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  1. Nine Orlando adventures beyond the theme parks

    posted by Guest blogger - Ben Reed | 0 Comments


    This past year Orlando surpassed 50 million visitors. No doubt many of them spent their time and money at the countless theme parks around the city. And while the reputation of a theme park vacation brings to mind maxed out credit cards, crowds of people and artificial lands, an Orlando vacation doesn’t have to be expensive. Here’s a list of nine places to visit that you may not have considered and more importantly, won’t break the bank.

    1. Wekiwa Springs
    Before there was Disney or Universal, Floridians spent the lazy days of summer enjoying the nearby, natural springs. Wekiwa Springs State Park, located a short ride from Downtown Orlando, is a perfect retreat during Florida’s hot, summer weather. Its main attraction is the spring-fed pool that’s always a crisp 78oF/26oC, but visitors can also go biking, canoeing, hiking and camping.

    2. Winter Park Farmer’s Market
    Park Avenue, one of the main streets in the City of Winter Park, is known for its abundance of boutique shops, restaurants and historic charm. But the locals know when to visit – Saturday morning during the Winter Park Farmer’s Market. Whether its fruits and vegetables, cheeses and breads or all-natural juices and nuts, you’ll find fresh food in a lively atmosphere. And if you have room in your backpack, you can take a palm tree home with you too!

    3. Enzian Theater
    The Enzian Theater is an independent, non-profit cinema just outside the Orlando city limits. It hosts the Florida Film Festival every spring, but all year-round they play independent and cult classic films. Stop by the adjacent Eden Bar for pre/post film drinks.

    4. Orlando Food Truck Bazaar
    In a town known for having every chain restaurant ever invented, finding delicious, local and inexpensive food can be challenging. Sponsored by TheDailyCity, a local Orlando arts and culture blog, the Orlando Food Truck Bazaar brings together all of Orlando’s best rolling cuisine into one spot (on a rotating, monthly basis). Korean tacos, cupcakes, vegan fare, BBQ, seafood and more are all here. Bring your appetite.

    5. Press 101
    If you prefer your food cooked in something that doesn’t have wheels, Press 101, is a great place to indulge on a Friday or Saturday night. Gourmet sandwiches, wines and live music combine for a casual, yet trendy night out at an affordable price.

    6. Rainbow River
    A day of floating lazily down the Rainbow River in an inner tube will make the two-hour drive to KP Hole State Park worth the trip. Leave your worries behind as you traverse natural landscapes, makeshift waterfront homes and pristine, crystal waters. This is what it means to be a Floridian. Celebrate the return to your car with a packed lunch.

    7. Outlet shopping
    If shopping is what you desire, you’ll find every brand name imaginable at Orlando’s Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue and International Drive. Arrive early and spend the day looking for bargains on outdoor apparel, gifts for friends and family or treats for yourself. Stock up on gear for your next adventure or find that business wardrobe for your (eventual) return back to work.

    8. Gatorland
    To understand Florida’s tourism history, a trip to Gatorland is a must. One of the few remaining roadside attractions that your grandparents took the family to on their vacation, you can get up close and personal with Florida’s most well-known creatures in exhibits, shows and other attractions. New this year is a zip line adventure that carries you directly over a collection of hungry gators!

    9. Cocoa Beach
    Finally, a trip to Central Florida isn’t complete without visiting one of the beaches that surround the state. Cocoa Beach is convenient, has free parking (courtesy of Ron Jon Surf Shop) and offers plenty to do (or not do). Beach umbrella not required.

    Ben Reed is an Orlando-based travel blogger that will try (almost) anything once. His travel blog AdventuresWithBen encourages readers to do the same as they learn how to plan, explore and enjoy some of the world’s top destinations. Ben also hosts a weekly podcast about Florida Travel & Tourism called Florida Travel Cocktail – available for download on iTunes and Floridatravelcocktail.com. You can also follow Ben on Facebook and Twitter.

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