Circle B. Bar Reserve is a prime place in Florida for alligator sightings! We saw at least a dozen on the Lake View Trail.
Circle B. Bar Reserve is a prime place in Florida for alligator sightings! We saw at least a dozen on the Lake View Trail.

Lakeland, just a half hour or so outside of Orlando, is a fun natural escape from the man made cluster. The area is home to several great parks and preserves including the fantastic Circle B. Bar Reserve, where you are almost guaranteed at least one alligator sighting. Silver Springs State Park in Ocala (about an hour drive) is another great option. Here you can explore a few trails, walk around the landscaped grounds, and take a unique glass bottom boat ride. If looking to stay in the Orlando area, there are plenty of nice choices as well. I recommend Tibet Butler Nature Preserve and Lake Baldwin. In addition, check out my list of 17 things to do in Orlando besides theme parks.

Consider taking a day trip to Ocala for the famous glass bottom boat rides at Silver Springs State Park. You will see lot of cool fish and might even see a few gators basking in the sun!
Consider taking a day trip to Ocala for the famous glass bottom boat rides at Silver Springs State Park. You will see lot of cool fish and might even see a few gators basking in the sun!
Tibet Butler Nature Preserve, right in Orlando, is a great place to take a nature stroll away from the theme park congestion.
Tibet Butler Nature Preserve, right in Orlando, is a great place to take a nature stroll away from the theme park congestion.
Great views at Lake Baldwin in Orlando, Florida. Take a stroll, jog, or bike ride along the paved path.
Great views at Lake Baldwin in Orlando, Florida. Take a stroll, jog, or bike ride along the paved path.

48. See alligators in their natural habitat

One of many alligator sightings on the fantastic Gator Gal cruise at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota.
One of many alligator sightings on the fantastic Gator Gal cruise at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota.

There are lots of companies around Orlando which offer fun airboat cruises. As Florida is home to the second largest population of alligators in the country (after Louisiana), there is a high likelihood that you will see many of these prehistoric creatures during your visit (summer will offer the best opportunities for sightings as this is prime season). If willing to venture out of the way a bit, I highly recommend taking the drive over to beautiful Sarasota to explore one of Florida’s largest and most beautiful parks: Myakka River State Park. Here you can take a fun and affordable airboat cruise known as Gator Gal.

There are plenty of other activities at Myakka to make your day trip more worthwhile including a scenic driving/biking loop, a canopy walk, birdwatching trails, and several gorgeous hiking trails. Not to mention the many other fantastic activities around Sarasota including Siesta Key Beach, Sarasota Jungle Gardens, and St. Armand’s Circle. Trust me, the 2 hour day trip is more than worthy of the time spent in the car!

Tip: Check for Sarasota attraction discounts on Groupon.

A birdwatching trail at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota.
A birdwatching trail at Myakka River State Park in Sarasota.
Relaxing on the smooth white sands of Siesta Key Beach.
Relaxing on the smooth white sands of Siesta Key Beach.
Free roaming flamingos at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota. The gardens is a great add-on to any day out in beautiful Sarasota.
Free roaming flamingos at Sarasota Jungle Gardens in Sarasota. The gardens is a great add-on to any day out in beautiful Sarasota.


49. Explore gorgeous Winter Park