Orlando, FL

If You Love the Outdoors, Here Are Places to Visit in Orlando, Florida

Caroline de Braganza

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(Image by Ralf Gruber from Pixabay)

Orlando is the top Spring Break destination in Florida.

Although Easter is behind us, spring break continues to 21 April for most colleges and universities, so there’s plenty of time left to enjoy the Florida sunshine.

Even if your recess was cancelled this year and you need to attend scheduled classes, you can still can work from wherever you are. This allows you the attend your virtual classes yet fit in relaxing activities to recharge and maintain your mental alertness.

Parents with school-age children who are working from home can also enjoy a welcome break in a unique environment but continue to keep up with their workload. Family time is so important, but often tempers fray when you’re all confined to the same four walls. Combining work and play in a new setting is an ideal way to reconnect and create fresh memories together.

Orlando is the perfect location. There’s so much to enjoy in the city, with plenty more within an hour’s drive.

“There is so much more to Orlando than the theme parks,” says local resident Kimberly Dale.

She’s right.

Florida is home to 30,000 lakes that span over three million acres

These three are within easy reach from Orlando.

1) Lake Apopka lies about 24 miles northwest of Orlando and is one of the largest in the state, an area of 30,000 acres fed by the St. John’s River. Popular with photographers and nature lovers, the Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive allows you to tour the area in your car—a journey of about two hours. Many happy memories to take home with you.

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(Lake Apopka North Shore licensed under Wikimedia Commons)

2) Winter Park is a charming city only a 20-minute drive away from downtown Orlando and a favourite destination of Orlando locals. You would need at least a weekend or full week to enjoy all this quaint town offers. The epicenter is Park Avenue, a tree-lined, cobblestoned street bursting with acclaimed eateries, museums and some of the Orlando area's best shopping.

But if you’re short on time, why not take the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour through Winter Lake, a chain of 12 lakes which includes 2,781 acres of pristine waterways—a three-hour round trip, that leaves every hour from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. You can book here.

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(Screenshot Winter Lake Boat Tour from The Tourist Trap on YouTube)

3) Lake Eola Park is in the heart of downtown Orlando and has been a city fixture for almost 150 years. The sidewalk circling the lake is 0.9 miles, making it easy for visitors to keep track of their walking or running distances.

Visitors can rent swan-shaped paddle boats which hold up to five people, feed the swans and other birds inhabiting the park, grab a meal at Relax Grill on Lake Eola or relax in the park among the flowers and trees, against the backdrop of Orlando’s spectacular skyline.

The Orlando Farmers Market operates at Lake Eola every Sunday from 10.00 am to 3 pm—catch it if you can!

Travel north to make your own pancakes

The De Leon Springs State Park is about an hour’s drive north of Orlando.

Local resident Mary Holloway recommends “going to Sugar Mill for pancakes.”

The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Grill and Griddle House, in the De Leon Springs State Park, has been in business for over 50 years. Diners love it because there are griddles at every table where the entire family can make their own pancakes. They bring you the pitcher of batter and you cook your own!

You can also rent a canoe, kayak or paddleboat from here for the entire day. Check their website for fees and directions on how to get there.

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(De Leon Springs State Park licensed under Wikimedia Commons)

Explore Mount Dora

If Lake Apopka is on your itinerary, why not aim a little further north to this vibrant town, named by the Smithsonian Magazine as one of America’s best small towns? Or just go there anyway!

“There are beautiful lakes, boat rides, and great little restaurants and shopping in the downtown area,” says local Chantal Hauser.

This is a popular destination for Orlando residents—just a 39-minute drive from the central business district. Mt Dora hostsmany festivals throughout the year, hence their nickname of The Festival City, and hold an open-air farmer’s market every Sunday.

Check their website for details on events and places to go.

Your final stop - Gatorland

If you’re visiting from another state, you can’t leave Florida without gazing at real alligators, a 25-minute drive south from downtown Orlando.

This 110-acre park has been around since 1949—not to be missed. With alligators, I prefer to keep my distance, but here you can get up close and personal in a safe environment. If you’re visiting as a family, many parts of the park are kid-friendly, but there are activities which may not be suitable for young children.

But still—lots of excitement for all the family.

(Gatorland is running a half-off single day admission promotion for Florida residents through 30 April 2021. Unfortunately, you can’t book tickets online as you need to show proof of residence.)

You can always visit Orlando another time to create more memories

This list doesn’t include all the places you can go because there is so much to do in and around the city, it would fill volumes.

I hope this helps to plan your break and make the most of your time away with family and friends.

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

And in the meantime:

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