A Wonderful Weekend in Orlando: Scrub, Spring, and Queen

Sand Lake at at Wekiwa Spring State Park

This month, my partner’s days off shifted from Sunday/Monday to Monday/Tuesday, and we made the most of our first weekend on the new schedule, filling our time with lots of activities right here in Orlando!

Sunday night at Disney Springs

My friend Sandra was in Orlando, visiting after having moved to Texas last year, and since she and I share a love of classic movies, we grabbed tickets to a 7pm showing of Roman Holiday at the Disney Springs AMC theater.

But first we grabbed a plant-based dinner at the Local Green Orlando food truck and caught up. It had been almost half a year since we’d gotten together for a joint birthday celebration, so we were long overdue to spend some quality time together!

Me and Sandra at Disney Springs

I initially forgot that due to Tim’s new schedule, he actually finishes work around 6 on Sundays. Since he works right there at the Disney Springs Cirque du Soleil theater, he came over and joined us for the movie.

The three of us all adore Audrey Hepburn, but none of us had seen Roman Holiday before. We enjoyed it a lot, but–without spoiling too much–Sandra and I would have made a few changes to the ending.

After dropping Sandra off at her hotel, we went home and got to bed early so we could be well-rested for our adventures the next day in Orlando and beyond!

Monday adventures

We arose to a morning sky streaked with pastel clouds. The weather in Orland and the surrounding area would be cool today, which would be perfect for the walk we’d be doing in the sparsely-shaded Florida scrub habitat.

Lyonia Preserve practice hike

I’ve been working on taking the idea I’d had for the final project of one of my FMNP courses and turning it into a guided hike.

The title of the project is “Hope for Florida,” and I am using a method used by environmental interpreters like Jane Goodall where I share conservation success stories to motivate people to create more positive change.

I’d had a good practice run of it with a small group of friends on Saturday, but Tim hadn’t been able to join that, so this morning, I led him on his own private “hope hike.”

As part of the hike, we discussed coontie, the scrub habitat as a whole, endangered wildflowers, scrub jays, and gopher tortoises.

We also saw an eastern towhee bird (my first!), some interesting mushrooms, and the corpses of ghost pipe plants.

Wekiwa Springs State Park

On our way home from Lyonia Preserve, we stopped at Wekiwa Springs State Park in Orlando. This had been a tentative plan (we’d packed lunch and outdoor gear in case we ended up going), but we didn’t know for sure if we’d be up for it until we finished at Lyonia and determined that we did have the energy for another place–Tim and I both keep really busy during the weeks, so we try not to over-plan our weekends!


Before we entered the state park, we stopped at a nearby Publix so that we could try their new-ish vegan turkey sub. The “pub sub” is a time-honored Florida tradition, and we enjoyed the plant-based option that was now available to us!

We arrived at the park, snagged a picnic bench with a view of the spring, and scarfed our sandwiches. They were definitely more filling than the smaller sandwiches we’d packed that morning (which we saved for tomorrow).

It was chilly, and as we ate, I thought I would definitely need to warm myself up through some vigorous hiking before I attempted to take a dip in the spring.

Short walk

There are a few walking trails near the spring, and we did some exploring before we headed back to the car to drive to the back of the park and start a bigger hike.

I was really excited to see a jack-in-the-pulpit flower. I started my journey learning about native wildflowers by joining the Florida Wildflower Foundation and attending a field trip with them exactly a year prior to this day, and the one wildflower we saw in bloom was a jack-in-the-pulpit.

Jack-in-the-pulpit at Wekiwa Spring State Park

I hadn’t seen this flower since then, but I had seen so many other native Florida wildflowers, and it was fun to reflect on how this plant had been the starting point for me learning so much more about the wildlife that surrounds me in this beautiful state!

Longer hike

Once back at the parking lot near Sand Lake, I added my binoculars and bear spray to the gear we were carrying, and then we took off on a loop trail.

We actually had been pretty convinced that we would see a bear, since signs at the park entrance had warned of bears in the area.

Sign reading "Bears in area"  at Wekiwa Spring State Park

Knowing what I do about the Florida black bear, I’m not particularly fearful of them and hope that I do see one in the wild someday. They are smaller bears than other species found in the US, and they are typically only violent if they feel threatened (you sneak up on them or encounter a mama with cubs) and don’t have an escape route.

