A northern suburb of Orlando, Altamonte Springs is a mostly residential community anchored by a lakefront central business district.
Cranes Roost Park here is the city’s outdoor hangout on the shores of the lake. Residents come together at this picture-perfect setting for events like the 4th of July.
Altamonte Springs is only a matter of minutes from downtown Orlando, and even closer to the distinguished and art-rich Winter Park.
Something that really appeals to me is that you don’t even need a car to get around. The SunRail commuter trail, opened in 2014, will get you to a host of exciting attractions with ease.
So here’s my look at the 15 best things to do in and around Altamonte Springs.
1. Cranes Roost Park
Altamonte Springs’ linchpin is a sensational lakefront park in the heart of the city’s central business district.
Cranes Roost Park ties together the Uptown Altamonte mixed-use development to the south, and the Altamonte Mall to the east.
Daily life converges on the European-style plaza here, with formal gardens, an ornamental Spanish-style tower, and a choreographed fountain show.
Right on the water here, the Eddie Rose Amphitheater deserves a mention for its unique floating stage.
It’s all a wonderful canvas for what is, in my mind, one of the Orlando area’s best 4th of July fireworks shows. Christmas is also a treat, with whimsical light displays along the lakefront trail.
2. Altamonte Mall
A good pick when things are two wet or too hot, Central Florida’s third-largest enclosed mall is here in Altamonte Springs.
Still, if the weather’s good, you can go for a stroll by the lake at Crane’s Roost Park, which can be reached on foot.
Featuring retail stores like Vans, Barnes & Noble, Apple, and Swarovski, this is a mid-market mall, with something for all interests and budgets.
You’ve got full-service restaurants, and a hopping food court too if you’re looking to refuel or just take some time out.
Best of for me is the AMC Altamonte 18. This giant multiplex theater has an IMAX screen for mind-blowing image clarity and scale.
3. Seminole-Wekiva Trail
For a walk or bike ride through picturesque suburban neighborhoods, Altamonte Springs is at the southern trailhead of the 14-mile Seminole-Wekiva Trail.
This route is recognized as one of Seminole County’s Showcase Trails, for its beauty, length and amenities. This is all on the right-of-way of the old Orange Belt Railway, a narrow-gauge railroad laid down in the late 19th century.
There are three trailheads in Altamonte Springs, all equipped with picnic tables and water fountains.
The 23-mile Cross Seminole Trail connects with this route in Lake Mary, so I took the chance to go on a long bike ride on a mild January afternoon this year. .
One of the parks near the route in Altamonte Springs is Westmonte Park, home to the city’s aquatic complex and a slew of other recreation amenities.
4. Congo River Golf
There’s a branch of this Florida-wide chain of adventure golf courses in Altamonte Springs. Congo River Golf is a delight, with immersive theming, like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.
There’s a waterfall, stream, swaying palms, and some fun touches like an abandoned jeep and airplane.
There are game wheels at several holes to shake things up, and my kids were completely engrossed by the scavenger hunt on the way through.
You’ve also got some side attractions, like an arcade, laser maze, and the chance to hold a baby alligator.
5. Wekiwa Springs State Park
Just up the road in Apopka, Wekiwa Springs State Park is an easy drive from Altamonte Springs, and contains the headwaters of the Wekiva River.
You can hike or ride through lush tropical hammocks, or hit the water on a canoe or kayak trip. I’m quite happy doing almost nothing, floating in Wekiwa Springs’ crystalline waters.
These reach the surface at a comfortable 72 °F all year, and after a swim you can have a picnic by the water.
Head to the nature center to rent a canoe or sign up for one of the educational ranger-led experiences in the park.
6. Lake Lotus Nature Park
For a nature hike without leaving Altamonte Springs I’d make the trip to the city’s own nature preserve. The city purchased this property more than 50 years ago to safeguard it from development.
There’s 120 acres of wetlands and fern-bedded woods, with a mile-long raised boardwalk leading past magnificent cypresses.
Next to the path are interpretive signs outlining the wildlife at the park, and explaining the conservation work being done here.
When I wrote this entry, the boardwalk and fishing pier were being repaired following storm damage.
7. Planet Obstacle
Much more than just another indoor playground, at 50,000 square feet, Planet Obstacle claims to be the world’s largest indoor obstacle park.
No doubt, this facility offers a fantastic variety of activities, perfect for families traveling with kids.
There are ninja courses, trampolines, balance beams, climbing walls, bungees, bumper cars, a zip-line, and more ropes and nets than a commercial fishing vessel.
Planet Obstacle was founded by two veterans of Cirque du Soleil, and features the Sky Café, offering healthy, vegetarian or comforting options.
8. Orlando Science Center
If you’re in the Orlando area on a family trip, you may want an attraction that challenges kids a little more than an amusement park.
