23 easy ways to get outdoors in Orlando

23 easy ways to get outdoors in Orlando
Photo by Chris Tobar Rodriguez

Whether you’re the outdoorsy type, looking for the best boating, biking and hiking – or more of an armchair goalie type in search of the best local sports teams to cheer on – Central Florida has you covered.


Lake Eola Park

512 E. Washington St., cityoforlando.net/parks/lake-eola-park

The center of downtown Orlando life, Lake Eola Park hosts farmers markets, cultural fairs, entertainment, footraces and much more along with a .9-mile walkway that orbits the signature fountain in the middle of the lake.

Langford Park

1808 E. Central Blvd., cityoforlando.net/parks/langford-park-center

Along with neighboring Dickson Azalea Park, Langford Park provides a shaded oasis just outside of downtown. Plenty of bridges, pavilions and walkways sprawl throughout the park.

Barnett Park

4801 W. Colonial Drive, orangecountyfl.net

The crown jewel of Orange County's parks department can be overlooked because it can't be seen from Colonial Drive. But it boasts two disc golf courses, a BMX track, a fitness center, a dog park, golf areas, softball fields and more, making it an essential location for any outdoors enthusiasts.

Harry P. Leu Gardens

1920 N. Forest Ave., 407-246-2620, leugardens.org

These gardens, nestled in Audubon Park, boast a spectacular collection of native and exotic flora, including a rose garden, a butterfly garden and the largest documented camellia collection in Eastern North America.

Orlando Wetlands Park

25255 Wheeler Road, Christmas, 407-568-1706, cityoforlando.net/wetlands

With more than 20 miles of roads and trails threading through mostly undeveloped marshes, Orlando Wetlands Park is the place to go if you're in the mood to get in touch with nature. Wildlife sightings – including alligators and bears – aren't uncommon, to say nothing of the prime birdwatching.

Bill Frederick Park

3401 S. Hiawassee Road, 407-246-4486, cityoforlando.net/parks

The biggest park in Metrowest covers 183 acres situated around Turkey Lake, one of the most popular fishing lakes in Florida. The park offers canoeing, kayaking, nature trails, volleyball courts and other amenities, and is one of the only city parks where camping is allowed (with a permit, of course).

Biking and hiking

Cady Way Trail

Entrance is 1/4 mile north of State Route 50 on Herndon Avenue

This 6.5-mile paved path, popular with bicyclists and stroller-pushing moms alike, connects Orlando and Winter Park and the Cross Seminole Trail in Seminole County. The trail features water fountains, rest stops and mile markers, as well as a cool 685-foot-long suspension bridge that crosses Semoran Boulevard.

Econ Trail

Dean Road just north of State Road 50

This ever-expanding trail in East Orlando begins at Jay Blanchard Park and extends all the way to Alafaya Trail. It runs alongside the Little Econlockhatchee River, which offers pretty views and plenty of good spots to fish, canoe or just sit in the grass and enjoy a riverside picnic.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, 407-884-2008, floridastateparks.org/wekiwasprings

You can canoe or kayak here (rentals are available), but this park also has 13 miles of pristine, wooded hiking, biking and horseback-riding trails. This park is very popular, particularly in summer when visitors like to swim in the clear blue spring, and when the parking lot fills, the park entrance closes. So get there early.

Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park

8300 W. State Road 46, Sanford, 407-884-2008, floridastateparks.org/lowerwekiwariver

This section of the park has no amenities, but it does have 18 miles of multi-use trails you can hike or bike.

Rock Springs Run State Reserve

30601 County Road 433, Sorrento, 407-884-2008, floridastateparks.org/rockspringsrun

The park, located about 10 miles west of I-4 on County Road 433, is really just a giant swatch of underdeveloped land. It features 17 miles of multi-use trails.

West Orange Trail

501 Crown Point Cross Road, Winter Garden

This 22-mile trail stretches through Winter Garden, Apopka and Orlando. It's open to walkers and bikers, and some parts are open to horses, too. Four trailheads with parking are located at various points along the trail.

Canoeing and kayaking

Blue Spring State Park

2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, floridastateparks.org/bluespring

Covering more that 2,600 acres, Blue Spring State Park is a designated Manatee Refuge. It is an excellent place for a swim, paddling or a picnic. During manatee season, mid-November through March, the waterways are closed.

Bioluminescent Bay

Mosquito Lagoon, near Titusville

Florida's Indian River and Mosquito Lagoon come alive with bioluminescence from May through September. The luminescence is caused by dinoflagellates (tiny things you can't see), which glow neon-blue whenever the water is disturbed. Guides are recommended for this paddling adventure, but they are not necessary. Paddlers should begin their paddle at dusk.

Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge

Near Titusville, fws.gov/merrittisland

This refuge offers somewhat limited paddling opportunities since paddling is not permitted in refuge impoundments, but what is available can be spectacular. You might see manatees, scrub jays or an alligator if you're lucky.

Econlockhatchee River

Chuluota, dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/paddle.htm

The Econ can be easy or difficult, depending on the water levels (high in the summer, low in the spring). Paddlers can glimpse of a diverse array of wildlife along the 19-mile stretch.

Rock Springs Run – Wekiva River

Apopka-DeBary, dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/paddle.htm

Put in at King's Landing near Apopka, if you want to experience the entirety of this 27-mile respite from congestion and travel a designated wild and scenic river right in the heart of the Orlando metro area. Stop at Wekiwa Springs State Park on your way for a swim in the clear blue springs.

5Ks, marathons and fun runs

Tough Mudder

Oct. 28-29, 2017

Clear Springs Ranch, Ledley Ware Road, Bartow, toughmudder.com Hard-core obstacle race along a 10- to 12-mile-long course.

Color Vibe 5K

April 9, 2017

Florida Mall, 8001 Orange Blossom Trail, thecolorvibe.com Run/dance/walk your way through this 5K, in which runners are doused in colored powder at various stations on the course.

IOA Corporate 5K

April 13, 2017

Lake Eola, Central Boulevard and Eola Drive, corporate5k.com

Insurance Office of America sponsors this event in which businesses and nonprofits form teams, with more than 18,000 runners and walkers from 700 organizations participating.

Star Wars Half Marathon – The Dark Side

April 20-23, 2017

Walt Disney World Resort, rundisney.com

A Star Wars-themed weekend of running, with a 5K, 10K and half marathon under the stern supervision of Darth Vader and Imperial stormtroopers.

Disney Wine and Dine Half Marathon Weekend

Nov. 3-5, 2017

Walt Disney World Resort, rundisney.com

A series of races for runners of all ages, including a 10K through Epcot, and the Wine and Dine half-marathon, which concludes with a finish line party at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival.

Savage Race

Nov. 11-12, 2017

17951 Hamilton Road, Dade City, savagerace.com

This aggressive 6.5-mile race requires participants to conquer 25 insane obstacles with names like the Colon Blow and the Nutt Smasher.


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