Florida Life, Orlando

My New Mission: Central Florida’s Best Parks

I love Central Florida. When I sat down to write about Central Florida’s best parks and springs, I knew I’d enjoy researching it. But once this list published on Orlando Date Night Guide I quickly realized I had a new mission.

This list has now become my personal mission. I want to visit each of these Central Florida parks and springs myself, and with my family.

Beautiful sunflowers at Leu Gardens in Orlando, Florida

I’ve visited most of them at some point in my life because I’ve lived my entire life here. Now that I have a family of my own, however, I am presented with an opportunity to see my beloved Central Florida in a new way.

Thankfully I’ve already visited three of the parks on the list of Central Florida Springs and Parks for an Outdoorsy Date Day this year. Here’s what I think of them.

Leu Gardens – Orlando, Florida

Canopy of shade trees along walkway near South Gardens portion of Harry P. Leu Gardens

When you want to discover Central Florida’s wild beauty tamed with South Hospitality, or if you want to show out-of-towners that this is more to Orlando than theme parks, this is the place to go. Harry P. Leu Gardens is not too far from downtown Orlando and nestled between two of my favorite neighborhoods: Mills50 and Audubon Park.

I recently visited with my mother-in-law and brother-in-law; it was my husband’s first visit. I loved showing them this place. The natural charm coupled with casual Southern elegance. We followed the map, spent a little extra time in the butterfly garden and vegetable garden, and stopped for a snack we brought with us. We spent about two and a half hours, which was plenty in the warm Spring weather.

Prior to arriving at Leu Gardens, we visited East End Market. We arrived at 10:30 AM, strolled the market, and then go in line for Domu at 10:45 AM. Yes, we and about 25 other people waited outside the door of a restaurant for it to open for brunch,… in Orlando. Domu specializes in ramen. I’d only had ramen once before. I went with the traditional pork belly and it was divine. I added an extra sous vide egg – so glad I did. The cocktails looked great, but I am limiting my alcohol consumption so I passed. A member of our party had the Siracha Bloody Mary, I tried a sip. The Asian flavor and spices makes it a very unique drink.

After brunch we grabbed two cookies to split among the party from Gideon’s Bakehouse, the best cookies in Central Florida, to enjoy later. There is usually a line first thing in the morning on weekends. We did not experience a line when we arrived fully bellied from brunch at 12 noon.
Just 5 minutes away from each other, East End Market and Leu Gardens is the perfect combination.

Lake Lily Park – Maitland, Florida

I have visited Lake Lily Park countless times, but it took me a few visits to realize that it is home to Floridaโ€™s oldest brick road. There is a weekly farmerโ€™s market held here every Sunday from 9am-2pm. This charming park is easy to pass by on 17-92, but it really should be on your list to visit.

Lots of shade, a historic home and a bungalow, picnic tables, and a great playground make it easy to spend some quality time here. I’ve enjoyed many a stroll and jog around the circular loop that envelopes Lake Lily and its sparkling fountain.

Kelly Park / Rock Springs – Apopka, Florida

I started 2019 here. On New Year’s Day my family and I ventured into Kelly Park. The mild weather was a nice complement to the spring water waiting for us to plunge into. I’ll long remember the feeling of the refreshing water and sunlight rays dancing beneath the surface as our start to the new year.

Kelly Park offers a pool of spring water that is part of Rock Springs. The most popular past time here is tubing along the Rock Springs run. I have not done so since being a kid. Once our little guy is older I definitely want to share this experience with him, after all, you can’t be a true Central Florida Native without tubing along Rock Springs.

2019 is nearly at the halfway mark. It would be foolish of me to make it my goal to visit all the parks and springs on this list before year’s end. I am instead going to take it nice and easy. Maybe by 2020’s end we’ll have visited them all. You can be sure I will share our experiences on here, my blog, as well as on Twitter and Instagram. I hope you will make it a point to explore some of these Central Florida treasures too.


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