Explore Top Orlando Outdoors!!
Orlando is much more than theme parks these days! Explore the Orlando outdoors, and you will find that it offers an abundance of natural beauty, outdoor activities that will chill you out, or get the adrenaline pumping, unusual wildlife, and lots of ways to explore. Hike, bike, kayak, paddleboard, or hang glide. There's plenty for even the most active person to take part in. And if you're looking for a more passive experience, stroll some of our beautiful gardens, take a serene paddleboat ride across Lake Eola, or sit back and enjoy a scenic boat tour of Winter Park.
Ecotourism is popular in the Orlando and Central Florida area and offers the perfect balance to the excitement and innovation of the best theme parks in the world. Ecotours can take you paddling through natural springs, hang-gliding over the orange groves, or birding in nature with the best of them.
Orlando and the surrounding area are so rich in opportunities to enjoy nature, challenge yourself and learn new things that we've picked some of our favorites to get you started. Beware! You'll never be able to do all of your favorite outdoor activities in Orlando in one trip. Read on for a look at some of the best secrets to explore and enjoy the great Orlando outdoors.
Don't rule out theme parks.
Many of the Disney attractions are, of course, outside. But for this article that celebrates the great Orlando outdoors, we are calling out only one park.
- Disney's Animal Kingdom is the biggest and most lush of the Disney parks. If you can't resist getting your Disney fix, this is a great place to start. The park is full of vegetation and natural wonders, and wildlife. Be sure you take a walk through Maharajah Jungle Trek, where you'll follow a mystical trail over footbridges, into lush jungles, and past cascading waterfalls in a verdant tropical paradise where over 50 species of birds soar. Keep your eyes peeled for Malayan flying fox, water buffalo, the Komodo dragon, and the graceful Asian tigers. And don't miss the Gorilla Falls Exploration Trail nearby, where you'll see more African animals along your nearly half-mile trek.
- Waterparks Rule! One of the best ways to beat the heat and enjoy the Florida tropics is with a visit to one of the top waterparks in Orlando. Universal's Volcano Bay is a "day at the beach" with plenty of excitement to go along. Disney has Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach, two great themed aquatic adventures. SeaWorld and Discovery Cove both bring plenty of water adventures and marine animal encounters. Read about our Best Water Parks in Orlando here.
Get Active - Kayaking, offroading, airboats, and more
When you're ready to leave the parks behind, you are in the right place. Adventure awaits in Orlando and the surrounding area. Pick your adventure and get out and explore what the Orlando outdoors had to offer. If you are in the mood for some active experiences, we'll start with some of the top attractions, parks, and activities in the area.
- Buena Vista WaterSports at Paradise Cove is located on Lake Bryan, just five minutes from Walt Disney World. This is an excellent destination for families, couples, or even singles, and you can pick your level of activity. Sit back on the quiet beach area and get your zen on, or play some beach volleyball. The more active people will want to rent a jet ski, kayak, or paddleboard. Take a wakeboard and waterski lesson from a professional instructor. Or rent a pontoon boat and head out for a picnic and scenic ride. There are plenty of options at this oasis.
- Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park is meant for you if you are looking for big thrills and a challenge. This progressively challenging aerial obstacle course is set high atop the trees in Kissimmee, just beyond the attractions. It is a 15-acre park offering a ropes course and zip lining for adults. They have a giant 425-foot zip line, 97 incredible aerial challenges, and two kids courses featuring 21 challenges. Swing on Tarzan ropes, climb ladders 50-feet up, leap into hanging nets, cross wobbly suspended bridges, and soar through the trees on a giant zip line. For a real challenge, check it out at night!
- Wekiva Island is located a short 20-minute drive from Orlando. It is a gorgeous park that features a fresh spring, and nature abounds here. The shady tropical hammocks and exotic wildlife are welcoming and breathtaking. Sightsee, trek, kayak, canoe, bike, fish, snorkel, paddle, or hike at this oasis away from the city. Relax along the river or pull up to the outdoor bar and listen to some live music. This is an excellent old-fashioned Florida swimming hole. Rent a cabana at the park for a more private experience but reserve that in advance - they book up quickly.
