Bob's Balloons. Bob's offers one-hour rides over protected marshland and even flies over the Disney area if wind and weather conditions are right. You meet at Champions Gate, near Disney World, at dawn, where Bob and his assistant take you by van to the launch site. It takes about 15 minutes to get the balloon in the air, and then you're off on an adventure that definitely surpasses Peter Pan's Flight in the Magic Kingdom.

You'll see farm and forest land for miles, along with horses, deer, wild boar, cattle, and birds flying below you. Bob may take you as high as 1,000 feet, and you may be able to see such landmarks as the Animal Kingdom's Expedition Everest mountain and Epcot's Spaceship Earth sphere. Several other balloons are likely to go up near you—there's a tight-knit community of ballooners in the Orlando area—so you'll view these colorful sky ornaments from an unparalleled sightline. There are seats in the basket, but you'll probably be too thrilled to sit down. Check the website for specials and call Bob to reserve. Orlando, FL. 407/466–6380 or 877/824–4606. $175 per person.


Orlando Magic. The most popular pro sports team in town, the Magic entertains locals and visitors in the multimillion-dollar, state-of-the art, 20,000-seat Amway Center. Many famous names have come out of this team (Shaquille O'Neal, anyone?), and although the team's fortunes have fluctuated, the Magic has consistently been one of the most successful of the NBA expansion teams. The season runs from October to June. 600 W. Amelia St., Downtown Orlando, Orlando, FL, 32801. 407/896–2442. $30–$1,400; parking $10–$20, VIP lot $50.

Biking and Running

Thanks to the Orlando community's commitment to the nationwide Rails to Trails program, the city now has several biking, running, and in-line skating trails—converted from former railroad lines—in both rural and urban surroundings.

Orlando City Transportation Planning Division. You can get information about Orlando bike and running trails from this agency. Orlando City Hall, 400 S. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL. 407/246–2821.

Bill Frederick Park at Turkey Lake. Renamed in honor of former Orlando Mayor Bill Frederick, this 178-acre park, about 4 miles from Universal Studios, has a 3-mile biking trail that's popular with runners, a pool, disc golf course and a lake that attracts the casual fisherman. Rental cabins and a 36 site Recreational Vehicle campground welcome visitors. Several wooded hiking trails also make for a good run. The park closes at 5 pm November–March and 7 pm April–October. 3401 S. Hiawassee Rd., West Orlando, Orlando, FL, 32835. 407/246–4486. $4 per car.

Cady Way Trail. A favorite of local bikers, joggers, and skaters, the Cady Way connects eastern Orlando with the well-manicured enclave of Winter Park. The pleasant trail, open sunrise to sunset, is 6½ miles long, with water fountains and shaded seating along the route. The best access point is the parking lot on the east side of the Orlando Fashion Square Mall (3201 E. Colonial Dr., about 3 miles east of I–4 Exit 83B). The northern access is at the Orange County Recreation Center (4863 N. Goldenrod Rd., Winter Park). 1360 Truman Road, Orlando, FL, 32807. 407/836–6160.

West Orange Trail. The trail runs some 22 miles from the Orange County–Lake County line, through the towns of Killarney and Oakland and the bustling center of the revived city of Winter Garden, and across U.S. 441 through downtown Apopka. Highlights are views of Lake Apopka and the butterfly garden at the Tildenville outpost. Among the trail's many access points is Chapin Station (501 Crown Point Cross Rd., Winter Garden). There are some great places to rest and eat in Winter Garden. 501 Crown Point Cross Road, Winter Garden, FL, 34787.

West Orange Trail Bikes & Blades. Bicycles and in-line skates can be rented starting at $6 per hour and $30 per day. 17914 State Rd. 438, 34787. 407/877–0600.


Orlando Predators. With a new home in the CFE Arena on the University of Central Florida campus, this professional arena-football team plays from March through July. The team has been in Orlando since 1991 and has reached the league playoffs for 19 consecutive seasons. 12777 Gemini Blvd. N, UCF, Orlando, FL, 32816. 407/648–4444. $12–$250; parking $10 and up.


If golf is your passion, you already know that Arnold Palmer and Gary Player—in fact, almost half of the PGA tour—make Orlando their off-road home. It's not by accident that the Golf Channel originates from here. The Bay Hill Invitational and several LPGA tourneys (the headquarters is in Daytona) come to Orlando every year. And with more than 80 public and private courses, there's ample opportunity for you to play on world-class courses such as Grand Cypress or Champions Gate.

