Escape the cold and play outdoors during an Orlando vacation this winter. From the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions golf event to road races, hot air balloons, hiking trails and more, winter is the perfect time to enjoy Florida’s endless summer.
Here are seven quintessential Florida outdoor adventures you won’t want to miss this season.
1. Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions
January 16-19, 2020
It’s time to fine-tune your golf clap. The Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions pairs the top LPGA golfers with a roster of sports and entertainment celebrities — like actor Jack Wagner, comedian Larry the Cable Guy and football Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher — to open the 2020 season. The pros vie for $1.2 million in prize money, while celebs compete for their own $500,000 purse. A pro-am event also brings 10 qualifying amateurs to play the links alongside the headliners.
Nationally televised on NBC and the Golf Channel, the event invites fans to catch the action in person at Tranquilo Golf Course inside Four Seasons Golf and Sports Club Orlando at Walt Disney World. Known as the “Party on Tour,” the Tournament of Champions promises daily fan experiences from taking selfies with celebrities and LPGA pros to indulging in culinary delights with the new Taste & Travel Pass ticket add-on and more.
2. Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend
JANUARY 8-12, 2020
STAY: CYPRESS POINTE RESORT
A visit to Orlando isn’t complete without checking out the huge array of theme parks in Florida. With 97,000 registrations in 2018 alone, the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend is the largest running festival in the U.S. Participants can choose between 5K, 10K, half-marathon and marathon distances that take runners and walkers through Disney theme parks, complete with Disney character photo ops and a jaunt through Cinderella Castle.
Many runners dress their costumed best for the occasion. Marathoners visit all four Disney parks — Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Disney’s Animal Kingdom — plus ESPN Wide World of Sports and Blizzard Beach Water Park. Finish every race to earn a special medal in the Dopey Challenge, or complete “just” the half-marathon and marathon to earn extra bling in Goofy’s Race and a Half Challenge. A runDisney Health & Fitness Expo and runDisney Kids Races — including a Diaper Dash for crawlers — round out the weekend’s family-friendly events.
3. North Shore Birding Festival
January 16-20, 2020
STAY: Liki Tiki Village
There’s no shortage of outdoor activities in Orlando, and birding is one you’d be remiss to overlook. This region is home to Florida’s top birding hot spot, the 20,000-acre Lake Apopka North Shore. Plan a trip here in mid-January to attend the Orange Audubon Society’s North Shore Birding Festival.
Choose from dozens of field trips, including sunrise photography, sunset photography and birding trips via kayak, boat, golf cart and car. Programs focus on songbirds, waterfowl, raptors, woodpeckers and more, with special sessions for families and Millennials. Nearly 370 bird species have been spotted in the North Shore — more than any inland site in the U.S., including the Everglades — making this event an ornithologist’s paradise.
4. Running Universal Epic Character Race 5K and 10K
February 1-2, 2020
Stay: Bryan’s Spanish Cove
Florida family vacations can be about more than basking in the sun while sitting on the beach or by the pool. Get your dose of exercise by joining in one of the area’s running events. This year, you can race through Universal Orlando Resort at the inaugural Running Universal Epic Character Race 5K and 10K. The courses will tour Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme parks, with character stops along the way. Participants might see friends from the worlds of Harry Potter, Despicable Me, Dr. Seuss, Shrek, Scooby-Doo and The Simpsons. Runners can also bundle race registration with theme park tickets to maximize the fun.
5. The Villages Balloon Festival
February 7-9, 2020
You don’t have to go around the world in 80 days to soar in a hot air balloon. Instead, head to The Villages Balloon Festival to experience balloon flights, tethered rides, pilot meet-and-greets, walk-through tours and ascensions, plus retail and arts and crafts vendors. In the “Fly Me to the Food” alley, two stages of circus performers provide food and entertainment, too. The Kids’ Zone and Fun Zone include inflatable slides, face painting, arts and crafts and games like corn hole, giant checkers, yard bowling, bocce and more.
6. Disney Princess Half Marathon Weekend
February 20-23, 2020
Stay: Grande Villas Resort
The largest women-focused running festival in the U.S. draws 56,000 registrants to Walt Disney World every year, including a field that’s 17 percent men. Runners tackle 5K, 10K, half-marathon and a double race challenge, plus runDisney Kids Races — including a Diaper Dash, 100- and 200-meters, and mile races for older youth. Courses take participants through Epcot and Magic Kingdom, with Disney characters like Mickey, Minnie and, of course, princesses, princes and villains lining the way. You’ll find many runners dressed in costumes, mouse ears, sparkle skirts and tutus for Insta-worthy pics.
7. Hike, Paddle, Run or Bike
All winter long
Stay: Alhambra at Poinciana for Disney Wilderness Preserve
Stay: Parkway International Resort for Wekiwa Springs State Park
The cooler winter months are the best time to get lost in Florida’s natural wonderland that awaits beyond the theme parks. Lace up, pedal, rollerblade or amble along one of the Orlando area’s spectacular trails. The 22-mile West Orange Trail, 23-mile Cross Seminole Trail and 40 miles of City of Orlando Bike Trails are off-road favorites. You can also hike through the Everglades ecosystem at the 11,500-acre Disney Wilderness Preserve.
At Wekiwa Springs State Park, adventurers will find nine miles of bike tracks, eight miles of horse paths, hiking trails up to 13.5 miles long, plus fishing, kayaking, canoeing, camping and picnicking galore. The connecting Kelly Park is a tubing favorite, with a natural spring flowing at 68 to 72 degrees year-round.
So, venture beyond the theme parks in Florida to a bounty of outdoor activities in Orlando. From Diamond Resorts’ Tournament of Champions to the Disney Princess Half Marathon and beyond, lace up and soak up the sun during your Orlando vacation.
Diamond Resorts International Marketing, Inc., its parents, sister companies, and subsidiaries, make no warranty, express or implied, as to the condition, capacity, performance or any other aspect of the activities, events, or service providers listed herein. No inquiry has been made into the activities or events, or the qualifications or the quality of services offered by the providers. Do not consider this an endorsement of or recommendation for any of the activities, events, or providers.