Ponce De Leon Springs Florida State Park
Ponce De Leon Springs is a nice alterative to other
Orlando, Florida attractions.
The drive up to this particular Springs is very serene and peaceful. You can get an entire car full of people in for less than six dollars!
You’ll need cash to get into the park. If you have a large group go in one or two cars because you pay per vehicle not per person (unless you have more than 8 people, then you pay an additional $2.00 per person.)
Just like any of the other Florida Springs you’re going to want to get there early (Ponce De Leon Springs is open 365 days a year from 8am to sundown.) Otherwise you may find yourself waiting outside of this Florida State Park.
If you want to avoid the crowds go on a weekday. Also, avoid major holidays because the locals come out in masses.
Something unique to Ponce De Leon Springs is the Old Spanish Sugar Mill. There’s no other restaurant near Orlando quite like it. At the Old Spanish Sugar Mill your encouraged to play with your food.
Open from 9am to 4pm Monday through Friday and 8am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday this place is always busy. Although it’s very small it has a huge reputation. People from all over the place love to come to this restaurant.
The Mill offers a family setting. Take the little ones and let them enjoy making their own pancakes. I remember the pancake house fondly from my childhood. I remember swimming in the spring and being so excited to make my own cakes on the grill. Of course as a child everything was so big and as an adult everything is so small.
With no more than 12 tables and large groups always wanting eat here you may want to arrive without a grumbling belly. Because oftentimes you’ll find yourself waiting at least an hour.
If you want to get seated right away make sure you make it right as the restaurant opens. Also you may want to call the day before to see if there’s any special field trips or large groups.
You can only make a reservation for parties of ten or more ( they only take three reservations a day) but there’s always people waiting for a table that can be a part of your “party.”
It’s a good incentive to make friends and besides that you sit at the table with other people anyway. The grills are set up two to a table.
If you find that you have to wait that’s okay because there’s plenty to see at Ponce de Leon Springs. Including an old-style windmill outside of the restaurant.
You can also check out the natural spring there. During the summer you can swim in the spring but during the winter I wouldn’t suggest it.
Or, you could get a history lesson on Florida. The history center talks about how the Native Americans would catch their dinner on the shores of Ponce De Leon Springs. That was a whopping 6000 years ago!
It discusses how the springs were converted into a resort in the 1800. Also, you can check out alligator skulls, snake skins, turtle shells and other animal carcasses. Plus there’s old fashioned tools made from the land, clothes and pictures on display.
If you have small children that you’re trying to entertain while waiting for breakfast there’s a park at Ponce de Leon Springs with a slide and some monkey bars. For those of you that are just kids at heart you can walk around and check out the crank for the original windmill at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill.
There’s also an old wishing well which they say was the mythical fountain of youth (although this’s a theory that’s never been proven.).
Or, take a glass bottom boat tour. Check out beautiful fish and other natural wonders in these crystal clear waters. During any time of the year you may also see alligators.
But don’t worry the part of the springs you swim in and the part they live in are separate. You can also rent a canoe or kayak to venture down the spring run.
If you’re at Ponce De Leon Springs during the colder months you may be lucky enough to see some Florida manatees. They migrate to the Florida Springs every year in search of “warmer” waters.
You may be wondering how 72 degrees is considered warmer. Put your hand in the water when it’s cold outside and you’ll realize it’s actually warm.
I was a little disappointed that we didn’t get to see any Florida manatees at Ponce de Leon Springs Florida State Park last time we went. So we decided to skip up the road to Blue Springs Florida State Park. There we made a manatee friend!
Another way to kill some time is by doing the six mile nature walk through Ponce De Leon Springs forest. It’s a great way to work up an appetite.
*Just let them know that you’re going to be out of range to hear your name over the load speaker. That way when you come back they’ll put you at the top of the list so you don’t have to wait again.*
When you hear your name announced over the loudspeaker that your table is ready run, don't walk. During the colder months there’s a roaring fireplace in the back of the restaurant. It also has the best scenery. Last time we went the people back there took their time eating and relaxing.
We sat in the front and were a little chilly. If you want to wait the extra time to get in one of those back tables I would try. It was off in its own little world and had great views of the Ponce De Leon Springs Run.
Once you’re seated the server explains to the table how things work. Then they switch on the griddle so it can heat up while you wait for your order. They give you a tin plate, forks, knives, spoons and a spatula.
On the table there are cans of cooking spray. But the also give you butter so you have a choice of how you’d like to grill. Also on the tables are raw sugar, maple syrup, molasses syrup and tons of napkins. If you ask they can bring you some sugar free syrup.
All of the pancake batters are prepared of natural grains on a French buhr millstone. They bring you the choice of two separate pancake batter's one original and one whole-grain. Then you get to go to town making your own creations. I highly suggest making a happy face with either blueberries or chocolate chips.
The cost of the pancakes are $4.50 per person and you get unlimited batter. All side items like eggs and bacon are $1.75 per order. We ordered two eggs per person (which is considered three orders), chocolate chips, bananas and blueberries. We also ordered bacon which was made in the kitchen and brought out to us.
Pretty much the only thing you don’t cook yourself is the meat. Eggs and pancakes are cooked by you. But you can also order off the menu and get things like fresh toast, hot and cold sandwiches or a smoothie.
This isn’t fine dining in Orlando but that really isn’t the point. It’s like the melting pot but with a country twist. You essentially do most of the work. But the experience is what you’re after. It’s a good story and a fun time.
This’s something you do as a day at Ponce De Leon Springs. Go and enjoy the novelty of it. Enjoy the scenery and the food. You’ll have a great time making your pancake creations and making fun of you’re family and friends funny looking ones.
The restaurant isn’t air conditioned and the griddles are a part of the table. So it get hot especially if it’s summer time. That’s part of the experience though. You get all good a sweaty, get a full belly and then jump into a cool spring to enjoy the rest of your day.
One downside is that I felt a little rushed to move away from the table. Once the family to our right left the table they were cleaning up around us. Although I enjoyed my experience at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill I will not be going there every weekend.
After all I can make pancakes for a few pennies each. Also, the tip is already included on the bill. 18% is a little much for the little the servers actually do but I’m sure if it wasn’t added they may get stiffed. People might think it was just part of their job. We spent $32 in all for three people and that was with tip.
If you want a totally unique dining experience combined with the natural beauty of a Florida Spring you may want to check out Ponce De Leon Springs Florida State Park. You’ll walk away with a full mind and belly!