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click to enlarge Juniper Springs

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Juniper Springs

Sports & Recreation Listings 

2020 is definitely the year to focus on the recreation half of the "Sports & Rec" duo. As we go to press, the MLS and NBA are both playing games in their respective bubbles right here in Orlando, but past that, absolutely nothing is guaranteed as far as seasons and play for the rest of the year. But just because professional and student athletes might not be able to go for the gold, nothing is stopping you. There is an absolute bounty of parks, bike and hiking trails, and springs for you to explore, get some exercise on, and forget how garbage 2020 is in a rush of endorphins and/or cool spring water. Fresh air and wide open spaces are this year's MVPs, so get in on that action.

LOCAL TEAMS

Orlando City Soccer Club

Major League Soccer

orlandocitysc.com

Orlando Magic

NBA basketball

orlandomagic.com

Orlando Pride Soccer Club

National Women's Soccer League

orlandocitysc.com

Orlando Roller Derby

WFTDA Roller Derby

orlandorollerderby.com

Orlando Solar Bears

East Coast Hockey League

orlandosolarbearshockey.com

UCF Knights

NCAA Football

ucfathletics.com

click to enlarge Tosohatchee wildflowers - PHOTO BY ASHLEY BELANGER
  • Photo by Ashley Belanger
  • Tosohatchee wildflowers

PARKS

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.

Bill Frederick Park

3401 S. Hiawassee Road, orlando.gov

The biggest park in Metrowest covers 183 acres situated around Turkey Lake, one of the most popular fishing lakes in the area. The park offers canoeing, kayaking, nature trails, volleyball courts and other amenities and diversions.

Blue Jacket Park

2501 General Rees Ave., orlando.gov

Blue Jacket Park was once the Orlando Naval Training Center, the home of service personnel known as "Blue Jackets." Today, its 75 acres have been designated as a historic site that's popular for hosting baseball, soccer and softball, and events like weddings.

Central Park

251 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, cityofwinterpark.org

You're smack-dab in the middle of Winter Park's downtown shopping district and you want to experience a little greenery and nature, so you cross the street and are immediately surrounded by fountains, landscaped plants and the oak tree canopies of Central Park's 11 acres.

Dickson Azalea Park

100 Rosearden Drive, orlando.gov

Along with neighboring Langford Park, Dickson Azalea provides a shaded oasis just outside of downtown. WPA-era bridges, pavilions and walkways crawl around and over the stream that trickles through the leafy park.

Greenwood Urban Wetlands

1411 Greenwood St., orlando.gov

Surrounded by beautiful cypress trees, with leaves that blend lively shades of orange and yellow during Florida's short-lived autumn, Greenwood Urban Wetlands' 19 acres is a sight to be seen any time of the year. And these wetlands adjoin Greenwood Cemetery, a can't-miss piece of old Orlando.

Lake Eola Park

512 E. Washington St.,  orlando.gov

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

Lake Lily Park

701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland, itsmymaitland.org

Popular among dog walkers and birders, this picturesque, pocket-size park is located in the heart of Maitland, surrounded by some of the city's gorgeous historical buildings.

Harry P. Leu Gardens

1920 N. Forest Ave., leugardens.org

These historic 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.

Mead Botanical Garden

1300 S. Denning Drive, Winter Park, meadgarden.org

A garden oasis with bike paths and a picnic area bursting with natural fauna and wildlife. Take a hike near forested wetlands, and if you're quiet enough, hear the hawks and wading birds.

Orlando Wetlands Park

25155 Wheeler Road, Christmas, orlando.gov

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.

Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area

3365 Taylor Creek Road, Christmas, myfwc.com

Head east on Colonial Drive until the road forks, then steer right to take State Road 520 until you see the small brown sign beckoning you to turn left and discover Tosohatchee WMA. It's off the beaten path, but its 60 miles of trails offer a rare solitude. Enjoy hiking the rugged Florida landscapes – quaint ponds, open fields of wildflowers, canopies of hanging moss – populated in the early morning hours by wild turkeys, deer and more birds than Audubon Park documents on its street signs.

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.

Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park

8300 W. State Road 46, Sanford, floridastateparks.org

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

Orlando Urban Trail

orlando.gov

The nearly 3-mile long trail near Downtown Orlando is a hidden pocket of peace and scenic quiet cutting through the heart of metro Orlando. This trail runs from Lake Highland through Loch Haven Park, all the way to Mead Botanical Garden in Winter Park.

West Orange Trail

501 Crown Point Cross Road, Winter Garden,

orangecountyfl.net

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.

SPRINGS

Blue Spring State Park

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

Volusia County's Blue Spring, the largest spring on the St. John's River, is notable both for the gorgeous spring run, but also the chance to have a close encounter with a manatee. The park is a designated manatee refuge (they're drawn to the temperate 70-degree waters) in the winter. Canoeing, camping, snorkeling and hiking are also favorite activities.

Juniper Springs State Park

Ocala National Forest, Florida 40, Silver Springs, fs.usda.gov

Juniper Springs is a bit of a drive – OK, it's an hour and a half away – but oh, so worth it. From tiny bubbling springs to massive ones gushing out of crevices in the earth, you will get your fill of water – all of it under a canopy of palms and oaks. The swimming area, campground and trails were built in the '30s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of the Depression-era New Deal that put millions to work (sounds like a good idea whose time has come again!).

Wekiwa Springs State Park

1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka,

floridastateparks.org

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, and when the parking lot fills, the park entrance closes. So get there early.

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