, most of which are relatively secluded and primitive.
The park’s entrance is just off State Route 44. For real outdoor aficionados and nature lovers, it’s the kind of place you could enjoy for days.
11. Mayfair Country Club
With more than 1,000 courses to choose from, Florida is a magnet for travelers from all over the country and is an especially popular golf destination during the winter months, when most of the northeastern and Midwestern states are firmly planted in winter’s icy grip.
Mayfair Country Club is well-known as being one of the first in the state and has hosted a few golf legends in the past, like Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer.
The club is conveniently close to Interstate 4 in historic Sanford. Its amenities include a driving range, chipping and putting practice areas, and showers and lockers.
12. Hontoon Island State Park
Located on the St. Johns River in central Florida’s Volusia County, Hontoon Island State Park is the perfect escape destination for travelers who’ve had their fill of crowded tourist sites and just long for some quiet time with Mother Nature.
The park is located on an island that’s only accessible by boat and ferry. For first time visitors, it’s a good idea to stop at the park’s museum and visitor center before heading out on your own.
Open daily and free to visit; if you plan on camping, you’ll need to pay a modest charge for each night you stay.
13. Walt Disney World
Probably the most well-known resort in the Sunshine State, Walt Disney World really needs no formal introduction; for those traveling in central Florida with kids, it’s a must-visit destination.
Featuring Magic Kingdom Park, Epcot, and the Animal Kingdom Theme Park, there are enough activities to fill multiple days. In addition to their kid-centered activities, they also host a variety of food and wine and arts and crafts festivals that are popular with adults.
It’s often possible to find coupons and special offers online, in travel magazines, and brochures, so spend a little time looking around if you’d like to save a few bucks.
14. LEGOLAND Florida Resort
For generations of children, LEGOS were toys that stimulated the imagination like few others. Central Florida is home to a unique attraction that’s dedicated to this iconic brand in all its forms.
In addition to its creativity inducing activities, the resort’s exhibits touch on the natural world, history, culture, and art – and not surprisingly, visitors are encouraged to get active.
The resort includes a variety of activity options, not all of which involve LEGOS. Not all venues are included in the cost of general admission; to enjoy the water park or take in a live show, you’ll need to pay extra.
15. Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards
Located in Clermont, Florida, about a half hour from Orlando, Lakeridge Winery and Vineyards has been open since 1989. Since then, it has gained a reputation for its fabulous wines and beautiful facilities.
Boasting more than 100,000 visitors annually, it’s considered the state’s premier vineyard and winery, and offers a variety of festivals, tastings, and tour options.
Daily complimentary tours and tastings are offered to the public on their countryside estate that includes more than 120 acres. Guests will have the opportunity to sample their award-winning wines, and buy some to take home with them at the onsite store.
Bus and RV parking is available.