Typically making noise and making yourself big by putting up your arms while backing away is enough to get a bear to leave you alone. Bear spray works like pepper spray and is an option in the rare event that a Florida black bear does pursue you after taking those previous steps.

I recently learned that the Florida black bear’s diet is 80% plants, 15% insects, and 5% meat (of which most is carrion rather than freshly killed prey), so even a hungry bear doesn’t have a huge motivation to kill and eat a human.

On this hike, we didn’t see any bears. I’d also felt certain we’d encounter a snake (I very rarely see them on my hikes in Florida), but no luck there either!

It made me feel very happy and proud at the beginning of the hike when Tim correctly identified that stretch of habitat as scrub. It didn’t look exactly like the scrub at Lyonia Preserve, which had a lot of exposed sand, but the plant communities were a big clue that this was a scrub, and it made me happy to see that Tim was learning about Florida’s habitats from me!

Sand Lake at at Wekiwa Spring State Park

The trail also took us by a lake, through a beautiful stretch of forest, and across a creek.

In total, that hike was only a little over 1.5 miles, but the sun was heating things up, and we decided to head back to the spring.


I quickly changed into my swimsuit (Tim hadn’t brought his and isn’t as much of a cold-water person as I am) and then went back to the spring. To our surprise after feeling warm from our hike, the air temperature was only 66°F.

The water in Florida’s springs is 72° year-round, so although it was technically warmer than the air, it still felt pretty chilly. The stairs to enter the spring were in the shade, and it was so cold that I decided to enter the spring where the sun was shining, which had no access point and meant that I would have to just completely hop into the water.

I dipped my leg in and said “Oh it’s cold–I don’t think I can do it!” but then moments later I found myself splashing all the way into the water with only a little bit of a shriek from the shock of the cool water.

After a few seconds, my body adjusted and the water temperature felt comfortable enough.

Although the walls of the spring are built up to allow human access, the bottom of the spring is still very much natural, and I get a little bit spooked from being in bodies of water, so I was feeling too scared to let my feet touch the bottom. Because I’m not the strongest swimmer, though, keeping my head above water proved to be very exhausting, so I only lasted 5 short minutes before I called it quits.

Me swimming in the spring at Wekiwa Spring State Park

It was a beautiful ending to our outdoor adventures, though, and I was really glad I’d gotten in the water!

I was also glad that I was finally visiting this place, since it’s the only state park in Orlando, and I’d lived here for so long without knowing about it!

Relaxing evening at home

We stopped for dinner at Madras Cafe on the way home, and then we spent the evening relaxing with some of the new-ish Star Wars content I’ve been catching Tim up on. Our rest felt very well-deserved after an active day outside!

Tuesday in Orlando

The only thing on our calendar today was an evening concert and the movie we’d wanted to watch at home to prepare for it, but we managed to fill our day with a ton of spontaneous variety.

Morning hike

As soon as we woke up, I was itching to get outside, but neither of us wanted to stray too far from the comfort of our home (and there aren’t as many hiking trails in Orlando as I would like).

Luckily, we recently found a trail that is just outside our apartment complex. It was pretty flooded the past few times we’ve tried to explore it, so today we put our rainboots on and were ready to tackle the wet trails.

The trail switched between wet/muddy and dry/sandy, so even though we only walked a half mile before turning around, our heavy boots and the uneven terrain really exhausted us.

The temperature was up to 70° now, but I was sweaty and wanted to see how the pool in our apartment complex felt.

Me and Tim on a hiking trail at Wekiwa Spring State Park


When we got back from our hike, we immediately changed into our swimsuits and walked down to the pool. The pool has a sloped entry, which allowed us to walk in slowly.

Here in Orlando, we’ve had several cold snaps in the last month or so, where the temperature has gotten into the 40s, 30s, and even 20s.

With just my feet submerged, I knew that this pool water was much colder than the spring’s 72° water from yesterday.

Once my feet stopped hurting, I walked forward a few more inches and let the cold sensation wrap my ankles in painful pinpricks. When that pain subsided, I repeated the shuffle to go a few inches deeper in the water, which did get noticeably colder the farther I went.

Eventually the water reached a little higher than my belly button, but it was too cold to go on. Tim was several feet behind me in the slightly warmer water. When he put his watch into dive mode to measure the temperature of that water, the numbers climbed down into the 60s before his hand got cold and he pulled it back out of the water.

