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Woman kayaking in a blue spring
Photograph: Visit Orlando

The 8 best parks in Orlando

The best parks in Orlando showcase Florida’s natural beauty and allow you literally dip your toes in nature

Megan duBois
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Megan duBois
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Thinking of escaping the tourists? Head to the lush green landscapes that make up the best parks in Orlando. Not only will you get a scenic glimpse into Florida’s diverse flora and fauna, but you'll also get the chance to become one with nature – by which we mean you can float along a freshwater spring or bask in warm sunlit paths while exploring immaculate gardens. Whatever floats your boat. 

The variety of parks in Orlando is what makes them so exciting. One moment you could be walking along a path lined with swans in the middle of the city and the next you’re biking along a trail stopping for a cold pint of beer before heading back out to finish the ride. And best of all, they offer a welcome reprieve from the city's theme parks, and a chance to work up an appetite for your next meal at Orlando's best restaurants and bars.

With all of that in mind, get ready to hike, swim, bike or peddle your way through these eight top parks in Orlando.

RECOMMENDED: The best things to do in Orlando

Best parks in Orlando

Kelly Park features a natural spring that’s always a cool 68 degrees, which honestly feels great in the middle of a Florida summer. You can rent tubes to float down the springs or you can bring your own, but they have to be less than five feet across. The ride takes about 25 minutes but you can go as many times as you wish. Just be sure to arrive early – the park will close when it reaches capacity, which is typically only an hour after opening on warm days.

Wekiwa Springs is known for its glittering emerald waters that feed into the Wekiwa River. The park is more than just floating along in the springs though. Here you can canoe and kayak down the waterways or set up a spot for an overnight camping adventure among the lush trees and river banks. Birders from around the state also flock to Wekiwa Springs for the vast amount of colorful birds that call central Florida home. Hiking is also plentiful at the park, with three different trails taking visitors around the park to see some of the sights and sounds of nature.

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A few minutes from downtown Orlando, there’s a stunning garden oasis ready to be explored. The Leu Gardens is 50 acres of uninterrupted botanical bliss. Each of the gardens at the site are designed to help visitors be inspired with ideas for their own home garden. Throughout the year, Leu Gardens also hosts a variety of events including a movie night and live concerts. Those looking for a more in-depth look at the flowers can book a tour of the gardens and of the historic home on site.

Located in the heart of downtown Orlando, this walkable park has a large pond in the middle that’s often filled with cute but somewhat aggressive swans. (And we're talking about the real animals here, not the rentable swan boats — though, those are cute, too.) Lake Eola is also home to the Walt Disney Amphitheater where groups of musicians and local acts perform throughout the year.

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The waters at Blue Springs State Park are always a refreshing 72 degrees, which is ideal for floating along during warm Florida afternoons. You know who else finds it ideal? The large number of manatees that float alongside guests in the spring runs! (Though guests are discouraged from touching or getting to close to the gentle giants.) After your float, you can hike along the spring run path or take a separate four-and-a-half mile trip to see ospreys, eagles and more birds of prey. 

Another Florida natural spring worth jumping into, De Leon Springs boasts crystal clear waters that are always a cool 72 degrees. The park also has a unique history: The spring was once used to turn a sugar cane mill, grist mill and flour mill during the Civil War. You can choose to float down the spring run, or you can take a heritage boat tour around the park and a nearby wildlife refuge to learn about the history of the location and see some of the animals that call the springs home.

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This unique "park" is actually a 22-mile-long bike trail called the West Orange Trail. At the northern end is Apopka, then the trail winds through Winter Garden (stop for a drink at Crooked Can Brewing Company) before continuing the last five miles west. You don’t have to own a bike to trek the trail – it’s also good for walking, running, skating and even horseback riding. Along the way you’ll come across cute towns and little spots to stop and take a break before heading back out again.

Bill Frederick Park takes up 183 acres of land along the shore of Turkey Lake, which is one of the top-five fishing lakes in Florida. The park is well loved by nature enthusiasts who head there to see a variety of wildlife and try their luck at catching a big one. The shady sidewalks and grassy areas make this a fantastic spot for a picnic with friends or just a day set aside to enjoy the great outdoors.

Worked up an appetite?

The 26 best restaurants in Orlando
  • Restaurants

When in town, you (or, rather, your tastebuds) will be awestruck by food trucks and hole-in-the-wall eateries showcasing international foods; bistros and cafes creating seasonal fusion fare; fishmongers slinging seafood straight from Florida’s shores and chefs crafting creations using ingredients from their very own gardens.

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