COVID-19 arrived in the United States the way distant relatives arrive at houses: well, announced, but unwelcomed. Orlando, which fills with theme park fanatics and bustling citizens, experienced a dragging stop. Seven months later, the virus continues to wreak havoc and suppress day-to-day life. Despite the government declaring Florida’s entrance to the third phase of reopening, many people flinch at the sound of a cough. Alarms sounding at the idea of large crowds or missing masks don’t negate the possibility of fun.
Looking to bring fun and adventure back to your life? Read on for 10 COVID-safe activities in Orlando.
1. Hop on that Caffeine High
College students substitute coffee for blood as a life force. That doesn’t change because COVID-19 showed up to town. Yelp offers ideas of local cafes and coffee shops where students can live out their Instagram aesthetic dreams. “I went to the French Café in Windermere, which had social distancing seating. I recommend its great coffee with many different varieties that even non-coffee drinkers can appreciate,” University of Central Florida (UCF) junior Maria Florez said. The café offers croissants, quiches, pastries and other baked goods along with the delicious coffee. Can you say c’est délicieux?
2. Get out the Gingham and Go for a Picnic
Not seeing friends for a prolonged period of time sounds like torture for those who crave human interaction. Talking to the four walls of a room does not offer the same youthful bliss of friendship. After months of missing friends, try organizing a COVID-19-safe picnic at an outdoor park. “We each are on our own blanket and bring some food and snacks! We chat, play games, and just enjoy each other’s company from six feet apart!” UCF senior Ambar Rodriguez said. Several parks in Orlando offer scenic views perfect for social media pics. Cherry Tree Park, Engelwood Park and Dickson Azalea Park provide enough space for social distancing while emotionally reuniting. Grab those plaid blankets, paints and a wicker basket. Go meet your friends on the green.
3. Reinvent the Wheel
The increased amount of time at home gives plenty of hours to think about ways to mix-up your style and try something new. While malls showcase crowds, especially in Orlando, your home includes only you and those you let in. Pull out the clothes that collected dust in the back of the closet and see what new pieces match. Putting on a small fashion show with friends or taking pictures to create a look book, is a great way to get the creative juices flowing. Plus, it reminds you of how it feels to wear something other than sweatpants and t-shirts. If clothes aren’t your thing, try a new hairstyle. Use the abundance of time to tackle a daring look. There’s no reason the “new” you need to wait for the new year.
4. We can all be Happy Gilmore
When quarantine began, people traded their laptops, desks and apple pencils for a steel club and the golf course. College students hopped on this trend, and instead of caddying, they’re swinging in style. “Kings Ridge and Orange County National Golf Center are my favorite courses,” FSU sophomore Jacob Wyrick said. If golfing brings to light your lack of athletic ability, try mini-golf. Places like Pirates Cove Adventure Golf on International Drive provide a safe environment for those who prefer colored sticks to games that last for hours. Golfing is up to par on safety.
5. Go to New York (but not really)
Traveling turned into a no-go with COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean you can’t treat your palate to something other than Ramen noodles. The downtown Winter Garden area outside of Orlando offers delicious food at NY Bagel Deli and Pizza. The freshly made bagels attract the locals on the weekends. I suggest the asiago cheese bagel with jalapeño cream cheese. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could create your own masterpiece. With over 15 bagels to choose from and 12 cream cheeses, there is an abundance of options. New York food tours may not happen anytime soon, but these bagels fit the bill for a tasty meal.
6. Raise the Bar
Nights spent out at the clubs drew to a close when COVID-19 entered our lives. Since then, college students experienced withdraws from the cheap beer and thumping music of the bar scene. Hope still lives. Bars across the state have opened outdoor seating and distancing options for those who crave a social atmosphere and a safe environment. “I went to Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar at Disney Springs and sat outside by the lake,” UCF junior Emily Bracht said. “Even though it was nearly 90 degrees out, it felt cooler because of the fans and the breeze of the lake.” Indoor bars are out, and outdoor bars are in. With cooler weather ahead (fingers crossed), the outdoor bar scene serves as an alternative for extroverts trying to be cautious during the pandemic. Stay aware of how many people are at the bar. If it’s too packed, pack up and go home.
7. Flaunt your Stuff in Impromptu Photoshoots
Orlando overflows with known picture opportunities. The purple wall, the surfboard on Universal boardwalk or the Orlando postcard wall and ICON Park shuffle through feeds, one follower at a time. Now, students can explore the city and surrounding areas to find new and creative photo opportunities. “Most of the locations were just random sites or buildings we stumbled upon just driving around. If we see something cool riding around, we would just pin it in our maps and try to come back for it later,” said Davontae Smith, a film student at F.I.R.S.T Institute. Driving around town requires little contact with others and neither does taking pictures. Take a trip to the creative side and find the next new hot spot in town.
8. Zoom your Way to a Workout Session
Gyms opened up a few months ago now, but many people fear the elliptical during the pandemic. Alternatives to hitting the Orlando machines with your mask include at-home workouts. Start your own workout class with friends via Zoom. Yoga, dancing and HITT workouts can all be done over video chat and mimic the interaction of an in-person class. The motivation of a group workout makes it more likely that you and your friends stick to it. You may not need to wipe down a machine afterward, but you will have to pick yourself up off the yoga mat.
9. Charge through UCF’s Campus
Freshman year looks different this semester. But that doesn’t mean students can’t enjoy the scenery of their campus. Walking outdoors gives students an opportunity to hop off Zoom and move their legs. “My favorite activity to do since the start of COVID is walks around campus with my roommates. It’s a way that we can get out of the apartment and still maintain our distance from others,” UCF freshman Grace Sheldon said. The UCF campus includes statues, lake areas and plenty of greenery to ensure that eyes are entertained. Plus, the green will be a stark contrast to the Zoom blue everyone is used to staring at in 2020.
10. When all Else Fails, have a Game Night
Instagram and Twitter notifications remind us that a world exists outside our doors. Yet the sanctuary inside them should not be forsaken. In a time when up is down and down is up, staying home with friends and family makes a viable social option. Sit on the couch, grab the cards (or whatever board game you prefer) and settle in for a relaxing night. “I have been reading and spending time with family playing board games,” UCF senior Casey Duffy said. Staying home means worrying less about COVID-19 and more about social connection. Not to mention you don’t have to worry about the noise level. Crank it up, pour yourself a drink and begin the games.