How does an outdoorsy family vacation sound right about now? Pretty good, right? In Orlando North, Seminole County you’ll be greeted with abundant sunshine, warm weather, balmy breezes, cool water, and endless natural, real-Florida fun. On top of that, our hotels are more comfortable and affordable than other destinations nearby, and we have plenty of restaurants that will suit any family’s needs.
Here’s an overview of the adventuresome fun that Orlando North has to offer.
We like to think of Orlando North as a paddler’s paradise. With more than 2,000 lakes and rivers in our destination, the options for kayaking, canoeing, and paddleboarding are almost limitless. Your best bet, though, is to rent a watercraft (unless you bring your own) and head out on the gorgeous Wekiva River, which is spring-fed and stays 72 degrees year-round. (You won’t believe how refreshing it feels during the summer!) The Wekiva zigs and zags, with new surprises at every turn. Whereas many of Florida’s spring-fed rivers run through developed areas, nearly all of the Wekiva is surrounded by wilderness. For convenience, stop in at Wekiva Island, rent whatever gear you need, have the staff map out a route, and get paddling.
Look at a map of Seminole County and you’ll see huge swaths of green — protected wilderness areas with names like Little Big Econ State Forest, Lake Jesup Conservation Area, Geneva Wilderness Area, and others. Most have bodies of water in them or bordering them. This makes Orlando North the perfect place for families to get outdoors for a hiking or biking excursion. You can choose paved trails, ideal for cycling, or unpaved ones that stretch for miles into untamed land. In some places, you can even stop for an impromptu dip in the water to cool off. While you’re at it, pack some food and stop at one of the many picnic areas along our trails, or just find a spot of your own.
If you haven’t experienced the thrill of riding an airboat as it swerves over seagrass, through thick canopies of green and out into open water, it’s about time you did. Black Hammock Adventures offers airboat rides that will give you and your family a thrill ride like no other. A tour guide narrates the trip, points out wildlife, and gives you a close-but-not-too-close look at the lake’s many gators. Most of the treks are either a half-hour or an hour. They’re safe, too. The company, part of The Black Hammock complex on the Lake Jesup waterfront, has three U.S. Coast Guard-approved airboats that accommodate 18, 15, and 12 passengers, plus a six-passenger vessel. Hearing protection is provided, as well as life vests for everyone. If you’re visiting Seminole County, this is an experience you absolutely do not want to pass up. These days, in observance of social distancing, the boats rarely go out at full capacity.
View the world from above while zinging through trees, foliage, and obstacles at Seminole Aerial Adventures. This first-rate ziplining facility, part of the Central Florida Zoo complex, features three courses — the most adventurous being the Rainforest Course, with 13 ziplines and 33 other challenges. The Upland Course has seven zip lines and other elements; the Kids’ Course (age 5 and up) has two ziplines and a sky swing. Whatever level you take on, you’ll be sure to get the adrenaline pumping. As part of social-distancing (as of mid-August), all guests need to purchase dated and timed tickets in advance.
No matter who you’re traveling with or how old they are, it’s a safe bet that everyone enjoys looking at exotic animals like leopards, rhinoceros, and bears. You can experience that and more at the remarkable Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The 26-acre attraction houses more than 400 animals, ranging from the sleek cougar to the not-so-cute Madagascar Hissing Cockroach. The animal stations are set amid the lavish flora and fauna of the Botanical Gardens, so your walk between animal viewings will be filled with natural beauty. Children of all ages will love cooling off in the Tropical Splash Ground -- and parents will love just sitting down for a rest. The facility is working under modified operations, which includes limited hours and a limited number of guests. All tickets must be purchased in advance, and the Zoo requires face coverings for guests age 13 and older. Click here for details.
Campers visiting Orlando North can choose between RV-style, with all the appropriate amenities, or finding a rustic site in one of our protected wilderness areas. (Please understand that hot summer weather may put a damper on rough-it-style camping with kids.) Twelve Oaks RV Resort offers an authentic old-Florida experience with amenities like showers, restrooms, laundry facilities, and (thankfully!) WiFi. It’s the ideal headquarters for a family getaway — just three miles from a kayak and canoe access point on the pristine Wekiva River, and seven miles from Historic Downtown Sanford. As of mid-August, camping at Florida’s state parks was on hold.
If you want to put a little extra bounce in your visit, Orlando North has you covered. The area offers three indoor facilities that feature huge fields of trampolines, plus an array of other activities that’ll make everyone in the family happy. At 50,000 square feet, Planet Obstacle is billed as the World’s Largest Indoor Obstacle Park. Along with trampolining, guests can try rock-climbing, ride bumper cars, play dodgeball, and more. Boing Fun Center offers 12,000 square feet of wall-to-wall trampolines on which you can play dodgeball, volleyball and have slam-dunk contests. Our newest springy attraction is Altitude Trampoline Park, with 30,000 square feet of trampolines, activities, and other amenities.
Orlando North has some fancy restaurants, for sure, but far more of them are casual, inexpensive, and tailor-made for family groups. Many of the area’s eateries feature outdoor seating, and some of them even have large courtyards-- ideal for times like this when social distancing is a consideration. If it’s vast outdoor spaces you’re looking for, check out Hollerbach’s Willow Street Cafe, a German-themed restaurant in Historic Downtown Sanford that’s a hoot. Or stick around at The Black Hammock after your airboat ride and try one of their two authentic Florida eateries — The Black Hammock Restaurant and the Lazy Gator Bar. There are many, many more places to pick from, so click here for an overview before you travel.
Want to know more about visiting Wekiva Island -- Orlando North’s island oasis? Listen to our podcast with Wekiva Island owners Bill and Mary Sue Weinaug here:
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