Lake Eola

Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola Park is one of the most iconic places to visit in Central Florida. With a .9-mile path that borders the pleasant waters of Lake Eola, the park is nothing short of spectacular and is a great place to enjoy a nice day outside. In the center of Lake Eola, the Linton E. Allen Memorial Fountain, which was built in 1957 and refurbished in 2011, is truly unique and is known as the official symbol of the City of Orlando.

Lake Eola Park is also home to majestic swans that love to be fed by park visitors, as well as ducks, coots and plenty of Florida wildlife. Lining the shores of Lake Eola are great restaurants and shops, like Relax Grill, an open air restaurant on the lake. On weekends, the Sunday morning farmers market is a local favorite and a great place to pick up fresh foods and produce. Frequently, concerts are held at the amphitheater, giving locals and visitors alike stunning views as they enjoy quality music.

Admission: Free

Hours: 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.

Location: 195 N Rosalind Ave, Orlando, FL 32801

Website: Lake Eola                     Phone: (407) 246-4485

The Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge

Home to Kennedy Space Center and thousands of Florida wildlife species, the Merritt Island Wildlife is an incredible example of the natural beauty Florida offers when untouched by mankind. Located on the barrier island separating the Atlantic Ocean from mainland Florida, the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is the perfect place to view wildlife, such as alligators (some of the biggest in Florida), various snakes, wild hogs, whitetail deer, redfish, hundreds of species birds and many endangered species. 

Want a guided tour? Head out for a Merritt Island Kayak Safari

The Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge has dozens of hiking and driving trails that are truly off the beaten path and allow you to view these majestic creatures in their natural habitat. The Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge also encompasses the southern end of Mosquito Lagoon and the northern end of the Indian River Lagoon, giving you the opportunity to see species like manatees, dolphins, fish and more!  With gorgeous marshlands, backwaters and serene untouched beaches that are as quiet and private as you can find in Florida, the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge is a part of Florida that everyone should experience.

Admission: Free (some areas and activities subject to fee or require license)

Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Location: State Road 402 Titusville, FL 32782

Phone: (321) 861-0667

Kelly Park

This 248-acre park is home to Rock Springs, a popular weekend hangout spot. With crystal clear water and a constant temperature of 72 degrees, Rock Springs is the perfect place to indulge in one of our favorite activities: a relaxing afternoon spent tubing down the river. After diving headfirst into the beautiful headwaters the springs create, grab your inner tube (while tubes are not available to rent in the park, there are shops near the park entrance that offer rentals for a modest $5 daily rental fee) and relax as you drift down the mile long stream.

About halfway down your float trip, the stream turns into a series of lagoons and pools that are the perfect place to stop for a nice refreshing swim or to head to shore for some sunbathing. With shaded picnic tables and BBQ pits nearby, Kelly Park is a great place to spend a day with the family grilling burgers and beating the Florida heat. Remember, get there early! In the summer months and on weekends, the park can fill up to capacity in the mid-morning and those whom arrive after that will be turned away.

Admission: $3 per vehicle for 1-2 people; $5 per vehicle for 3-8 people

Hours: Summer: 8 a.m.- 8 p.m.; Winter: 8 a.m.- 6 p.m.

Location: 400 E Kelly Park Rd, Apopka, FL 32712

Website: Kelly Park               Phone: (407) 254-1902

Blue Spring State Park:

Home to the largest spring on the St. John’s River, Blue Spring State Park provides an incredible nature experience.  Blue Spring itself is the perfect venue for scuba diving, snorkeling and swimming in crystal clear water that remains at a constant 72 degrees and Blue Spring Run provides a slow moving tubing stream for visitors. In the wintertime, the 72-degree water becomes the perfect haven for manatees looking for warmth and the spring fills up with them! While the spring and spring run may closed to all water related activities from November 15-March 15, this is the perfect time to see one of Florida most unique creatures, the manatee, in huge numbers up close and personal. 

Outside of the spring, the St. John’s River is one of the most diverse ecosystems in all of Florida and provides visitors a chance to see incredible wildlife. Two hour eco-sightseeing boat tours of the river are available at the park, where visitors have a chance to see alligators, gar, snakes, birds, manatees and more. Fishing is also great on the St. John’s River and anything from a sunshine bass to warmouth could be biting your line. Topped off by adventurous hiking trails and camping, Blue Spring State Park is a true way to enjoy old Florida.

