It may be best known for its theme parks, but there are tons of other adventures to discover in the great outdoors around Orlando.
No matter the season, the City Beautiful and its environs serve up ample opportunities for ecotourism, including plenty of exciting activities that are cheap or completely free. You can spend a day exploring one of Florida’s natural manatee habitats, go quad biking through scenic countryside or take to the swamps on an airboat adventure – and that’s just the start!
However you choose to experience it, the wild side of Orlando offers endless adventure for visitors who want to go beyond the theme parks. Here are some of our favorite ways to spend time with Mother Nature in and around Orlando, including activities for all the family as well as high-octane action more suited to teens and adults.
Outdoor activities for families
Go orange picking
If you’re looking for something fun to do outdoors, then Showcase of Citrus is where you need to be. From 4×4 monster truck adventures to a relaxing afternoon of orange picking, you’ll find outdoor activities for all the family. A sunny respite from the tourist hubbub are the acres of orange groves which include more than 50 varieties of citrus fruit. If that’s not your thing, pre-picked bags are available from the on-site market. Showcase of Citrus is located in Clermont, just a short drive from Orlando.
Check out Orlando’s largest park
For some of the best outdoor activities in Orlando, look no further than its many lakes and parks. Hours of fun can be had at Lake Eola Park, a 43-acre recreational area at the heart of downtown’s central business district. Here you can picnic along the shore, feed the swans and take rides in cute pedal-powered boats. Various performances and community events take place at the park’s amphitheater, and the lake’s iconic fountain lights up every night with a special lights show. There’s also a free farmers’ market on Sunday afternoons, and free outdoor yoga on Sunday mornings.
Brush up on your tennis skills
Over at the massive USTA National Campus, the Nemours Family Zone has professional-grade tennis courts where players of all ages can brush up on their tennis skills – for free! The campus is the world’s largest tennis facility with 100 tennis courts spanning across a whopping 64 acres. The open-to-the-public area has a huge welcome center, a pro shop, a full-service grill, and a court-side cafe and bar. You can find it in Orlando’s scenic Lake Nona neighborhood, about 20 minutes’ drive from Orlando International Airport.
Explore exotic gardens
Beautiful Harry Leu Gardens is a 50-acre botanical oasis located just minutes from downtown Orlando. Visitors can have outdoor adventures exploring the many beautiful cultivated gardens featuring dozens of diverse plant collections from around the world, including a tropical rainforest, a huge rose garden and an amazing butterfly enclosure. Other activities include walks along the meandering trails, tours around the on-site museum and regular outdoor movie nights.
Visit an island oasis
Free to enter on weekdays and with an admission price of just $1 on weekends, Wekiva Island is a fun (and cheap!) place to hang out. Located in Longwood along the beautiful Wekiva River, it offers canoeing, paddle-boarding and kayaking in scenic surroundings. The amenity-packed park, which includes a boat launch, a boardwalk, volleyball courts, a cafe and a bar, is just a short drive from downtown Orlando. What’s more, you won’t need to take any equipment along as you can hire it all there.
Stay at an action-packed resort
There are so many resorts in Orlando where you can enjoy great-value accommodation along with access to amazing on-site activities. At places like Reunion Resort in Kissimmee, you’ll find a water park, golf courses, sports courts, restaurants and a kids’ club. At nearby Encore Resort, guests benefit from heaps of amenities plus free shuttle transfers to Disney World. While at Championsgate Resort, there’s golf, pools, an arcade, a cinema and lots of nearby restaurants.
Go tubing at a natural spring
A top spot for outdoor activities, Kelly Park is located around 30 minutes north of Orlando Home to the famous Rock Springs, visitors are invited to tube and swim in the free-flowing spring waters which stay warm all year round. There are miles of well-maintained hiking trails at the park, as well as volleyball courts, a playground and picnic spots with open grills. Park admission is $3 per vehicle for 1-2 people/$5 per vehicle for 3-8 people.
Navigate a corn maze
Once upon a time, Central Florida was mostly farmland. Clearly, much has changed but you can still find some thriving farms if you know where to look. Long and Scott Farms is a great spot if you’re looking for outdoor activities in Orlando. Located close to Mount Dora, it’s open every day for visits. You can explore the grounds, and even pit your wits against its famed corn maze which features twisting pathways and cryptic clues. Also on site is a cafe serving farm-to-table food, plus a farmers market where you’ll find an array of locally produced items.
Bike a scenic trail
Soak up Orlando’s scenic side along the 22 mile-long West Orange Trail. Extending all the way from Winter Garden to Apopka the trail takes you through woodlands and orange groves. What’s more, accessing the trail, which boasts a playground and other amenities, is completely free. Bike rentals are available by the hour or full day from West Orange trail Bikes and Blades, and they will deliver to anywhere in Central Florida.
