Lake County residents are sitting on a goldmine in downtown Tavares, one that’s worth a day trip for folks outside the immediate area. At Wooton Park, a towering and expansive wooden playground structure invites you in with excitement and promise. Sure, it has all the expected slides and swings, but there’s also the stuff that sparks imagination — steering wheels, rocket ships, musical pipes, hidden nooks and even a secret tire swing. This isn’t any playground, this is an adventure!
While the kids roam, you’ll enjoy the view of Lake Dora under the much-needed shade provided by dozens of moss-covered oaks. Right about the time you’re all getting too hot and sweaty, you spy the Tavares Splash Park just a few feet away. Up above, a biplane shoots water to squeals of approval down below. A small slide gives toddlers a short and not-so-scary ride. This wet fun is geared more toward the younger set. Kids younger than 6, especially ones like mine who’ve been to a “real” water park like Wet ‘n Wild, may be unimpressed. But at least they won’t be hot.
While your kids are still cooled off from their water romp, be sure to take a walk out by Lake Dora. We spied turtles and a mama duck with her babies during our walk out on one of the piers. Two tween girls said they saw a small gator. You’ll also probably see an assortment of seaplanes parked near shore.
What we didn’t see was the Lake Dora Limited, which offers one- and two-hour steam-engine train rides in vintage coaches that leave from the train station at Wooton Park. (That’s a trip —and a review — for another day.) Also available on site are eco-boat tours and seaplane rides.
IF YOU GO: Wooton Park is open daily from sunup to sundown. The splash park is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. There’s a $2 entry fee for the splash pad per person, and grownups are welcome to play too. However, parents can opt to watch from outside the fenced area for free. Everyone must wear a proper swimsuit, and swim diapers are required for kids under 4. The park will close during inclement weather, so keep Central Florida’s summer afternoon thunderstorms in mind when planning your visit. Address: 100 E. Ruby St., Tavares. Phone: 352-742-6300.