While often associated with its theme parks and resorts, Orlando is also one of the most beautiful cities in Florida. While tourism often focuses on man-made wonders, Orlando also shows off with its sub-tropical fauna and beautifully manicured parks. Waterways provide a perfect opportunity for a lazy ride to take in the natural beauty of this beloved city.
Kraft Azalea Gardens
The beautiful, jungle-like gardens of Orlando are the perfect place for a walk or picnic. Nestled along the shore of Lake Maitland, this park is covered by the shade of cypress trees and serves as a picturesque and romantic escape with classic Floridian charm. With short trails, gazebos and a dock for ruminating or catching some local fish, Kraft Azalea Park is a beautiful getaway in the heart of Orlando.
Located just outside of Orlando is Silver Springs, a tourist attraction designed to present Florida’s inland beauty to visitors. Now a registered historic site, this park was originally opened in the mid-1800s to bring people to the artesian springs that spew to the surface at the head of the Silver River. The park now offers river cruises for a look at the aquatic life in the springs – see shrimp, clams and turtles (and sometimes alligators) in these clear waters. The glass-bottom boats offer an unparalleled look into this unique ecosystem that is well preserved by the State of Florida.
Bill Frederick Park
Situated on Turkey Lake, Bill Frederick Park is Orlando’s largest green space, and offers outdoor fun for everyone. Hiking trails abound throughout, and there is swimming pool for kids. A pier offers great fishing in the lake while two golf courses sit on the perimeter for those inclined toward the sport. For children, there is a farm with a petting zoo and playground. Spend the night in one of several cabins to get back to nature on these gorgeous grounds.
Designed in 1932 by James Gamble Rogers, Casa Feliz was originally home to mogul Robert Barbour who gave absolute freedom to Rogers about the design of the house. Modeled after Spanish and Mexican architecture, this delightful clay-shingled and white-walled home now serves as a museum and gathering space for the public.
Marvel at the turret and balcony of the old home, or walk the grounds for a look at the gardens’ array of native plants. The Casa Feliz offers live music every Sunday, along with tours of the house and grounds, making it a perfect afternoon reprieve from tourist-ridden parks.
Harry P. Leu Gardens
This fifty-acre garden surprises many visitors who have never experienced Orlando beyond the theme parts. Sitting in the middle of this large garden escape is the Leu House Museum which tells the story of 19th century Orlando, a time when the city was still young, set in the wetlands of newly inhabited Florida. Azaleas and Philodendron speckle the grounds, as do a bevy of rose species and beautiful mature trees that offer shade during the intense warm season heat. Make sure to stop by some of the many works of garden art throughout the grounds and take photos next to fun sculptures like “The Citrus Worker” and “The Doves of Peace.”
Bill Frederick Park: http://www.cityoforlando.net/fpr/Html/Parks/BillFrederick.htm
Casa Feliz: http://casafeliz.squarespace.com/