Summer’s just heating up, and we’re taking a road trip down to Orlando, Florida this week in Travel Freak’s Wild Wednesday Column. Yes, there’s more to enjoy than just roller coasters at the theme parks in Orlando. Let’s explore the wilder side of Orlando, and the surrounding regions, first. Then, we’ll take a break to stop for a bite to eat, check out some fun local attractions, and soak in the Florida sunshine. 

Where the Wild Gators Roam

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Wildlife is abundant is Florida, and this includes Orlando, and area residential neighborhoods with creeks, rivers, lakes, and retention ponds. So, you never know when you’ll spot an alligator, snake or other wild creature is lurking about. Remember, State Law prevents anyone from harming alligators, and please – don’t feed the wild animals.Never seen one up close? Visit Lake Jesup, which has the largest population of alligators of any lake in North America, and where you’ll find them lounging along the shore. You can also visit Gatorland, the Alligator Capital of the World for an up close look at these amazing reptiles.

Talk to the Animals

Discover more than 400 animals at the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens, where wild is wonderful. Children will enjoy the Barnyard Buddies, the slithering snakes and reptiles that wait in the Herpetarium and the aerial adventure course, ZOOm Air Adventure Park. On the weekend join the Rhinoceros Encounters, which is rare chance to see these mighty creatures up close.

Explore the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail

We met some feathered friends on our visit to the Florida Keys Wild Bird Center in Tavernier, and you’ll find more beautiful birds taking flight along the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. There’s 2,000-mile’s to explore, so you can break your trip up as you travel on the self-guided highway trail.

Embrace Nature at the Disney Wilderness Preserve

I enjoy attending the Epcot International Flower and Garden Festival at Disney World to view the whimsical topiaries. Yet, few visitor’s to Central Florida realize that just a short distance from Disney World is The Disney Wilderness Preserve. Here, you’ll find red-cockaded woodpecker’s, bald eagles and other bird species as well as the Sherman’s fox squirrel, and maybe spot a Florida Panther.

Take a Day Trip to the Beach

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From Daytona on the East Coast to Clearwater along the Gulf Shores; Orlando is a just a short drive from Florida’s best beaches. You’re in Florida, why not soak in the Florida sun at one of the beaches?

For saving on your trip, pick up a SunPass at a local retailer to pay the lowest tolls available on Florida’s Turnpike’s, then pack up family and friends for a day trip to your favorite beach.

Discover Orlando’s Historic Church Street District

Stroll along the historic neighborhood and enjoy colorful selection of dining, entertainment, professional sports, and events at Orlando’s newest venue; The Amway Center that is home to the Orlando Magic, and has earned a gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for their environmentally friendly practices. To save on dining and more pick up the District Card that offers exclusive discounts at member merchant venues of the Church Street District.

Wine Tasting at Orlando’s Eola Wine Company

From grape to glass, toast to good times with one of over 70 wines at Eola Wine Company. Prefer a brew? No problem, they’ve 30 craft bottled beers, plus a menu of flatbreads, appetizers and desserts to enjoy.

Fork’s Up For Magical Dining Month and Orlando Restaurant Week

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(photo via Seasons 52, Altamonte Springs)

September welcomes Magical Dining Month that offers three-course prix-fixe dinners by local and celebrity chefs, and benefits local charities like the Ronald McDonald House®. A special preview week starts on August 25, and you can view restaurants and learn more about Magical Dining Month with this link. They also host Restaurant Week in June when you can dine on a discount at select Orlando establishments. Both events are affordable ways to sample the best of Orlando’s dining options.

Dig Into the Homegrown and Fresh Foods at the Orlando Farmer’s Market

The Orlando Farmer’s Market continues to expand with new grower’s sharing their homegrown selections. It’s a great spot to pick fresh vegetables and more for dinner, sample local wine and beer, entertainment and join family-friendly activities.

Pack a Picnic and Enjoy Orlando’s Parks

The City of Orlando has 83 Parks, trails, lakes, recreation centers and an abundance of programs and activities to enjoy. What are you waiting for? Stop in at the Orlando Farmer’s Market to stock your picnic basket, then enjoy a afternoon  biking, golfing at area courses, let your kite take flight or relax and share a bountiful picnic in Orlando.

Flip Over Science at Wonderworks

Let your imagination run wild as you uncover the secrets of science with Professor Wonder at Wonderworks. It’s time to shake off the work week blues, and discover the power of tornado’s, test your knowledge of science with hands-on activities, lie on a bed of nails, and bubble up some fun for everyone at Wonderworks in Orlando.

Skydive Indoors and Soar to New Heights With iFLY Orlando

Want to experience what it’s like to skydive, yet you’re not ready to jump out of a perfectly good plane. Try indoor skydiving with iFLY Orlando. Get ready to soar high, and feel the thrill of freefalling in their wall-to-wall airflow skydiving simulator.

Engaged and Entertained at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater

From the monumental musical Les Misérables, entertaining Children’s Series, and a Free Movie Night in the Park, the Orlando Shakespeare Theater offers a world-class theatrical experience. Seasons highlights include The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry V by William Shakespeare. In addition to the world premieres like that of the comedic family drama that bites; Bad Dog by Jennifer Hoppe-House.

Explore Your Creative Side at the Orlando Museum of Art

The Orlando Museum of Art is a cultural gem that showcases permanent collections of American art, African art, and art of the ancient Americas. The museum has engaging new exhibits and programs, as well as 1st Thursdays monthly, which lets you discover local artists, enjoy live music and mingle with an eclectic mix of people.

Orlando’s Into Heavy Metal

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(image via Justin Ryan DeLaura)

It’s heavy and it’s metal, art that is, created by metal sculptor, Justin Ryan DeLaura, who like other Orlando artists are inspired by the thriving arts scene in the Downtown District. Check out some of O-Town’s best artists at the bi-annual Spring and Fall Fiesta in the Park at Lake Eola.

Plan Your Visit to Orlando, Florida

To plan your trip to Orlando go to the Visit Orlando website. Here you’ll find everything on attractions, festivals, vacation options and local restaurants for September’s Magical Dining Month, and savings offered with Orlando’s Magicard, which is a Free Discount Card that includes great savings on hotels, attractions, restaurants shopping and more.

Wild Wednesday Facts:

  • The city seal confirm what locals already knew; Orlando’s The Beautiful city. Lake Eola Park, one of 83 parks in the city, is the cities icon, and it’s no wonder with winding paths around the lake, festivals, and a fountain that transform into a outstanding light show – music included!
  • Ever wonder what alligator taste like? The Orlando’s restaurant, A Land Remembered cooks up a mean Gator Creek Stew with white beans, greens, and more scrumptious selections.
  • Orlando hosts four big festive events, which include the Blues B-Q in Early March Downtown that offers tasty BBQ from local and regional restaurants. Plus, the soulful sounds of artist’s like Denise LaSalle, The Allman Brothers Band, and local Blues and Jazz Bands. Other Signature Events hosted in the city are the Fireworks at the Fountain, Veterans Day Parade, and Holiday Lights Orlando.
  • The Disney Wilderness Preserve will be closed Saturday, August 30 – Monday, September 1 for the Labor Day weekend.

Will you visit Orlando, Florida?

images via Melody Schubert unless otherwise noted


With a passion for travel and creativity, Journalist and Photographer, Melody Schubert let’s her imagination guide her as she explores the world. For her, everyday is an opportunity to embrace something new, and explore intriguing and overlooked destinations that express the heart of a region, and share these discoveries with readers of Travel Freak. She is also Editorial Executive for USA Travel Magazine - http://www.usatravelmagazine.com/ where she shares more of travel interests.

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