Miniature Golf

Congo River. Here mini-putt meets theme park, with multilevel courses wandering amid waterfalls, rocky summits, caves, and rain forests. Kids love the live alligators (not loose on the course), the arcade room, and the treasure hunt. Congo River also has locations in Kissimmee and East Orlando. 5901 International Dr., I-Drive area, Orlando, FL, 32819. 407/248–9181. $11.99; 10 and under $9.99. Sun.–Thurs. 10 am–11 pm, Fri. and Sat. 10 am–midnight.

Hawaiian Rumble Adventure Golf. Who can resist golfing around an erupting volcano? Hawaiian Rumble combines a tropical setting with waterfalls, tunnels, tiki gods, and flame-belching mountains. There's also a location in the Lake Buena Vista area. 8969 International Dr., I-Drive area, Orlando, FL, 32819. 407/351–7733. $9.95–$11.95. Sun.–Thurs. 9 am–11:00 pm, Fri. and Sat. 9 am–11:30pm.

Pirate's Cove Adventure Golf. Two 18-hole courses wind around artificial mountains, through caves, and into lush foliage. The beginner's course is called Captain Kidd's Adventure; the more advanced course is Blackbeard's Challenge. There's another Pirate's Cove on International Drive. 12545 State Rd. 535, Lake Buena Vista, FL, 32830. 407/827–1242. $10.45–$14.95. Daily 9 am–11 pm.


iFLY Orlando. OK, you technically aren't skydiving, but you come pretty close in a 12-foot-high, 1,000-horsepower wind tunnel that lets you experience everything skydivers do, but closer to the ground. The experience starts with instruction, after which you suit up and hit the wind tunnel, where you soar like a bird under your instructor's watchful eye. It's all so realistic that skydiving clubs come to hone their skills. The attraction is safe for anyone under 250 pounds and older than 3. You can purchase a video of your "jump" for $24.95. 6805 Visitors Circle, I-Drive area, Orlando, FL, 32819. 407/903–1150. $59.95 and up, depending on package. Daily 10–10:30.


Tennis awaits on well-tended public tennis courts and on courts in resort hotels. There are more than 50 courts run by City Parks & Recreation, some free and others reasonably priced.

Fort Gatlin Tennis Complex. Close to downtown Orlando, Fort Gatlin has the finest city-run courts open to the public. Ten hard courts equipped for day or night play, a pro shop that's open daily, and lessons are among this beautiful facility's offerings. 2009 Lake Margaret Dr., Downtown Orlando, Orlando, FL, 32806. 407/254–9878. $4–$6 per court per hour. Weekdays 8 am–10 pm, weekends 8–8.

Orlando Tennis Center. Run by the City of Orlando, this fine facility offers adult tennis clinics (18 and up), private lessons, and youth tennis programs (6 and up). 649 W. Livingston St., Downtown Orlando, Orlando, FL, 32806. 407/246–4469. $5 soft court per hr, $4 hard court. Weekdays 8 am–9:30 pm, weekends 8–2:30.


Fishers the world over congregate in Central Florida to catch bass, speckled perch, bream, stripers, and catfish. Top fishing waters include Lake Kissimmee, the Butler and Conway chains of lakes, and Lake Toho. Your best chance for trophy fish is between November and April on Toho or Kissimmee. For good creels, the best bet is usually the Butler area, which has the additional advantage of its scenery—lots of live oaks and cypresses, plus the occasional osprey or bald eagle.

Toho and Kissimmee are also good for record-setting largemouth bass. The Butler chain yields largemouth, some pickerel, and the occasional huge catfish. Services range from equipment and boat rental to full-day trips with guides and guarantees. Like virtually all lakes in Florida, these are teeming with alligators, which pose little threat unless you engage in the unwise practice of swimming at night.

To fish in Florida waters (though not those at Disney), anglers over 16 need a fishing license, available at bait-and-tackle shops, fishing camps, most sporting-goods stores, and Wal-Mart and Kmart. Some locations may not sell saltwater licenses, so call ahead if this matters. For nonresidents of Florida, freshwater or saltwater licenses cost $17 for three consecutive days, $30 for seven consecutive days, and $47 for one year. Fishing on a private lake with the owner's permission—which is what anglers do at Disney—doesn't require a state fishing license.

