Orlando Off The Beaten Path Discovering Central Florida Without
Visiting Any Theme Parks Can It Be Done

Orlando Off The Beaten Path Discovering Central Florida Without Visiting Any Theme Parks Can It Be Done



One of​ my husband's favourite places is​ Florida, since he is​ an​ avid golfer and​ likes to​ get away from the cold Canadian winter for​ his birthday in​ early December.

for​ a​ while now we had planned to​ visit Orlando, but neither one of​ us are into theme parks. So there was the challenge for​ me: would we be able to​ visit Orlando without setting foot into Disney or​ Universal Studios? for​ someone as​ curious as​ me this​ was a​ suitable challenge and​ I had been doing weeks of​ searches on​ the Internet and​ communicating with the Orlando Convention​ and​ Visitors Bureau to​ find out about interesting destinations off the beaten path.

Well, I am happy to​ say, we arrived back safely yesterday from our trip, and​ the trip itself was quite an​ adventure since we decided to​ drive from Toronto to​ Orlando, about 2100 km each way! Actually, the drive was not as​ painful as​ I expected. The drive through Pennsylvania and​ West Virginia was nice and​ hilly, and​ I particularly enjoyed coming over the ridge of​ the Appalachians, right where Virginia and​ North Carolina meet, where you​ get a​ beautiful view of​ the piedmont area around Winston-Salem that spreads out towards the Atlantic in​ front of​ the mountain​ chain.

and​ I am even happier to​ say that in​ the 14 or​ so days that we spent in​ Orlando, not only did we get to​ play a​ lot of​ golf (to make my husband​ really happy...;) - including Mystic Dunes, Champions Gate, Royal St. Cloud Links, Hawk's Landing and​ Timacuan Golf and​ Country Club, not to​ mention​ the Walking Hall of​ Fame experience of​ the PGA Father Son​ Challenge at​ Champions Gate, but I also got to​ explore some really interesting places, destinations I would not have expected in​ Orlando and​ its surrounding region. I also had a​ chance to​ do an​ interview with GolfOrlando to​ get a​ much better idea of​ why Orlando is​ called "The Ultimate Golf Theme Park".

We started off our first week with a​ visit to​ the Orange Country Regional History Center, which gave us a​ suitable historic background of​ Orlando and​ Central Florida. Then, for​ some sociological and​ cultural insights, we visited the Well's Built Museum for​ African American History and​ Culture in​ Orlando. to​ top off our first day of​ exploration​ we enjoyed a​ walk around picturesque Lake Eola in​ downtown Orlando.

The next item on​ my off-the-beaten path agenda was a​ discovery of​ the City of​ Winter Park, a​ beautiful suburb of​ Orlando, reminiscent of​ Old European towns. I also went on​ the Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour, which was an​ entertaining, informative and​ visually appealing excursion.

The adrenaline revved up significantly on​ our next outing: a​ very high-speed airboat ride at​ Boggy Creek, that was followed up by a​ much lower speed swamp buggy ride in​ a​ custom-built monster truck that took us through authentic Florida landscape.

After our golf outing at​ the Royal St. Cloud Golf Links we enjoyed a​ wonderful picnic by the waterfront in​ sunny downtown Kissimmee. Then, on​ a​ beautiful Sunday morning we drove about an​ hour outside of​ Orlando to​ reach the quaint town of​ Mt. Dora, where I hopped on​ the "Herbie Express", part of​ the Mt. Dora - Lake Eustis Scenic Railway.

From midweek in​ the second week onwards the weather took a​ turn for​ the worse. While planes were sliding off runways in​ Chicago and​ record temperatures were registered in​ the mid-western states, we were freezing in​ Florida where the mercury hovered around 68 to​ 70 degrees Fahrenheit (around +20 degrees Celsius). So I bought a​ rain​ jacket, and​ determined not to​ let the freezing cold interfere with our plans, we headed out to​ continue our explorations.

on​ a​ day that was forecast to​ be rainy, but just ended up being a​ bit grey and​ clammy, we went out to​ discover Loch Haven Park, Orlando's center of​ science, art and​ culture. We then continued our explorations further south to​ discover some of​ Orlando's historic neighbourhoods and​ parks such as​ Lake Cherokee and​ Lake Lucerne.

As the drizzly weather continued, we went on​ to​ visit Florida's Natural Visitor Center in​ Lake Wales, about an​ hours drive south of​ Orlando, where I got a​ really good understanding of​ Central Florida's citrus industry. I spent the afternoon​ in​ another famous attraction​ in​ Lake Wales which holds two National Historic Landmarks: the Historic Bok Sanctuary, where I got to​ see the beauty of​ the Bok estate and​ its historic carillon​ tower, combined with a​ tour through the historic Pinewood Estate, which was decked out in​ full Christmas decorations.

During these 2 weeks in​ Florida, we got exposed to​ a​ lot of​ its plants, flowers and​ wildlife, much of​ which you​ run into casually even while playing golf or​ picknicking by the waterfront. Florida has a​ surprising amount of​ natural diversity and​ I enjoyed watching the various types of​ birds, lizards, and​ squirrels. The only thing we didn't get to​ see was a​ live alligator (with the exception​ of​ the well-hidden rear end of​ a​ small alligator during our swamp buggy tour - unfortunately I couldn't even get a​ good picture of​ that one..). Apparently winter time is​ too cold for​ these creatures to​ come out of​ the water...

on​ our drive home, on​ a​ bright sunny day (of​ course...), we stopped off in​ St. Augustine, a​ historic town founded by the Spaniards in​ the 1500s, and​ the oldest continuously inhabited town in​ the United States - a​ mighty photogenic place, I should add.

So, you​ ask, is​ it​ possible to​ spend 2 weeks in​ Orlando without even setting foot inside a​ theme park and​ still have a​ good time? Well, based on​ the above itinerary I'd say that my plans to​ explore Orlando off the beaten path came to​ full fruition.

Mission​ accomplished.

this​ entire article including photos is​ located at​ http://www.travelandtransitions.com/stories_photos/orlando_off_the_beaten_path.htm




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