Parks & Recreation

Orlando Park Life

 

Orlando's gorgeous year round sunshine is just perfect to enjoy the great outdoors here in Central Florida and here at Gotta Go Orlando Going Out Guide we love to share all that's great to enjoy outdoors.

 

Our parks are perfect for tourists looking for a more slow-paced experience away from crowds as well as locals looking for an interesting getaway from the hustle and bustle of Orlando living and many of these parks are accessible year-round and offer a variety of great activities for the whole family. From trail hiking to kayaking, leisurely walks, full on workouts or a nice spot to enjoy yoga, our parks here in Central Florida allows you to enjoy lush subtropical landscapes, mystical springs, and inviting green spaces. perfect!

 

Remember, as you set out to enjoy Central Florida’s natural beauty, do your part to ensure your visit does not have a negative impact on our parks. Stay on marked trails, pick up after yourself and reduce waste.

 

Look for sunscreen and other products that do not have chemicals that can harm Central Florida’s aquatic ecosystem. So remember, take only photos and leave only footprints. Now enjoy the great outdoors.

Central Florida Parks

We’ve compiled a list of the best Central Florida springs, parks, and gardens to enjoy the great outdoors.

This is only a selection of the thousands of recreation areas throughout Central Florida, Gotta Go explore!

 

 Lake Eola Park, Downtown Orlando

Lake Eola Park is probably the best known park in the area and is synonymous with The City Beautiful.

Located in downtown Orlando, this is the crown jewel of Orange County’s public parks system. Relax along the banks of its namesake lake or even get on the water with one of its rentable, swan-shaped paddleboats.

The sidewalk around the lake draws joggers and walkers, and the views of the skyline are breathtaking.

Orlando’s landmark park is not to be missed, stroll the beautiful walkway that wraps around all of Lake Eola. And, of course, take in the incredible vistas of Downtown Orlando’s skyline enveloping the park.

 

Lake Eola Park also features regular live entertainment at the Walt Disney Amphitheater, as well as the weekly Orlando Farmers Market on Sundays and other special events.

Lake Underhill Park

A fitness lover's dream, this park features exercise and fitness stations stretching along the southern shore of Lake Underhill in Orlando. This park is small but beautiful, with just under nine acres of green along the southern bank of Lake Underhill, with the lake stocked for fishing, with avian wildlife along the shore.

 

Want to exercise outdoors? A 0.75-mile (1.2-kilometer) trail, complete with multiple fitness stations, awaits. The hiking trail in this park connects to other area parks in both direction, Festival Park, Orlando Skate Park, Colonel Joe Kittinger Park, West Underhill Park and Park of the Americas.

A public boat ramp provides easy water access and is a is a haven for fishing and boating.

Magnolia Park

A fabulous benefit here is that boaters have access to Lake Apopka, the third largest lake in Florida. The park features campsites and the Lake Apopka Loop Trail, a nearly 30-mile (round-trip) route around the lake. it’s also paradise for bird-watchers with more than 360 varieties of birds.

Known for hosting popular festival like February’s Birdapalooza and May’s Magnolia Park Bluegrass Festival, In addition to providing hiking, cycling, and even camping opportunities, it also offers free programs. They include weekly options like Campfire Chat on Saturdays and Walk n’ Talk on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Kissimmee Lakefront Park

This gorgeous jewel of Kissimmee is located on the northwestern shore of Lake Tohopekaliga. 

Kissimmee Lakefront Park offers fantastic fishing, both via boat and on the park’s pier. You’ll also find picnic pavilions and a shaded playground area, and along the shore, you can take advantage of free, mounted binoculars to get a better view of the area’s wildlife.

Creek Regional Park

Home to the northernmost headwaters of the Florida Everglades, Shingle Creek Regional Park is located in Kissimmee, with numerous points of access throughout the Kissimmee area, this expansive park offers paddling, hiking, biking, fishing, birding and more. 

Blue Spring State Park

Just north of Orlando is this popular natural spring, the clear blue waters make it an excellent park for swimming, snorkeling, diving and canoeing. Blue Spring State Park is known for its incredible manatee watching on cold winter days. In the spring and summer when the manatees have gone, you can snorkel, swim, or scuba dive in the crystalline waters.

 

Take a walk along the hiking trail or lovely boardwalk winding through the woods and along the water’s edge to the headwaters of the spring. A camp store and concession stand offer good, basic food, or bring along a picnic. There is also a guided river boat tour along the St. Johns River. 

Little Big Econ State Forest

Little Big Econ State Forest is protected as a state landmark and designed to restore indigenous environments and protect archaeological and historical sites.

Trail systems are preserved for hikers to travel through towering forests and soggy marshes. You hike for 10 miles along the Econlockhatchee River, and the trail drops you into different ecosystems. The trails are designed to be multi-use. Keep your eyes open for alligators, fox, squirrels, bald eagles, sandhill cranes, turkeys, wood storks, and roseate spoonbills. Hunting is allowed in the Culpepper and Kilbee areas. If you are hiking or paddling through the forest, you must wear bright orange during the hunting season.

