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Sanford is a little old town on the east side of Orlando.  From shops to restaurants, including delicious German food, to a beautiful marina and having fun along their river walk, this is a great town to visit.  Sitting just along the southern shore of Lake Monroe, the town is known as the “Historic Waterfront Gateway City.”  Sanford is also home to its very own airport!  The Orlando Sanford National Airport is so much easier to travel out of if you haven’t booked a flight out from there before.  Here we round up the top ten best things to do in Sanford with kids.

things to do in Sanford

Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens

The Central Florida Zoo is one of my favorite things to do in Sanford with kids.  The zoo will definitely be the highlight of your kid’s day!  I love that this zoo has some beautiful botanical gardens throughout.  Be sure to look for butterflies and hummingbirds as the gardens are full of little friendly creatures.  On certain days throughout the month from 5:30 to 8 pm (the next one is on August 28th), is Family Sunset at the Zoo that sounds like a super fun evening that is only $5 per person that includes exploring the zoo at sunset and music.  Do check their website for all zoo information, reserving timed tickets for regular entry, and requirements on facemasks and other covid-19 policies.

Hours: 9 am to 3 pm daily
Location:  3755 W Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771

Related Post: Things to do at Central Florida Zoo with kids

Donuts Galore and More

For all the donut lovers out there, if you are driving to Sanford, you may as well get a tasty morning treat.  Donuts Galore and More offers a fabulous selection of scrumptious donuts as well as breakfast sandwiches and fresh Nespresso custom coffees to help get your day in Sanford started.  You can even place your order ahead of time for easy pickup.  As a newly opened black-owned business operated by a woman, this donut place is definitely worth a stop in my book.

Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 7 am to 3 pm | Closed Sunday & Monday
Location: 233 Bellagio Cir, Sanford, FL 32771

Fort Mellon Park

Fort Mellon Park is a great way to let the kids burn off some energy.  With two playgrounds, divided by age, a splash pad, restrooms, basketball courts, green space and exercise trail, there is something for the whole family to enjoy.  There is also a lovely view of the water overlooking Lake Monroe and within walking distance of downtown Sanford.  Bring a picnic lunch and take a walk or play after your done.  This park is very well kept and nice and clean so it is a perfect spot to hang out and social distance.  During the week is quieter so if you are looking for something to do, Fort Mellon Park is a great option.

Hours: 8 am to Sunset
Location:  600 E 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771

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Historic Downtown Sanford

I love walking around downtown Sanford and miss the pre-covid days of their street festivals as they were just the best!  They also have cute little coffee shops, amazing restaurants offering fresh surf and turf and local flavors, as well as art galleries, theaters, a nearby marina and fishing pier.  There is so much to see on these historic streets.  You definitely need to make a stop at Wondermade for some of the best homemade marshmallows and ice cream around!  Their marshmallow flavors are unique and fun such as the key lime, smores, bourbon flavored, salted caramel and fancy gold champagne marshmallows.  It’s a treat for the whole family.

Hours: Check specific stores and restaurants for their hours and offerings
Location: 307 E 2nd St, Sanford, FL 32771

Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café: German Restaurant

If you haven’t been to Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café, can you really call yourself an Orlandoan?!  An Orlando staple for THE place to get German food in town, you definitely need to check this place out!  Offering authentic options like schnitzel and potato pancakes, amongst many other delicious items, your kids will love the German ambience and festive outfits the servers wear.  Take a trip to Germany without ever having to leave the state.  Do call for reservations ahead of time as this place is a favorite and due to limited capacity, there are limited reservations as well for the safety of everyone.

Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11 am to 9 pm | Friday and Saturday 11 am to 10 pm
Location: 205 E 1st St, Sanford, FL 32771

Lake Jesup

As one of the largest lakes in Florida, Lake Jesup offers up an array of wildlife viewing on the lake.  For those residents new to the state, you do not want to swim in this lake as it is filled with alligators!  Taking your boat out here is a great way to spend a day with the family as the kids will get a kick out of all the gators they will see.   Air boat rides are available for those with daring kids.  You just need to drive a short way to Oviedo to the Black Hammock Airboat Tours to hop on one.

Hours: Open 24 hours a day, daily
Location: 5951 S. Sanford Ave, Sanford, FL 32773

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Park on Park

Another awesome playground in the area is Park on Park.  This is a great park.  Not only is it beautiful and well maintained, the playground is shaded!!!  This is huge as it is shocking how many playgrounds in Orlando are not and, in the summer, especially, it can be challenging to find a park where you are not baking in the hot Florida sun.  The giant oaks provide a wonderful natural shade to the playgrounds.  You could even pack a lunch to enjoy while you are there.

Hours: 8 am to Sunset
Location: 101-199 W 8th St, Sanford, FL 32771

Sanford River Walk

If you have a child that loves to see boats, the Sanford River Walk is the place to be.  This trail is a beautiful way to see Lake Monroe.  This scenic paved trail also connects to Wayside Park, Veterans Memorial Park, Fort Mellon Park, Log Cabin Memorial Park, Sanford Museum, Sanford City Hall, and the downtown area of Sanford.  Currently a 1.8-mile walk, there is a new addition slated to open sometime this summer that will further extend the walk by an additional 2.4 miles.  Part of the trail passes by the lovely marina, which is a great way to see all the boats parked along the water.

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset
Location: E Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771

Seminole Ariel Adventures

The Seminole Ariel Adventures, located at the Central Florida Zoo, is a fun option if you want to add on some extra fun while at the Zoo or you can just do the Ariel adventure alone.  It is located just before the entrance so if you don’t want to do both the zoo and the Ariel adventure, you don’t want to.  Your kids can glide through the air through a fun kid sized course filled with adventure.  The kids’ course is opened based on availability.  Tickets can only be purchased onsite for the kids’ course adventure, but be sure to call to find out more details and requirements for kids.

Hours: Adult adventures are Friday to Sunday 10 am and 1 pm | Kids course based on availability
Location: E Seminole Blvd, Sanford, FL 32771

 Related Post: Ziplining in Orlando

St John’s Rivership Co.

If your child loves boats and ships, then take a cruise along the St John’s River with the St John’s Rivership Company.  They offer a great way to see the river while enjoying live entertainment, chef-prepared cuisine and views of nature and wildlife.  Family run, this local sternwheeler is sure to excite your little boating enthusiast for a fun outing they won’t surely forget.  Reservations required and can be booked either through their website or by phone.

Hours: See website for cruising options
Location: 433 N. Palmetto Ave, Sanford, FL 32771

What is your favorite thing to do in Sanford with kids?

by Megan Daniels

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