Many tourists have visited Orlando multiple times and yet never ventured away from Walt Disney World. But there are so many more incredible things to do in Orlando than just the Magic Kingdom and Mickey Mouse! Greater Orlando is home to gorgeous natural areas, smaller attractions, and more dining options than you can count. And I’m here to help you experience all of them!
I am a self-proclaimed theme park fanatic who worked at Walt Disney World for 12 years. So I know the theme parks inside and out, but I also know that some of the best gems in Orlando, Florida are found when you venture away from the theme parks. This isn’t your run-of-the-mill “fun things to do in Orlando” list. I am sharing some of my favorite Orlando destinations, places that even locals love.
There’s a lot to cover in this post, so bookmark it for later – and use the jump links to jump around!
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Best Things to Do in Orlando
Walt Disney World Resort
I couldn’t make a list of Orlando attractions without mentioning Walt Disney World at the top. For many people, Walt Disney World is synonymous with Orlando, and for good reason. Disney has everything you need for a complete vacation – hotels, dining, theme parks, miniature golf courses, water parks, and more!
Disney is constantly adding new lands and rides, like Rise of the Resistance at Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Of course, you can also always experience the welcoming nostalgia of entering the Magic Kingdom.
👉 Pro Tip: Visiting Disney with children in the summer? Don’t try to stay at the parks all day or you’ll just end up with hot, cranky children! Get in some rides in the morning, then return to your hotel for lunch, a nap, and some pool time. You can return to the parks in the evening for more fun and fireworks. Browse the hotels closest to Walt Disney World on Booking, and be sure to reserve well in advance!
Universal Orlando Resort
For years, Universal Studios was considered second fiddle to Walt Disney World. However, in recent years Universal has added new hotels, rides, dining, and a water park. Just like Disney, you can now enjoy a complete vacation without leaving Universal property. And there are perks to staying at one of Universal’s hotels. You get a free express pass to skip the regular lines and early admission to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
🛎️ Need a Universal Hotel? There are many to choose from, but I especially love Universal’s Hard Rock Hotel. It offers a great pool and easy access to CityWalk and Universal Studios.
Like Universal, SeaWorld Orlando has made some changes in recent years. In addition to their animal habitats and shows, they have added multiple thrilling roller coasters. My favorite roller coaster is Manta, where you ride face down through twists, turns, and nose-dives. For the animal lover in your family, SeaWorld offers affordable animal encounter options. You can even meet a walrus!
Address: 5770 W Irlo Bronson Memorial Hwy, Kissimmee, FL 34746 | Phone: (407) 396-4888 | Old Town Website | Hours: 10 am – 11 pm daily
Old Town is a recreation of a historical Florida town that features shops, dining, attractions, and an amusement park. Old Town is one of Florida’s retro destinations that has been open since 1986. This is a great place for a day trip or just dinner and a stroll. Check the event calendar before you go, because there is live entertainment or other fun events on most days.
👉 Pro Tip: Don’t miss the classic car show and drive that takes place every Saturday!
Central Florida Zoo & Botanical Gardens
The Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens is a historic staple in Orlando. It originally opened in 1923 but moved to its current location in 1975 (under the direction of famed zookeeper Jack Hanna).
The zoo features a petting zoo where guests can feed and pet barnyard animals, extensive boardwalks for excellent animal viewing, and beautiful butterfly gardens throughout the grounds. Animal encounters, such as feeding a giraffe or meeting a greater one-horned rhino, are available for an additional fee.
👉 Local Tip: The zoo is not very large and food from the concession stand is candidly lackluster. So I recommend planning for a half-day visit in the morning and then heading to Downtown Sanford for lunch.
Discovery Cove is unlike any other amusement park. It is part aquarium, part all-inclusive resort, and part waterpark. The whole family can spend the day relaxing in the water and snorkeling with tropical fish. Discovery Cove has limited capacity and all food and drinks are included, so once you book your ticket, planning is a breeze. You can book add-on packages to have a one-of-a-kind experience with your favorite animal.
