We know not everyone is comfortable with the idea of being out and about in our major theme parks and attractions just now, so we thought we’d highlight a whole bunch that provide for a proper socially-distanced opportunity while also being classic Florida fun.
By Susan & Simon Veness
The simple fact is there are dozens of great natural attractions and offbeat places that richly reward those who want to avoid the crowds while still enjoying the fabulous array of genuine tourist experiences our region is famous for.
Even better, all of these attractions are no more than an hour’s drive from the theme parks, while some are much closer and feature a taste of the real Florida. Just remember to bring your face mask!
So, with no further ado, here is our Delightful Dozen:
- Osceola County Pioneer Village: Discover the history of Central Florida’s pioneer settlers at this lovely, open-air Osceola County Historical Society center on part of Shingle Creek Park on Babb Road, Kissimmee.
- The Paddling Center: Take to the waters that lead all the way to the Everglades by renting a kayak, canoe or stand-up paddleboard and exploring on your own, or take one of the organized tours for an in-depth experience.
- Wild Florida Drive-Thru Safari Park: There’s simply nothing better at the moment for enjoying a welcome slice of wildlife—both native and exotic—than this option that simply involves staying in your own vehicle.
- Island Boat Lines: Enjoy the sights and sounds of the Thousand Islands by Cocoa Beach on this reduced-capacity pontoon boat ride in search of manatees and dolphins (advance reservations required).
- Wekiva Island: Get back to nature in this gorgeous setting on the fringes of Wekiva Springs State Park, where you can chill in a private cabana and enjoy kayaking or paddle-boarding along crystal-clear Wekiva River.
- St Johns River Eco-Tours: Head out to DeBary for this chance to sample more open-air delights on a pontoon boat ride along the river to discover a wealth of Central Florida wildlife and nature.
- Leu Gardens: This one is right in the heart of Orlando, between downtown and Winter Park, with a 50-acre botanical oasis that really dials up the relaxation mode while providing plenty of eye candy.
- Lazy H Ranch: Get out into the wilds of Osceola County with this highly personal, small-scale horse-back ride experience that features one-hour and 90-minute scenic trail rides (advance reservations required).
- Premier Boat Tours: Here’s another blissful boat ride option in the truly charming town of Mount Dora, taking visitors out on to Lake Dora and the Dora Canal for a wonderfully laid-back view of the area.
- Orlando Balloon Rides: Go up, up and away over the extensive landscape of Central Florida with our premier balloon operator, offering an ideal family experience that really gets you away from it all!
- Revolution Adventures: Take off on ATVs, amphibious vehicles or the Myakka off-road truck ride in Lake County, where you can also enjoy fishing, trap-shooting and archery in splendid rural isolation, with 230 unspoiled acres to enjoy.
- Orlando Tree Trek: Enjoy another open-air adventure at this excellent ropes course center, which challenges visitors with a series of zip-lines and aerial obstacles set atop the trees of a natural pine forest in the heart of Osceola County.
Editor’s Note: Susan & Simon Veness freelance write for a number of publications, ours included. But here they write on behalf of the Central Florida Tourism Collective, a group they formed, and in which we are a part of, that aims to give visitors a reassuring message of life in the heart of the Sunshine State during these unprecedented times.