Pilots looking for a winter warm-up with an aviation theme are in luck: The annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo takes place each January in Sebring, Florida—the perfect spot to escape cold winter weather. Fly to Sebring and spend a day checking out the latest in innovative aviation design. Because of its focus on light sport aircraft, homebuilts, and ultralights, this is the fly-in where you’ll see the largest concentration of affordable aircraft and avionics that push the technology envelope. From ultra-STOL airplanes to gyrocopters to electrics, Sebring’s slogan, “Flying into the Future!” is exactly right—and many of the manufacturers offer demonstration flights during the expo. After you get your aviation fix, you’ll find plenty of other ways to enjoy the warm Florida weather.
If you’re flying to the expo, check the website in advance for fly-in procedures and information. Pilots who wish to camp with their aircraft or display their homebuilts need to register before arrival. Sebring Regional Airport is smack-dab in the center of Florida and just outside Restricted Area R-2901 A&B that overlays MacDill Air Force Base, so it’s a good idea to be talking to Miami Center. The area’s numerous lakes look especially inviting if you’re flying a seaplane; check the Seaplane Pilots Association’s Water Landing Directory to find out which ones you can land on.
Mention Sebring and pilots may think of the expo, but most folks associate Sebring with the Sebring International Raceway and its prestigious 12 Hours of Sebring, a European Grand Prix-style endurance race held each March. They also hold drag racing and club events. The raceway is adjacent to the airport and part of the track is original runway that dates back to World War II.
The Sebring area offers plenty more to keep visitors entertained, starting with shopping and dining in the historic downtown Sebring on the Circle. Stop by the Sebring Historical Society to learn about the local area or catch a play at the Highlands Little Theatre. Near the theatre, the Highlands Art League has art exhibitions and “Art Uncorked” classes, where you’ll complete an art project in one evening. Twelve miles west of the airport in Highlands Hammock State Park, you can cross cypress swamps on elevated boardwalks, and hike through forests of palms, pines, and old-growth hammock. Along the way, you might spot alligators, deer, barred owls, sandhill cranes, or pileated woodpeckers. Many of the Florida state park buildings and trails were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC); visit the CCC Museum in the park to learn more about this fabulous program.
On the south shore of beautiful Lake Jackson, Inn on the Lakes offers beautiful, modern guest rooms and fine dining at Chicanes. A hot breakfast is included with your stay. If you’re a golfer, take advantage of their golf packages—11 quality courses are nearby, and the inn’s golf experts will help you choose the right course for you.
In Avon Park, 10 miles north of downtown Sebring, you can stay at the Hotel Jacaranda, built in the 1920s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The restaurant’s buffets are popular, especially on Sundays from November through May when pianist Jeff Klein plays musical favorites and special requests. At the nearby South Florida State College, you can visit the Museum of Florida Art and Culture, open Wednesday through Friday afternoons, adjacent to the Theater for the Performing Arts.
Lake Placid, 15 miles south of the airport, was voted “America’s Most Interesting Town” by Reader’s Digest in 2013. Known as the Town of Murals, Lake Placid has 47 larger-than-life historic murals that form an outdoor art gallery. Shop for unique, locally created gifts and get a mural guide at the Caladium Arts and Crafts Co-op. You also can visit the Clown Museum and School, where over 2,500 clowns have graduated since 1993. Fly in for the expo in January; come back for the car racing in March!
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