9 Fine Things to Include on Your Central Florida Summer Itinerary
It’s a bit cliche, and it goes without saying, but when in Florida – the beach is kind of hard to resist. Wherever you are in The Sunshine State, you are never more than 90 miles from the coast! From the Orlando area, you have some of the best, and most accessible beaches within reasonable reach, including Clearwater Beach – named “Best Beach in America” by TripAdvisor for three out of the last four years.
The hardest part of a beach day is choosing which coastline you wish to visit. Being in the Central Florida region, we’re literally central to both Atlantic and Gulf Coast beach options, and they deliver two very different experiences. While there are no beaches IN Orlando itself, a range of different beaches are easy to reach in two hours or less by car. Worth it for a beach day, no doubt! The most popular beaches to visit from Orlando are:
- Atlantic Ocean (East Coast)
- Cocoa Beach – Located approximately 75 miles from the Orlando area
- Daytona Beach – Located approximately 85 miles from the Orlando area
- Gulf of Mexico (West Coast)
- Clearwater Beach – Located approximately 90 miles from Orlando
- St. Petersburg Beach – Located approximately 85 miles from Orlando
Reach New Heights
There are multiple ways to explore Central Florida from above, so which style of adventure suits you? Catch breathtaking sunrise views with Orlando Balloon Rides, where a champagne toast follows your one-hour flight, several thousand feet above orange groves, forests, and swamps. If you want to speed things up a bit, consider Orlando Heli-Tours. With locations in Orlando and Kissimmee, they offer unique tour packages, including flights over the theme parks at 1,000 feet! For more of a hands-on challenge, check out Orlando Tree Trek. Tackle an aerial obstacle course with 97 challenges of varying levels, including a 425-foot zip line, all set within a dense pine forest.
Looking to stay a bit nearer to the ground? You’ve tasted our salt life… how about some freshwater fun? The state of Florida is home to more than 30,000 lakes covering just over three million acres of land. The Orlando area alone is home to more than 100 lakes, including the popular Clermont and Winter Haven “chains” of lakes. One of the favored ways to peruse our lakes is by kayak. In the Winter Haven area, Off the Chain Kayak Company provides kayak rentals, sunset trips, tours, and events. During the summer, take a short drive out to the Titusville area to experience the rare phenomenon of bioluminescence from a BK Adventures kayak tour.
Taking lake life a little further, Central Florida is also home to numerous crystal-clear springs where visitors are greeted by water temperatures in the 70s year-round, lush foliage, and adventures of epic proportions! Each spring has its own unique set of features, or “personality”, if you will. It’s worth a little Google search to see which one appeals to you the most. Some of the best springs within easy reach from Orlando are:
- Rainbow Springs State Park – Dunnellon (approximately 88 miles)
- Blue Spring State Park – Orange City (approximately 33 miles)
- Weeki Wachee Springs State Park – Spring Hill (approximately 79 miles)
- De Leon Springs State Park – De Leon Springs (approximately 47 miles)
- Wekiwa Springs State Park – Apopka (approximately 17 miles)
- Juniper Springs Recreation Area – Silver Springs (approximately 65 miles)
- Silver Springs State Park – Silver Springs (approximately 76 miles)
Visitors who keep their vacation to theme parks only may be surprised to discover that Orlando has a pretty happening downtown area. Once home to the legendary Church Street Station (one of the state’s most visited attractions for years), Orlando’s downtown district hosts an array of events all summer long, including free festivals and block parties. Venues like the Amway Arena, Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, and Bob Carr Theater welcome concerts, theatrical performances, and shows from prominent national companies and artists, as well as local talent like the Orlando Ballet and Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. Don’t miss top dining spots like Ace Cafe, Wahlburger’s, Hamburger Mary’s, Harry Buffalo, The Rusty Spoon, Tako Cheena, and Wall Street Cantina. After a fabulous meal, take a stroll around Lake Eola for some of the best photo spots you’ll find in The City Beautiful. Say hello to the famous Lake Eola swans while you’re there. They’re kind of a big deal – with an Instagram fan page to prove it!
Down on the Farm
Most of our local farms only open seasonally, with the seasons focusing on spring and/or fall. However, if you’re looking for a homegrown taste of Florida, there are a few places you can still check out in the summertime. Showcase of Citrus in Clermont is a wonderful stop for the whole family to spend a Florida afternoon. Enjoy gem mining, 4×4 Monster Truck adventures, u-pick citrus, friendly farm animals, and a country store filled with home-grown and home-made goodies – including fabulous wine slushies! Another genuinely Floridian experience, the Florida’s Natural Visitor Center and Grove House provides fun and tasty insight into the state’s thriving citrus industry.
Visit Our Neighbors
“Orlando” encompasses a lot more than just the city proper. When someone refers to Orlando, they may just as easily be referring to Kissimmee, Winter Park, Winter Garden, Sanford, or any number of charming little towns that surround Orlando itself. If you’re the type to enjoy new discoveries and local gems, branch out and explore one of these areas, each promoting its own distinct style, personality, and flair. You may also want to include Polk County locales in your journey. Home to Legoland, Bok Tower Gardens, and more, Polk County includes destinations like Winter Haven and Lakeland, where natural recreation reigns supreme!
Of course, you can find alligators and birds just about anywhere in Central Florida, but there’s nothing like checking out the area’s wildlife from one of our premier animal attractions or refuges. Gatorland is a Kissimmee staple, pre-dating Walt Disney World, and it’s the ultimate stop for an original Florida adventure, including a breathtaking gator wrestling demonstration! Wild Florida is a little more off the beaten path, but it’s a great one-stop-shop for educational demonstrations, animal encounters, and airboat rides. Their drive-through safari is set to open this summer! Safari Wilderness is a family-owned, licensed working game ranch near Lakeland offering intimate, unique encounters with rare exotic species. And really… you haven’t lived until you have hand-fed grapes to lemurs!
Find Indoor Relief
Put away those ponchos – you’ve got better ways to escape the rain in Orlando! If you need an excuse to try something different and break away from the theme parks, Mother Nature is likely to give you a push in the summertime. Afternoon showers are almost a daily event, and even when it’s not raining, you’ll probably want to find sources of air-conditioned amusement at some point during your stay. Lucky for you, we’ve got indoor entertainment that is every bit as worthwhile as the outdoor spots! Just a few places that you may want to look into when prepping your itinerary: SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium, Crayola Experience, Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, iFLY Indoor Skydiving, I-Drive NASCAR, and Escapology.
Eat All the Things
An entire post could be devoted to food suggestions to ponder for your visit (and perhaps that’s just what we’ll do) but for now, suffice it to say that you’d be wise to bring a second stomach… or at least stretchy pants! Aside from the growing number of farm-to-table, gastropubs, breweries, wineries, cafes, fusion-specialty eateries, etc., that are contributing to Central Florida’s growing popularity as a foodie destination, there are also a number of guided culinary tours to help assure that you get a little taste of a lot of goodness. Check out Orlando Culinary Tour, Celebrate Food Tours (Celebration), Orlando Food Tours, and Orlando Foodie Tours. Then, of course, you can check back here soon to discover our top dining spots in the Central Florida area, too – coming soon!
As always, we’re here to help you plan the perfect Central Florida getaway. We’re always happy to help with local recommendations, tips, tickets, directions, and anything else you need to experience our area in the best way possible. Contact us today to start your planning by finding a vacation home perfectly suited to your family!