Christmas is wrapped in green…Christmas, Florida, that is. Located on the eastern edge of Orange County (Orlando), this small town of 422 households boasts more than 60,000 acres of public lands. Green. In every direction of the compass. And lots of water, too. An impressive array of habitats attracts an equally impressive array of flora and fauna. It’s no wonder that Christmas is a hot spot on the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail.
At nearly 31,000 acres, Tosohatchee Wildlife Management Area makes up about half of this green wrapping. There are more than 60 miles of trails here, including the Florida National Scenic Trail. Florida’s longest river, the St Johns, curves through 19 miles of this beautiful property. I drove a perimeter tour with a slight side trip to scenic Lake Charlie that formed a 22 1/2 mile loop. It was a great way to see how the various habitats support a wide range of creatures here. There’s so much to do, you could spend weeks exploring by land and water both. My only caution is that you should pay attention to hunting season >> Info HERE.
Seminole Ranch Wildlife Management Area is the southern 6,000 acres of the nearly 30,000 acre Seminole Ranch Conservation Area. The Wildlife Management Area is in Christmas, while the Conservation Area lies across the St. Johns River in neighboring counties. Miles of scenic trails meander through here, including the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST or FT for short). Like Tosohatchee, there are a great variety of habitats to support a broad spectrum of plants and animals. There are even a couple of lakes that are unique to this property. Again, this is a Wildlife Management Area, so be aware of hunting season >> Info HERE.
Orlando Wetlands Park is what I call a man-made natural wonder. Crafted and actively maintained by humans, these are wetlands that would make Mother Nature proud. In fact, they are a world-renowned model for both water treatment and wetlands restoration. I have returned to this park more often than any other in this area because of the shear number and variety of birds, as well as up-close alligators, turtles and furry mammals. Not to mention the wildflowers, both on land and in the waters. Miles of dirt roadways on top of berms bring you through various wetlands habitats, but with little to no shade. Other trails take you through forested areas and even connect to the FNST. The parking lot is directly across from the Seminole Ranch WMA parking lot. There is no hunting in OWP, but they are closed from November 15th through January 31st each year.
The Savage/Christmas Creek Preserve is the last piece of green wrapping. At 1,126 acres, this is not a huge preserve and there are no distinguishing features, like a river, lake or a section of the FT. Yet it does provide several miles of multi-use trails (Hiking/Equestrian). It’s also a Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail location, so it’s an important property for a great variety of species.
As if all this isn’t impressive enough for little old Christmas, Florida, there’s also Fort Christmas Historical Park. Orange County Parks & Recreation worked hand-in-hand with the Fort Christmas Historical Society to faithfully reproduce the original army fort that was built here On Christmas Day in 1837. They also showcase a beautifully restored Florida Cracker home, 8 pioneer homes, a post office and a schoolhouse with a lunchroom. Farming and ranching equipment of yesteryear are also on display and there is a small museum in the fort. The grounds are beautiful and this is a full service park, featuring a baseball field, tennis courts, basketball courts and a children’s playground.
So, Merry Christmas from Christmas, Florida! Are you feeling all the Christmas green? If you love nature or history or both, Christmas is an awesome location. Know Before You Go! >> Check out the Photo Gallery, which is a small sample of photos from all of these parks. The blue highlighted words or phrases in the text above are links to more specific information on each park. If these places aren’t what you’re looking for, check out our Bucket List and Where-to-Go.