When I was in 5th grade, I visited Mixon Fruit Farms on a field. I remembered very little about my time there, but I remembered sampling fresh orange juice and it was awesome. Ever since then I have been determined to go back. Now that I've been, I'm seeing that this place has more to offer than I ever could've imagined and I could easily plan a family fun day centering around Mixon Fruit Farms.
I used a Groupon, but the normal ticket price for the grove and wildlife tram tour is still fair: $10 for adults and $5 for kids 3 and up.
Mixon Fruit Farms is located in Bradenton, 40 minutes from my home. It wasn't too far off I-75, and there are plenty of fun things to do nearby. You are, of course, not far at all from the beach (we love going to Holmes Beach and taking the free trolley to the City Pier restaurant!) But only 10 minutes from Mixon you can get to Bradenton Riverwalk along the Manatee River is fun and has a pretty sick skate park. Also, from the Tampa area going south on I-75, we passed right by the Ellenton Premium Outlets and an excellently-managed Hungry Howies buffet.
The grove tour was incredible. Aboard a tractor-pulled tram, our guide drove us through the groves and taught us about the history of the farms and the Florida orange industry in general. After viewing pomalos and other unusual kinds of citrus, we hopped off the tram and walked around the wildlife conservatory. The guide was the VP of Wildlife, Inc. and clearly loved animals and knew a lot about them. We watched him get right up to Nile Crocodiles and feed them. He also let us pet and touch more animals than I knew was possible. During our visit we got to pet an alligator, skunk, tortoise, burmese python, and more. We also got to feed a pig apple slices! He was informative and helpful.
After the tour, we ate lunch in the cafe and enjoyed some very delicious and affordable sandwiches and chili. And then, the most fantastic part...orange soft-serve! Apparently they don't add sugar; they just take the orange juice, add an emulsifier, and freeze it. Once we found out it wasn't packed with unnatural sugars, we ate way too much ice cream and even got a quart for the road...and finished it before we got home. Because we have no self-control.
Then we discovered that they had a really impressive cement block maze, and for $5 a person (or $3/person if you went on the tour) we could visit the Playground area. They had a bounce house and inflatable slide, an inflatable water slide, a regular slide, a tire tower, duck racing, lifesize chess, a sand pit, and more!
We easily spent 3 hours there and would've spent more if it wasn't storming. We would have also spent more time at Mixon if it was orange season and we could've seen the processing in action.
I write all this because we had an amazing time as a family (and Peter and I would've had a great date even without the kids!) and I highly recommend this place if you're a local. Awesome agritourism fun, relaxing play for kids, impressive wildlife experience, and life-changing orange juice soft-serve. It's one of the best field trips we've been on this year and we now plan on visiting regularly.
Check out Mixon Fruit Farms! It exemplifies so many of the good things about Florida.