Essential Tips for Exploring De Leon Springs State Park with Kids – Pancakes, Playground, and Kayaks

If your kids love adventure, consider a leisurely day trip up to De Leon Springs State Park. Located about an hour north of Orlando, De Leon Springs State Park has lush trails, refreshing natural springs, and is a favorite spot for local families.

Fuel up on endless DIY pancakes at the Old Sugar Mill, then spend the day swimming in the springs, exploring old Florida, and having a little fun on the small playground. After multiple visits our team of parents is sharing their expert tips for visiting De Leon Springs with kids.

Old Sugar Mill Under New Management

This classic Florida restaurant now that it is under new management.
In short, everything you love about the all-you-can-eat pancakes is still there –  with a few exceptions.

The dining room is essentially the exact same as before, even under new management. Now, you can join the waitlist online!

Keep reading for more info about making your own pancakes at De Leon Springs State Park.

Pancakes with Toppings on Griddle and Plate at Old Sugar Mill Pancake House - image by Dani Meyering
Pancakes with Toppings Old Sugar Mill Pancake House image by Dani Meyering

Pancakes at the Old Sugar Mill

And now for the good stuff – it’s pancake time!

The Sugar Mill, a rustic restaurant and country store is housed inside a 100-year-old mill. This sweet spot alone is worth the cost of admission to De Leon Springs State Park. In fact, it’s one of our picks for family restaurants in Orlando.

Arrive early in the morning for lower wait times, or plan on exploring the park while you wait. *Park admission is required to visit and dine at the Old Sugar Mill Pancake House. The cost is $6 per vehicle (two to eight people).

Parenting Pro-Tip, you can join the waitlist online!

The Old Sugar Mill is best known for its fresh pancakes, which you cook yourself on a griddle built right into the tabletop. There are two dining areas inside the restaurant. The larger room has a barn-like feeling and showcases the machinery of the sugar mill.

Old Sugar Mill Pancake House Dining Room De Leon Springs State Park - image by Dani Meyering
Old Sugar Mill Pancake House Dining Room image by Dani Meyering

The second, smaller room is like an all-season porch. It has large windows, making the room very bright. Throughout the restaurant, you’ll find tables of various sizes, each with one (sometimes two!) griddle in the center.

For $7.99 you get all-you-can-eat pancakes, made by you! There is no kid’s pricing, but it’s still a pretty food deal.

The Old Sugar Mill is open from 8 AM to 4 PM daily. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

Sugar Mill Menu

Pancake orders include two different homemade batters, along with raw honey, molasses, and syrup. One batter is made with unbleached white flour, and the other is made with the mill’s signature five stone-ground flours with corn, wheat, rye, whole wheat, and buckwheat.

Sweeten the deal with mix-ins like fresh blueberries, peanut butter, or banana slices ($2 – $4 each). Pancakes are endless, so if you finish your pitcher or simply prefer one batter over the other, feel free to ask for more!

A selection of breakfast platters, sandwiches, and beverages are also available if pancakes just aren’t your jam. These items are prepared in the kitchen and brought out to the table, so there is no cooking involved on your part.

Old Sugar Mill Exterior at De Leon Springs State Park
Old Sugar Mill Exterior at De Leon Springs State Park image by Dani Meyering

Things to Do with Kids at De Leon Springs State Park

There are more things to do at De Leon Springs State Park than filling your belly with pancakes. Make the time to truly explore the entire park, springs, and river to make the most of your time together.

  • Boat tour
  • Tube rental
  • Kayak rental
  • Paddleboard rental
  • Swimming
  • New playground
  • Picnic Pavillions
  • Visitor Center

A new playground has been added to De Leon Springs State Park. It is small, but it is a nice addition for families with young kids.

Boat Tour

The 50-minute narrated boat tour will take you through Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge while providing you with local history and wildlife facts. Visiting during the colder months provides the chance to spot manatees by the dock before you leave. Tours operate daily at 9am, 10am, 11am, 12pm, and 1pm.