Visit the alligator capital
Dubbed the ‘Alligator Capital’, plenty of thrilling outdoor activities can be found at Gatorland. Both educational and reasonably priced, this wildlife park in Kissimmee is the place to go for families in search of adventure. In addition to thousands of crocodiles and alligators, there’s an aviary, a petting zoo, nature trails and amazing one-of-a-kind alligator shows. If you’re willing to brave it, there’s also the adrenaline-pumping Screamin’ Gator Zipline which takes you on a ride high above the park at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour.
Sail around scenic lakes
To add to the list of fun outdoor activities in Orlando is the Scenic Boat Tour at Winter Park. Tours take you around the beautiful Winter Park Chain of Lakes which consist of Lake Virginia, Lake Mizell, Lake Osceola, Lake Maitland, Lake Nina and Lake Minnehaha – all connected by scenic navigable canals. Located in Winer Park and Maitland, the lakes are also popular for paddleboarding, kayaking, canoeing, waterskiing, boating and fishing.
See art on a walking tour
One way to make the most of Orlando’s great outdoors is to check out the artistic highlights of downtown Orlando. See Art Orlando is a self-guided walking tour that takes you past nine unique art sculptures around Lake Eola and beyond. Supported by private philanthropy, the pieces were created by local artists and include works like the Wings of Protection, a huge steel monument designed to reflect the service of the local police. To take part, pick up a map at the downtown visitors office or online.
Take to the swamps
Just a short drive from Orlando’s Disney district are the protected swamps and marshes that make up some of the Central Florida Everglades. Wild Florida offers day and night airboat adventures that take you deep into the swamps and give you the chance to get a glimpse of the local flora and fauna. Included in the price is entry to the Gator & Wildlife Park which has alligators, zebras, deer, tropical birds and much more. When it’s time to refuel, head to the quirky on-site restaurant which serves unusual bites like fried alligator and even frogs’ legs!
Safari through the savanna
You’ll feel like you’re in the real African savanna at Disney’s Kilimanjaro Safaris attraction. An outdoor adventure unlike anywhere else in Orlando, this incredible safari takes you on an open-air ride through the Harambe Wildlife Reserve, home to giraffes, rhinos, elephants and dozens of other animals. Tours through the 110-acre reserve take place in rugged safari vehicles driven by expert guides.
See the natural wonders of Orlando
The Arboretum at the University of Central Florida offers opportunities for visitors to learn about the amazing plant life and other natural wonders at its beautiful campus. Treated as an outdoor living laboratory, the campus is home to acres of community gardens and forests where you can take tours and get involved in fun hands-on activities. Guided tours take place during office hours from Monday to Friday and cost $5 per person.
Spend a day at the zoo
Just north of Orlando in Sanford is Central Florida Zoo, a fun place to visit with all the family. The 116-acre attraction is home to more than 350 animals and has numerous botanical gardens to explore. Also at the zoo is the fun Aerial Adventure Park where you can navigate your way from tree to tree by way of rope bridges, suspended platforms and zipline wires. Other attractions at the zoo include rhinoceros encounters, giraffe feeding, a bungee bounce and a splash park.
Watch a movie outdoors
Spend an evening under the stars at Popcorn Flicks in the Park, a popular outdoor movie night. Held at Winter Park on the second Thursday of each month the film series features classic films for the whole family, totally free of charge. Shows typically start at 8pm and are accompanied by complimentary popcorn for all.
Hit the water parks
Water parks may not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Orlando, but the city is actually home to some of the best water parks in the entire state. Disney’s Blizzard Beach and Typhoon Lagoon offer loads of amazing water-based attractions including drop slides, wave pools, lazy rivers and kids’ splash parks. You’ll also find heaps of outdoor adventures at Discovery Cove, Aquatica and Universal’s Volcano Bay.
Attend a festival
You can can see street performers, musicians and artists in action at Orlando’s annual Immerse festival. Held in downtown Orlando each year, this event features an array of incredible outdoor activities. Whether it’s acrobats performing gravity-defying stunts, artists presenting giant installations, or musicians performing in all manner of places, the whole family are sure to be impressed. What’s more, entry is free.
Go mountain biking
You won’t find any mountains in Central Florida but you will find plenty of places where you can take your mountain bike off-road. Lake Druid Park has acres of bike trails and pump tracks for riders of all ages and abilities. It also has sand volleyball courts, along with drinking fountains, benches and restrooms. Hours run from 9am until around 30 minutes before sunset.
Have a fresh water adventure
For fun outdoor activities, head to Weeki Wachee where you can swim and play in the pristine waters of Bucaneer Bay. It features water flumes, flumes, a sandy beach and a kids’ splash park. When you need to stop for a snack you can picnic in one of the many covered pavilions or enjoy a delicious meal at the seasonal restaurant. Also at Weeki Wachee are mermaid shows, river cruises, kayaking and camping.
