In our quest to explore and discover all of Florida’s fun places to see, play and enjoy, we set out on a one-day adventure to Sanford. To give you a better idea of where Sanford is, it is in Seminole County, about 30 minutes north and east of Orlando.
Sanford is an old city; in fact, it’s one of Florida’s oldest incorporated cities. It is a snapshot of old hometown Americana with picturesque streets lined with towering oaks and restored older homes featuring porch swings and gazebos.
Perhaps one of Sanford’s most distinct and appealing features is that it sits on the scenic shores of Lake Monroe, one of the lakes that make up the St. Johns River system. Along the lake’s shore, you will find outdoor enthusiasts walking Sanford’s Riverwalk, a pedestrian path with an amazing view, and people out with fishing lines cast in hopes of a big catch.
Our initial plan was a few-hour visit to the Central Florida Zoo, but our plans quickly changed once we saw Sanford’s charming and bustling historic downtown. We immediately knew that we had more exploring to do than we had planned.
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens
The wooded setting of the Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is a perfect way to view the animals. There are wooden boardwalks and not a lot of concrete, giving it more of a nature walk feel to the visit.
John and I spent about three hours strolling through the zoo and viewing the animals, however, if we would have had our grandkids with us, we probably would have spent much more time there.
I did love seeing the animals, but just as interesting were the plants. The zoo is also a botanical garden, and with all the exotic plants and flowers combined with the surrounding woodlands, I really felt like I was out in the wild with the animals. Well, sort of anyway.
A nice feature to help combat the Florida heat that has become popular at Florida attractions is the water play area. I am sure that if we had the grandkids with us on this adventure, we would have had to drag them out of there, kicking and screaming at closing time.
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is located at 3755 W. Seminole Blvd.
Sanford, Florida 32771. The hours are 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The admission price is:
- Adults: $19.50
- Seniors 55+: $15.95
- Children 3-12 years: $13.75
- Children 2 and under: Free
Located at Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens is Seminole Aerial Adventures. This up in the trees obstacle course is an additional cost and has to be pre-booked. For more information, here is a link to their official website. Seminole Aerial Adventures
Historic Downtown Sanford
Our first thought after the zoo was lunch. We were starving, so we made a beeline to the historic downtown area. There, we found many choices for lunch, but as soon as John saw Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe, the decision was made.
When John served in the US Airforce, he was stationed in Germany, and while there, he developed quite the liking for German cuisine. A good authentic German restaurant is hard to find, and John is very discriminating when it comes to deciding if it is authentic. Hollerbach’s exceeded John’s discriminating expectations.
Be sure to visit Downtown Sanford hungry because there is no shortage of restaurants. It is definitely a place for foodies, so picking which restaurant to have your meal? Well, that might be a difficult choice.
There are also more than just a few places to enjoy an adult beverage or two, and craft breweries certainly seem to be a thing there, so you might want to visit thirsty too.
Our day of adventure in Sanford will most certainly lead to another, as this hidden gem was a great discovery for us. We found at least 3 reasons to come back for a longer visit.
Sanford is surrounded by nature and woodland beauty, and we learned of a great hiking trail where bears are often spotted. John and I love hiking, so we are always up to an adventurous trail hike.
Any city as old as Sanford has to have a few ghost stories, so we checked it out, and Sanford does indeed have a historical walking ghost tour through its old downtown. John and I love to take ghost tours; it is a fun and entertaining way to learn the history of a city.
Anchored at the marina is The Barbra – Lee, an authentic sternwheeler riverboat sailing the St. Johns River. Aboard ship, dinner is served, and entertainment is provided. I have never been aboard a riverboat before, so that right there is enough reason to come back.
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