You can’t be in Sanford, Florida, without seeing a Limo Cycle glide by. Throughout the day, these colorful bus-like vehicles — powered like a bicycle by 10 fun-loving types, often wearing silly hats — circle Sanford’s historic downtown taking riders on themed pub crawls.
This unique interactive ride may be the most visible sign of Sanford’s rebirth, but it’s not the only reason to visit this endearing destination less than an hour from Orlando’s theme parks. Practically overnight, the town once primarily known as the “Celery Capital of the World” has become a millennial must see.
Embracing original high tin ceilings and exposed brick walls, enterprising locals have brought trendy new businesses to this city on Lake Monroe, which leads to the scenic St. Johns River. Here’s what you should see and do while you’re there:
Get Your Grits On
Dig into Southern classics — oh, those biscuits! — at The Tennessee Truffle, chef Nat Russell’s locally focused restaurant. For farm-to-table freshness later in the day, opt for chef Josh Oakley’s The Smiling Bison, where hearty creative dishes are often paired with live music.
Finally, authentic German fare like sausages and spaetzle, along with live music on the weekends, draws hordes to Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe.
Art lovers will find plenty to peruse at Gallery on First, which is actually several galleries in one. Room after room features the works of one or more artists, some of whom use it as a working studio. (Pro tip: Don’t miss Jeanine Taylor’s Southern folk art.)
You can also get your retail fix at Magpies Modern General Store, a rustic-chic storefront with unusual locally made goods, and at the airy Boxelder, loaded with gift items and interesting housewares.
Sanford offers plenty of spots to sample local and international beers. Celery City Craft features 100 pours available at any time, while The Imperial serves its spirits in a space that’s also a furniture store. Wop’s Hops features English, German and domestic IPA choices.
Walk Through History
Stroll through the free Sanford Museum to learn about the 19th-century diplomat for whom the city was named, as well as the area’s former naval station and baseball legend/native son Tim Raines. Be sure to check out the 1,000-year-old canoe and the headstone of a horse named Bob.
Or take a self-guided tour of the Old Sanford Historic District. The downtown area boasts more than 400 historic homes from 3rd to 13th Streets.
Learn about the nation’s second-oldest black-incorporated city (founded 1891) at the Goldsboro Historical Museum, with details about the former town’s early pioneers. The museum is inside the community’s original post office.
Wade Toward Water
The scenic shore of Lake Monroe has a 1.8-mile paved Riverwalk for walkers, joggers and bikers. Should you prefer a more leisurely tour of the area’s waterways, sign on for a St. Johns Rivership cruise.
Theme Your Visit
The folks of Sanford love a party; you’ll find themed festivals here throughout the year. From monthly art walks and food truck meet-ups to community events celebrating pirates, holidays, Illuminated Boats and more, the calendar is booked.