Hang out at a fairground
The aptly-named Old Town entertainment complex is a great place to head for a bit of old-fashioned fun. Styled as a recreation of a classic Florida town, it has outdoor activities aplenty including a carousel, a ferris wheel, classic car shows, music shows and more. Located on Highway 192 in Kissimmee it’s the perfect destination for a day or night of fun activities.
Ride on a river boat
If you’re looking for fun outdoor activities, why not take to the water on a river boat cruise? You can sail down the scenic Weeki Wachee River and see nesting birds, manatees and colorful fish in all shapes and sizes. River boat cruises run continuously from 10am through 5pm and are free with paid admission to Weeki Wachee Springs.
Outdoor adventures for teens and adults
Take a free wine tour
For the perfect wine-lover’s day out, head to Lakeridge Winery, a stunning country estate in Clermont. Visitors (aged 21+) can take complimentary wine tours which include exploring the winery and vineyards. After the tour guests can enjoy free samplings of the venue’s award-wining wines – for free. Afterwards, visit the on-site shop and stock up on wines and delicious snack items.
Go on an off-road adventure
Want to combine a lot of outdoor activities into one visit? At Revolution Off-Road in Clermont, there’s a long list of adventurous experiences to try. You can drive an ATV, go fishing, try a spot of archery or go clay shooting. A crowd favorite are the Muddy Ducks – amphibious vehicles which can be driven through lakes and ponds – prepare to get messy! Visitors can also take tours around the 230-acre property in a Myakka 20-seater truck with tree-top views.
Get married in the great outdoors
For those looking to tie the knot, how about getting married in Orlando’s great outdoors? Revolution Off-Road doesn’t just offer buggy rides, it’s also available for special events including weddings. You’ll find a variety of unique locations to choose from, and professional planners will help you arrange an event to fit your budget, timescale and expectations.
Tee off on a top golf course
For outdoor activities in a picturesque setting, test your swing at any one of Orlando’s pristine golf courses. Considered one of the best courses in the area, you can’t pass up a round at Shingle Creek. Top championship courses can also be found at Reunion Resort vacation community where the signature courses are set against the resort’s family friendly accommodation. Other great courses can be found at Championsgate Resort, Mystic Dunes, Celebration and even Disney World.
Float over the city
See Orlando from a different perspective on a hot air balloon adventure. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to enjoy an amazing experience, a hot air ballon ride gives you a glimpse of Florida as you’ve never see it before. You can book a sunrise flight with Orlando Balloon Rides for any day of the week. Once you’re up, the pilot will point out Orlando’s most interesting sights, from its famous theme parks to its wetlands and swamps. After landing, you’ll be given a glass of champagne to celebrate your experience.
With so many lakes dotting the landscape it’s no surprise that fishing is one of the most popular outdoor activities in Orlando. Most anglers are on the hunt for bass, plus it’s a great way to get sightings of alligators in their natural habitat. Fishing tours are plentiful in Orlando and they will have you covered for equipment rental too. A great place to head is Lake Kissimmee which is a major bass fishing and boating destination.
Take a wild ride
You don’t have to journey very far to to find horse riding adventures in Orlando. Horse Riding Orlando offers a variety of trail rides through Orlando’s Twin Oaks conservation area. Scheduled group rides take place from Monday – Thursday at 10am and 3pm. Prefer to take a wilder ride? Private trail rides are recommended for more advanced riders.
Go glow-in-the-dark kayaking
Outdoor activities in Orlando don’t have to be confined to the daytime. In fact, you’ll find plenty of fun nighttime adventures to try. One incredible experience to add to your outdoor activities bucket list is glow-in-the-dark kayaking. Get Up and Go Kayaking offers tours in special clear kayaks equipped with LED lights. The nighttime tour is an amazing way to experience Orlando’s great outdoors, with the water all around you lit up to incredible effect. Tours start at $45+tax per person.
Enjoy a range of watersports
With its many lakes and waterways, it’s no wonder that watersports are some of the top outdoor activities in Orlando. At Orlando Watersports Complex, water skiing, wake boarding, wake-skating and other high-octane watersports are all popular. You can take lessons and then practice what you learn, or if you’ve already got experience you can take straight to the water. Family and friends are welcome to watch in the viewing area.
Learn to hang-glide
At Wallaby Ranch near Orlando you can have an outdoor adventure 2,000 feet up in the air! First you’ll learn to hang glide with some of the world’s most experienced instructors, then you’ll take to the sunny skies of Central Florida. The ranch is open 365 days a year and also offers tent and RV camping facilities as well as a swimming pool, a climbing wall, a playground and numerous biking and walking trails.
