Here’s How to Explore Orlando Like a Local

Orlando Florida

Admit it. When you think of Central Florida the first thing that comes to mind is its embarrassing number of theme-park options. It’s true that millions of tourists visit the Sunshine State every year and frequent these monolith theme-park attractions but that’s not all there is to do in Orlando.

Hundreds of distinctively native experiences await the tourist willing to forgo Disney and Universal for a more unique option. With that idea in mind, here are some of the best local-run adventures to explore on your next Orlando, Florida vacation.

Wekiva Springs

There is truly no better way to start a summer – or cool off for that matter – than with a family trip to Wekiva Springs. Just a 30-minute drive from downtown Orlando, Wekiva Springs has something for everyone on your list. For just $6, visitors can enjoy canoe and kayak rentals for gliding lazily down the river, vast hiking options to choose from for the explorer in all of us and full access to any and all of the chilling seventy-two degree crystal clear springs on-site. Plan ahead though – these springs fill up quickly and park authorities close them to visitors once capacity is reached.

Kissimmee Sports Arena Rodeo

To see Orlando like a true local one must immerse oneself in the native culture with an experience like no other: a rodeo. With calf roping, trick horse-back riding, barrel racing and even daring bull riding competitions, it’s no wonder this intense rodeo show has been delighting tourists and locals for over fifteen years. Each night participants vie for a cash prize which makes for one of the best shows in town.

Leu Gardens

If you’re looking to take a break from all the excitement of Orlando then there’s no better place to find your Zen than Leu Gardens. One of Orlando’s best-kept-secrets since 1961, Leu Gardens is located just minutes from downtown Orlando. This year-round exhibition of nature’s capacity for creation is a sight you won’t want to miss. Spread out over 50-acres of lush Florida landscape, visitors are able to gain a botanical-education while glimpsing some of the most exotic plants imaginable.

Orlando Science Center

When it comes to hands-on, fun and rewarding experiences in the City Beautiful the Orlando Science Center truly takes home the gold medal for both kids and adults. As a staple of education for many local school districts, this monolith of wonder houses four floors of fun to explore. Start off at DinoDigs, the science center’s interactive archaeological dig-site, and end with a trip through the reptile exhibit to get the most out of your experience.

Lake Eola

Located right in the center of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola offers up the perfect chance to both explore and relax while not breaking the bank. From walking trails to swan paddle boats, a large playground for kids and free outdoor entertainment, it’s no wonder Lake Eola appeals to both locals and tourists alike. Parking is available on the street, either free or metered, and there are nearby parking garages too.

From relaxing springs to golf courses to authentic rodeo experiences, there is no shortage of entertainment to be enjoyed while visiting Orlando. All one has to do is ask a local – we promise we don’t bite!

When you visit Orlando, do a little research into the most convenient accommodations for your family. Places like Westgate Resorts offer the convenience of on-site pools, spas, dining options and more.

Katie Powalski-Parsons is a communications specialist and blogger who lives in Central Florida with her family of 7.

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