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    My Top Places to #OptOutside This Memorial Day Weekend – By Don Harkins

    Memorial Day looks a little different this year, due to COVID-19. As we spend time at home with our families, let’s reflect on the great sacrifice so many have made for our freedom. In this blog post, I’m going to share some of my favorite places to spend time with family outside in Central Florida. Before I share those, I want to recommend a podcast that I think does an incredible job of honoring our fallen and living service men and women. Jocko Podcast is run by former Navy SEAL Jock Willink and tells the heroic stories of Medal of Honor recipients, veterans, and their families. This episode is a great place to start with Capt. Charlie Plumb talking about his experience as a POW at the Hanoi Hilton. Maybe take some headphones with you this weekend and reflect on the meaning of the Holiday while you enjoy the extra time off.

    The Flagler Trail – Chuluota, FL

    This is a great muti-use hiking, biking, and equestrian trail that stretches for 10 miles and crosses the Econ river. Located nearOviedo  with a trailhead and parking off of Snow Hill Rd, this is a great place to take a picnic, get some exercise, and enjoy the Florida wildlife from a shaded path built up on the old Flagler Railraod bed.

    Be sure to bring a great camera, lots of water, and maybe some bug spray and sunscreen just to be safe.

    For more information, Click Here. 

    Kings Landing, Wekiwa Springs

    The Wekiwa Springs State Park has plenty of options for families that want to spend a day outside. The traditional park has picnic benches, canoe rentals, a swimming hole with lifeguards, hiking trails, and more. There’s also the infamous Wekiwa Island with a food truck, bar, volleyball courts, rental pavilions, and Adirondack chairs that line the river to watch paddlers (and occasionally Alligators!) float by.

    Locals know that there’s a lesser known and (imho) much more authentic and enjoyable way to enjoy the park. The Kings Landing River run is an 8.5mi down current paddle that takes about 4 to 6 hours to complete. You’ll see eagles, otters, hawks, fish, and alligators. The paddle terminates at the Wekiwa Island entertainment complex where you can have lunch and catch a bus back up to your car for a few bucks.

    The Beach – New Smyrna/Bethune Beach

    While most tourists and new residents think about Cocoa Beach or Daytona Beach when the weekend rolls around, locals know that New Smyrna is the place to go! Unfortunately, on holiday weekends the beach parking can fill up rapidly and during peak times they’ll even shut the ramps down because of capacity issues.

    For a more laid back experience (safer for families with kids too), visit the southern tip of New Smyrna Beach, called Bethune Beach. This no-drive portion of the beach is less crowded with more parking available. As you reach the end where the Canaveral National Seashore begins, there’s more single-family homes than condos and hotels so you can enjoy privacy and space, especially helpful during this social distancing era. Grab a bite to eat at J.B.’s Fishcamp on your way out of town for fresh Florida seafood (we love the fried Gator Tail!).

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