Best Places to Cool Off

Take the edge off the dog days of summer with our picks for the best places to cool off in the US, from natural swimming holes to man-made fountains.

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Legoland Florida
Legoland Florida

Legoland Florida

In between time on the lake, head to the world’s largest Legoland park, right in Winter Haven, FL. Spanning 145 acres, Legoland Florida is home to more than 50 rides, a waterpark and botanical garden. Another big draw is Safari Trek, where kids take a jeep ride to explore the wilds of Africa in the form of life-like LEGO animals. 960 1280

Legoland  

Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve

Just outside of Winter Haven, explore more wildlife photo ops, but this time for real. Circle B Bar Reserve in nearby Lakeland, FL, was named by USA TODAY as one of the top places in America to see wildlife. Take in the vastness of the reserve’s 1,267 acres, home to wildlife such as bobcats, snakes and alligators, which you can spot in the reserve’s Lake Hancock. 960 1280

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Waterskiing

Waterskiing

Since the 1930s, Winter Haven has grown into a waterskiing mecca. Learn the sport, in all its pulsating variations, like barefoot skiing, at one of the local schools. Then try your luck out on Winter Haven’s famous Chain of Lakes, the series of lakes that extends across this stretch of Central Florida. 960 1280

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Flyboarding

Flyboarding

Blastoff! For a hot, new -- and extreme -- watersport, try your luck at flyboarding. Suit up with a flyboard, an air-powered jet pack that was invented in spring 2011 by watercraft rider Franky Zapata. Local watersports schools such as Absolute Aqua Sports should have you flying high in under 10 minutes, following your lesson. 960 1280

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Bok Tower

Bok Tower

Spread across 250 acres, Bok Tower Gardens was commissioned in 1921 by Edward Bok, a Dutch immigrant-turned-editor of Ladies Home Journal. At the center of the spacious, 250-acre botanical gardens is this 60-bell carillon. Towering 205 feet high, Bok Tower overlooks a long reflecting pond, with lily pads and koi fish offering great photo ops. 960 1280

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Paddleboarding

Paddleboarding

SUP’s up in Winter Haven. Go stand-up paddleboarding on Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes. Local watersports companies like Paddleboard Winter Haven offer 2 hours of SUP time, starting at Lake Summit, and passing through a canal into Lake Eloise, one of the larger lakes in Polk County, where Winter Haven is located. 960 1280

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Airboat Nature Tour

Airboat Nature Tour

In nearby Lake Wales, FL, take an airboat nature tour. Hop aboard a 6-person airboat, and get ready for a tour through Central Florida’s swamps and marshes, home to birds like egrets, cranes and hawks … and some very large alligators. 960 1280

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Chalet Suzanne's Famous Moon Soup

Chalet Suzanne's Famous Moon Soup

In between lake-hopping, stop by Chalet Suzanne restaurant, in nearby Lake Wales, FL, for a 5-course meal. The restaurant’s signature romaine soup has been a tradition for over 50 years. It was made famous by astronaut James Irwin, who chose the soup for his menu in space. 960 1280

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Camp Mack’s River Resort

Camp Mack’s River Resort

Before heading out on the water, use Camp Mack’s River Resort as your headquarters. Located on a quiet stretch of the Kissimmee River, the resort is a great launching point for fishing excursions, with crappies, bluegills, shell crackers and Florida largemouth bass among the prized catches of the day. 960 1280

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Westgate River Ranch

Westgate River Ranch

Break up the lakeside pace with a trip to Westgate River Ranch. This dude ranch, roughly 45 minutes from Legoland, offers the chance to find your inner cowboy: Enjoy a rodeo show, go glamping and when the water calls you back, take a swamp buggy ride. 960 1280

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Chain of Lakes

Chain of Lakes

Take a boat ride through Winter Haven’s Chain of Lakes -- so named because of its many connecting lakes. In all, this “chain” of 9 lakes spans 6,000 acres, with plenty of lakeside areas available for onboarding; 22 boat ramps, 30 waterfront parks and 14 public docks are available to boaters. 960 1280

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Water Ski Hall of Fame

Water Ski Hall of Fame

Ever wondered who the ‘Father of Waterskiing’ is? Find out at the Water Ski Hall of Fame. Established in 1982, the museum’s mission is to honor the pioneering skiers who put the sport on the map. As for the founding father, since you’re dying to know, it’s Ralph Samuelson, of Lake Pepin, MN! 960 1280

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Bass Fishing Capital of the World

Bass Fishing Capital of the World

Reel in the catch of a lifetime in the ‘Bass Fishing Capital of the World.’ Winter Haven is home to dozens of lakes, connected by navigable canals, where largemouth bass, well into the 10-lbs. range, swim. 960 1280

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