- West Orange Trail is a 22-mile multi-use trail in Orange County that runs through downtown Oakland, Winter Garden, and Apopka and is built mainly on old railroad alignments. The trails rank from easy to moderate in difficulty and are used for cycling, walking, hiking, jogging, skateboarding, and inline skating. Start at Killarney Station and bicycle into downtown Winter Garden for a stop at Plant Street Market, or start at Chapin station and bike to the Buddhist Temple at the Apopka Vineland Road outpost.
- Blue Spring State Park is located in Northern Central Florida and is famous for their annual visits from the manatees every summer. The manatees move back to the coastal waters in the spring, but it is still worth a visit for our water babies. The spring water is crystal clear, and you'll be surrounded by nature.
- Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures is located near Disney World. Their six-seater airboats will zip you across the waters of the Everglades as you explore the tropical landscapes. Check out the night bioluminescence tours and see the Everglades glow in the dark.
- Paddleboard Orlando has everything you need to see Orlando from the water's perspective. They are great with first-time stand-up paddleboarders (SUP) and offer beginner lessons and peaceful excursions on various Orlando lakes and canals. Consider a manatee or moonlight paddle or even group or private lessons. This is a great way to explore the wonderful flora and fauna of Florida.
Unique and fun stuff
- Outdoor movies are a special Florida treat. Orlando offers several locations. Relax with your friends or family on a blanket under the stars, or bring your favorite chairs. Be sure to get there early to grab your spot and get settled. Try out Winter Park Popcorn Flicks on the second Thursday of the month. Outdoor Movie Date Night at Leu Gardens is great for adults and kids. Dr. Phillips Center Frontyard Festival in downtown Orlando is another favorite. Let's go to the movies!!
- Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour is one of the longest-running attractions in the area. You'll sit back and relax on an 18-passenger pontoon boat on the Winter Park Chain of Lakes through picturesque canals that connect the lakes. Tours depart every hour, and this is best enjoyed in the cooler months.
Enjoy the Wildlife
- Lake Apopka is a popular haven for birds and birdwatchers. It is a magnet for migrating and nesting birds, and more than 360 species, including bald eagles, great blue herons, and snowy egrets, have been photographed and identified there. The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is another favorite viewing site. Arrange a guided bird-watching tour with a local expert. For a guided bird-watching tour with a local expert, Central Florida Nature Adventures offers expeditions near the Orlando area.
- Giraffe Ranch, located an hour outside of Orlando, is a great place to interact with the world's tallest animals. You'll feed them and stroll along an African grassland while enjoying the majesty of huge oak trees and lush grasslands. It sounds like a great selfie moment to us!
Savor the natural beauty of the Orlando outdoors
- Bok Tower Gardens is located in beautiful Lake Wales and is one of Florida's oldest and most beautiful attractions. Visit Bok Tower to enjoy their amazing gardens, especially in the spring when the azaleas are in bloom. The carillon bells in the Singing Tower chime pleasant music throughout the day. Picnic and enjoy a bottle of wine on the grounds or try out their cafe.
- Leu Gardens can be just what the doctor ordered when you're ready to escape the crowds, kick back and marvel at what nature can do. This 50-acre botanical garden is just minutes outside of Orlando. Visit the Arid Garden, Aroid Collection, Azalea Collection Bromeliad Collection, Butterfly Garden, and much more. Each of their gardens is designed to help inspire visitors to appreciate and understand plants. Enjoy the gardens and the historic home that is the centerpiece. Check out the tropical rainforest, huge rose garden, and butterfly enclosure. You'll discover palms, cycads, and many flowering trees, as well as beautiful roses and the canopy of oak trees, elms, and camphor trees. Use your phone QR code to learn more about many of the plants and trees.
Regardless of the season, Orlando offers endless adventures and opportunities for visitors who want to experience the area beyond the theme parks. The outdoor activities in Orlando are a chance to spend some time with Mother Nature, challenge yourself, and get to know the great Orlando Outdoors. When planning your trip, follow out tips on The Best Time to Visit Florida.
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