From polo to pool, bourbon fest to nature observatory, the best things to to in Wellington

Though it may not have the immediate proximity to the beach that some other Palm Beach County municipalities can boast, Wellington has more than it's share of fun things to do.

If you love horses, this might be one of the best spots in the state and, in fact, it is actually known as the "winter equestrian capital of the world." From all variety of polo matches to the celebrated Winter Equestrian Festival, this community has definitely got you covered.

The village also hosts two multi-day food events each year in addition to a wildly popular green market during the fall/winter season.

Finally, if you're feeling the call of the wild, there's an environmental preserve and one of the top safari parks in the country just a few miles away.

Here are 12 fun things to do in Wellington:

1. Spend a day at the National Polo Center

The National Polo Center is home to eight fields, a stadium, restaurants, social club and more. The center enables the United States Polo Association to showcase tournaments and also help develop American players. Some of the larger tournaments include the U.S. Open Polo Championship, the National President's Cup and the NPC 16-Goal Championships. The center has been a draw for the royal family, from King Charles to Prince Harry. It is also a popular venue for weddings, engagement parties and corporate events.

Information: 3667 120th Ave. S., Wellington. nationalpolocenter.com

2. Check out the Winter Equestrian Festival and thousands of horses

Held at the Wellington International equestrian center, the 2024 event ran from Jan. 3 to March 31 and featured over 7,000 horses. Brought in from around the world, these powerful and majestic creatures competed in multiple events and shows for millions of dollars in prize money. The festival regularly brings in celebrity riders like Georgina Bloomberg, Eve Jobs, Jennifer Gates and Jessica Springsteen. Time to mark your calendar for 2025.

Information: 3400 Equestrian Club Drive, Wellington. wellingtoninternational.com

3. Get wet and wild at the Wellington Aquatics Complex

Their state of the art Olympic size pool is designed to meet competitive standards and features electronic touch pads connecting to a scoreboard. Though complex offers lots of great ways to get in shape, including lap swimming, swim clubs, swim meets and water aerobics, it is also designed for fun with two massive slides, diving boards, a sprayground, baby pool area and more. Want a have a party at the facility? You can do that to.

Information: 12072 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington. wellingtonfl.gov

4. Celebrate the holidays at Winterfest

Winterfest 2023 will be held Friday, Dec. 8 at the Wellington Amphitheater and will feature "Vanilla Ice," food vendors, shopping, beverages and more.
Winterfest 2023 will be held Friday, Dec. 8 at the Wellington Amphitheater and will feature "Vanilla Ice," food vendors, shopping, beverages and more.

Hosted by the Greater Wellington Chamber of Commerce and held at the Wellington Amphitheater, this annual event features rides, musical and dance performances, food vendors, a lounge for adults, a visit with Santa and has been hosted for several years by Wellington resident, music icon, philanthropist and actor Vanilla Ice.

Information: 12100 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington. wellingtonchamber.com/events/winterfest

5. In winter, check out the evening market at Wellington Town Center

Enjoy shopping and beautiful sunsets at the Lakeside Market at Wellington Town Center this season.
Enjoy shopping and beautiful sunsets at the Lakeside Market at Wellington Town Center this season.

The Lakeside Market is held on Friday nights, instead of the usual weekend mornings like so many others, patrons can enjoy a casual, laid-back, family-friendly (and dog friendly) environment with artisan and prepared foods, arts, crafts, beverages, entertainment, and stellar sunsets. The market is great place to unwind, socialize, and get an early start on the weekend. Though there is parking onsite, residents living on the lake are welcomed, even encouraged, to arrive by boat. The 2023-24 season ran from Sept. through February.

Information: 12150 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington. wellingtonlakesidemarket.com

6. Bacon & Bourbon Festival

The annual Wellington Bacon & Bourbon Festival celebrates the finest of cured meats, capable of breaking vegetarians and vegans in seconds, and one of the greatest liquors.
The annual Wellington Bacon & Bourbon Festival celebrates the finest of cured meats, capable of breaking vegetarians and vegans in seconds, and one of the greatest liquors.

Featuring prime examples of the most perfect food and beverage ever created, this March festival is packed with both. From every form or bacon and bacon-infused culinary delight to dozens of different bourbons to sample, along with seminars and live music, this is an event not to be missed.

Information: 12150 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington. baconbourbonfest.com

7. The pungent, powerful, wonderful South Florida Garlic Festival

Tia Moraes, mugs for a photo with Little Garlic, aka. Antonio Micalizzi, 13, and Mr. Garlic aka Johnny Macrey, 38, during the twenty fifth annual South Florida Garlic Festival, February 03, 2024, in Wellington. The festival on its fourth year in Wellington is presenting over 140 vendors, 160 feet of food, and organizers welcomed back Garlic Ice Cream from New York and Flaming Garlic Shrimp from South Carolina. Weather permitting organizers expect close to 15,000 visitors for the two day fundraising event for nine small non profits from Palm Beach County.

