Nature and 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.
Vistors often focus on the main theme parks and overlook the fantastic aquatic fun that awaits in the water parks. The water parks are the perfect place to cool off from the Florida heat or amp up the thrills with unique themed slides and coasters. Then, escape to a tropical island and all the water fun that goes with it.
You'll never run out of options for entertainment, dining, or shopping at the theme parks and water parks, but Orlando also offers amazing nature parks full of cool springs, majestic trees, cypress wetlands, and a lot more of natural Florida. Orlando is the perfect place to discover authentic Florida, something that will enrich and add memorable experiences to your Orlando vacation. Check out our list of the top theme 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.
There are millions of reasons that the theme park world of Orlando draws so many visitors and remains the number one reason many people visit Orlando. We have your Guide to all you need to know about theme parks.
Nature Parks -Beyond The Theme Park World of Orlando
Orlando and the surrounding area showcase Florida's outstanding and diverse flora and fauna and offer many exciting ways for visitors to be close to and explore nature. The ecosystem of Florida provides the ability to sunbathe at the beach, dive underwater caves, and navigate the mangroves all in one day. Hike, swim, paddleboard, or kayak your way through these unique natural spaces. Here are some favorite secret spots for your outdoor adventure. It's time you get to know authentic Florida beyond the theme park world.
Florida's rich ecosystem offers a geographical variety that is unmatched. Central Florida has it all, from the most fabulous restaurants to chirping birds, expansive tropical gardens, cool springs, and more. So whether you prefer to hike, bike, paddle, or swim, Florida has something for you.
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 - Kelly Park is an excellent place for picnics, camping, and enjoying the springs. Located just 40 minutes from the theme parks, you'll find Rock Spring Run, which is fabulous for swimming, tubing, and kayaking. Enjoy this natural lazy river ride in a 68-degree spring and take a cool, relaxing ride. Get there early to claim your swimming hole. You can visit the recreated Florida in Disney Springs or see and play in the real thing right here!
Wekiwa Springs State Park - Only 20 minutes north of Orlando, Wekiwa Springs is a 7000-acre ecological preserve that offers plenty of recreational opportunities. Try swimming in the cool springs, enjoy kayak rentals, and 25 miles of hiking trails through the dense tropical forest. In addition, the Wekiva River is designated as Wild and Scenic by the US Department of the Interior. 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 - Henry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando is just 30 minutes from the theme parks. It is a 50-acre botanical garden full of blooming flowers, tropical plants, scenic vistas, and easy walking trails. The manicured garden wind through various tropical environments like bamboos, palms, roses, and a butterfly garden. You may see wildlife at play, like otters playing in the lake. 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 not all in for a full day of nature, visit Tibet-Butler, which is just 15 minutes from the Magic Kingdom. One of the favorite parks in Orlando, Their trails and boardwalks pass through marshes, cypress swamps, and scrub, and you will spot wildlife like deer, eagles, and gopher tortoises. You'll find 3.5 miles of trails. A perfect day trip and afternoon escape.
Bok Tower Gardens - The bird-watchers will want to head to Bok Tower Gardens just outside of Orlando in Lake Wales. Explore breathtaking sunsets on the rolling landscape and don't miss the main attractions- Bok Tower, a 60-bell carillon that serenades visitors daily at 1 pm and 3 pm.
Kraft Azalea Garden - Upscale and quaint Winter Park never disappoints. Giant Cypress trees shade the mossy grounds of this lakeside park. Hint: This is an excellent place for weddings! The view overlooking Lake Maitland is extraordinary.
Moss Park - Another gem is tucked away just south of the Orlando International Airport. The 1,500-acre park is an oasis with plenty of shady campsites hidden by Live Oaks. Friendly deer roam and will be used to getting handouts from the campers, But beware of raccoons if you don't pick up after yourselves.
Lake Louisa State Park - This less-known state park is just down the road from Walt Disney World. It won't seem like you are in Florida with the rolling hills of refreshing pine forests. Hike, bike, and camp beyond the sound of the highways. Three lakes provide fishing, canoeing, and paddle-boarding. 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 visiting. It is a carrier island home to lots of protected wildlife such as sea turtles that nest here. You can camp where you'll wake up to the sounds of the ocean and hike the many trails that wind through the coastal hammock. Watch for fragments of native pottery that remain from the first inhabitants dating back to 2000 BC.
Big Tree Park - Big Tree is the trailhead of the Cross-Seminole trail and home to the Redwoods of the South, which are magnificent Bald Cypress trees. The park once was home to "The Senator," which was the biggest and oldest known Bald Cypress at 3,500 years. Unfortunately, it was tragically lost to an arsonist in 2012, but its sister tree, Lady Liberty" looks excellent at 2,000 years young.
Lake Eola Park - Lake Eola Park is perhaps the closest and most accessible nature parks in Orlando. It is located in Downtown Orlando and includes a beautiful lake with gorgeous sidewalks and trails circling the lake. 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.
Florida is rich in its fantastic flora and fauna and has many preserves, parks, and springs to welcome visitors and show her more natural side. Be sure to include at least some of the natural treasures that the Sunshine State has to offer and curate an amazing and rich visit to Orlando that will take you beyond the theme parks in Orlando and allow you to play in the great and diverse outdoors of Florida. Get out beyond the theme park world. Here are some other Outdoor Activities to Do In Orlando.
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