Fun Things to do with the Kids: The Great Outdoors

Enjoy the outdoors with gardening, camping, and more.




Roberto Gonzales

Fun Things to do with the Kids!

Animals
The Great Outdoors
Get Movin’
Out of the Ordinary/Out of this World
Simple Delights and Fun N Games
Hands On/Food Fun

Hand-Picked Fun 

The perfect remedy for winter in Florida is a little dose of vitamins D and C. Showcase of Citrus in Clermont offers an abundance of both. This 2,500-acre farm cultivates some 70 varieties of citrus that you can pick yourself. An onsite playground is fun for the kids, while the grownups can browse the nearby gift shop for homemade goodies and citrus products. For the ultimate adventure, hop aboard the self-proclaimed “world’s largest 4x4,” a school bus turned monster truck, for tromping through the woods. Don’t leave without getting a creamsicle, a dreamy blend of orange juice and frozen yogurt. showcaseofcitrus.com

Family Canvas

There’s a reason why on just about any day of the week during the golden hour of dusk, you’ll find engaged couples, just marrieds, families and aspiring models all posing for their hired photographer at Kraft Azalea Garden, tucked beside the shore of Lake Maitland in Winter Park (1365 Alabama Drive). 

You don’t need a photographer to make your outing special. Pack a picnic and some art supplies and take your family on an artists’ date. Watercolors are well-suited for this dreamy Old Florida landscape of wispy cypress, graceful oaks and even a banyan tree, rarely found this far north. Late February through early April, the azaleas are a fuchsia riot. 

Spread some blankets, set out snacks and art supplies and see where each family member’s imagination leads. (Don’t forget dishes and water to clean brushes.) No skill required—just a desire to enjoy the moment with family. Afterward, take photos of your work to share with friends on social media. Start a trend: #paintingpicnic. cityofwinterpark.org

SUPs & Shakes

Bring the kids and the pooch and park at Trader Joe’s in Winter Park for a one-stop Family Date Night. You can all load onto Paddleboard Orlando’s custom built stand-up-paddleboards, specially designed to keep everybody on top out on spring-fed Lake Killarney. Paddleboard Orlando rents by the hour; no experience necessary. Afterward, refuel with burgers and a frozen custard next door at Shake Shack. Their lakeside patio is an unexpected find. Even better? You can play ping-pong while you wait for your food. paddleboardorlando.com; shakeshack.com


HARRY P. LEU GARDENS

Get Your Garden Groove On

You want to garden with your family but aren’t sure how to get started? Here are three ways to start sowing some seeds:

The owners of A Natural Farm in Howey-in-the-Hills have created their business as a robust resource to help people be successful growing fruits and vegetables in Central Florida. Take the family for a free, hands-on workshop offered on most Saturdays. Tip: Get on their email list and receive updates on workshops, plant sales and seasonal tips for plant care. anaturalfarm.com

If you think Harry P. Leu Gardens is just for looking at pretty plants, think again. They offer a wide array of classes in topics from beekeeping to raised vegetable gardening. Director Robert Bowden has seen a huge uptick in kids taking classes with their parents. See the full list of offerings at leugardens.eventbrite.com 

Give your visit to Epcot a new twist by going on the Behind the Seeds greenhouse tour—an extension of the Living with the Land attraction. It’s an up-close look at innovative growing practices, the fish farm and laboratories. Tour highlights can include tasting produce grown in The Land, taking an herb and spice challenge, or feeding fish at the fish farm. Google “Epcot Behind the Seeds.” 


ORLANDO TREE TREK ADVENTURE PARK

Climb a Tree

Power yourself through Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park’s rope courses, zip lines, tree climbing, balance bridges and more. Three courses are designed for kids, juniors, and adults so you can pick the best challenge for your family. Your youngest must be 7 or older, and each course takes at least two hours to get through. orlandotreetrek.com

For Night Owls

Paddle by Moonlight
Journey through the Winter Park Chain of Lakes with Adventures in Florida, a local company offering a monthly full-moon kayaking trip. An ideal outing for families who feel at home on the water, this easy jaunt gives participants the chance to enjoy a sunset launch from Winter Park’s Dinky Dock Park (next to Rollins College) as they paddle out onto Lake Virginia and beyond using single and tandem kayaks and canoes supplied by guides. Cost is $40 per person. adventuresinflorida.com

Nocturnal Treks
In the fall and spring, Seminole County hosts a series of night hikes that take groups on a guided, starlit stroll through one of the county’s seven greenway and natural land properties. Limited to ages 7 and older, the two-hour hikes traverse 1-2 miles and highlight everything from night-blooming plants to nocturnal creatures. Cost is $3 per person; reservations are required. seminolecountyfl.gov

Camp in Your Backyard (or Beyond)

Think you’re not a camper? Anyone with kids should at least try it in the backyard. There’s nothing like snuggling with your mini-ranger, a headlamp and a Kindle for some bedtime reading (make sure you’ve loaded something you want to read after the little ones are lulled to sleep by the night noises). Best part of starting out at home? You get to use your own bathroom. If you’re in the market for a tent, we recommend one with a screened vestibule outside the entrance. It helps keep the bugs out and your tent clean. 

Ready to venture beyond the backyard? Check out floridastateparks.org to pick one of 50 full-service campgrounds in Florida. Wekiva Springs is 16 miles north of downtown Orlando. You can hike, swim in the 72-degree springs, and even rent a canoe or kayak for an easy paddle on the Wekiva River. Best thing about camping here? If it doesn’t work out, you can load up and sleep at home. 

Sea Turtle Sightings 

Created by the Sea Turtle Preservation Society, the guided Sea Turtle Walks along select Brevard County beaches are the only legal way to get close to a loggerhead sea turtle, one of Florida’s most protected species. Held in June and July when the turtle-nesting season hits its peak, the tours run four to five nights a week, departing at 9 p.m. and lasting as long as three hours. While a sighting is not guaranteed, lucky attendees might see a mother loggerhead creating her nest and laying her eggs before swimming back into the Atlantic. Cost is $10 for kids 6-12, and $15 for 13 and up. seaturtlespacecoast.org

Stand Tall

Around the corner from the Marine Science Center (see Animals section) is the Ponce de Leon Inlet Lighthouse & Museum. Kids love to climb the lighthouse’s 203 steps, and the view from the top takes in the inlet and the Indian River, helping kids better understand our coastal geography. There are also pristine outbuildings that show how lighthouse keepers and their families lived here from 1887 to the 1950s. ponceinlet.org

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