Florida Guide > Other Parks
Orlando’s Alternative Parks
For the vast majority of visitors to the Orlando area the main attraction that draws them to this region is the abundance of theme parks. If however, you are on your second, third or fourth trip you may feel that you need to do something a little bit different. You can of course spend some time at your villa and just chill by the pool for the day, or you could visit one of the regions ‘alternative’ parks. Florida is home to over 150 State Parks, many of which are within easy driving distance of the Greater Orlando area.
To the North East of Orlando lies Blue Spring State Park. Admission to the park is just $5 per car and here you will find plenty of free parking, a children’s’ play area with a shredded bark floor, an abundance of picnic tables and benches, some under cover, and permanent barbeques available for all visitors to use. One of the popular walks takes you from the car park, past an historic house which is free to enter, and on to the head of the Blue Spring, which bubbles up from the depths and flows into the St Johns River. If you visit between mid November and mid March you will be treated to the sight of as many as 100 manatees in the spring run, where they winter in the warm spring water. There is also a river cruise available at a small cost, which takes you into the St Johns River and around some of the small islands for a fully narrated hour-long excursion. The park is approximately 50 miles from the Kissimmee area.
To the west of Orlando, just off the US27 south of Clermont is the Lake Louisa State Park. Again for a small entrance fee you can park up and take one of many gentle walks, or head for the lake’s beach where you will again find picnic tables and free barbeques (you do of course need to take your own fuel and food! ). The lake, although looking like weak tea, no milk, is quite safe to swim in and between the beach and the car park are public conveniences complete with showers and changing facilities.
Also to the North East and slightly closer then Blue Spring are Wekiwa Springs Park, with its ‘wet-to-dry’ nature walk and where deer and wild turkeys can be seen especially at dusk and dawn: Rock Springs State Reserve which boasts 17 miles of trails and where horse riding is available; and the Lower Wekiva River Reserve Park where the streams and wetlands provides habitat for alligators, otters, storks, and sandhill cranes.
All the parks have picnic facilities, so why not nip to the local supermarket, buy some picnic food, whether it be ready made sandwiches or something to put on a barbeque, and head out to one of the ‘alternative’ parks for a relaxing day away from the queues and crowds.
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