If you’ve been to this festival before, you know all that EDC Orlando action is maximum overdrive, and you may need to add some yin to that yang to recharge. Fortunately, you’ll be in the lush subtropics of Central Florida during what is probably the optimal time of the year to be outside. With averages that include highs in the upper 70s, lows in the upper 50s, and the lowest rainfall of the year, you can enjoy the outdoors in all its natural splendor, with a minimum of its usual wild bite from the swelter and mosquitoes. Benefit from the wisdom of the snowbirds, and take full advantage of the mild conditions.
One way to do that is to voyage a little farther out and dive into nature. Don’t let the elaborate international welcome mat fool you: Florida has always been a wild place. All the amenities and landscaping are just a veneer. Underneath the tourist red carpet is the deep, savage nature that’s lurked all along, and some of it is glorious and truly singular. Go experience the real Florida. Just mind the gators.
Here’s our guide to the chill and early-morning outdoor adventures to try in Orlando.
In the City
In addition to venturing outside, you might as well go full Orlando and head to the water. Paddleboard yoga has been a growing and naturally Floridian trend in recent years. Perhaps the most centrally located sesh is Maui B’s Flo-Yo (floating yoga), which convenes twice daily (8am and 4pm, with a sunset session at 6pm on Mondays and Wednesdays) at the Lake Ivanhoe boat dock on the picturesque northern edge of Downtown. The 60-minute floating vinyasa flow yoga class includes all equipment and accommodates all skill levels.
For you landlubbers, there’s Yoga in Lake Eola Park on Sundays (11am–noon), a weekly community yoga event that sprang up organically in 2013 as an open, accessible, and affordable affair. Taking over the northeast lawn (corner of Robinson St. and Eola Dr.) of Downtown’s most popular and most urban park, the public yoga class is taught by experienced instructors. All they ask is a $5 contribution to cover city permit costs and to pay the day’s yoga teacher. All skill levels welcome.
But perhaps you like your chill time with a little less physical rigor or unintentional flatulence. So, while you’re at the infinitely Instagrammable Lake Eola, head over instead to the southeast shore by the rainbow-colored amphitheater, so painted to honor the victims of Pulse. Docked there are the famous Lake Eola swan boats, swan-shaped paddleboats that allow you to be part of the scenery yourself. Each boat can accommodate up to five people. Rentals open up at 10am.
Out in Nature
Florida’s famous natural springs are among its top natural attractions, and Orlando boasts proximity to a good number of the more notable ones. A big local draw, springs offer a glimpse into the crystal blue oases that made Florida the stuff of legend and myth among European explorers back in the 1500s. These public parks offer a variety of serene recreation, including exploring, swimming, tubing, snorkeling, scuba diving, canoeing, and kayaking.
The closest to Orlando is Wekiwa Springs State Park, 16 miles north of Downtown, which is popular for its river canoeing and swimming where the spring opens in a huge, natural swimming pool. Another 10 minutes farther is Kelly Park at Rock Springs Run, where the spring manifests instead as a powerful creek that quickly slows and becomes—for the next 25 minutes or so—a natural, crystal-clear lazy river seemingly built for peace, quiet, and flotation devices.
About 35 miles north of Orlando is Blue Spring State Park, which offers the usual leisure opportunities, including a nice boat tour of the St. Johns River, but also owns the special distinction of being a designated manatee refuge. While the quickly fluctuating November temperatures can sometimes make water activities a bit of a coin toss, it’s the beginning of manatee season here. So, Blue Springs isn’t just a guarantee if there’s a fleeting cold snap; it’s jackpot if there is. As the winter home of a significant population of West Indian manatees, the spring and spring run yield to them and close for all water activities from mid-November through March. That means any time there’s a downward spike in the Fahrenheit, hundreds of these gentle, noble giants flock to the warm spring, where visitors likewise flock to view them from the many overlook spots along the spring run. Check in to gauge activity closer to that time on the Manatee Cam.
Sanford: Small-Town Charm in Renaissance
In the same amount of time it would take you to get to Disney World from Tinker Field, you could instead be in Sanford, Orlando’s coolest little-sister burg. Being a lakeside community on the massive Lake Monroe, one of the metro’s largest lakes, it offers a full range of chill activities on the water, including boating and fishing, and on the waterfront, like the popular bike/walk/run trail RiverWalk.
But what’s been making Sanford so distinctive lately is its great convergence of historic small-town setting and an inspired transfusion of a new class of smart, hip people who are elevating its sensibilities. Sanford’s classic waterfront charm has long been a thing, but only in recent years has it blossomed into Greater Orlando’s most resurgent town—all on the wings of its meteoric food and drink scenes. As such, a city’s worth of leisure options await in a self-contained nutshell, just a couple blocks off the lake that’s as scenic as it is neighborly.
During the day, especially on weekends, Sanford’s compact, walkable Downtown is ripe for light strolls and discovery. Nestled inside the historic buildings and storefronts is an attractive variety of local, non-chain shops featuring tasteful gifts (Boxelder, Magpies Modern General Store), books (Maya Books & Music), and antiques (Washburn Imports). There are even small art galleries like Jeanine Taylor Folk Art, which focuses on contemporary Floridian and Deep South folk art. Lots of places have cafés, but very few have one like Rabbitfoot Record Store Café, a daytime coffeehouse where you can shop records and grab custom-cut vinyl made from your own audio files. Also, the Sanford Farmers Market runs Saturdays 10am–3pm. And there’s always Root’s Raw Juice Bar if you need a little morning detox—not that you ever would.
But back to that food scene. Naturally, there are reputable homestyle classics like the Colonial Room and the Original Christo’s for good ol’ American breakfast and lunch. On the other end of the spectrum, forward, young craft kitchens like the Tennessee Truffle and the Smiling Bison are reimagining breakfast, brunch, and lunch for foodies. Or go international with Buster’s Bistro, a Belgian resto that also features Sunday brunch, or Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Café, a lively sidewalk spot where you can wash down hearty, authentic German fare with an order of “Das Boot,” a 3-liter boot of beer, also available in 2-liter for amateurs.
Written by Bao Le-Huu
EDC Orlando 2018 takes place Friday, November 9, and Saturday, November 10, at Tinker Field in Orlando, FL. Tickets are on sale now.