Thank you to my very special guest contributor, Holly at @crummyjokes for this wonderful post about the Orlando Urban Trail!
Our family is a family of bikers. One of the best ways to view and experience a new place is by bicycle, and we have found that cities are especially exciting to pedal through! We have three young boys, one of whom is a new two-wheeled independent biker. Our six year old rides tandem behind my husband, “helping” him to pedal and getting a feel for balance. Our four year old rides along in an attached trailer. This also gives us cargo space for wallets, water bottles, and extra clothes. We were so excited to check out the Orlando Urban Trail!
We visit the Orlando area to see our family once or twice a year, so we’re familiar with a lot of the common tourist sites already. When we traveled to central Florida recently, we were looking for new outdoor adventures. The Orlando Urban Trail was perfect!
Where to Begin the Orlando Urban Trail
We chose to start and end our journey at the Ivanhoe Village portion. Our navigation system marks the Orlando Urban Trail as a park, and we found ample street parking along nearby Weber Street, a slow brick-paved side throughway. Also nearby is Lake Ivanhoe Park, which has its own parking and a nice playground if you have children who would be interested.
The OUT follows along a former railroad line, which operated between the mid-1800s for about 100 years. Originally, it primarily transported students to and from Rollins College. Officially the Orlando and Winter Park Railroad, it was nicknamed the Dinky Line for its narrow tracks. In 1969, the last railcars ceased operation, but it wasn’t until the 2000s that it was purchased and transformed into a two-lane paved biking and walking path.
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The Dinky Line portion runs for about a mile, starting from Ivanhoe Village and going north. This section is a wide, two-laned path. It occasionally crosses small streets, and both pedestrian and motor vehicles are encouraged to stop. Ivanhoe is a cute section of downtown Orlando, and it has small grocery stores, sidewalk shops, and modern housing along the path. The route of a railroad is mostly straight, with a few gentle turns. This makes for gentle and enjoyable biking!
After the Dinky Line portion, there are wide sidewalks to accommodate pedestrian and bicycling traffic. We rode on a Saturday midday, and encountered very few other people. And, as often is the case on biking paths, the other walkers / runners / bikers were very friendly! As mentioned, we ride with a wide load and a young bicyclist, and we didn’t feel either as though we were crowded or inconveniencing others.
Lake Formosa Area
About 2 miles north of Ivanoe, the line crosses a boardwalk and the corner of Lake Formosa. To follow the official OUT, take a right after the bridge. Going left heads along the river a short distance, where you will immediately find the Mennello Museum of American Art and their free outdoor sculpture garden. This area is well-shaded and has picincing areas, including a pavilion along the lakeshore.
If you do pass the Mennello Museum, you will find yourself directly across the street from the Orlando Science Center. This area is nicely landscaped and also has the Orlando Museum of Art and the Orlando Fire Museum close at hand, but it can be more traffic-dense than the rest of the trail. If you do follow the left path, you can easily rejoin the OUT on the other side: when you see the next body of water, Lake Estelle, follow the sidewalk to your right.
Whether you take the right after the footbridge, or take the later right at Lake Estelle, the trail will take you to North Mills Ave, a busy four-lane highway. The OUT only goes along this road for two blocks, and the sidewalks are wide and empty. The other side of the road will find you in a small neighborhood. If you prefer, you can immediately cross N Mills Ave and bike through the pretty neighborhoods – a slightly longer but quieter route. Otherwise, you will follow the highway a short distance before turning right and entering those quiet streets. Here, you will ride in the roadway. There are sidewalks, but they are narrow and not consistently maintained. We only saw a few cars though, and felt comfortable riding with our kids.
More Lakes and Points of Interest
When you get to yet another lake (Lake Sue), take a left to keep heading north. Soon after, you’ll be at the end of the neighborhood and find yourself in a wooded area. This is actually the start of Mead Botanical Gardens. This is a free walking gardens, and we found some beautiful little patches of Florida rainforest. There are boardwalks going through swampy growth, and cultivated patches of flowering trees and bushes. We parked our bikes in the racks near the visitor’s center and spent about forty minutes exploring.
There was a lot we didn’t get to see, but we knew we had a whole bike ride back to our cars yet! This stop will also be useful for a clean bathroom break. During Covid restrictions, the visitor’s center was closed, but the restrooms are in a separate open-air building. There are also lots of picnic tables if you brought a snack.
The Future of the Orlando Urban Trail
This was our ending point of the OUT. The trail does continue north a bit more, but along more roadways, and the route outlined above is 3 miles one way. On the way back, we chose to stop at the Orlando Fire Museum, which we highly recommend. We also grabbed a snack of delicious vegetarian sandwiches and homemade pretzels at Ten10 Brewing Company, which is right along the Dinky Line portion and had bike parking just outside their window.
There are future extensions of the OUT planned, both north and south. Those will be able to take you north to the Little Econ Trail and south to downtown Orlando. We look forward to those adventures in the future, and recommend you check out the Orlando Urban Trail as you can enjoy it today!
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