Tickets are $12-16/per person and are sold at the concession stand right outside the mill entrance. An 8-person minimum is needed for the tour to operate.

This boat tour is also a good idea for families with young kids that may not be ready for splashing in the spring water.

Boat Rental at De Leon Springs

For the ultimate family adventure, rent a kayak or canoe and spend the day on the water. Innertube floats, canoes, kayaks, and tandem kayaks are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Old Sugar Mill concession stand. All rentals require a driver’s license to rent.

  • Innertube float – $3 per person, per hour
  • Canoes – $22 first hour, $22 each additional hour
  • Single Kayak – $18 first hour, $8 each additional hour
  • Tandem Kayak – $22 first hour, $22 each additional hour

Price is based on our most recent visit and may be subject to change.

Pro-tip: Save $1 – If you plan to grab some food at De Leon Springs, visit the concession stand BEFORE securing your float or other rentals. With your receipt, you’ll get $1 off rentals.

Swimming at De Leon Springs

The natural headsprings, from which De Leon Springs derived its name, have long been associated with healing properties. For experiencing the real Florida, it is one of the best places for swimming with kids in Orlando – especially because there is a barrier between the springs and the rest of the river.

The crystal clear springs remain a consistent 72 degrees year-round. Children and non-swimmers should be accompanied by an adult swimmer at all times and should remain in the roped-off areas. No lifeguards on duty.

De Leon Springs State Park Swimming Area with palm trees and blue skies
De Leon Springs State Park Swimming Area image by Dani Meyering

This is not like swimming in a pool or at a resort. It is rustic and the bottom can be rough and rocky. But if your family likes outdoor activities and nature, it’s a must do!

Floats and rafts are allowed in the swimming area; however, flotation devices cannot exceed 5 feet for a circle or 4 feet by 6 feet for a rectangle.

De Leon Springs State Park Hiking Trails

There are multiple hiking trails inside De Leon Springs State Park. The best for families is the short squishy trail to Monkey Island, which used to house wild monkeys back in the 1960s, when De Leon Springs operated as a kitschy roadside attraction.

Another natural spot near Orlando with great walking trails is Wekiwa Springs State Park.

Picnic Pavillions

The park has four pavilions for rent – two large pavilions (with electricity) that seat 50 to 60 people and two smaller pavilions (without electricity) that seat 40 to 50 people. Each pavilion has a large grill and water.

Fees for pavilions do not include park entry fees or any special use fees. The pavilions are available by fee only and can be reserved, except during the summer months (Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend). They can be rented, but only first-come, first-served. One additional free pavilion is provided first-come, first-served. 

Pavilions 1 and 2 are $75 plus tax. Each seats 50 to 60 people and has a large grill, water and electricity. Pavilions 3 and 4 are $45 plus tax. Each seats 40 to 50 people and has a large grill and water but no electricity.

  • Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in any area of the park. 
  • Please contact the park for information and reservations.

Visitor Center

Whether you’re homeschooling in Orlando or just want to enhance your family’s visit to De Leon Springs, make sure to visit the Visitor Center.

Exhibits feature the park’s 6,000-year history starting with the Native American inhabitants called the Mayaca through the 1960s attractions era. Don’t miss the home movie (open captioned) of the water skiing elephant. A touch table with bones and shells, park photo albums, printed information, and a small children’s area ensure there is something for everyone. 

Know Before You Go

Location, Hours and Fees
De Leon Springs State Park
601 Ponce de Leon Blvd.
De Leon Springs, FL 32130

Hours: Daily 8am-sunset (Note: The Old Sugar Mill is closed on Christmas and Thanksgiving)
Automatic 18% gratuity applied at The Old Sugar Mill Restaurant

MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND 2024 FREE ENTRY: The governor has announced that all entry fees into Florida state parks will be suspended from May 25-28, 2024!

$6 per vehicle: 2-8 people
$4 per vehicle: one person only

author avatar
Meghan Roth