If so, my go-to is the Orlando Science Center. Founded in 1955, the Orlando Science Center has earned multiple awards and seamlessly integrates play with learning.
Take KidsTown, a small world where little scientists up to the age of 7 can climb, splash, tinker, create, and make new discoveries.
Coming here a few months back, I was most impressed with The Hive: A Makerspace, presenting you with all the tools you need to try a new practical skill, all with the help of a knowledgeable instructor.
When you come, make sure to check the schedule for action-packed Science Live presentations, as well as shows at the Dr. Phillips Cinedome, and the Digital Adventure Theater.
9. Enzian Theater
Contrasting with the massive AMC multiplex at the Altamonte Mall, this theater in nearby Maitland has just one screen.
The Enzian Theater is a non-profit cinema, and is my kind of place to watch a movie. The auditorium has a sociable layout, with seats arranged around tables.
Indeed, food is at the core of the experience here, with a menu of shareable plates, from Truffle Parmesan Fries to Artichoke & Spinach Dip.
On the schedule are classics, arthouse movies, and critically acclaimed major releases. I came for a special 35mm presentation of Oppenheimer and had a blast, if you’ll excuse the pun.
This spot opened for business in 1985, and has hosted the Florida Film Festival every April since 1991.
10. Winter Park Farmer’s Market
Close by in Winter Park you can visit the top produce and plant market in Central Florida. The Winter Park Farmers’ Market is a weekly ritual, bringing the whole community together and attracting shoppers from across Central Florida.
This event takes place on Saturday mornings in Central Park West Meadow, at the corner of New York Avenue & Morse Boulevard.
The market is loaded with locally-grown and produced items you may not find elsewhere, as well as delicious prepared food, from BBQ to waffles. You’ll also get to rub elbows with civic-minded farmers, artists, and craftspeople.
Dogs are welcome, and I’d recommend arriving early as parking can be limited and this place is popular.
11. Park Avenue Shopping District
Winter Park’s main street, Park Avenue has been an exclusive shopping destination for decades. Even as far back as the 1880s, this tree-lined, brick-paved artery was a haunt for the area’s rich and famous.
There’s an alluring selection of eating and drinking establishments, shoulder-to-shoulder with boutiques and specialty stores. You’ve also got a lot of culture too, with a lineup of highly-regarded art galleries close by.
The street is bordered to the west by the beautiful Central Park, hosting live entertainment, festivals, fairs, and the Winter Park Farmers’ Market.
12. Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art has the distinction of housing the world’s most extensive collection of works by the famed decorative artist Louis Comfort Tiffany.
This institution was established in 1942 by Jeannette Genius McKean (1909-1989), and has works from every medium that Tiffany worked in, from lamps to mosaics, enamels, jewelry, furniture, and pottery.
McKean and her husband also intervened after Tiffany’s New York estate had burned in 1957, salvaging stained-glass windows and architectural pieces.
The exhibit that made the biggest impression on me was his haunting chapel interior from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. In a Byzantine-Romanesque style, the windows and mosaics here are nothing short of dazzling.
13. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
Winter Park’s beautiful Chain of Lakes is a wonderful place to explore, and there’s no better way to do it than by a pontoon boat tour.
With boats that seat up to 18 passengers, the tours last about an hour. On a narrated trip, you’ll travel the twisting man-made canals that connect three of the lakes.
Lush palms, towering cypresses, cultivated gardens, and the Rollins College Campus are all on the waterways. You’ll also see some lavish homes in rather exclusive neighborhoods.
The dock is within walking distance of Park Avenue, and tours depart every hour 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, Monday-Sunday.
14. Rollins Museum of Art
Rounding off Winter Park’s array of cultural attractions is a celebrated art museum on the campus of Rollins College,
The Rollins Museum of Art has a notable collection, comprising almost 6,000 pieces, from Italian Renaissance painting to contemporary art in a diversity of media.
This spot has free admission, and will have up to seven temporary exhibitions going on when you come.
Recent shows have featured Asian Modernism, political illustration from the Great Depression, 19th-century landscape painting, and Florentine Baroque masterpieces.
Also allow some time to visit The Alford Inn, which serves as the museum’s satellite satellite gallery, and has selections from its holdings.
15. Casselberry Golf Club
The closest public course to Altamonte Springs is just a few minutes away in Casselberry. This par 69 track won me over with its reasonable pricing, and scenic, tree-lined fairways.
Casselberry Golf Club plays a little shorter than average, which is great if power isn’t a big part of your game.
The layout is also pretty straightforward, with wide fairways and only a handful of water hazards. This was fine by me, as I managed to stay out of trouble for most of my round.
The onsite pro-shop offers all the things you’ll need, like tees, balls, and hats. There’s also a decent driving range, which has recently been fitted with LED lighting, and can stay open until 10:00 pm.