Enjoy an air boat ride in the Florida Everglades

...and 4 other things to do while in Orlando!

Airboat Ride in Florida's Everglades
Credit: Google Images

The Orlando you want to see!

Without all the toursits.

As a resident of Orlando, FL I can tell you that I have zero desire to ever go to a theme park again. The lines, the strollers, the lines of strollers, children crying, adults crying, the heat, the cold…it’s awful. Theme parks are great for those of us under the age of 9, but the rest of us need something more! I have lived in this Tourist Mecca for years now, and am offering some great alternatives to a day overpaying for funnel cake and turkey on a stick.

1.          1. Go On an Air Boat Ride!

Seeing the Everglades like never beforeCredit: Google Images

The Everglades of Florida are truly remarkable and filled with life around every corner. An air boat ride is the perfect (and only way, really) to see this amazing landscape. You’ll strap on your glasses and headsets and be off in a heartbeat, travelling 30 mph across water, vegetation, and soil. Most companies have very “authentic” tour guides who can spot an alligator a mile a way. If possible, make sure they have a two-part name, like Billy Bob, or start their name with Uncle (ie. Uncle Bubba).

 

In addition to the gators, you are almost sure to see a variety of birds and in some cases, horses and cows! Many of these air boat tours take place in areas that are also used as a sanctuary for cattle and retired horses.

 

Perhaps the best part of the air boat ride is the fact that you are literally in the middle of nowhere. You see no buildings, no power lines, no roads, and no other people besides you and your group. It is the definition of exploration.

 

Bring your sunscreen, your camera, and get ready to see the original Florida landscape.

 

       2. Dine at The Ravenous Pig!  www.theravenouspig.com

The Ravenous PigCredit: Google Images

This is without a doubt the best restaurant in Orlando. They are not paying me to say this. But if the fine people at The Ravenous Pig are reading this, I would take a complimentary appetizer. Message me!

 

I am a dinning out addict and my experiences at The Ravenous Pig have been nothing but exceptional. Located in Winter Park (just south/southeast of Orlando), this humbly elegant gastropub offers a full bar and some of the best shrimp and grits you’ll ever find.

From their website,

 

 “The gastropub is an idea fresh from across the pond. Start with a traditional pub experience, add a passionate culinary team and pair with an elevated dining experience—and you’ll get fare that is as delicious as it is unique.”

 

Don’t arrive expecting to save money however; a family of four could easily spend $150-200, and if you enjoy a drink now and then, you will be loving their fully stocked bar. However, if the kids can stay at the hotel, it is the perfect spot to reconnect and enjoy greater Orlando’s premium dinning destination.

 

3. Take a dip at Wekiwa Springs    Wekiwa Springs Information

Wekiwa SpringsCredit: Google Images

You won’t find this in your Orlando brochure.  That’s because the residents of Orlando keep this one for themselves. If you are over the crowds and the lines, then this is the place to cool off, get some sun, and enjoy a lavish natural spring.

 

Wekiwa Springs offers crystal clear waters perfect for all sorts of water activities! A nice stream, large enough to allow three or four people to float on some rafts and take in the sites, feeds the main watering hole of the spring. There you can put on your snorkeling gear and check out the variety of fish, turtles, and other wildlife that call this oasis home. The aquatic terrain varies from vegetation, rock and sand. There are many overhanging trees providing shade to all animal residents. Although rare, alligator attacks can and have happened. Be aware! It is not advisable to bring any pets with you.

 

Plenty of parking is available but it is paid parking. Bring plenty of cash, snacks, and drinks. There are very little food and drink options available so you will want to pack a good size cooler. If you are leaving from the central Orlando area, it is a bit of a drive – just under an hour.

4.     4. Lunch and shopping in Winter Park!

 Winter Park, FLCredit: Google ImagesJust a few miles away from The Ravenous Pig, Winter Park offers some great boutique shopping and quaint dinning.

The main street to this delightful getaway is Park Avenue. Parking is relatively easy to find and won’t cost you a thing. There are a number of clothing and retail stores with charming cafes sprinkled in between.

 

Most weekends will include some sort of outdoor entertainment; a farmers market, live music, or festival. This is perfect for all ages. There is truly something for everyone.

 

Whether you are looking for a great glass of wine and some one-of-a-kind handbags or a caffeine rush and gifts for the family back home, Park Avenue in Winter Park has it all.

 5.     5. Shop at the Outlets!

Outlet ShoppingCredit: Google Images

Speaking of shopping, Orland is home to some heavy-duty outlet malls. It would almost be impossible to see it all on an average vacation stay, but if you have a few hours to kill in between pool time and dinner theater, they are a must.

 

Orlando Premium Outlets is home to over 150 stores including brands like; Ann Taylor, Armani, Barneys New York, Burberry, Coach, Diesel, Elizabeth Arden, Fendi, Gap Outlet, Hugo Boss, Kenneth Cole, Lacoste, Marni, Nautica, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Tommy Hilfiger, & Tory Burch.

 

If you are in town during one of the busy seasons (Summer, Winter break, or Spring break)    parking will be hard to find. You also should be ready to compete with other enthusiastic shoppers. This is the only time some of these people will have access to these brands, so they are serious about their shopping.

 

For some of you thriftier people out there, this is a good time to “make some of that money back” from your vacation. Stock up on Christmas gifts, or redo your wardrobe. There are so many stores and products out there, there is almost always a good deal.