Orlando isn’t just a place for theme parks. It has a lot to offer beyond the Walt Disney World resort and the other parks. Florida is warm all year ’round, and Orlando has lovely wooded areas once you get beyond the tourist strips. Try these outdoor adventures next time you visit Orlando:
Zip lining is very popular in the Orlando area. You can do it at attractions like Gatorland and Fantasy of Flight, but the best way to go zipping is in wooded areas with nothing but a canopy of trees stretched out in front of you and woods and wildlife below.
Zip Orlando is 30 minutes from Disney World, but its zip line course is on a working cattle ranch that stretches for 2,700 acres. The family-friendly course features zip lines and rope bridges that let you hike and soar through the trees. Opt for a night tour and you just might catch the Disney fireworks from the top of one of the platforms.
Forever Florida is a little over an hour away, in St. Cloud, with zip lines and bridges over a nature preserve. Watch for George, the resident gator, and you soar over his pond.
Forever Florida has other activities beyond zip lining, like horseback riding and motor coach tours. One of the most unique offerings is the canopy bikes. They’re suspended from lines that give you a scenic view of the woods, albeit lower than the zip lines. Pedal along at your own pace and burn off a few Mickey bars.
You can actually go horseback riding right at Walt Disney World, at the Tri-Circle D Ranch in the Fort Wilderness campground. The camping area is near the Magic Kingdom, but it’s a world away from the theme parks. Saddle up for a slow-paced family ride through wooded areas but be sure to book an early ride to increase your chance of seeing deer and other wildlife.
If you want to venture beyond Disney property, Horse World in Poinciana is only about half an hour away. It has rides for all experience levels, so you can go slow if you have younger or inexperienced kids or enjoy a faster pace if your family has previous riding experience.
Segways are a great way to see the Orlando outdoors. Walt Disney World offers two Segway tours, Keep Moving Forward in Epcot and a jaunt through the wooded trails in Fort Wilderness.
If you’re seeking something different, Z E Tours runs Segway tours through the town of Celebration. This residential area was developed by Disney, with quaint homes styled to the 1940s, a downtown shopping district, and lots of wooded preserve land. You might spot a gator in one of Celebration’s lakes or deer bounding through the woods.
Both Disney and Z E Tours require Segway tour participants to be at least 14 years old. If you have younger kids in the family, rent bikes in Fort Wilderness or at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge to explore the campground. Z E Tours also rents bikes if you want to pedal through Celebration.
Florida is known for swampland, and the best way to see it is in an airboat. You’ll skim the water and spot various species of wild birds, alligators, and possibly deer and cattle grazing along the shoreline. Boggy Creek Airboats has two locations within half an hour of Disney World, while Wild Florida is located farther out, in St. Cloud, and has animal exhibits as well as airboat rides. They have gators to feel, along with zebras, African cattle, and other critters.
Disney Wilderness Preserve
Although it bears the Disney name, the Disney Wilderness Preserve is actually about 45 minutes from the theme parks. It’s managed by the Nature Conservancy, and its 12,000 pristine acres are home to wildlife like deer, sandhill cranes, wild turkeys, fox squirrels, and red-shouldered hawks.
Pack a lunch and go for a family hike. Stop to eat at one of the picnic tables overlooking the scenic lake. You might just forget that you’re just outside of Orlando as you soak in the peace and serenity of this natural oasis.