Ridge Scenic Highway: A World Away

     

    By Dalia Colon

    Where: The Central Florida road runs north to south parallel to 27, from Haines City to Frostproof.

    Length: 39 miles

    How to get around: Car or bicycle.

    Best time to visit: The first Saturday in November for the 39-Mile Scenic Highway Yard Sale or February for the giant Lake Wales Mardi Gras parade.

    Fun fact: On legendary Spook Hill, cars can supposedly coast uphill. Try it for yourself.

    For more info: Check out ridgescenichighway.com Facebook.com/TheRidgeScenicHighway.

     


    It’s a small, small world. But although Ridge Scenic Highway starts about 40 miles southwest of Orlando, it feels a world away.

     

    “It’s not going to target theme park visitors,” said Curtis Knowles, senior transportation planner for the Polk Transportation Planning Organization.

     

    Instead, the area specializes in attractions that have been around far longer than a certain cartoon mouse: Crooked Lake, one of the state’s largest freshwater lakes and a popular destination for bass fishing. The charming communities of Frostproof and Dundee, with their fragrant citrus groves and historic downtowns. Stately Bok Tower Gardens, a must-see Lake Wales attraction with its landscaped grounds, singing bell tower and grandiose mansion. And all along the way are pines, palmettos and uncharacteristically rolling hills that attract triathletes from around the world—quite a changeup from “typical flat Florida,” Knowles said.

     

    “It’s pretty steep elevation,” he said. “It’s quite hilly, so it’s a challenge for bicycle clubs.”

     

    After working up an appetite, Knowles recommends some fuss-free comfort food. Dive into the gooey queso dip at La Fiesta Mexicana in Haines City, and save room for dessert at Frostbite Ice Cream & More in Frostproof.

     

    “It’s very similar to a Dairy Queen but with a local feel,” said Knowles.

     

    Students at Webber International University in Babson Park, which is along the Ridge Scenic Highway, play volleyball between classes.

    Students at Webber International University in Babson Park, which is along the Ridge Scenic Highway, play volleyball between classes.

    Willie J. Allen Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

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    In fact, the entire Ridge Scenic Highway offers a local feel—so close to the hubbub of Central Florida’s theme parks, and yet so far away.

     

    Photos by Willie J. Allen Jr. for VISIT FLORIDA

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