For all its oddities and giant mouse-themed commercialism, Florida truly is one of a kind. We don't need to tell you about Disney World, Universal or SeaWorld — Central Florida is full of crazy yet essential experiences. Here is a list of the wackiest and most wonderful spots worth a short drive.
Bok Tower Gardens, 1151 Tower Blvd., Lake Wales, 863- 676-1408, boktowergardens.org
On the outskirts of Orlando's suburbs, these botanical gardens designed by famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. showcase the natural wonders of Florida. The Singing Tower at the heart of this sanctuary is an iconic neo-Gothic building crowned by carillon bells.
Orlando Speed World Dragway, 19164 E. Colonial Drive, 407-568-5522, raceosw.com/dragway
Local drag racing finds a home at Orlando Speed World. Check out street drags and drifting events here every week.
Legoland, 1 Legoland Way, Winter Haven, legoland.com/florida
What's not to love about a 150-acre attraction full of tiny blocks that you can't step on in your bare feet? Ambitious new ride Pirate River Quest takes guests on a 20-minute tour of the historic Cypress Gardens canals, while the adjacent Peppa Pig Park will delight all fans of the pink animal with a face shaped like a hairdryer.
Dalí Museum, 1 Dali Blvd., St. Petersburg, 727-823-3767, thedali.org
Stroll through iconic works by surrealist artist Salvador Dalí, from his melting clocks to visual illusions like the large-scale masterwork "Gala Contemplating the Mediterranean Sea." The museum rotates through temporary exhibitions on top of the permanent ones, plus it offers the Dalí Cafe for a quick bite in between all the artistic contemplation.
Gatorland, 14501 S. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-855-5496, gatorland.com
Known as the "Alligator Capital of the World," this eco-preserve is home to thousands of flesh-eating reptiles and the trainers brave enough to wrestle them. Get close enough (but not too close) to see them eat and sleep, or zip-line safely above their marsh.
Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, State Road 405, east of Titusville, 855-433-4210, kennedyspacecenter.com
Visit NASA's Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center for a glimpse into the world beyond our own, with plenty of historical exhibits, IMAX theaters and spacecraft tours. Thrill-seekers, try your hand at the shuttle launch experience and test your zero-gravity skills.
Dinosaur World, 5145 Harvey Tew Road, Plant City, 813-717-9865, dinosaurworld.com/florida
Tampa Bay's own prehistoric playground is the perfect place to wander around hundreds of life-sized dinosaurs in natural settings. The attraction offers a dino-themed play area, a massive interactive boneyard and a museum featuring a collection of animatronic beasts.
Butterfly World, 3600 W. Sample Road, Coconut Creek, 954-977-4400, butterflyworld.com
Did you know Florida is home to the largest butterfly park in the world? The tropical oasis-like zoo is filled with more than 20,000 exotic butterflies and insects all in one place.
Wild Florida, 3301 Lake Cypress Road, Kenansville, 407-957-3135, wildfloridairboats.com
Originally an airboat tour company, Wild Florida added a 14-acre Gator Park and then Central Florida's largest drive-through safari. The 85 acres are home to multiple animal habitats, most of which guests can drive through. Set your eyes on wildebeest, water buffalo, Watusi cattle, eland antelope, zebra, camels and ostriches ... but keep your hands to yourself.
Retirement Home for Horses, 20307 NW County Road 235A, Alachua, 386-462-1001, millcreekfarm.org
The nonprofit equine sanctuary Mill Creek Farm acts as a final home for retired horses. For an admission price of just two carrots, you can spend a day getting to know the gentle giants. Open to the public every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Silver Springs State Park, 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd., Silver Springs, 352-261-5840, silversprings.com
Take a step into true Florida nature with Silver Springs State Park's iconic glass-bottom boat rides. The immersive rides have been a staple attraction of the park since the 1800s, when the tourism boom first started. They also may just be the perfect opportunity to spot the rogue monkey population that calls the park home today.
Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, 6131 Commercial Way, Spring Hill, 352-610-5660, weekiwachee.com
Florida: the only state with real live mermaids and an iconic state park to visit them in. The springs also offer swimming, kayaking and all the other Central Florida waterside fun you can imagine.