Special Issues » Summer Guide

The Orlando area has some of the best beaches, springs and water parks to help cool you off

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Summertime Florida is steamy most days, and downright miserable on others. But with great weather comes great responsibility to cool off in all the natural watering holes the Sunshine State has to offer.

Springs

There's something forgiving about basking in Florida's cool springs, whether we're talking about just bobbing around, floating atop or paddling across these beautiful bodies of water.

Active outdoorsy aficionados should check out Wekiwa Springs State Park (1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka) for canoeing and kayaking amid the easygoing nature vibe and abundant wildlife scenery. But if gators aren't your thing, you might want to simply take advantage the 13 miles of trails by hiking, bicycling or horseback riding. Just be sure to mind the signs.

If leisure is your sunny-season cup of tea, go tubing down Rock Springs Run in Kelly Park (400 E. Kelly Park Road, Apopka). This place is popular, though – and for good reason. Make sure to come out early, because guests are turned away if the park's too full.

And last but not least, you can swim, canoe, picnic or camp overnight at Juniper Springs (26701 E. State Road 40, Silver Springs) in the pinewoods of Ocala National Forest. Explore the Florida Trail while you're at it, because it's accessible from the park entrance.

Water Parks

As they say: Grip it and rip it. That most definitely goes for what these water parks have to offer.

Take the newest addition, Universal Orlando's Volcano Bay, for example: This theme park splits 18 different rides into four sections, including a 200-foot-tall volcano called Krakatau that features indoor water slides and several different holler-worthy rides to boot.

Of course, there's always SeaWorld Orlando's Aquatica, where you can take a tube plunge through the underwater home of some black-and-white Commerson's dolphins – and that's not even counting the other cool perks, such as swimming lessons for kids provided by American Red Cross. (Plus, SeaWorld Orlando's happy hour is killer, and every day through the summer, you get two free 7-ounce beers, too.)

And yet some are looking to kick back a bit more. For you, we suggest Disney's Blizzard Beach Water Park, where you can wind your way along the 3,000-foot-long lazy river that features polar caves, a grotto and showers from Mount Gushmore.

Beaches

There's not much to explain when it comes to what makes a good beach; the wind and the sticky salt air on your face just speaks for itself.

There are those folks who are partial to the Atlantic Ocean – such as New Smyrna Beach, which is known as a relaxing surf hub, or Flagler Beach, which finally brought its iconic pier back to life. (Careful, though: Alcohol isn't allowed on either beach and local patrols have been known to crack down.)

Then there are the Gulf of Mexico lovers who would prefer something along the lines of Siesta Beach, which is just down the road from Sarasota. This sleepy yet vibrant portion of Siesta Key provides both the white sand aesthetic as well as the rolling good times that come with the opportunity to lazily drink and sun the day away.