Admission: $4 per vehicle plus $2 for each passenger

Hours: 8 a.m. - Sunset

Location: 2100 W. French Avenue, Orange City, Florida 32763

Website: Blue Spring                       Phone: (386) 775-3663

De Leon Springs State Park:

Located close to Blue Springs State Park and the St. John’s River, De Leon Springs State Park provides action packed family fun at one of the most historical sites in all of Florida. The park has been home to many different peoples throughout history; the Mayaca lived on the park grounds for at least 6,000 years before being discovered by the Spanish in the 1500s. In the early 1800s, settlers built cotton and sugar plantations that were destroyed by the Seminole tribe during the Second Seminole War. By the late 1800s, the springs had been turned into a resort for tourists in the winter, with people flocking to have “a fountain of youth experience,” an artifact that discoverer Ponce De Leon searched for. More history about the park is available through exhibits at the park visitor center.

Today, the park is a locals’ favorite for two things: Pancakes and Swimming! The Old Spanish Sugar Mill Restaurant features griddle tables where diners can cook their own pancakes, sausages and bacon right at their table. Complete with an old style mill where the actual old sugar mill used to stand, these pancakes are worth the wait, which can sometimes be a couple hours long (so get there early)! After your pancakes, the park offers everything from swimming in the swimming pool shaped crystal clear spring to boat tours, canoeing and fishing in the adjoining Spring Garden Creek. Nature trails with great chances to view wildlife like otters, alligators, manatees, bald eagles, ospreys, sandhill cranes and more are numerous and are a great way to escape the city. De Leon Springs State Park is an incredibly historic and fun place to visit in Central Florida that is only a short drive from Orlando.

Admission: $4 per vehicle plus $2 for each passenger

Hours: 8:00 a.m. to Sundown, 365 days a year.

Sugarmill Restaurant is open weekdays from 9:00 5:00 p.m. and weekends 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., serving until 4:00 p.m. The restaurant is closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.

Location: 601 Ponce de Leon Boulevard, De Leon Springs, Florida 32130

Website: De Leon Springs                     Phone: (386) 985-4212

Wekiva Island:

What started as a bait shop and canoe rental stop became a local hotspot for water loving beer drinkers that love to relax. Sitting on the shady shorelines of the Wekiva River, Wekiva Island Marina is the perfect place to set up on a hot day for some swimming in the spring fed waters while enjoying a couple cold ones with friends on shore. With a bar, cabanas and lounge chairs available on shore, Wekiva Island is a local favorite for weekend relaxing. With a capacity of 250 people, the venue fills up quickly and can sometimes be full by 10 A.M., so get there early!

Admission: Free

Winter: Sun-Thurs 8AM-7PM, Fri-Sat 8AM-11PM
Summer: Sun-Thurs 8AM-9PM, Fri-Sat 8AM-11PM

Location: 1014 Miami Springs Road, Longwood,FL 32779

Website:            Phone:407-862-1500

Wekiwa Springs State Park:

Located down the river from Wekiva Island, Wekiwa Springs State Park is home to some of the nicest springs around the City of Orlando. With a constant 72-degree water source in the springs, this is a great place to cool off during the hot summer months. Interested in seeing the springs on a guided tour? Be sure to check out our Wekiva Paddleboard Tour.

Admission: $4 per vehicle plus $2 for each passenger

Hours: 8 a.m.- Sundown

Location: 1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, Florida 32712

Website: Wekiwa Springs                 Phone: (407) 884-2008

Leu Gardens:

Located on beautiful Lake Rowena (just five minutes from downtown Orlando), Harry P. Leu Gardens were donated to the City of Orlando by Harry Leu and his wife Mary Jane in 1961. Today, the grounds house the beautiful and exotic plant life that has made Leu Gardens so popular for so long. The botanical gardens that fill this 50-acre site are simply gorgeous, and allow visitors the chance to view exotic plants that cannot survive in non-tropical climates.  The Leu House Museum located at the heart of gardens provides a glimpse of what life was like in Central Florida in the early 1900s. These gardens are a real treat to those who take the time to walk this expansive collection of incredible plant life.

Admission: Adults $10, Children $3 (k-12), Pre-K and under Free

Hours: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. every day, closed December 25. Last admission is at 4:30 p.m.

Location:1920 North Forest Avenue, Orlando, FL

Website:               Phone: (407) 246-2620