Explore the Best State Parks in Central Florida for Your Next Outdoor Adventure

A group of people tubing on the Blue Spring Run at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.

Florida is full of state parks—175 of them to be exact—and more than 40 of them are in Central Florida. So how do you choose the best ones? 

When visiting Central Florida, explore beyond the touristy areas and see what the Sunshine State is all about. Our state parks are the best way to do that. I will help you narrow down your choices with some of my favorites in the area. Some are refreshing springs with swimming and tubing, while others are best for hiking and paddling. And if you love to camp, I’ve got you covered there, too. 

I grew up in Central Florida and am now raising my family here. Whenever I can, I visit a state park, sometimes to revisit one from my childhood and other times to explore new places. My favorite thing is to go with my family at different times of the year and notice how the parks look; it’s almost like visiting for the first time.

Keep reading to learn more about my favorite Central Florida State Parks, which I’m sure you will love.

Get Ready to Explore: Paddleboarding Tips and Tricks for Callalisa Creek in Central Florida

Jessica Meinhofer owner of Walk and Paddle stands on her paddleboard at Callalisa Creek in New Smyrna Beach.

If you’re looking for a secluded paddleboarding location in Central Florida that’s an easy drive, Callalisa Creek is for you!

Callalisa Creek is conveniently located for a quick day trip from Orlando and can accommodate paddlers of all skills and abilities. It’s most popular for paddleboards, kayaks, canoes, and non-motorized boats. The creek gets bonus points for having serene water with plenty of views of water birds and wildlife.

I’ll share route options for beginner, intermediate, and expert paddles in this post. I’ll also suggest apps, gear, and the best times to visit. 

Lyonia Preserve and Environmental Center – Family-Friendly Fun All-Year Long

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, wearing her youngest while walking the trails at Lyonia Preserve in Deltona, Florida.

Looking for year-round activities for your whole family? Check out Lyonia Preserve and Environmental Center!

This place offers hands-on activities, hiking trails, guided hikes and events, live animal exhibits, and actual wildlife encounters on the trail. The best part is that most of the activities are free or nearly free, so everyone can attend. 

My family and I have been visiting Lyonia Preserve and Environmental Center since 2014. First, we attended their Tiny Trekkers program. Now, we attend homeschool classes during the school year, activities for older kids, and miles and miles of trails. 

Keep reading to learn everything you can do at Lyonia Preserve with your family all year long.

Your Guide to the Best Paddleboarding Locations in Central Florida

The aaunch point at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida on a bright blue day in May.

Central Florida has countless paddleboarding locations; how can you pick just one? 

Don’t worry—I’m going to help you narrow down the list! Whether you are new to the area or a local, I’ve got a fantastic list of places to paddle that are good for all skill levels and abilities. There’s something for everyone, from beach-like splendor to emerald waters meandering through lush forests. The best part, all of them are less than two hours from Orlando!

Shout out to Ella Ran, avid paddleboarder and co-owner of Outsiders USA in DeLand, Florida, for introducing me to the best spots in Central Florida!

I have been to most of these locations, and the ones I haven’t gone to yet, you get to see the research I do before I paddle somewhere! I’ll reference these when it’s time to add these paddles to my calendar. 

Grab your boards, and let’s get paddling!

Hiking Essentials: Your Guide to the Must-Have Gear for a Successful Hike

Collage of hiking areas and folks hiking in Florida, Georgia, and Colorado.

If you are new to hiking, you might not know what gear you need. 

I’ll share the gear Robert and I have, why we selected it, and why we recommend it. We will also share the gear that we don’t have yet but feel is important to consider depending on your particular needs.

I’ve been hiking for over 20 years. In that time, I’ve really put some wear and tear on our gear and replaced everything multiple times. We selected a lot of our gear via trial and error. Hopefully, my tips will help you avoid some of our mistakes.

Keep reading to learn more about the hiking gear you need to get started.

The Ultimate Paddleboard Guide: The 9 Best Picks for Every Need

Jessica Meinhofer, owner of Walk and Paddle, sitting on her her Evolve Good Buddy paddleboard at King's Landing, Apopka, Florida.

Looking for the best paddleboard to buy? Here are the best inflatable and hard paddleboards you can buy in 2024. 

This post is a collaborative effort between myself and expert paddleboarders. We share what the best boards are and why and tell you about the boards we have been using for years. 

There’s no such thing as “one size fits all” when it comes to paddleboards, but I’ve narrowed it down to 8 of the best! Keep reading to see if you agree.

Embrace the Outdoors: 13 Incredible Experiences Await at De Leon Springs State Park

The Old Sugar Mill Pancake House and Spring Run at De Leon Springs State Park in Florida.

Florida is full of wildlife and raw land, and one of the best ways to experience it is via its state parks. De Leon Springs is a terrific option with plenty of history.

Explore the depths of the spring, follow the trails, have a picnic, and spot wildlife. De Leon Springs State Park is great for day visits, and there’s plenty to keep you and your family engaged. Bonus: it’s wheelchair, walker, and stroller-friendly!

I grew up visiting De Leon Springs with my parents and on school field trips. When I had my own family, I brought them here too. Over the years, we have visited many times as day visitors, on homeschool field trips, and for birthday parties.

I’ll share 13 things you can do at De Leon Springs State Park in this post.

Get Ready for an Unforgettable Encounter – Your Ultimate Guide to Swimming with Manatees!

Manatee nose emerging from the water at Three Sisters Springs in Crystal River, Florida.

Did you know you can swim with manatees?

Although they are protected, folks can snorkel in the same waters as manatees. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see manatees in their winter sanctuary. But you just can’t show up on a whim and expect to be able to jump in the water and take a million underwater selfies; you need to be prepared.

I had my very first snorkel experience when I visited Crystal River to swim with manatees. I was invited by a friend who has gone many times. My husband was also with us. Although it was my first visit, I wasn’t new to respecting Florida wildlife and Florida springs or to navigating non-motorized boats.  

There is quite a bit of planning involved. In this post, you’ll find out where you can swim with manatees legally, what gear you need, what to expect, what not to do, and my experience.

Ready, Set, Paddle! Essential Gear to Jumpstart Your Paddleboarding Journey

Four photo collage of paddleboarders and a paddleboards at various locations in Central Florida.

If you are new to paddleboarding, you might not know what gear you need. 

I’ll be sharing the gear that Robert and I have, why we selected it, and why we recommend it. We will also share the gear that we purchased, thinking we needed it, only to realize that it was a mistake.

I’ve been paddleboarding since 2022. In that time, I’ve been able to really put some wear and tear on our gear and replace a few things. A lot of the gear selection was made with the help of our friend, paddleboard expert, and outdoors outfitter Ella Ran, co-owner of Outsiders USA.

Keep reading to learn more about the paddleboarding gear you need to get started.

Escape the Crowds: 9 Gorgeous and Inexpensive Family-Friendly Hikes in Colorado

A boy jumps off the dunes at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado.

Finding family-friendly locations can be tough due to the terrain and elevation, but I’ve found 9 family-friendly hikes for kids ages five and up. I’ve been to all of these during my years of visiting the state with my family. In total, we spent around eight months in Colorado, visiting and sometimes revisiting the trails I’m recommending to you. 

I hope you enjoy these trails as much as we have. You’ll notice that we enjoy less-frequented free hikes. They make the places more personal and let us feel less rushed.