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Thankful on a Tankful: 8 South Florida Destinations Worth the Drive This Autumn

Thankful on a Tankful: 8 South Florida Destinations Worth the Drive This Autumn

Posted at Thu, Nov 2, 2023 4:15 PM

Thankful on a Tankful: 8 South Florida Destinations Worth the Drive this Autumn

Everyone knows Thanksgiving brings loved ones together. But sometimes, we don't feel like we’re together

Whether you’ve got a friend who’d rather scroll Instagram, a husband who just wants to go Black Friday shopping for the newest kitchen gadget or a mom who wants to watch the newest season of The Crown in peace, opportunities for relationship-building can be hard to find.

Luckily, a group drive is a time-honored solution. Get your loved ones in the car and take a day trip to one of these adventure-offering, autumn-friendly locations within driving distance from Central Florida.

This fall, skip Black Friday shopping and pick some pumpkins instead. At Mullinax Ford, we’re thankful on a tankful.

Bedner's Farm Fresh Market

Picking your own produce — it’s more fun, more delicious and more photo-op-filled than a trip to Publix any day.

Bedner’s Farm, located between Palm Beach and Boca Raton, is one of the few family-owned and -operated farmers markets in South Florida, open since 1960. You can pick and eat some of its time-tested produce at its year-round U-pick area, which offers a seasonally rotating bunch of crops.

From November to April, enjoy gathering buckets of juicy strawberries, which are joined in December by the arrival of tomato, pepper and grape tomato season. 

Next Fall, get the family out to Bedner’s a little earlier — between September and October — to pick sunflowers while enjoying the Bedner’s Fall Festival. Included with the price of a ticket is entrance to a corn maze and animal adventure park.

Check Bedner’s website for the full schedule of produce and events offered.

Lion Country Safari

When USA Travel Guide calls it one of the top three zoos in America, you’ve got no choice but to make the trip.

West Palm Beach’s Lion Country Safari is open 365 days per year, but crisp fall weather makes it the perfect autumn day trip for you and your loved ones. Check out the largest herd of zebras in North America, cruise through the 4-mile drive-through safari and finish out the day at the Adventure Park — complete with rides, animal encounters and shopping.

If you really want to get the most from your drive, turn the day trip into a weekend experience. Next to Lion Country is an award-winning KOA campground with 230 cabin, tent and RV spot options. Nothing says “thankfulness” like waking up to the sound of roaring lions.

Pumpkin Patch at Pinto's Farm

Some go to pumpkin patches for the photos. Some go for the pumpkins. Some go just to get into the fall spirit. This Miami patch, open from September to early November, fills those needs and more.

Make a day of your trip to the patch to enjoy Pinto’s Farm’s wide world of attractions, ranging from goat yoga to paddleboat rides and pedal karts to a petting zoo — all included with the price of a patch ticket.

If you get the farm itch after Pinto’s closes its pumpkin patch at the farm mid-November, no need to panic. Winterland at the Farm, complete with holiday treats, hot chocolate and Santa Claus photo ops, opens shortly afterward.

Check the farm website for designated “dog friendly” weekends if you’re looking to bring a furry friend.

NightGarden at Fairchild Tropical Garden

You don’t need to click your shoes or fly through the streets of London to reach fairyland — starting mid-November, you can just drive to Miami.

Fairchild Tropical Gardens’ annual Night Garden event combines technicolor flowers, unique sculptures and even a FairyScope AI app to give guests of all ages the best light spectacular extravaganza of their lives.

Munch on food and drink from Miami’s most popular food trucks while you stroll rainbow-colored pathways, chat with a talking wise old tree and test your spirit of adventure on a Fairy Quest.

ArtsPark Amphitheater Movie Nights

Break out the picnic blankets. Every Friday from 8 to 10 p.m, Hollywood's ArtsPark Amphitheater screens a family-friendly movie on its 60-by-40-foot main stage.

The theater boasts lawn seating for 2,500 guests, so there’s room to bring your friends, your kids, your friend’s kids and enough lawn chairs for everyone. Plus, get there early for face painting, live music, games and bounce houses.

Check out the ArtsPark website for a schedule of upcoming films — during Halloween season, you can catch some spookier flicks — think Gremlins and Hotel Transylvania — to get you in the spirit of the season.

Busch Gardens seasonal events

Busch Gardens has a special place in every SoFlo native’s heart — and no time of year is that more true than the holiday season. 

Stop by from mid-November to early January to take part in Christmas Town, where you can enjoy holiday dining and shopping, a ride on the Holly Jolly Express and photo ops in Rudolph’s Winter Wonderland.

Next fall, start the holiday festivities even earlier with a visit to Halloween events Howl-O-Scream and Spooktacular.

Brave-of-heart adults can buy tickets to Howl-O-Scream, a separately-ticketed annual event running from early September to Halloween night. The event is open until midnight on weekdays and until 1 a.m. on weekends, so be sure to nosh on some Halloween candy before you go to keep energy levels high.

For the little ones and their thrill-averse kin, Busch Gardens’ Spooktacular runs from September to October and is included with park admission. Every afternoon, witch-in-training Kandy leads a costume parade, trick-or-treating event and storytime at the Festival Walkway.

MacArthur Beach State Park

Want to celebrate the great outdoors now that the summer heat is behind us? Take a trip to the MacArthur Beach, the only state park in Palm Beach County.

If it’s too chilly to get in the water, you can still take in the sights via a standup paddleboard or kayak — both available for rent onsite — or take a hike at one of their nature trails.

The park’s two main trails are 0.3 mile and 1.3 miles — perfect variety to appeal to the nature enthusiasts and nature dabblers alike. Check out the MacArthur website for family-friendly events held at the park throughout the year, from the daily nature walk to the MacArthur Under Moonlight concert series.

Operation Turkey

There’s nothing for thankfulness like spreading it around.

This year, join a network of over 40,000 volunteers to cook, prepare and deliver meals to the less fortunate. Operation Turkey has locations in four states, including two in Florida, and its Miami location is the perfect place for South Floridians to give back this holiday season.

Volunteers are needed in all areas — including setup, decoration and delivering — but the hardcore grill masters in your life will love the Turkey Tailgate, where the group smokes all the turkeys needed for Thanksgiving Day.

Join other do-good “pitmasters” to gather smokers into the Operation Turkey parking lot and smoke hundreds of turkeys the day before the big show.

Although Thanksgiving is the organization’s biggest volunteering draw, you and your family can help out in the weeks leading up to the big day by sorting toiletries, picking up and delivering food items and hosting fundraisers. 

Reach out to [email protected] for more information about how you and your family can chip in.

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