Sports and Recreation
Florida is blessed with an abundance of beautiful and pastoral springs, those places where water bubbles up from the earth to feed rivers and providing sustenance. At Wekiva Springs State Park (1800 Wekiwa Circle, Apopka, 407/884-2008, www.floridasateparks.org/wekiwasprings, 8 a.m.–sunset daily, $5 vehicles with 2–8 people, $3 single-occupant vehicles), pastoral isn’t the first word that comes to mind.
The year-round 72-degree water means there’s almost always a crowd relaxing on the sloping banks and splashing around in the large water basin, making it feel more like a municipal swimming pool than the remarkable natural gift that it is. Nonetheless, beyond the main swimming area there are ample boating opportunities as the spring water flows into the Wekiva River, as well as well-marked hiking trails and numerous primitive, RV, and family campsites.
Kelly Park at Rock Springs (400 E. Kelly Park Rd., Apopka, 407/889-4179, 9 a.m.–7 p.m. daily, $1, children under 5 free) has no pool-like area, as the springs immediately begin flowing into a briskly moving stream that proves irresistible to folks who want to go tubing. There are a number of tube-rental outfits near the park’s entrance, most of which offer tubes for $3–5.
The more centrally located Gaston Edwards Park (1236 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, 407/246-2283, 5 a.m.–sunset daily) is on Lake Ivanhoe near downtown; the preferred activities here are Jet-Skiing and waterskiing. Landlubbers typically stay onshore to enjoy a game of volleyball.
The National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic (www.nba.com/magic) will play their final season at the current Amway Arena (600 W. Amelia St.) in 2009–2010; after that, the team—and the arena’s name—will move to a new facility called the Orlando Events Center, located just a few blocks away. The city’s Arena Football League team, the two-time Arena Bowl champion Orlando Predators, and the National Indoor Soccer League’s Orlando Sharks also play in the Amway Arena and will be moving to the new location as well.
The seen-better-days Florida Citrus Bowl (1610 W. Church St.) is used for occasional marquee events, most notably the Florida Classic, a football showdown between two historically-black colleges, Bethune-Cookman University and Florida A&M; the Classic brings tens of thousands of football fans to town in November for the game and, more notably, the legendary halftime show.
The Citrus Bowl stadium also hosts the Capital One Bowl (formerly the Tangerine Bowl, then the Citrus Bowl; the New Year’s Day game pits the Southeastern Conference against the Atlantic Coast Conference) and, a few days earlier, the Champs Sports Bowl (Atlantic Coast Conference and Big Ten teams). The aging facility is scheduled for a $175 million renovation in 2010.
The Arnold Palmer Invitational golf meet is held at the Palmer-owned Bay Hill Club and Lodge (9000 Bay Hill Blvd.); the tournament is held in late March, usually just a couple of weeks before the Masters, and most of the PGA’s top golfers show up to play.
For something a little more fast-moving, Orlando Speed World (19164 E. Colonial Dr., 407/568-1367, www.orlandospeedworld.org) has stock-car races, pickup-truck races, demolition derbies, and stunt shows nearly year-round; it’s the Thanksgiving weekend “Crash-A-Rama,” though, that brings out the big crowds for some truly riotous school bus—yes, school bus—races.
The city-owned Dubsdread (549 W. Par St., 407/246-2551, www.golfdubsdread.com, from $27) was originally designed in 1923, and it wears its history proudly. The relatively short par-72 course isn’t all that challenging, but the sloping greens and water features are picturesque; the Tap Room restaurant is a local favorite among golfers and non-golfers alike.
Winter Pines Golf Course (950 S. Ranger Blvd., Winter Park, 407/671-3172, from $15) is a small par-67 course located in a tidy Winter Park neighborhood and is routinely rated as one of the best golf values in Central Florida.
The chain of lakes that dot Orlando’s landscape means that the area is a prime location for wakeboarding and waterskiing. Orlando Watersports Complex (8615 Florida Rock Rd., 407/251-3100, www.orlandowatersports.com, 11 a.m.–sunset Mon.–Fri., 10 a.m.–sunset Sat.–Sun.) takes full advantage of that, with two lakes dedicated to high-speed water activities.
A series of cables runs above each lake, allowing boarders, wake-skaters, and waterskiers to careen along at top velocity, jumping ramps and practicing their tricks at either 18 mph in the beginners lake or at 20 mph in the advanced one; ski boats also run on the lakes. There’s a pro shop and a snack bar, and lessons and rentals are available.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition