Central Florida may be landlocked, but it’s not without its oases. The Orlando area is home to hundreds and hundreds of lakes – from fairytale Frog Prince ponds to vast bodies of water where thousands of alligators lurk. Lake Baldwin is neither. At roughly 225 acres, it is the shimmering centerpiece of Baldwin Park, a master-planned community that neighbors both the hip and ever-burgeoning Audubon Park Garden District and tony Winter Park.
Cyclists may find early morning more attractive; there are fewer pedestrians — Photo courtesy of Brett VA
For years, this land served the U.S. military, first as an Army Air Corps and Air Force base, then as a naval training center. The base closed in 1999. In the time since, a shiny new community - purpose-built with apartments, townhomes, quaint single-family properties and grand McMansions - arose.
The Baldwin Park neighborhood is dotted with trees and lined with pedestrian-friendly sidewalks. Because of small lawns, closely built homes and front porches – all of which was designed to encourage community - neighbors know neighbors.
Harbor Park encircles Lake Baldwin, and within its verdant doughnut, a broad, 2.7-mile paved walking and biking trail allows residents and visitors alike (The park is operated by the City of Orlando.) to enjoy the views and other recreational opportunities it offers.
Seito, on Broad Street, is one of many Baldwin Park eateries to tempt your palate. If you're not starving, explore a bit before you choose where to eat — Photo courtesy of Seito Sushi Baldwin Park
The trail is dotted with benches for sunny or shady respites; you may not need it for one loop, but many cyclists enjoy several, bringing snacks to enjoy beneath lakeside pavilions. Those who roll with furry best friends in tow will find a dog park, as well.
Additionally, the Baldwin Park trail links up with a midpoint in Orlando’s Cady Way trail. Bikers, skaters or pedestrians who are feeling energetic can add several more miles to their exploration on this popular, paved out-and-back.
"Roll up" at Seito and you may feel it necessary to roll out — Photo courtesy of Seito Sushi Baldwin Park
Those sticking around Baldwin Park, however, will find both respite and refreshment – whether before or after their ride – in its picturesque town center. Among the local favorites is Seito Sushi, which is open for lunch and dinner. (They close for a couple of hours in between.) Fresh fish, nigiri, rolls and other unique cooked interpretations are up for grabs in sleek, contemporary environs. Cool off post-ride with Seito’s surprisingly creative craft cocktails or go traditional with sake. Indoor and outdoor seating is available.
Other in-town options include Chi Pan Asian, with its surprisingly curated menu of Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese and Turkish fare; Gator’s Dockside, a family-friendly sports pub atmosphere with a menu of wings, burgers, sandwiches and the like; and Colibri Mexican. Its outdoor water-view tables are an ideal outpost for a frosty margarita in the stellar Florida weather.