Off the Beaten Path in Orlando FL
Orlando resonates thoughts of theme parks, Mickey Mouse, storybook characters and mass-tourism. The attractions and activities are forever evolving and advancing with new adventures around every corner. However, away from the pleasures of the theme parks and not so pleasant ticket lines, lies a different world waiting to be explored. A vibrant arts and culture community, unique museums, world-class performing arts and a natural beauty and landscape peppered with state parks, lakes, forests and wildlife. Join us as we journey off the beaten theme-park path to discover the best of Orlando.
- Lake Eola Park is the centerpiece of downtown Orlando in the hip, urban neighborhood of Thornton Park. A peaceful retreat with 43 acres of walking paths, fountains, swans to feed and a myriad of activities. Picnic under the shade of the live oaks, stroll through the farmer’s market, view the public art shows, rent a swan boat or gondola and enjoy an evening show as the cascading fountain at the center of the lake lights up. There are many great restaurants nearby to grab a bite to eat or a sundowner to end the day. Browse the CityArts Factory, an eclectic collection of local and international art galleries with exhibits, live performances and great entertainment, also home to the SAK Comedy Lab, a great pit stop for a good laugh.
- Loch Haven Culture Park is nestled between three lakes on over 45 acres, the cultural heart of Orlando. View a superb collection of pre-Columbian artifacts at the Orlando Museum of Art and if you have the kids in tow, be sure to pop across the street to the fantastic exhibits at the Orlando Science Center. Stroll the shorelines of Lake Formosa and the lakeside sculpture garden at the Mennello Museum of Folk Art, experience a great theatrical performance at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre or entertain the kids at a fun musical at the Orlando Repertory Theatre. Fancy scouting for a collector’s piece? Browse the nearby Ivanhoe Village “Antique’s Row”, known for its blue lake waters, galleries and antique stores.
- On the other side of the lakes lies the inspirational Harry P. Leu Gardens, where meandering walkways lead you through 50 acres of lush gardens – rose gardens, butterfly gardens, bamboo and palm gardens, a tropical stream garden, ancient oaks, aromatic citrus groves and an impressive collection of Camellias. Wander the paths and tour the beautifully restored 19th century house museum. This is a hidden gem in the heart of Orlando, a breath of fresh air in a busy city.
- The quaint cobbled lanes of Winter Park welcome you warmly. Sample baked goods at the weekly Farmers Market, take a voyage through the lakes and canals on a scenic boat tour or stroll the boutiques, cafés and world class restaurants on the streets of Park Avenue, bordered by a shady park buzzing with activities. Admire the famous works of Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso at The Cornell Fine Arts Museum , on the campus of Rollins College or enjoy a free student-produced show at the colleges Fred Stone Theatre. The crowning jewel of Winter Park is The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art , home to the world’s largest and most impressive collection of Tiffany Glass. Not to be missed is the Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens, the Mediterranean-style home, museum and beautiful sculpture garden on the shores of Lake Osceola.
- Venture not too far from Winter Park to the town of Maitland to wander the grounds of the eccentric Maitland Art Center, a historic art colony dotted with charming cottages and Mayan Revival carvings. Bird lovers can view some of Florida’s most beautiful birdlife at the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey, the largest bird rehabilitation center east of the Mississippi. For something completely different, be sure to visit The Enzian Theatre, a theatre with a difference. Curl up on a fluffy couch to enjoy a foreign or independent film or watch a free movie under the stars and the centuries-old live oaks each Wednesday night.
- Head north of town through the scenic Big Tree Park, to explore history in the cultural Downtown Sanford. Browse the old eclectic shops, restaurants and historic residential area with tree-lined streets of Victorian style homes, visit the animals and wander the botanical gardens at the Central Florida Zoo on the shores of the beautiful Lake Monroe. Stroll the Riverwalk and unwind as the sun sets beautifully behind the marina.
- Very few are likely to know that Orlando is home to some of nature’s finest hot springs. Closest to town, yet away from the crowds, is the Wekiwa Springs State Park. Fish on the shoreline, swim in the crystal clear waters or rent a canoe to go in search of alligators, turtles and birdlife. A little further north is the Blue Springs State Park, the largest spring on the St. John’s River and the winter home of hundreds of Manatees. Cruise the boardwalk, follow the wildlife trail or dip into the cool spring waters. Still further north is Deleon Springs. Rent a paddleboat or relax on a guided boat tour, but be sure to take time to make your own pancakes at the Old Spanish Sugar Mill restaurant! Another great place to experience Florida’s natural springs is in the Ocala National Forest, with three natural springs, over 600 lakes and trails through hardwood forests and swamps. Another local favorite is the Rock Springs in the beautifully shaded Kelly Park, only 30 minutes from Orlando.
- Where to next? Head west to the rolling hills of Clermont to ride the elevator to the 360-degree observation deck atop the Citrus Tower, a Florida attraction that was once popular in the pre-Disney days. Enjoy spectacular views of downtown Orlando’s skyline, surrounding sparkling lakes and the statues of the nearby Presidents Hall of Fame. While you are exploring Clermont, be sure to stop by the Lakeridge Winery to discover the art of winemaking on 80 breath-taking acres of vineyards set in the rolling countryside.
- If you have a little time on your hands for a day trip, travel to the Space Coast to the amazing Kennedy Space Center, a family friendly interactive space experience like no other. This journey takes you through a slice of old Florida, the Fort Christmas Historical Park, home to a full-size replica of Fort Christmas, several historical structures and lovely hiking trails through the massive shade trees. A little further on, before the Space Center is the Orlando Wetlands Park, a haven of fauna, flora, birdlife, wildlife and alligators!
- If you are in the Disney area, head a little further south for another of Orlando’s treasures, the Bok Tower Gardens. Roam the lush gardens and trails, walk to the 205-foot tall art deco ‘singing tower’ (home to one of the world’s finest carillons) and watch the pond critters through the ‘window by the pond’. A National Historic Landmark, this is a peaceful and relaxing place to take a break.
- Of course, everyone likes a little shopping on vacation and Orlando is the perfect destination to splurge. Browse the unique vendors at FleaWorld, the largest flea market in the U.S., grab a bargain at the Orlando Premium Outlet Stores or spoil yourself in the luxury boutiques at the upscale Mall at Millenia. For a unique experience, diversity and a little culture, the shops and markets of Little Saigon are a worthwhile stop, a taste of Vietnam in downtown Orlando.
- Orlando is a premier golfing destination and we have vacation rentals on the finest golf courses. Explore our championship courses amidst fresh water creeks, ancient hardwoods and wildlife, all with world-class amenities.
Magical Orlando Resorts & Vacation Rentals welcomes you to Orlando, Central Florida’s premier vacation destination where you can explore the best of Walt Disney World,SeaWorld and Universal Studios as well as step into a world of vibrant arts and culture and the true discovery of nature at its best.
We treat your Orlando vacation as it if were our own from the comfort of one of our beautiful vacation rentals.