Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida

Happy Earth Day, fellow earthlings! With cooler temperatures gracing our area since the weekend, it feels like a crime to spend Earth Day working indoors. Here in Central Florida, we are blessed to live in such a diverse environment, with a variety of wildlife and terrain in every direction. The longer I live here, the more beautiful places I discover and fall in love with, and I consider myself lucky to call this weird and wonderful place my home.

In honor of Earth Day, I’m sharing five unique places to experience nature and wildlife right in your own backyard. Please feel free to share your own local favorites in the comments section below!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Ways to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net1. Audubon Center for Birds of Prey (Maitland, FL)
Nestled just off the main roads in Maitland, the Audubon Center for Birds and Prey is a rehabilitation facility for raptors. The organization brings in hundreds (if not thousands) of hawks, owls, eagles, vultures, and other birds of prey who are sick or injured each year. For $8 per adult and $5 per child, guests can visit about 50 of the center’s permanent residents and learn about each individual bird. Don’t forget to visit the tiny raptors on the back porch, including my favorite: Tony, the eastern screech owl! You can also watch a video inside to learn more about rehabilitation and release efforts, and how the center does its part to protect these amazing species. The Audubon Center for Birds of Prey also hosts various events throughout the year.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

2. Spring-to-Spring Trail from Lake Monroe Park to Gemini Springs Park (DeBary, FL)
Whether you prefer to hike or bike, the Spring-to-Spring Trail is a must-visit on a beautiful day. The trail will eventually span 26 miles out to DeLeon Springs, but in the meantime, you can enjoy a more leisurely stroll from Lake Monroe to Gemini Springs. The route is paved and goes 3.15 miles one way.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

3. Green Springs Park (Enterprise, FL)
True to its name, Green Springs Park is home to one of Florida’s few sulphur springs. The color has to be seen in person to be believed — and yes, it really is that ethereal. You can access Green Springs Park via the Spring-to-Spring Trail from Lake Monroe Park if you’re looking for a longer hike, or simply drive up to the outside of the park and take a walk around to explore the 31 acres of paved and natural trails that comprise Green Springs.

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

4. The CARE Foundation (Apopka, FL)
I fell in love with The CARE Foundation a few years back, when the Apopka-based wildlife sanctuary took in Lucious, a sweet young lion who suffered from hypovitamiosis. Although Lucious ultimately passed away from this condition, his story went viral and introduced many to The CARE Foundation, which rescues both exotic and domestic animals. Home to lemurs, foxes, big cats, a bear, blonde raccoons, reptiles, and many other critters, The CARE Foundation offers private tours, as well as open houses throughout the year to welcome the public. I have visited The CARE Foundation for their open houses, but a private tour with a small group is on my list for the future!

Happy Earth Day: 5 Places to Celebrate Nature & Wildlife in Central Florida | WellnessAndWanderlust.net

5. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour (Winter Park, FL)
Just off Park Avenue, hop on a boat to explore the chain of lakes and canals that make up Winter Park. For just $14 per adult and $7 per child, Scenic Boat Tours take place every hour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and are the perfect way to cool down as the weather heats up. Throughout your tour, you’ll visit three lakes and two canals, and the guide will share the history of Winter Park while introducing you to the local flora and fauna.

What are your favorite ways to enjoy nature in Central Florida? Sound off in the comments section below!

Love Your Shorts Summer Rewind: Adventures in Sanford

Ever since I graduated from college, I’ve looked for new ways to get engaged in my community. I grew up in South Florida, and while it may only be a few hours from where I live now, the two places sometimes often seem like worlds apart. Finding fun local events to attend with friends — especially those that pertain to the arts — has made my new residence feel a lot more like home.

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Sanford is a port city just north of Orlando, filled with its own rich history and well isolated from the hectic Disney World traffic. I often drive down to Lake Monroe to enjoy the beautiful view, eclectic shops and historic downtown district. From authentic German cuisine at Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe to (paleo friends, cover your eyes for this!) handcrafted marshmallows and s’mores at Wondermade Dessert Cafe, the city is unique and has something to offer everyone.

Over the past two years, I’ve been using websites like Visit Seminole and EventBrite to find fun things to do in the Sanford area. The great thing about EventBrite is that not only can you sign up for events in your area, but you can also manage your own events and even sell tickets!

Back in August, while using the site, I discovered the Love Your Shorts Summer Rewind, and was immediately intrigued.

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The Love Your Shorts Film Festival takes place every year in February, but this year, they kicked off the fall with a showing of some of the best films from last year’s festival. This one-night event featured short films from all over the world of various genres — romance, comedy, sci-fi, animation, you name it!

I decided to go to the film festival with a good friend of mine, and we were not disappointed. The event took place at the Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center downtown, which my friend described as being “straight out of old-timey America.” From there, we moseyed over to the film festival after-party at String Theory Creations, a nearby art shop.

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The after-party had a fun luau theme, and featured a live auction. Brice and I didn’t put in any bids, but we definitely enjoyed the people-watching. (There are few things more entertaining to watch than a live auction!) We did take advantage of the many mirrors throughout the shop by snapping a few mirror selfies.

Summer Rewind

For anyone traveling to Orlando, I highly recommend you take a day-trip out to Sanford. There are so many cool events like this throughout the year, and even if you visit on a quieter day, you can still take advantage of some awesome antiquing (my favorite store is Antiques and Dustibles on First Street!), enjoy delicious food, and perhaps even convince a handsome gentleman to take you out on his boat!

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Are any of my readers from the Sanford area? What events and activities would you recommend for travelers and locals alike? 🙂