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From guided bike tours and picturesque shopping districts to a 50-acre botanical garden and serene nature parks offering eco-friendly activities, there are many ways you can enjoy Orlando like a local and for a great price.

By Sarah Sekula


When it comes to your next vacation in Orlando, the theme parks are a no-brainer. But, what about exploring a bit further? Chances are, you will be pleasantly surprised with the variety of outdoor activities in Orlando that will keep you or your family busy. Below are four unique ways you can capture the authentic spirit of Orlando "like a local" and beyond the theme parks. 

Biking Your Way Through Orlando

Did you know Orlando has more than 150 miles of paved trails? This is why cruising on two wheels is a wonderful way to get to know Orlando and its surrounding areas. With a guided-bike tour, you can easily explore the beauty of Downtown Orlando, enjoy scenic Winter Park (20 miles Northeast of Orlando) or have fun riding the technical dirt trails in Apopka (a short 30 miles Northwest of Orlando).  

A local favorite is the Urban Bike Trail through Loch Haven Park, home of "The Mayor" — a stately live oak tree that was around when the Constitution was signed. After your tour, ask for a digital route you can follow on your smart phone.

If You Go

Bike rentals are available from Elite Road Bike Rentals and West Orange Trail — Bikes & Blades Co.

Read our blog for more details on the different bike trails you can enjoy during your stay

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  Visiting Orlando's Audubon Park District

When visiting Orlando, the charming district known as Audubon Park is a must-see. Home to an organic community garden and urban farmlettes, Audubon Park features a vast array of artisanal vendors — from bakers and pasta makers to coffee roasters. 

Visitors to the area can enjoy the community market held each Monday, multiple specialty shops with unique gift items and the area's trendy local food hub, East End Market. But one of the district's most beautiful attractions is the Harry P. Leu Gardens, a 50-acre botanical garden bursting with color and unusual greenery.

 If You Go

Check out the Leu Garden's website for information on jazz strolls, classes and movie nights throughout the year. 

Read our blog for more details on this amazing botanical experience and for more information on East End Market.

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Eco-Friendly Fun at Wekiva Island

At Wekiva Island, about a half hour from Orlando, visitors have more than one way to enjoy everything this nature park has to offer. Here you can relax by booking a private cabana, dig your toes in the sand or stroll down the boardwalk.

When you're ready to kick things up a notch, hop onto a stand-up paddleboard (or a canoe or kayak) and skim across the surface among turtles, birds and beautiful trees draped in Spanish moss. Afterward, stop by the bar (which serves up charcuterie boards and craft beer) or the cafe for crowd pleasers like beef brisket and gator tacos. If you've got enough energy left after that, hit the volleyball courts. 

 If You Go

The cabanas fill up quickly on the weekends, so book early. Better yet, go on a weekday morning to have the place to yourself. 

Read our blog for more details on this incredible eco-friendly park.

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 Clear-Kayaking at Rock Springs Run State Reserve

Outdoor recreational activities involving water are a big thing in Orlando. One gorgeous area that's a favorite among locals is Rock Springs Run State Reserve in Apopka, about a half hour from Orlando. Because the water is so stunning, a clear kayak is the way to go. After all, it's the best way to catch a glimpse of otters as they swim by.

Before you visit the reserve, make sure to pack a snorkel mask and swim suit. The water stays at a refreshing 70 degrees all year long.

If You Go

If you decide to go on a guided-kayak tour, the launch point is at King's Landing, located at 5722 Baptist Camp Road, Apopka, Florida 32712. For more information about the reserve visit,

Read our blog for more details about this incredible natural oasis and clear-kayak rental opportunities during your visit.

 
Four Unique Ways to Enjoy Orlando Outside the Theme Parks

Life in Orlando is more than just the theme parks. Make sure to save time to enjoy the area's hidden gems and stroll through the destination's paved trails, rivers and springs. For a complete list of ecotourism and recreational activities you can enjoy in Orlando, go to Visit Orlando's Things to Do page

 

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Sarah Sekula is a national travel correspondent who enjoys telling others about Orlando's hidden gems. She works as a travel writer, social media influencer and video host, and her assignments for USA Today, CNN.com, espnW.com, NBC.com, GoEscape, and islands.com have taken her to all seven continents. Follow her adventures @wordzilla (Twitter) and @sarahsomewhere (Instagram). 

 

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