6 Ways to Get Back to Nature in Orlando
Ah, Orlando! Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Sea World, Legoland. The Central Florida city bills itself as the theme park capital of the world and few can argue the claim. In fact, Orlando draws more than 72 million tourists each year. But the parks aren’t the only draw. Although glitzy parks may overshadow the area’s natural wonders, Orlando beckons nature lovers, too. The climate is perfect for outdoor lovers. That doesn’t mean we want to spend our time doing yard work, but rather enjoying what nature has to offer! Daytime high temperatures range from the 70s to 90s and overnight lows seldom dip below 50 degrees. Rain is common in the summer months, while the rest of the year is dry. Because of its interior location, Orlando is spared much of the impact of hurricanes that affect coastal Florida cities. Many of nature’s treasures are just a short drive from the gleaming towers of downtown Orlando. So, If you prefer to skip the thrills and chills, here are six ways to get back to nature in Orlando:
Wekiwa Springs State Park
Natural springs feed into the Wekiwa River and keep the water temperature at a constant 72 degrees. That makes it a mecca for canoeing, tubing, or snorkeling. The park has a nature center where you can get up close and personal with gators and snakes — without getting too close and personal. Hikers can explore miles of trails, ranging from 0.8 to 13.5 miles in length. Plan to go early on weekends and holidays: The park is limited to 250 cars, and once it’s full, someone has to leave before another car can go in.
Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail
Orlando is located in wetlands, so it naturally attracts waterfowl. From herons and egrets to spoonbills and owls, the area is a birder’s heaven. The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is a statewide, 2,000-mile collection of birdwatching stops. Seventeen of those locations are in and around Orlando. You might even see a cockaded woodpecker!
Blue Spring State Park
This park, a 33-mile drive north of Orlando, offers all the amenities for camping, swimming, fishing, hiking and picnicking. The lake also maintains a constant 72-degree water temperature. Certified scuba divers will love some of the deep spots. The park’s most celebrated attraction is the annual migration of the manatees in the winter. But beware — alligators like to prowl the waters, too.
West Orange Trail
A favorite of bikers and hikers, this paved multiuse trail runs 21 miles to Lake Apopka, west of downtown Orlando. The trail passes through a variety of terrains and is dotted with parks and restaurants. One rest stop is a playground for children. Casual hikers, as well as marathon runners, can enjoy this tree-shaded jaunt.
The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve
This 12,000-acre space was set aside to restore and preserve the native wetland and is a favorite of hikers who like variety on their trails. From spacious savannahs to a cypress-lined pond, the scenery is dazzling. The area includes 3,500 acres of restored wetlands, and is home to more than 1,000 species of plants and animals. You might even see a bald eagle circling in the sky!
Orlando Nature on the Move
Foot power is not the only way to explore Orlando’s wealth of nature. A number of outfits offer ecotourism tours, sometimes known as swamp rides. Others feature off- roading and hang gliding. The Brevard Zoo is the only zoo in the country that offers animal watching via kayaks. And you can even ride a zipline over alligator-infested waters (Pro tip: Don’t let go). Orlando doesn’t have to be an either-or vacation. You can spend time in the theme parks and reserve some hours for communing with nature.
With all these exciting methods of getting back in touch with nature, it’s no wonder Orlando has become such a famous gettaway. Follow Lawnstarter along in their journey of becoming the number one source for lawns in this and is expected to continue to grow in the next few years. Don’t get left behind – plan your trip to Orlando today to experience where the magic truly happens.
Karen Squire is a freelance journalist and photographer who enjoys traveling. When she’s not taking pictures of her kids, you’ll find her photographing wildlife and national monuments around the country.
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