Fall into Orlando: when the weather cools down, the calendar fills up
Ah, fall. Time for leather jackets and boots and snow prep and…hey, wait a minute! We live in Florida! Summer may be over officially, but the warm, beautiful weather continues well into fall in Orlando – though the season does take the edge of the heat. That means outdoor activities become even more appealing and all kinds of festivals pop up on the calendar. From the wildlife to the watersports to myriad food and wine events that fall under the headings of world famous (like the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival) and locally loved (like Cows ‘N’ Cabs), there’s lots to jot in your autumnal Orlando events planner. Fall also brings with it weather that some find even more suitable for outdoor pursuits – and they’ve sure got a lot of them at Clermont’s Revolution Off Road. Try getting muddy on an ATV or getting a taste of the region’s amazing lake fishing, or head to one of many nature preserves and parks for a hike. Fall’s options are limitless, so we had to limit our list to 10.
Wakeboarding (a super popular sport here in Florida), paddleboarding and the area’s very first Aquapark – a wonderland of bouncy, floating inflatables on which to climb and play are all on tap at the Orlando Watersports Complex. And noobs are more than welcome. Lessons in every discipline are available (none are necessary for the Aquapark!). Wakeboarding, something of an amalgam of surfing, waterskiing and snowboarding, is an enticing and potentially high-adrenaline way to pass time in the Florida sun, while SUP’ing is more staid and relaxing. It’s a win-win decision, either way, and visitors of all ages will enjoy the color and bounce of the Aquapark.
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Florida’s fall can certainly have it’s dog days. This is a great place to cool off.
A.D.’s expert tip: Most activities here require some form of waiver are booked according to time increments and many need to be planned in advance via the website. Visit and read up. Minimum age for the Aquapark is 6.
From goats at the petting zoo to the super cool insect zoo (your enthusiasm will depend on your comfort level with creepy-crawlies) this Sanford Zoo isn’t as small as it may seem. More than 500 animals representing roughly 200 species call this place home, including elephants, llamas, cheetah, apes and a whole house full of reptiles to ooh and ahh over. Active visitors may want to take a turn on the on-site aerial adventure course and everyone enjoys the weekend Keeper Chats. Who wouldn’t want to learn more about the zoo’s colorful, beautiful residents?
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: This is a wonderfully manageable zoo. Ideal for parents looking for an attraction that’s as easy to navigate as it is fun and educational.
A.D.’s expert tip: The Florida bear exhibit is among the zoo’s newest additions. Come see the beautiful animals with whom some of us literally share our backyards.
Families from all over the world make this event a holiday tradition. The 11 countries in Epcot’s World Showcase show off how the holidays are celebrated around the globe. You’ll easily get your steps in exploring the different cultures during the celebratory time of the year. Although you may null and void all the walking while partaking in the festive flavors. You can spend an entire day strolling between the pavilions doing some holiday shopping and enjoying costumed performers entertaining in the different countries. The event begins Nov. 29 and runs through Dec. 30.
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Some may argue it’s too early for the holidays, but it’s technically still fall. Plus, how can you argue celebrating festive food, entertainment and cheer.
Michelle’s expert tip: The Candlelight Processional is always a tough ticket to get. Various celebrities, including Whoopi Goldberg, Neil Patrick Harris and Lisa Ling, tell the story of Christmas accompanied by a 50-pience orchestra. Check the schedule sooner rather than later and make your plans now.
Explore Florida’s natural beauty at Wekiwa Springs State Park. Hike through wild, diverse ecosystems, paddle the famous Wekiva River, or camp beneath the stars. Wekiwa Springs offers nature lovers the opportunity to experience a part of Florida that is all too quickly vanishing �” and just minutes from the theme park area. Bring your camera, because wild turkey, black bear, deer, and many species of birds call this park home. Canoes and kayaks are available for rent and guided tours are available. Those interested in exploring the area on horseback may do so on weekends (minimum age: 6). Guided trail rides are $25/per person and run about an hour long.
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Temperate weather makes for time well spent in the woods of Wekiwa, whether walking, riding, swimming or paddling.
A.D.’s expert tip: Leashed pets are welcome on the trails, so bring Fido along for the hike.
This annual Winter Park foodie (and wino!) fete features gourmet fare – along with fine wine, craft beer and cocktails â” from more than 25 locally lauded restaurants. Held in the West Meadow of the city’s resplendent Central Park (and walking distance from all that Park Avenue offers if the impossible happens and you’re still hungry afterwards), live music and tantalizing aromas fill the air, along with a sense of community. All proceeds from this event benefit local charities After After-School All-Stars Orlando and Elevate Orlando.
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: By November, the extreme heat of summer will have abated, making boots and long sleeves a palatable option alongside great food, wine and music.