Guides fish out of the area's fishing camps, and you can usually make arrangements to hire them through the camp office. Rates vary, but for two people a good price is $250 for a half day and $350 for a full one. Many area guides are part-timers who fish on weekends or take a day off from their full-time job.

Bass Challenger Guide. With Captain Eddie at the helm, BCG takes you wherever the fishing is best that day. It might be Lake Toho or the St. Johns River—Florida's longest and one of the few that runs north—which is a prime bass site. Indeed, bass is the only quarry. Half-day trips for one or two people begin at $300, six-hour trips are $350, and full-day trips begin at $400. Each additional person pays $75 more. BCG also sells bait, arranges for transportation to and from your hotel, organizes multiday trips, and books area accommodations. Sanford, FL. 407/273–8045 or 800/241–5314.

East Lake Fish Camp. Eastern Lake Toho's camp has a restaurant and country store, sells live bait and propane, and rents boats. You can also take a ride on an airboat from here. The camp has 286 RV sites ($40–$45 per night, $180 a week, or $400 per month) and simple, rustic cabins ($65 per night). Try to reserve the 24 cabins at least two weeks in advance in winter and spring. 3705 Big Bass Rd., Kissimmee, FL, 34744. 407/348–2040.

Lake Charters. This outfitter conducts trips from November to May on Lake Toho (January through April is high season, so reserve accordingly), and has done so for more than 20 years. It's possible to catch a 14-pound bass here. Rods and reels are included in the costs, and transportation is available. Half-day freshwater trips are $250, six-hour trips are $300, and full-day trips are $350. Prices are for one to two people. A third participant costs $50 more. You can also buy your licenses here. 1550 Scottys Rd., Kissimmee, FL, 34744. 407/891–2275 or 877/326–3575.

Lake Toho Resort. Although some of the full hookups at the 200 RV sites here are booked year-round, electrical and water hookups are usually available, as are live bait, food, and drinks. Sites are $28 per night or $315–$365 per month, plus electricity and an initial $100 refundable deposit. Boat slips start at $45 a month, depending on the length of your boat. 4715 Kissimmee Park Rd., St. Cloud, FL, 34772. 407/892–8795.

Richardson's Fish Camp. This camp on western Lake Toho has seven cabins with kitchenettes, 16 RV sites, and six tent sites as well as boat slips and a bait shop. The RV sites are $30 per night; tent sites are $24.50; and cabins run $44 for one bedroom, $68 for two bedrooms, and $79 for three bedrooms. 1550 Scottys Rd., Kissimmee, FL, 34744. 407/846–6540.

Horseback Riding

Horse World Riding Stables. Here's a way to get a taste of the days when the Orlando area had more horse and cattle farms than Texas. Horse World offers lessons and rides for groups or individuals on three unspoiled Florida woods trails. Trail rides take about an hour and cost $45.95–$74.95 per person (weeklong ride passes cost $229–$279). Call at least a week ahead for reservations in winter and spring. 3705 Poinciana Blvd., Kissimmee, FL, 34758. 407/847–4343.

Silver Spurs Rodeo. Twice a year since the 1940s, bull riders and cowboys have been competing in the Silver Spurs Rodeo, the largest east of the Mississippi. The event is held at Osceola Heritage Park each February and June and features bull and bronc riding, steer wrestling, and barrel racing. From Interstate 4 Exit 77, take Florida's Turnpike south to Exit 244 (Kissimmee–St. Cloud). 1875 Silver Spur La., Kissimmee, FL, 34744. 321/697–3495. $15; under 15 free. Hrs vary.


The Ice Factory. Ice-skating in Florida? Yup! This Olympic-class facility has two rinks. Teens are drawn to Friday's DJ Night, and there are family-night rates on Saturday. 2221 Partin Settlement Rd., Kissimmee, FL, 34744. 407/933–4259. $5–$10; $3 skate rental. Daily; hrs vary by rink and day.

Winter Park Country Club

Winter Park Country Club. At the north end of Park Avenue. this historic country club offers nonresidents access to its immaculate golf course. Opened in 1914, the nine-hole walking course was modeled after authentic Scottish links. 761 Old England Ave., Winter Park, FL, 32789. 407/599–3339. $10 weekdays, $17 weekends.