Known as the "Best Stinkin' Party" in South Florida, this event has been going for a quarter of a century. Marking 25 years in 2024, this festival honors the perfectly pungent bulb with every garlic dish you could dream up from simple like a garlic bomb burger to the less conventional like garlic funnel cake strips or even garlic ice cream. In addition, this February festival features multiple top-notch live music acts each year.

Information: Village of Wellington Town Center & Amphitheater, 12100 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington. garlicfestfl.com

8. Find your inner Tarzan or Jane at Lion Country Safari

Let's just say Lion Country Safari is Wellington-adjacent, or just down the road. But the park that actually sits in Loxahatchees is worth the trip. Once again named one of the top 10 safari parks in the country, Lion Country Safari is home to over 1,000 animals roaming wide open, natural habitats in large herds, prides and troops. These include alpacas, Brazilian tapirs, greater kudus, impalas, ostriches, gemsbok, wildebeest, Asiatic water buffaloes, African lions, common elands, impalas, giraffes, zebras, southern white rhinoceros and many more. Opened in 1967 and situated on 600 acres, this is not one to miss.

Information: 2003 Lion Country Safari Road, Loxahatchee. lioncountrysafari.com

More: How great is Lion Country Safari? Zoo made this USA top 10 list for the seventh time!

9. See exotic animals up close at the Wellington Conservation Center

Caring for all unwanted and abandoned animals along with orphaned birds and mammals, they also specialize in the conservation of exotic animals under the threat of habitat loss and poaching. They feature tours guided by knowledgeable staff and offer unique interactions with exotic animals. Appointments required.

Information: 14990 Palm Beach Point Blvd., Wellington. wellingtonconservationcenter.org

10. Get a view from above at Wellington Environmental Preserve

The Wellington Environmental Preserve at 3491 Flying Cow Ranch Road reopened Wednesday after being closed due to the coronavirus outbreak April 29, 2020.  [ALLEN EYESTONE/palmbeachpost.com]
The Wellington Environmental Preserve at 3491 Flying Cow Ranch Road reopened Wednesday after being closed due to the coronavirus outbreak April 29, 2020. [ALLEN EYESTONE/palmbeachpost.com]

This preserve at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Everglades Habitat is a 365-acre rainwater storage area with nature trails and learning centers. It features interior uplands and native landscaping that provide an exhibition of natural Florida from the paved pedestrian path and boardwalk to seven designated learning areas. There is a six story observation tower located at two of these areas. The preserve also includes a 3.6 mile perimeter equestrian trail that is an extension of the approximately 65-mile Wellington bridle trail system. The Preserve was named the 2010 “Project of the Year” by the Palm Beach County Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Information: 3491 Flying Cow Ranch Road, Wellington. wellingtonfl.gov/Facilities

11. Shop 'til you drop at The Mall at Wellington Green

Kaitlyn Tama and Kim Jioia, both from Wellington, watch fireworks viewed from the Mall at Wellington Green July 4, 2020 in Wellington.
Kaitlyn Tama and Kim Jioia, both from Wellington, watch fireworks viewed from the Mall at Wellington Green July 4, 2020 in Wellington.

When you need to beat the summer heat, head to this double decker mall. It is a shopper's paradise and includes stores like Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Apple, Champs, Foot Locker, Gamestop, Hollister, Hot Topic and more. There are also plenty of places to grab a bite like Chick-Fil-A, California Pizza Kitchen, Cinnabon and The Madre's Mexican Fresh. In addition, the mall hosts regular events like Zumba with Jaime, fashion shows and more.

Information: 10300 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington. shopwellingtongreen.com

12. Swank Farmers Market

Swank Farmers Market is typically open from October to May and features their own fantastic produce along with goods from dozens of other vendors.
Swank Farmers Market is typically open from October to May and features their own fantastic produce along with goods from dozens of other vendors.

Running October through May each season, this Loxahatchee Groves market features live music and a variety of exceptional goods from over two dozen vendors. Shop under their 8,500 square-foot, open-air pole barn and stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables, savor a breakfast sandwich, or enjoy fresh coffee and a pastry. A few of their vendors include: Caribbean Plants and Produce, Paulie’s Pasta, Trinity Ranch Custom Beef, Gratitude Garden Farms, Dirty Bird Hot Sauce, Parce Cofee Roasters, Alonso Apiaries, Pork-etta, Palm Beach Plant Depot and Little Jon's Breakfast Sandwiches.

Lifestyle and food star Martha Stewart shares a snapshot with farmers Darrin and Jodi Swank at their Swank Farm in Loxahatchee Groves in December 2023.
Lifestyle and food star Martha Stewart shares a snapshot with farmers Darrin and Jodi Swank at their Swank Farm in Loxahatchee Groves in December 2023.

Information: 14311 North Road, Loxahatchee Groves. swankspecialtyproduce.com

Eddie Ritz is a journalist at The Palm Beach Post, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach him at eritz@pbpost.com. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Must-to checklist for Wellington, home of multiple festivals and fun