 

Canaveral National Shoreline

As the longest stretch of undeveloped coastline on Florida’s East coast, this National Park is worth a visit.

This barrier island is home to protected wildlife, such as the sea turtles that nest here annually.

 

Camp primitively here and wake up to the sounds of the ocean, or hike the many trails that weave through the coastal hammock and pine flat-woods. Keep an eye out for fragments of native pottery, remnants from the first inhabitants of this coastline dating as far back as 2000 BC.

Kelly Park

 Rock Spring, a 68-degree spring, flows from a vertical rock bluff and creates a lazy current taking tubers on a cool 30-minute ride. Arrive early to snag a spot by the swimming hole. This park fills up fast on the weekends. 

 

As well as tubing, enjoy a swim in the refreshing spring water, a DIY picnic by the water, or a nature hike. A visit to Kelly Park and Rock Springs is often seen as a right of passage for Central Florida residents.

 

There are picnic facilities, restrooms, and a concession stand. Tube rental is available right outside the park, or you can bring your own. We recommend visiting during the week or outside of the busy summer season. If you do visit in the summer, be sure to arrive very early (before 10am) as the park fills up quickly.

Wekiva Springs State Park

Just 20 minutes north of Orlando, Wekiva Springs State Park is where the locals go. The natural spring, at the headwaters of the Wekiva River, is the main attraction for swimming and cooling off. The 7,000 acres of park also offer plenty of opportunities to hike, bike, camp and even horseback ride.

 

This is old Florida, a protected space that shows what the state was like before colonization. Camping is huge here and includes four sites for swimming and tubing (the water stays a cool 72°F [22°C] all year round), and it gets crowded in the summer. The wildlife in and out of the water is spectacular here, and hikers of all levels can find a trail that works for them, from under a mile (1.6 kilometers) to nearly 14 (22.5 kilometers).

Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is the southernmost forest in the United States, made of 673 square miles of pine scrub. You can also find three different natural springs here for crystal-clear swimming and snorkeling.

 

Try heading to Alexander Springs for a day at a natural water park.

DeLeon Springs State Park

You’ll feel like you’re soaking in the fountain of youth in the beautiful spring waters of De Leon Springs. This state park harkens back to the swimming hole days of old. A large swimming area with steps leading into the water, a concrete wraparound deck, and seating make this a great spot for swimming in a nature-made pool.

 

The Old Sugar MIll restaurant is a must-do! Sit around a table with a griddle in the middle and make your own pancakes, with loads of topping choices. Walk off your breakfast by strolling along the Wild Persimmon hiking trail, where you’ll see a 600-year-old cypress tree. Cool off in the clear and tranquil springs.

Lake Lousia State Park

You won’t feel like you are in Florida among the area’s rolling hills of pine forests. With over 4,000 acres of natural land, you can hike, bike and camp without hearing the hum of nearby roadways.

Lakes Louisa, Hammond, and Dixie allow for paddle boarding, kayaking, and canoeing. Bordering the critical conservation effort Green Swamp Area, as well as Lake Wales Ridge, Lake Louisa is a perfect and safe intersection of some of the most interesting wildlife species seen in Florida. Home to animals such as the ever-present osprey, bald eagles, tortoises, bobcats, deer, and more.

Lake Louisa is also a must-visit for flora and fauna enthusiasts. Home to 11 natural plant communities, the wide variety of wildlife that works to support these creatures is truly astounding. The park features seven miles of paved roads as well as 20 miles of unpaved roads, perfect for hiking and biking.

Big Tree Park

This park and trailhead to the Cross-Seminole trail is also home to the Redwoods of the South, the magnificent Bald Cypress trees. This park once housed “The Senator,” the biggest and oldest Bald Cypress Tree at 3,500 years old. Sadly, the tree was lost to an arsonist in 2012, but you can still visit the site of it and pay respect to its sister tree, the “Lady Liberty,” looking young at 2,000 years old.

 

Big Tree Park is part of a larger conservation area in Seminole County known as Spring Hammock Preserve.

Leu Gardens

This manicured garden oasis, which sprawls over 50 acres, is in the heart of the city. The trails wind through different tropical environments that boast bamboos, palms, rose bushes and even butterfly gardens.

 

This is the perfect location for an early evening stroll before a date night in the city.

Bok Tower Gardens

This immaculately landscaped garden just outside of Orlando in Lake Wales is a bird-watcher’s delight.

 

Wind along the paved pathways and explore tranquil nooks and breathtaking sunsets on the property’s rolling landscape. For many, the main delight is the Bok Tower, a singing 60-bell carillon that serenades visitors each day at 1pm and at 3pm.

Kraft Azalea Garden

Find the hidden garden with the ritzy Winter Park suburb. Enormous cypress trees shade the mossy floor of the lakeside park, an ideal picnic location that also happens to be a popular spot for weddings.

 

Watch the sunset in the park’s exedra, which overlooks Lake Maitland, this view can’t be beat.

