Six Orlando staycations worth your PTO – from super-luxe to summer camp 

Tourist in your own town

Page 6 of 7

click to enlarge river_ranch_glamping_interior.jpg

Westgate River Ranch

Summer camp for grown-ups

Let's be honest: Summertime camping in Central Florida sucks. Westgate River Ranch, which should be at the top of every local's to-visit list, makes it way more fun.

Settle into your "glamping" tent (it's a combo of "glamour" and "camping"!), which goes for $265 per night in the summer and sleeps four in the comfy, not-a-sleeping-bag beds – one king and two twins. The tent is air-conditioned, but isn't immune to the elements, including skeeters, so be vigilant about keeping the screens zipped. A private, lockable, hotel-style bathroom is just a few steps away. If your pup is under 60 pounds and not on the "aggressive breed" list, you can pack the pooch too.

Westgate River Ranch is a true old Florida dude ranch, complete with horses and cattle dotting every vista. The ranch covers 1,700 acres, so the $60 per day golf cart rental or $15 per day bike rental is money well spent. Each activity on the ranch is priced individually, from elevated swamp buggy rides through the Florida prairie, gator-spotting on airboats down the Kissimmee River, skeet shooting, archery and more. Wear comfy, light-colored clothes. Glamping may be less "roughin' it" than the average campout, but it ain't fancy.

If you're there on a Friday night, settle into the saloon for cocktails and line-dancing lessons. You might scoff, but the ladies wearing the boots with the blinking LED lights are so into it, the fun is infectious. Ten smackaroos says your honky-tonk badonkadonk will be shakin' before long. If liquid courage is what you need to get out on the floor, down a couple of moonshine shots and make your way out there. Or buy a 32-ounce plastic boot to fill with draft beer for $10; refills are just $5 throughout your stay.

click to enlarge river_ranch_glamping_exterior.jpg

Don't be surprised if you find yourself longing for a ten-gallon Stetson before long. The ranch has an in-house Western store selling felt and straw hats, boots and other ranch-appropriate apparel.

Saturday night, locals and travelers alike fill the 1,200-seat rodeo arena for what's certainly the best ticket in town. Refill your boot and grab a seat to watch cowboys and girls from as far away as Pensacola and Okeechobee make eight seconds on a bucking bull, perform stunts and beat time trials. Stay late for the street party complete with live country cover band.

Take the long way home. As you exit Westgate River Ranch, turn left toward Lake Wales and down State Road 27. You'll pass through small rancher towns and eventually hit two stops to complete your "old Florida" staycation. First, there's Struthers' Honey house on the left. The specialty grocer and honey producer has been in business since before Walt Disney came around. The raw orange blossom honey is sold on the honor system – no one mans a cash register – so bring cash or a personal check to pay. The sign on the box says "take your honey and leave your money."

A few miles down the road on the right is the Florida's Natural orange juice plant. It's worth stopping at, too, before getting on I-4 and heading home. Pull into the Grove House parking lot and take the tour of the plant, complete with OJ samples. The gift shop sells cool vintage souvenirs of Lake Wales and Florida's orange-growing heritage.

3200 River Ranch Road, River Ranch, 863-692-1321,

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 8, 2020

View more issues


© 2020 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation