2020 is definitely the year to focus on the recreation half of the "Sports & Rec" duo. As we go to press, the MLS and NBA are both playing games in their respective bubbles right here in Orlando, but past that, absolutely nothing is guaranteed as far as seasons and play for the rest of the year. But just because professional and student athletes might not be able to go for the gold, nothing is stopping you. There is an absolute bounty of parks, bike and hiking trails, and springs for you to explore, get some exercise on, and forget how garbage 2020 is in a rush of endorphins and/or cool spring water. Fresh air and wide open spaces are this year's MVPs, so get in on that action.
Orlando City Soccer Club
Major League Soccer
Orlando Pride Soccer Club
National Women's Soccer League
Orlando Roller Derby
WFTDA Roller Derby
Orlando Solar Bears
East Coast Hockey League
- Photo by Ashley Belanger
- Tosohatchee wildflowers
4801 W. Colonial Drive, orangecountyfl.net
The crown jewel of Orange County's parks department can be overlooked because it can't be seen from Colonial Drive. But it boasts two disc golf courses, a BMX track, a fitness center, a dog park, golf areas, softball fields and more, making it an essential location for any outdoors enthusiasts.
Bill Frederick Park
3401 S. Hiawassee Road, orlando.gov
The biggest park in Metrowest covers 183 acres situated around Turkey Lake, one of the most popular fishing lakes in the area. The park offers canoeing, kayaking, nature trails, volleyball courts and other amenities and diversions.
Blue Jacket Park
2501 General Rees Ave., orlando.gov
Blue Jacket Park was once the Orlando Naval Training Center, the home of service personnel known as "Blue Jackets." Today, its 75 acres have been designated as a historic site that's popular for hosting baseball, soccer and softball, and events like weddings.
251 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, cityofwinterpark.org
You're smack-dab in the middle of Winter Park's downtown shopping district and you want to experience a little greenery and nature, so you cross the street and are immediately surrounded by fountains, landscaped plants and the oak tree canopies of Central Park's 11 acres.
Dickson Azalea Park
100 Rosearden Drive, orlando.gov
Along with neighboring Langford Park, Dickson Azalea provides a shaded oasis just outside of downtown. WPA-era bridges, pavilions and walkways crawl around and over the stream that trickles through the leafy park.
Greenwood Urban Wetlands
1411 Greenwood St., orlando.gov
Surrounded by beautiful cypress trees, with leaves that blend lively shades of orange and yellow during Florida's short-lived autumn, Greenwood Urban Wetlands' 19 acres is a sight to be seen any time of the year. And these wetlands adjoin Greenwood Cemetery, a can't-miss piece of old Orlando.
Lake Eola Park
512 E. Washington St., orlando.gov
The center of downtown Orlando life, Lake Eola Park hosts farmers markets, cultural fairs, entertainment, foot races, white swans, black swans and more, along with a .9-mile walkway that orbits the signature fountain in the middle of the lake.
Lake Lily Park
701 Lake Lily Drive, Maitland, itsmymaitland.org
Popular among dog walkers and birders, this picturesque, pocket-size park is located in the heart of Maitland, surrounded by some of the city's gorgeous historical buildings.
Harry P. Leu Gardens
1920 N. Forest Ave., leugardens.org
These historic gardens nestled in Audubon Park boast a spectacular collection of native and exotic flora, including a rose garden, a butterfly garden and the largest documented camellia collection in Eastern North America.
Mead Botanical Garden
1300 S. Denning Drive, Winter Park, meadgarden.org
A garden oasis with bike paths and a picnic area bursting with natural fauna and wildlife. Take a hike near forested wetlands, and if you're quiet enough, hear the hawks and wading birds.
Orlando Wetlands Park
25155 Wheeler Road, Christmas, orlando.gov
With more than 20 miles of roads and trails threading through mostly undeveloped marshes, Orlando Wetlands Park is the place to go if you're in the mood to get in touch with nature. Wildlife sightings – including alligators and bears – aren't uncommon, to say nothing of the prime birdwatching.
Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area
3365 Taylor Creek Road, Christmas, myfwc.com
Head east on Colonial Drive until the road forks, then steer right to take State Road 520 until you see the small brown sign beckoning you to turn left and discover Tosohatchee WMA. It's off the beaten path, but its 60 miles of trails offer a rare solitude. Enjoy hiking the rugged Florida landscapes – quaint ponds, open fields of wildflowers, canopies of hanging moss – populated in the early morning hours by wild turkeys, deer and more birds than Audubon Park documents on its street signs.
BIKING AND HIKING
Cady Way Trail
Entrance is 1/4 mile north of State Route 50 on Herndon Avenue
This 6.5-mile paved path, popular with bicyclists and stroller-pushing moms alike, connects Orlando and Winter Park and the Cross Seminole Trail in Seminole County. The trail features water fountains, rest stops and mile markers, as well as a cool 685-foot-long suspension bridge that crosses Semoran Boulevard.
Dean Road just north of State Road 50
This ever-expanding trail in East Orlando begins at Jay Blanchard Park and extends all the way to Alafaya Trail. It runs alongside the Little Econlockhatchee River, which offers pretty views and plenty of good spots to fish, canoe or just sit in the grass and enjoy a riverside picnic.
Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park
8300 W. State Road 46, Sanford, floridastateparks.org
This section of the park has no amenities, but it does have 18 miles of multi-use trails you can hike or bike.
Orlando Urban Trail
The nearly 3-mile long trail near Downtown Orlando is a hidden pocket of peace and scenic quiet cutting through the heart of metro Orlando. This trail runs from Lake Highland through Loch Haven Park, all the way to Mead Botanical Garden in Winter Park.
West Orange Trail
501 Crown Point Cross Road, Winter Garden,
This 22-mile trail stretches through Winter Garden, Apopka and Orlando. It's open to walkers and bikers, and some parts are open to horses, too. Four trailheads with parking are located at various points.
Blue Spring State Park
2100 W. French Ave., Orange City, floridastateparks.org
Volusia County's Blue Spring, the largest spring on the St. John's River, is notable both for the gorgeous spring run, but also the chance to have a close encounter with a manatee. The park is a designated manatee refuge (they're drawn to the temperate 70-degree waters) in the winter. Canoeing, camping, snorkeling and hiking are also favorite activities.
Juniper Springs State Park
Ocala National Forest, Florida 40, Silver Springs, fs.usda.gov
Juniper Springs is a bit of a drive – OK, it's an hour and a half away – but oh, so worth it. From tiny bubbling springs to massive ones gushing out of crevices in the earth, you will get your fill of water – all of it under a canopy of palms and oaks. The swimming area, campground and trails were built in the '30s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, part of the Depression-era New Deal that put millions to work (sounds like a good idea whose time has come again!).
Wekiwa Springs State Park
1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka,
You can canoe or kayak here (rentals are available), but this park also has 13 miles of pristine, wooded hiking, biking and horseback-riding trails. This park is very popular, particularly in summer, and when the parking lot fills, the park entrance closes. So get there early.