For something more authentic than theme park rides and gift shops in the Orlando area, try the Tibet-Butler Preserve, a county park about seven miles north of Disney Springs and almost 20 miles southwest of Downtown Orlando. This is one of the best little nature preserves in Central Florida.
The best thing about it is the trails and boardwalk areas, which offer great access to wetlands. The 438-acre preserve is just big enough to allow a good trail run of several miles. Eagles, armadillos, snakes and other critters can be found there, including the ever-present Florida gator.
A few warnings, however: Bicycles and pets are not allowed. And if you visit anytime from late May to early November, which is the rainy season, be prepared to get your feet a little wet or at least muddy. (Bikes are not allowed because the tires ruin the natural plants and moss on the trail.)
The Vera Carter Environmental Center isn’t huge, but it’s big enough to provide respite on a rainy day, and offers exhibits and great tidbits of knowledge about the area. Sometimes you can see baby gators inside a large glass enclosure.
There’s also a pollinator garden and tortoise pens are a real treat.
The park is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The office is closed Sundays and open Monday to Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The park is at 8777 Winter Garden-Vineland Road. Phone: (407) 254-1940
One thing that is often sorely missing from such places is very well done here — signage. There are signs explaining what kinds of plants local insects need, for example.