A.D.’s expert tip: This year’s Cows ‘N’ Cabs will be held on Saturday, November 9 from 6-10 p.m. Wear your boots and hat!
If you think theme parks are all there is to do in Central Florida, not only are you sadly mistaken, you’re waaaaay overdue to get outside and see what locals enjoy all year long. Revolution Off Road has the ATV adventure to suit (even if you’ve never ridden one in your life); you’ll get dirty, you’ll laugh, you’ll breathe fresh air over acres and acres of beautiful natural-Florida landscape. But if rough riding isn’t your cup of tea, Revolution has loads of other pursuits to pursue! Archery, clay shooting and top-shelf Sunshine State fishing among them. And if you’re still planning on a day at the parks, you’ll find their Clermont location more than convenient!
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: With most of the summer heat long gone, Fall’s the perfect time to explore Florida’s backcountry with experts who know how to find adventurous fun.
A.D.’s expert tip: ATVs aren’t all! If you don’t want to get dirty, you don’t have to. Check out all their available outdoor activities.
Sure, the December holidays are great but why skip the fall harvest?! The folks at Long & Scott Farms have been growing since 1963 and its charming Country Market sells Zellwood Sweet Gourmet Corn, crisp Kirby cukes and other local produce, but they’re probably best known for their amazing annual corn maze, open on weekends every fall. Admission includes the six-acre maze, one-acre mini maze (super fun for kids!) and access to the kids’ zip line, rock maze, cooling mist maze, a playground and covered picnic areas. Lots of vendors are on hand with eats, refreshments and of course, hot, buttered corn. Fun photo-ops abound for harvest-themed holiday cards and be sure to climb the tower and take in the vast, lush carpet of corn below.
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: What’s better for autumn than getting lost in a corn maze?! Bring your cameras for great photo ops.
A.D.’s expert tip: Though Long & Scott accepts multiple forms of payment for the maze but it’s smart to have some cash on hand. ATMs are scarce in corn country. This year’s corn maze is open Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 8.
Dark Arts at Hogwarts Castle is only on display limited nights through Nov. 15 at Universal Orlando Resort. Taking place in Hogsmeade, the spectacle begins with ominous green light and fog that fills the village and signals the arrival of the Death Eaters. They meander through the area practicing dark arts amongst the guests. As the sun falls, the sinister creatures and villains, including Dementors, Aragog, Mountain Trolls and Thestrals, will put on a showcase filled with lights, music and special effects. The show is roughly 8 minutes long and they usually take place about every 20 minutes.
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: This limited time event is a must for Harry Potter fans.
Michelle’s expert tip: Keep your listening ears on at the opening and closing of the show for a familiar voice. Spoiler alert â” it’s Dumbledore.
Like clockwork with the fall holiday calendar (autumn brings with it a host of holidays that inspire many to throw temporary diet caution to the wind!), Walt Disney World’s renown Epcot International Food & Wine Festival brings the foodies out in full force. Why? How about tens of international food and beverage marketplaces from which to sample? How about a concert series with nightly performance from well known acts? How about an array of culinary demonstrations and beverage seminars by celebrity chefs and TV personalities? Add to this that all of it (save the food/wine purchases you make on site) are included with regular admission to Epcot and you’ve got a winner of a festival that runs for several weeks throughout the season.
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: “Drinking around the world” is a great Epcot pastime, but add phenomenal food and free world-class music to the mix and it’s even better.
A.D.’s expert tip: For noobs, go crazy! For veterans, check out the passport and mark off the newest marketplaces and items so you can explore strategically. Runs through November 23, 2019.
The event, which celebrates a decade in 2019, gets larger every year. It spans two evenings with tickets costing $145 a day. Interactive food and beverage seminars are available for an additional fee. Guests are able to sample offerings from some of the resort’s 18 restaurants and lounges, including Shula’s Steak House, Todd English’s bluezoo and Smokin’ Ds BBQ. Think Maryland crab cake sliders, dragon rolls, chocolate peanut ganache filled s’mores and lots, lots more. This year the chef’s also upped the vegan and vegetarian offerings. Of course there’s plenty of wine too, more than 60 wineries represented. The layout of the event is designed so stations don’t get overcrowded and guests aren’t waiting for food or beverages. The festivities are from 5:30 p.m. â” 9 p.m., which allows enough time to go through, sample everything and then return to your favorites for seconds or even thirds!
Recommended for Things to Do in Fall because: Close to 100 food and beverage stations, six different music acts and all within 75,000 square feet surrounding the resort’s private lake.
A.D.’s expert tip: If you’re not a huge eater and drinker, purchase the $65 a la carte booklet that gives you 25 tickets. Most stations are between two and six tickets.