See Orlando from above
You can see Orlando from a whole new perspective when you ride the towering Orlando Starflyer. Measuring a whopping 450 feet tall, it’s the world’s tallest swing ride. There’s no age limit; just a minimum height of 44 inches. Ride during the day and you’ll see the entire Orlando skyline. Ride at night and you’ll get to experience the amazing lighting system which features more than 240,000 LED lights. A ride on Orlando Starflyer costs $15.
Calling all outdoorsy types! You can explore Orlando’s natural beauty and spot all kinds of wildlife at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Hike through diverse ecosystems, paddle the famous Wekiva River or camp beneath the stars. Don’t forget to pack your camera because wild turkey, black bears, deer and many species of birds call this park home. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent and guided tours are available.
See a sinkhole
Ocala National Forest is known as one of the most unique and fascinating forests in Orlando. It has huge areas of pine scrub forest, along with natural pools, lake and rivers. There are hundreds of trails to explore including one that runs past a sinkhole and the remains of 19th-century homesteads.
Paddle with manatees
Looking for outdoor activities with a difference? With Paddleboard Orlando you can get a waterborne perspective of Orlando’s amazing marine life. Sign up for lessons and fun excursions on a wide variety of lakes and canals, including options like moonlight paddleboarding, nighttime bioluminescent outings and eco-tours where you can spot birds, monkeys, otters and manatees.
Explore Church Street
You can soak up some culture at Orlando’s historic downtown district, home to some of America’s oldest houses and prettiest neighbourhoods. There are frequent outdoor concerts on the bandstand at Wall Street Plaza, plus you can take advantage of the regular drinks offers at the surrounding bars – many of which have outdoor seating and rooftop terraces.
Admire the architecture
Located in the rolling citrus hills not far from Orlando, Bok Tower Gardens is home to a sprawling gothic tower. Known as the ‘Singing Tower’ it houses one of the world’s finest bell carillons that ring out at various times through the day. The gardens are also home to the renowned Pinewood Estate where you’ll find an enchanting Mediterranean-style mansion which is open for tours daily.
Check out a famous car cruise
Car lovers rejoice! Old Town amusement park hosts a colorful classic car cruise every Saturday night. Offering free admission, the show features all manner of classic cars, as well as live music and fun entertainment.
Have fun at a farmers’ market
The Winter Garden Farmers’ Market is a fun place to head on Saturday mornings. Held in a vintage train depot just off Park Avenue, this bustling spot is the place for perusing and purchasing a variety of fresh produce, flowers, baked goods, artisanal foods and locally produced crafts and souvenirs. When the market is over, take a stroll around downtown Winter Garden to enjoy all that the vibrant neighborhood has to offer.
Where to stay
If you’re visiting Orlando and you want to find the best places to stay then check out these fantastic vacation rentals. Located in Orlando’s best resorts, these homes are packed with amenities such as private pools, movie theaters, game rooms and themed kids’ bedrooms. What’s more, they’re currently on offer with up to 25% off.
Reunion Resort 1900
- 9 bedrooms
- Sleeps 24
Located just a few miles from Disney World, this villa in Reunion Resort has everything you need for a family vacation. Highlights include a game rooms, a home theater, themed bedrooms, and a private pool with a spillover tub.
Reunion Resort 9000
- 12 bedrooms
- Sleeps 33
Perfect for large families or groups of guests, this huge villa is jam-packed with amazing amenities. Inside, there’s a state-of-the-art movie theater, quirky game rooms, a fully-equipped gym and fun themed bedrooms for the little ones. Outside, you’ll find a huge sun terrace with a large pool, a hit tub, a poolside gazebo, luxury loungers, a outdoor kitchen and an alfresco dining area.
Reunion Resort 15000
- 15 bedrooms
- Sleeps 30
This vast villa in Orlando has enough space for a whopping 30 guests! More like a luxury hotel than a self-contained villa, it offers a whole host of incredible facilities including a boardroom, home theater, sports lounge, piano salon and an awesome arcade gaming room. Guests also benefit from a huge pool, a private gym and indoor sports courts, as well as an in-villa spa and wellness center featuring a steam room, sauna, treatment room and zen lounge.
Reunion Resort 10000
- 9 bedrooms
- Sleeps 22
Fancy staying in a villa with a bowling alley? This luxury property has a huge variety of home entertainment that really sets it apart from the rest. Key features include a private movie theater with cinema-style seats, and a game room with a 2-lane bowling alley, air hockey, pool table and arcade games. Te home also has sports courts, a gym and a private spa with a sauna. Outside is a large sun terrace with a pool, spillover tub, sunloungers, outdoor kitchen and alfresco dining area.
Tempted to book a vacation in Orlando?
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