Florida Fresh Air: Lake Eola Park Is The Outdoor Hub Of Orlando – Orlando Sentinel

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Dec 24, 2021 at 6:00 AM

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When out-of-town visitors think about Orlando, theme parks are typically what first come to mind. But Lake Eola might come in as a close second.

The downtown destination is known as a serene space for seeing the city skyline, having a picnic, taking family photos together or attending events that frequently happen around the lake. The holidays are especially popular for park visitors as they gaze at the park’s dazzling lights and towering Christmas tree.

A Lake Eola swan boat is a good way to change your perspective on downtown Orlando (and get closer to the real swans). (Patrick Connolly / Orlando Sentinel)

Lake Eola’s history dates back to 1873 when Jacob Summerlin, the “Cattle King of Florida,” purchased 200 acres of land in what is now downtown Orlando. The lake began as a sinkhole, which was filled with water from the aquifer and stormwater. The public would gather at what was then known as Sandy Beach to relax and cool off on sweltering summer days.

In the 1880s, the Summerlin family donated the land surrounding the lake for public use and Lake Eola was recognized as a City of Orlando park.

Dulce Clinkscales, age 3, visits with a couple of swans at Lake Eola Park in Orlando on Aug.t 23, 2021. (Rich Pope / Orlando Sentinel)

For modern-day visitors, this Orlando hub proves a relaxing place for a picnic or watching the sunset. Visit with resident ducks or the park’s iconic swans, or take a swan boat for a spin on the water. Spend time with outdoor art installations and sculptures placed around the park, catch the fountain show after dark or walk to nearby restaurants and bars for an evening out.

Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando can be the perfect place to enjoy a sunset or have a picnic. (Patrick Connolly)

Lake Eola Park sometimes serves as a venue for more active activities. While bikes are not allowed on the 0.9-mile path that circles the lake, it’s a great place for jogging or walking. Outdoor yoga classes are known to take place during weekends on the park’s northeast lawn.

Sunday visitors can explore vendors set up at the Orlando Farmers Market, plus occasional special events centered around art, food, dogs, outdoor movies, live entertainment and more.

The Lake Eola swans are silhouetted with the Orlando skyline recently as sunset transitions into a colorful dusk on the horizon. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel)

Location: 512 East Washington St. in Orlando Hours: Open 6 a.m.-11:59 p.m. daily Amenities: Benches, walkway, trash cans, amphitheater, swan boat rental, playground, restaurants, restrooms, parking

This is how the first swans of Orlando ended up on the shores of Lake Eola, and became a symbol of the city.

Activities: Walking, jogging, boating, dog walking Accessibility: Paved sidewalks and walking paths should prove fairly accessible for wheelchair and powered scooter users at Lake Eola Park. What to bring: A camera can help to capture the swans and sights at Lake Eola Park. Pack a picnic or a book and utilize one of the park’s many benches or patches of grass. What not to bring: Glass containers are not allowed at Lake Eola Park. Skateboards, roller skates, powered “hoverboards,” bikes and scooters aren’t allowed on the walking path within the park. Swimming, fishing and kayaking are not allowed. It is against the rules to disturb plants or animals. Pets: Leashed pets are allowed at Lake Eola Park as long as owners clean up after them. Pro tips: Take a swan boat ride (open 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday-Sunday, $15 per half-hour) at least once to change your view of downtown Orlando. World of Beer and Relax Grill both provide drinks and bites with outdoor seating and views of Lake Eola. The Orlando Farmers Market is always worth a Sunday visit. More information: 407-246-4484 or orlando.gov