Adventure Beyond the Theme Parks in Orlando
Orlando, Florida, offers more theme park adventure than any other city in the world. "Kids of all ages" can immerse themselves in the magic, excitement, innovation, and thrills of the theme park world of Orlando. The destination is "family-forward," but excitement and fun await all visitors of any age. Teens, tweens, boomers, honeymooners, seniors, and multi-generation families will all find the perfect vacation in Orlando. The secret is always deciding what to do first! Like any good vacation, planning and research are the keys to enjoying the ideal holiday for you.
Orlando’s main theme parks are, of course, a major focus for many visitors. But there are plenty of other fantastic parks in Orlando. Awesome aquatic fun awaits in the region’s many water parks. Loaded with unique themed slides, lazy rivers, gorgeous pools, and tropical islands, the water parks are the perfect place to cool off from the Florida heat or amp up the thrills with wet and wild thrill rides.
Beyond the theme parks and water parks, Orlando also offers amazing nature parks full of cool springs, majestic trees, cypress wetlands, and a lot more of natural Florida. No wonder so many visitors choose Orlando as the perfect place to discover all Florida has to offer. Read on to check out our list of the top theme, water, and nature parks in Orlando.
Theme Parks and Water Parks
Millions of visitors are drawn to Orlando annually to experience the magic of the best theme parks in the world. Walt Disney World offers the diversity and excitement of Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, and the water parks, Disney's Blizzard Beach, and Disney's Typhoon Lagoon. They all bring limitless imagination and innovation, memory-making thrills and chills, and plenty of great dining and shopping.
Universal Orlando, Florida, brings even more excitement and innovation. Both Universal theme parks, Universal Islands of Adventure, and Universal Studios Hollywood bring flawless theming, some of the most thrilling rides in the world, and days of fun for all ages. Volcano Bay, their water theme park, lets you experience the cool, carefree island life and thrilling rides made for only the bravest.
SeaWorld Orlando is an aquatic wonderland offering exciting roller coasters, up-close animal encounters, and lots more. Enjoy the wave pools, thrilling slides, and fun play areas for the little ones.
Nature Parks -Beyond The Theme Park World of Orlando
Florida’s rich ecosystem offers a geographical variety that is unmatched. And that diversity provides endless options for outdoor fun and adventure. In Orlando and the surrounding area, options range from sunbathing at the beach to hiking through botanical gardens to kayaking through the mangroves—and you can do all of that in just one day. Whether you prefer to hike, bike, paddle, or swim, you’ll find plenty of ways to get out and explore nature in Orlando—here are a few of our favorite spots.
Blue Springs State Park - Head just north of Orlando to explore this popular natural spring famous for the manatees that flock here in spring. They gather in large numbers from November to March because of the spring's temperature. This is an excellent park for swimming, snorkeling, diving, and canoeing.
Kelly Park at Rock Spring - Located just 40 minutes from the theme parks, Kelly Park is an excellent place for picnics, camping, and enjoying the springs. The park’s natural lazy river ride, Rock Spring Run, is a 68-degree spring that’s perfect for swimming, tubing, and kayaking. Get there early to claim your swimming hole!
Wekiwa Springs State Park - Only 20 minutes north of Orlando, Wekiwa Springs is a 7,000-acre ecological preserve that offers plenty of recreational opportunities. Try swimming in the cool springs, enjoy kayak rentals, and explore 25 miles of hiking trails through the dense tropical forest. Wekiwa Island, located on the river, offers a party-like vibe with canoes, kayaks, paddleboat rentals, a boat launch, and a food truck serving beer and wine.
Ocala National Forest - Ocala National Forest is the most southern forest in the United States and comprises 673 square miles of pine scrub. Explore three natural springs for crystal-clear swimming and snorkeling. Then, head to Alexander Springs for a full day at a natural water park.
Leu Gardens - A 50-acre botanical garden full of blooming flowers, tropical plants, scenic vistas, and easy walking trails, Henry P. Leu Gardens is an idyllic oasis in the heart of Orlando, just 30 minutes from the theme parks. The manicured garden winds through various tropical environments like bamboos, palms, roses, and a butterfly garden, and you can sometimes spot wildlife, such as otters, at play. This is a relaxing and beautiful spot, and it's an excellent place for a romantic stroll in the early evening.
Tibet-Butler Preserve - If you're looking for just a short visit with nature, head to Tibet-Butler, conveniently located just 15 minutes from the Magic Kingdom. One of the most popular parks in Orlando, the preserve features 3.5 miles of trails and boardwalks that pass through marshes, cypress swamps, and scrub. Wildlife sightings are fairly common and include deer, eagles, and gopher tortoises.
Bok Tower Gardens - Situated just outside of Orlando, in Lake Wales, Bok Tower Gardens is popular for bird-watching and sunset strolls. The main attraction, however, is Bok Tower, a 60-bell carillon that serenades visitors daily at 1 pm and 3 pm.
Kraft Azalea Garden - Giant Cypress trees shade the mossy grounds of this lakeside park in upscale and quaint Winter Park. The view overlooking Lake Maitland is extraordinary.
Moss Park - This verdant gem is tucked away just south of the Orlando International Airport. Spread across 1,500 acres, the park is a true oasis with plenty of campsites shaded by leafy oaks. Friendly deer roam and are, unfortunately, used to getting handouts from campers. The park is home to raccoons as well, which can be a nuisance if you don’t secure your food and garbage.
Lake Louisa State Park - This lesser-known state park is just down the road from Walt Disney World. Filled with rolling hills of refreshing pine forests, the park doesn’t feel anything like Florida. Locals come here to hike, bike, and camp beyond the sound of the highways. There is also fishing, canoeing, and paddle-boarding in the park’s three lakes. If you camp overnight, keep an eye out at dawn for white-tail deer and the Florida bobcat.
Canaveral National Seashore - This is the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on Florida's East coast and is well worth a visit. A pristine barrier island, the park is a sanctuary for countless plant and animal species, including protected wildlife such as sea turtles that nest here. Numerous trails wind through the coastal hammock providing wonderful day hikes. Campsites are available for those who want to stay overnight and wake up to the sounds of the ocean.
Big Tree Park - Home to the Redwoods of the South (magnificent Bald Cypress trees), Big Tree Park is a lush sanctuary just off General Hutchison Parkway, which also serves as the trailhead for the Cross-Seminole trail. The park was once home to "The Senator," one of the largest and oldest known Bald Cypress trees at approximately 3,500 years old. Unfortunately, it was tragically lost to fire in 2012, but its sister tree, “Lady Liberty" looks excellent at 2,000 years young.
Lake Eola Park - Perhaps the closest and most accessible of the nature parks in Orlando, Lake Eola Park is located right Downtown and includes a beautiful lake with gorgeous sidewalks and trails. Watch the swans, hop on a swan boat ride, or find a shady spot for a picnic. This is the perfect place to take a break from the noise and commotion of the theme parks and have a welcome retreat to nature without traveling out of town.
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