I was born in Orlando in November and the temperature on record for that day and year was 81 degrees. Since then, I've loved every single thing about the sunshine, the bright sky, and the warmth of Orlando. If you're someone who dreams of escaping the heat, skip to our Inside Guide. But if you're into the heat like I am, then keep reading.
There's nothing better than making nice with Mother Nature. This state has a wild side that's truly glorious in the summer. Afternoon rain storms conjure lush greenery that other locales can only dream of. Are you down to play, stroll, walk, roll, hike and ride in the out-of-doors? You've got a whole lot of options. If hiking is your thing, a 7-mile trail is just up the road in Sanford at Black Bear Wilderness Loop (5298 Michigan Ave., Sanford, 407-665-2121), complete with boardwalks and potential bear sightings. Safety tip: If a bear makes contact with you, drop to the ground and play dead. Just kidding. Not kidding. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly takes zero responsibility for your being chewed on due to a failed attempt at playing dead effectively.)
Are you looking for a bear-free options? Black Hammock Wilderness Area and Trail (3276 Howard Ave., Oviedo, 407-665-2211), is far from any traffic sounds and its 4.5-mile loop is nearly all under a canopy of leafy trees. You'll only need a 30 SPF instead of a 50 SPF based on the amount of actual shade thrown! (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly takes zero responsibility for your sunburn. Wear good sunscreen no matter how much shade there is. It's the Sunshine State, y'all.)
Even closer to home, Mead Botanical Gardens (1300 S. Denning Drive, Winter Park, 407-599-3334) is a 47-acre urban preserve in the heart of the city with places to stroll or roll on paths next to flowing gurgling water. Bring your binoculars for some epic birding. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly takes all the credit for every dope bird you spot here. We know bird calls. Do you?)
Speaking of birds, have you been to the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey (1101 Audubon Way, Maitland, 407-644-0190)? You can spend the afternoon getting up close and personal with feathery friends at this sanctuary. If you time it right, you might even be able to join the celebration when little ones are born – the center holds baby showers for fuzzy fledglings.
If it's slipperier animals you're looking to bond with, how about some fishing?
Florida is (obviously) a fisherman's paradise, and some of the world's best-known anglers cast off right here in our area. Championship bass fisherman Tim Frederick told me that he's caught some award-winning bass in the legendary Harris Chain of Lakes. There are plenty of lakes in the city of Orlando where you'll find success when casting. Try Lake Ivanhoe (57 S. Ivanhoe Blvd., 407-246-2283), Lake Underhill (4355 Lake Underhill Road, 407-246-2283) or Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake (3401 S. Hiawassee Road, 407-246-4486) for bass or crappie. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission even has an iPhone app called "Fish Orlando!" on the App Store. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly takes zero responsibility if you're caught fishing without a license. Get a license.)
How about some sea cow viewing? Manatees are our local loves. Grab an inner tube and float in the crystal-clear, 72-degree waters of the largest spring on the St. Johns River, Blue Spring State Park (2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, 386-775-3663). The park opens at 8 a.m. and fills up fast, so get there early. Over 480 manatees are waiting to say hello. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly does not guarantee that you will receive a verbal greeting from a manatee.)
- Mead Garden / photo courtesy City of Winter PArk
Maybe you're looking for more modern watering holes? Take a dip in one or all of the 11 refreshing public pools around town. A few have won our Best of Awards but all are worth a visit. College Park Community Center (2393 Elizabeth Ave., 407-246-4447) is our top pick, but another local favorite is Fort Gatlin Recreation Complex (2009 Lake Margaret Drive, 407-254-9820). Tag us in your pool pics and if you hit up all of them, we'll give you an honorable mention in our Instagram Stories. (Disclaimer: The author has promised this and Orlando Weekly may not actually follow through on it.)
If you're looking to do a little camping or glamping away from the crowds, head up to the Danville Bed and Breakfast (232 N. Jungle Road, Geneva) for a unique stay in a yurt, a treehouse or an airplane hangar. Westgate River Ranch Resort and Rodeo (3200 River Ranch Blvd., River Ranch, 863-692-1321) gets you enjoying the outdoors while allowing for a cool-down in your own private tent with luxe linens and morning coffee service. Primitive camping is always a favorite: ah, the smell of DEET hanging in the air and a crisp crackling fire in 90-degree weather! Wekiwa Springs (1800 Wekiwa Circle Blvd., Apopka, 407-553-4383) offers campsites and cool natural spring waters. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly is not going to debate the use of DEET with you. Use it, don't use it. Use something though, because Zika is a thing here.)
If you're looking to get a little physical, there's nothing like SUP (stand-up paddleboarding, duh). Paddleboard Orlando (115 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-960-7815) has everything from beginners' courses at Dinky Dock to springs adventures. Starting off, you'll rediscover your balance and learn a little local history as you paddle-board through the Winter Park canals. Or rent a kayak and take it out to one of your favorite lakes for an hour or two. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly is not responsible for you if you end up at sea somehow.)
One last tip is to find the ultimate picnic spot. Eating alfresco is kind of our thing here in Orlando, and even in summer the idea of an outdoor barbecue party can easily get family and friends headed your way. Kraft Azalea Garden (1365 Alabama Drive, Winter Park, 407-599-3334) is our top pick. It's more of a bring-your-own-everything-and-sit-on-a-blanket-type of location, but the views of Lake Virginia and the azalea blooms and greenery make it a winner. A picnic partnered with an event, like Leu Gardens' (1920 N. Forest Ave., 407-246-2620) movie nights, is a definite win. On June 7, nosh on your pick-a-nick basket while watching A Quiet Place. Ssshh! Dickson Azalea Park (100 Rosearden Drive) is really the best, quietest hidden getaway situated right in the city, with lots of greenery and trickling water and shade trees and places to sit and reflect while chewing your food. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly will not debate whether Publix chicken tenders are the best picnic food. They just are.)
If you're ever really in need of a strong breeze, you can speed away the heat in just 10 laps around the Lil 500 Go Kart Track (150 Atlantic Drive, Maitland, 407-831-2045). It's free to reserve a table and you can always grab a tub of ice cream and just do loops all afternoon with the kids. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly takes zero responsibility for the bugs you're gonna catch in your teeth.)
There is no shortage of places to play outside during the summer months here in Orlando, so get out there and try them all. (Disclaimer: Orlando Weekly will not argue with you if you want to sit inside in the A/C and do none of these things.)