When you think of things to do in Orlando, what comes to mind? Big city? Disney? Seaworld? Well, if you’re looking for a little bit different of an experience (and little bit gentler on your wallet), here are several things that we did at the recommendation of some of Orlando’s locals.
Things to Do in Orlando for Adults:
1) Lakeridge Winery
Lakeridge Winery ranks as Florida’s largest premium winery, and remains a pioneer in the development of table and sparkling wines from muscadine (very popular grape in the south) and hybrid grapes including Stover, Suwannee, and Blanc Du Bois. All the grapes are grown in Florida – at the 127-acre Lakeridge Winery Estate in Clermont, an additional 450 acres in the Florida panhandle, and 200 acres under contract throughout Florida.
They offer complimentary tours and tasting – which we were totally on board for! It was fascinating to learn about grape growing in the far south. They had an awesome video presentation on the history of the winery and the wine making process. It was probably one of the best explanations we’ve ever hear in our wine tours. The wines were – not surprisingly – very sweet for the most part. But we did find a hybrid grape varietal that we enjoyed enough to buy!
They also have live music periodically through the winter. We recommend hitting them up if you visit the Orlando area.
2) Oakland Nature Preserve
The Oakland Nature Preserve was awesome for several reasons:
- Boardwalk out to Lake Apopka with history
- We saw a baby alligator!!!
Lake Apopka is the 3rd largest lake in Florida, and throughout the 1940s it was one of Central Florida’s main tourist attractions, particularly for trophy fishermen. There were 21 fish camps at the lake during its peak. Since then, humans have altered the lake a lot. Between draining the lake to expose fertile ground for farming, the discharge of agricultural chemicals, and the dumping of pesticides into the lake, the lake underwent a chronic algae bloom that decimated the fish and seemed into Central Florida’s waterways and aquifers.
It has been a long and hard comeback for Lake Apopka and the larger region, and the fight is long from over. Almost all the farms have now been purchased by the USDA for restoration. Extensive remediation efforts are going on to remove chemicals (namely phosphorus) from both the water and the soil from years of nutrient overload, including soil inversion, water processing facilities (namely the marsh flow-way), the harvesting of a particular kind of fish called the gizzard shad, and replanting native marsh vegetation.
3) Lake Apopka Wildlife Drive
This is an 11-mile drive on the northeast shore of Lake Apopka along the former farmlands that had been repurchased. As part of the restoration effort, they created a marsh flow-way that filters Lake Apopka’s waters by circulating lake water through restored wetlands, returning cleaner water to the lake. The drive takes you along this flow-way, which serves as a habitat for nearly 400 species of birds, alligators, turtles, snakes, raccoons, and more.
The drive is FREE and takes about an hour if you do it fast. There are plenty of turnouts for you to stop and do more relaxed wildlife viewing – just be careful of the gators!
4) Dinner and Drinks – Local Style
We had dinner with Melanie and Andrew at a local BBQ place called 4 Rivers Smokehouse. Think of it as a Chipotle Restaurant meets Logan’s Roadhouse – build your own dinner plate with options of BBQ pulled pork, brisket, ribs, etc. and your choice of all your favorite classic sides: mac and cheese, coleslaw, baked beans, cornbread, etc. My mouth is watering all over again in writing this…
We wrapped up the evening with a quick jaunt through the cute town of Winter Garden, FL to a local brewery called the Crooked Can Brewing Company.
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