At that point, he pointed out that there was a hot tub I’d never noticed, so we got out to see if we could warm up in there and then jump back into the pool.

Upon walking over there, we saw the hot tub was out of order. We decided we’d tortured ourselves enough with the few minutes we’d spent in the pool’s cold water and turned to head home.

As we walked away from the hot tub, though, and walked by the deep end of the pool, I wondered what Tim’s reaction would be if I just jumped all the way into the water without warning.

So I did!

Without thinking, I took a few steps toward the pool, plugged my nose, and next thing I knew, even my hair was fully submerged after I splashed into the water.

The water was significantly colder than it had been on the shallow side of the pool. My whole body erupted in searing pain as if every inch of my skin was being stabbed by needles.

But it also felt great! It felt invigorating and satisfying. I swam around for about a minute before I decided that I’d been crazy and climbed back out.

I was cold for the next several hours, but that was all the more reason for Tim to cuddle me after we walked back home and sat down to lunch with a movie.

Bohemian Rhapsody

The theme of the concert we’d be seeing later in the evening was Queen, so we thought it would be a great time to rewatch the Freddy Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody. I’d seen it a few times, but Tim had only seen it once and didn’t remember a lot of it, so it was a good refresher!

Cleaning and cake

The rest of the afternoon was a chance to catch up on some cleaning I’d been neglecting as the past few weeks had kept my focus in other directions.

Heart-shaped cake

I normally don’t have much of a sweet tooth, but I’d been craving yellow cake with chocolate icing for several days, so while I cleaned, Tim baked my favorite cake for me!

Queen Candelight tribute concert

A few months ago, I saw an ad on instagram for a candlelight concert here in Orlando, where a string quartet plays the music of Taylor Swift. I was intrigued, and Tim and I bought tickets since we hadn’t been able to get tickets to her actual concert in the Ticketmaster fiasco.

Once we booked those tickets (coming up next month!), we looked at some of the other events and noticed there was a similar concert, but for Queen!

So we finished off our weekend by going into downtown Orlando on Tuesday night and sitting outside among hundreds of (electric) candles.

With google maps having led us astray, we were the last people to arrive, exactly at 7. We were seated and had only a few minutes to wait before the string quartet came out and started playing Queen songs for a little over an hour.

Candlelight string quartet Queen tribute concert in Orlando

It was lovely. We’d brought a blanket to cuddle in, and it was chilly enough that we used it, even with the layers we’d worn. (“This can’t be the same 66° I was happily swimming in yesterday!”)

I recognized all the songs except one. Singing along wasn’t allowed, but I tapped and squeezed the notes of the music into Tim’s hand. I wasn’t the only one who was struggling not to participate in the songs, and it was funny to look around as the quartet played Bohemian Rhapsody and many audience members were vehemently bobbing their heads with one person in front of me actually playing air guitar.

It wasn’t a significant complaint, but we were in an open courtyard in the Thornton Park area in Orlando’s downtown area. We could hear street noise and see power lines, traffic lights, and a gas station. We were there for the music, so that didn’t bother us that much, but I did think that the experience would be even more enjoyable in either a natural setting or a setting that has more historic architecture (although I understand that this is probably the best option in Orlando–the natural settings will probably have too many bugs, and there isn’t a whole lot of historic architecture).

Since these types of concerts are offered all over the country, I did think it would be neat to attend another one in a different city that has a more atmospheric setting, and then we could compare it to this venue in Orlando.

My one caveat in recommending this experience to others is that the seating was VERY tight. We had less legroom than a typical economy class airplane seat, and the chairs were definitely narrower and more closely spaced than airplane seats.

Tim and I are both 5ft8in and very thin with no significant mobility issues that impede our ability to sit in a small space, but it was even a little uncomfortable for us–and I would have probably felt a little too claustrophobic and overstimulated if I hadn’t been in an aisle seat. If you might struggle with such tight seating, it would be worth communicating with the organizer before buying tickets to get information about whether they have more accessible seating.

After the concert, we went home and got ready for bed, both of us gearing up for another busy week, but feeling recharged from a good weekend together in Orlando!

Do you have a favorite place or activity in Orlando? Have you been to one of these candlelight concerts? Which musical artist would you like to hear a string quartet perform songs from? Let me know in the comments!

Explore Similar Posts

Leave a Reply