If sports and outdoors culture in Orlando or Central Florida was ever lacking, it’s safe to say it’s thriving now. With a number of competitive college sports programs and professional franchises, such as the newly founded Alliance of American Football’s Orlando Apollos*, it seems as though we’ve finally hit a high point for spectator athletics – and of course we also enjoy a surplus of trails, rivers, springs and parks. So go outside, rent a canoe, buy a ticket to a game, cheer for the home team, and help make it last.
* (… which, oops, declared they were “suspending operations” on the very day we went to press and have since ceased to exist. RIP, Apollos.)
Orlando City Soccer Club
Major League Soccer
Orlando City Stadium, 655 W. Church St., 407-480-4702, orlandocitysc.com
Amway Center, 400 W. Church St., 800-745-3000, orlandomagic.com
Orlando Pride Soccer Club
National Women's Soccer League
Orlando City Stadium, 655 W. Church St., 407-480-4702, orlandocitysc.com
Orlando Solar Bears
Amway Center, 400, W. Church St., orlandosolarbearshockey.com
Spectrum Stadium, University of Central Florida, 407-823-1000, ucfathletics.com
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 enthusiast.
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 Florida. The park offers canoeing, kayaking, nature trails, volleyball courts and other amenities, and is one of the only city parks where camping is allowed (with a permit, of course).
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 stroll through the fountains, landscaped plants and oak tree canopy of Central Park's 11 acres. But leave your pooch at home, because dogs, unfortunately, aren't allowed.
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 little 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. The wetlands also serve as earth's kidneys, so you're literally watching nature in action.
Lake Eola Park
512 E. Washington St., orlando.gov
The center of downtown Orlando life, Lake Eola Park hosts farmers markets, cultural fairs, entertainment, footraces and much 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 and is 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 ripe 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.
Constitution Green Dog Park
300 S. Summerlin Ave., orlando.gov
In 2016, the city of Orlando and the Downtown Development Board purchased Constitution Green to save the enormous oak tree – one of the oldest trees in the City Beautiful – on the previously privately owned land and to help preserve green space near downtown. Now, it's a stunning fenced-in dog park near Thornton Park and downtown.
Lake Baldwin Park Dog Park
2000 S. Lakemont Ave., Winter Park, cityofwinterpark.org
With just over 23 acres of beautiful, shady parkland and its sandy beach for your pup to roll around and get filthy on, Lake Baldwin Park defines what it is to be "dog-friendly." Polite pups are even allowed to be off their leashes from 8 a.m. until sundown.
Dr. Phillips Dog Park
8249 Buenavista Blvd., orangecountyfl.net
It's an off-leash park, so let this be said first and foremost for those who second-guess their pet's manners from time to time. Open and tidy, with just a touch of shade to lounge in while your dog is running around, it's a favorite among locals.
Boozehounds Dog Bar
5501 S. Orange Ave., boozehoundsdogsbar.com
Central Florida's first official "dog bar" is finally a reality, as Boozehounds, an off-leash dog park with a bar (or a bar with an off-leash dog park), is set to open this summer. The new space will operate on a membership basis, with day passes for $10 and annual memberships for $149.
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.
Wekiwa Springs State Park
1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, floridastateparks.org
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 when visitors like to swim in the clear blue spring, and when the parking lot fills, the park entrance closes. So get there early.
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.
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.