Hal Scott Preserve

This hike-in camping spot it pure, unspoiled Florida pine forest and palmetto brush. Trails here are perfect for wildlife spotting along the Econlockhatchee River with sightings of bald eagles and bobcats .

 Moss Park

Just South of the Orlando International airport is this Orange County gem. This 1,500-acre-park is a nature oasis with shady campsites hidden by Live Oaks.

 

Don’t be startled by the friendly deer that roam the area and are accustomed to food bearing humans!

 

1,551 acres of beauty are just 15 miles southeast of downtown Orlando while 54 spots for tent an RV camping are offered here for those who want to stay overnight. The park is also situated between Lake Hart and Lake Mary Jane, which provide plenty of boating and other water-related activities.

Loch Haven Park

Just 10 minutes from downtown Orlando, this unique park offers relaxation for the body amid grassy, tree shaded lawns. What really sets it apart, though, are opportunities to rejuvenate the mind at a stellar collection of museums and galleries, Loch Haven is home to the Mennello Museum of American Art, Orlando Fire Museum, Orlando Museum of Art, Orlando Reparatory Theatre and Orlando Shakespeare Theatre. 

Loch Haven Park’s museums and cultural centers also host a wide range of special events. These include 1st Thursdays at the Orlando Museum of Art, focusing on different arts-related topics each month, and the Mennello Museum’s Yoga in the Sculpture Garden program, which is held on the last Sunday of every month.

However, while admission to the park is free, keep in mind that its arts offerings require paid admission.

 

Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake

At the Bill Frederick Park, 183 acres of land is available to enjoy, all alongside Turkey Lake, a top-rated lake for Florida fishing. There is playground equipment, fitness stations, volleyball courts, boat rentals, and more.

Eagles Roost

About 25 minutes south of Orlando International Airport, you’ll see plenty of eagles while you’re here, not to mention a stunning array of other local fauna. The reason being, Eagles Roost is a protected nesting area for our national mascot and other species of water loving birds.

This park includes a hiking trail that will take you to an observation pier on Lake Hart. During your walk, be sure to stop by the Back to Nature Wildlife Refuge, where you can observe the park’s animal ambassadors and learn how they care for Orlando’s native wildlife species.

Cypress Grove Park

Bask in the beauty of cypress trees, an estate built in 1925, and stroll along the lakeside. The estate and charming garden pavilion area make this a popular spot for celebrating a special occasion.

 

Shadow Bay Park

There’s lots of recreation at this 111-acre park. Trails, playgrounds, fishing, and a 17-court tennis center with pro shop. This park is popular with Orlando residents, couples, and families.

 

Blue Jacket Park 

Home of a former Naval base, Blue Jacket Park is a 75-acre loving tribute to this legacy. The white stone arch bridge makes for a scenic setting. There are pavilions and grills great for gatherings and celebrations. You’ll be just 10 minutes from East End Market…may we suggest stopping by to pick up some provisions for a picnic?

Dickson Azalea Park

Central Florida is home to multiple azalea parks, which are a must-visit during azalea season (late February to mid-March). Dickson Azalea Park is beautiful year round. This park has been part of Orlando’s history since the city’s birth in 1924. The Washington Street Bridge built in 1926 is a definite highlight. Grab something to go from one of the many wonderful eateries in the area and bring it to this park for a lovely lunch outdoors.

Central Park

Similar to Lake Eola, this park is surrounded by the city of Winter Park and its landmark Park Avenue. This park has been the gathering place of Winter Park residents and visitors since the late 1800s.

 

You’ll find events here throughout the week, and annual events including the must visit, Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival and charming holiday events too.

Lake Lily Park

Here you’ll be able to walk hand in hand with your honey along Florida’s oldest brick road.

There is a weekly farmer’s market held here every Sunday from 9am-2pm.

Lake Lotus Park

One of Seminole County’s best parks, Lake Lotus Park features a one-mile long raised boardwalk, scenic views of Lake Lotus, an education center, fishing pier, multiple pavilions, and a playground. The park is comprised of over 120 acres of woods and wetlands! Make sure to venture over to the enclosed “Window on the Lake” building overlooking Lake Lotus.

Chapin Station Park    

Combine a beautiful family bike ride with some quality time at a community park. Located on the West Orange Trail, this park is a great place to start your bike ride. Enjoy the playgrounds and the Path of Life engraved brick pathway winding through the garden. It is important to note that bike rental is not available at this park, so you’ll need to bring your own, or visit nearby Winter Garden Station for rental.

Park of the Americas

About 15 minutes east of downtown Orlando, Park of the Americas is one of Orlando’s most popular dog parks, with separate, fenced areas where large and small dogs can run free.

 

Plus,  this park features a “tot lot” packed with swings, climbers and motion activities for children ages 2-5. It also has shaded pavilions, picnic tables and grills, as well as a half-mile, 12-foot-wide path that cuts through the center of the park, complete with workout stations where you can perform 120 different exercises.