Photos by Susan Young
Vacationing in Orlando, whether at the theme parks or downtown, does not mean you have to leave your running shoes behind. Central Florida offers many options for all levels of walking, jogging and serious running. No excuse to break from your usual routine with these options available throughout the area.
Walt Disney World might be your destination, with the intention of not leaving the property. Remember, this is the where the annual Walt Disney World Marathon is held every January so the options are many and varied. The next event, in 2017, marks the 20th anniversary of this prestigious race. The weekend includes a 5k, 10k, Half and Full Marathon, as well as numerous kids’ runs throughout the resort.
READ MORE: Orlando Beyond the Theme Parks
Running and jogging paths are available at all resorts and are geared to everyone from the casual walker to the seasoned runner wanting to put in some mileage. The paths are pristine and offer sights along rivers, lagoons and canals as well as golf course fairways and colorful hotels. Whether camping at Fort Wilderness or vacationing among the African wildlife at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge, you’re always near a running or jogging path to keep you up to speed.
If you are staying closer to International Drive or Universal Orlando Resort, there are many options throughout the area. Shingle Creek Trail is located seven miles southwest of Downtown Orlando. The trail runs from the Orlando International Premium Outlets to just north of Mall at Millenia. Ask the Concierge at Universal for a map of the trails that run around the resort. They offer half-mile, one and a half, as well as three-mile routes.
Moving closer into town, Lake Eola Park, with its iconic fountain, sits in the center of downtown Orlando, providing a one-mile circle for walkers and joggers who want the local experience. It’s difficult, however, not to stop and admire the many sculptures adorning this beautiful park, as well as cafes and shops. The park also offers swan boat rides across the lake providing a close-up view of the massive fountain. With a children’s park at its southeast corner, you can include the kids in your quest for an outdoor workout.
For a longer downtown running experience, the Orlando Urban Trail is the central piece of Orlando’s trail network. It is approximately three miles long with 85 percent of the trail an off-street path. The trail runs from Lake Highland through Loch Haven Park, to Mead Gardens in Winter Park. Along this trail one can connect to six lakes and the Gaston Edwards Trail. You will find lots of shade along this path from the city’s massive oaks, as well as bridges across waterways, offering beautiful, typically Florida, scenery.
If your Orlando travels find you in the vicinity of the University of Central Florida, about 15 miles east of downtown, you’ll find The Little Econ Greenway Trail, offering 8 miles of riverside paths with plenty of wildlife sightings in store. Everything from alligators on the river banks to hawks, owls and even the occasional deer might pop up. Access to the trail in Blanchard Park provides easy parking and a local YMCA is located at the east entrance.
While exploring central Florida’s long running history, one cannot forget to mention the Track Shack, Orlando’s oldest go-to shop for everything from the casual jogger to the serious, competitive racer. Since 1977, they have been the city’s running epicenter for training programs, race events and youth fitness programs. Their full-service shop also includes a wide array of shoes, clothing and accouterments for the sprinter or shuffler wanting to run in style. Jon and Betsy Hughes have been at the helm of this nautically inspired location for over 30 years and are local celebrities due to the sheer number of races they have produced.
So, remember to pack your running gear when traveling to the Orlando area. The opportunities are endless to stay in shape while visiting “The City Beautiful”!