This recommendation is not for a single location, but you must check out at least one of the many aquatic parks in Orlando, especially if you are visiting in the summer! All of the major theme parks have their own water park, and there are even more independent parks or smaller hotel parks. Some water parks to consider include:
- Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon
- Disney’s Blizzard Beach
- Universal’s Volcano Bay
- Aquatica Orlando
- CoCo Key Water Park
- Island H2O Water Park
All of the aquatic parks are family-friendly and also offer relaxing adult options too.
🛎️ Looking for a place to stay? Check out my guide on where to stay in Orlando for local tips on the best neighborhoods, areas, hotels, and resorts. There’s a lot to choose from, but I break it all down so you can make the right decision for you.
Stuff to Do On International Drive
International Drive is the main stretch of hotels, restaurants, and attractions in Orlando. It is the perfect central location to hit all the major theme parks when you visit Orlando. But, besides theme parks, here are some other great attractions and points of interest along International Drive:
The Wheel at ICON Park
The Wheel is the main attraction at ICON Park, an entertainment area on International Drive. “I-Drive” as it’s known to locals, is a hot spot for restaurants, hotels, and smaller attractions. The Wheel gives you a bird’s eye view of Orlando when you go up 400 feet on the 18-minute rotation. But this isn’t your mama’s Ferris wheel… Each capsule is air-conditioned and there is a bar to grab drinks just before you load.
ICON Park isn’t just a one attraction destination. You can also hit Madame Tussauds wax museum, SEA LIFE Aquarium, and more attractions after your ride. There are also plenty of restaurants and bars around to complete your visit.
Andretti Indoor Karting & Games
Karting at Andretti Indoor Karting & Games
If there is one location that has every indoor activity you could ask for, it is Andretti Indoor Karting & Games. In addition to karting, there is an arcade, ropes course, laser tag, and bowling. This place fills up on rainy days, so if you anticipate bad weather during your visit to Orlando, reserve your karting and other activities ahead of time.
👉 Pro Tip: Andretti Indoor Karting & Games is one of the best places in Orlando to host a birthday party for any age! An event coordinator will help plan out your party, including food and activities.
I think every child in Orlando ends up on at least one field trip to WonderWorks. When I visited recently, I was happy to see this place is just as cool to experience as an adult. WonderWorks calls their experience “edu-tainment,” and it’s honestly the perfect word to describe the appeal. This Orlando attraction is filled with interactive science experiments that are so fun, you forget that you might be learning something.
WonderWorks is located next to Pointe Orlando, a shopping and dining destination. After you enjoy your time at the attraction, you can walk over to Pointe Orlando and enjoy a meal at one of the many restaurants.
A couple of these driving range venues have popped up in town, but visiting Topgolf specifically is one of my favorite things to do in Orlando. Topgolf is a driving range that is set up like a bowling alley for golf. Each bay can have up to 6 golfers and there are tables and seating to hang out in between turns. There are plenty of food and drink options to keep everyone full and happy.
If you’re worried about not having the greatest swing, don’t! Topgolf has different games to play, including a short game and an Angry Birds game. I’ve never won a game but I still have a great time.
👉 Pro Tip: Pricing is half off all day Tuesday!
Fun Spot America
Fun Spot is one of the most iconic Orlando, Florida attractions, located just off International Drive. The park features some of the best go-kart tracks in the world and Orlando’s first wooden roller coaster.
This smaller amusement park offers perks that the large theme can’t. Admission is free to enter Fun Spot America. You have the option to buy a Single Day Pass for all the attractions or only pay for the things you want to do. For families with smaller children, Fun Spot offers a free Chauffeur Pass for an adult to accompany a child on rides they are not able to ride alone.
Tickets are also more affordable than the larger parks. This is a great location for budget-friendly travel with fun things for the whole family to enjoy.
SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium
This is hands-down one of the best aquariums that I have ever experienced. The exhibits are beautiful and they have a wide variety of aquatic life to check out. I was surprised to find such an excellent facility within the shops and attractions of International Drive.
SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium is a great place to beat the heat with your family. The aquarium has child-height viewing and interactive exhibits for the entire family. Everyone will love going through the 360-degree tunnel, where you can see sharks swimming above, below, and all around you.
👉 Pro Tip: The behind-the-scenes tour only costs $10 and is well worth the money. You can see their animal health facilities, meet new and young fish that are too small to go into the larger tanks, and view their largest aquarium from above.
Madame Tussauds features wax figures of some of the biggest celebrities, both past and present. See your favorite sports figures, superheroes, and historical figures as you meander through this museum.
Make sure you bring your camera because there are plenty of great photo opportunities. You may even be able to convince your friends that you really did meet Ryan Reynolds on your Orlando vacation.
👉 Pro Tip: Madame Tussauds, The Wheel at ICON Park, and SEALIFE Orlando Aquarium are all located in the same building. You make a day of checking out these International Drive attractions in one swoop.
What to Do Besides Theme Parks
Harry P Leu Gardens
There can be a lot of hustle and bustle when you visit Orlando, thanks to plentiful parks and attractions. If you need to slow down and relax, head over to Harry P Leu Gardens. This breath-taking property has 50 acres of gardens to wander through.
The property is divided up into different sections. You walk from a bountiful vegetable garden, into a tropical rainforest, and under towering oaks covered in Spanish moss.
Enjoy the fresh air as you take in the sites of hundreds of native Florida plants and exotic plants from around the world. Since it is outdoors, sun protection and water are recommended. Also, don’t forget your bug spray because, as the locals joke, the mosquito is Florida’s state bird!
The Amway Center is the main area in Orlando, Florida. It is the home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic and the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears.
Check the event schedule to see which events, concerts, or comedy shows are taking place when you visit Orlando.
Even when an event isn’t taking place, you can visit Sky Lounge, one of the hottest bars in Orlando. This indoor/outdoor location gives you excellent views of the downtown Orlando skyline while you enjoy delicious cocktails with your friends.
🛎️ Need a Hotel Downtown? Check out The Grand Bohemian which has fun, eclectic decor and is within walking distance of most downtown destinations.
One question I always get when friends are visiting Florida is “are there alligators in the water?” And the answer is always “yes”. If you’d prefer to see your reptiles behind a barrier, check out Gatorland.
This small roadside attraction has grown to be a fun and educational animal experience. You enter through the iconic gator jaws and immediately onto a boardwalk over an alligator-filled swamp.
Some can’t miss shows are the gator wrestling show and the Gator Jumparoo Show. The Jumparoo Show is what originally made Gatorland famous. You’ll be amazed by how high the alligators can propel themselves out of the water! For a little extra adrenaline, you take the Screamin’ Gator zip line over the breeding marsh.
Disney Springs, formerly known as Downtown Disney, is a shopping, dining, and entertainment district at the Walt Disney World Resort. Like most of Disney, there are things to do for all ages.
Younger guests will enjoy building at The LEGO Store, bowling at Splitsville, and riding the Marketplace Carousel. The whole family will enjoy watching live entertainment, shooting hoops at the NBA Experience, or taking a hot air balloon ride on the Aerophile.
I think Disney Springs is the best Orlando destination for a vacation date night. Couples have so many options for bars and restaurants. I recommend bar-hopping for drinks and appetizers before eating dinner at one of the many restaurants curated by celebrity chefs. Once the sun goes down, stroll along the waterfront for a romantic end to the evening.
🛎️ Want a Hotel Nearby? Disney-owned hotels can be pricey, but there are plenty of other options within walking distance of Disney Springs. I stay at the Buena Vista Palace when I have a staycation.
Orlando Science Center
Kids and adults will love learning while they explore the interactive exhibits at the Orlando Science Center. This multi-story museum has something new around every corner.
Some of the exhibits are on rotation, so you’ll have to check the website to see what’s currently available. Some of my favorite permanent exhibits are NatureWorks, where you can learn about native Florida ecosystems and animals, and Our Planet, where earth science comes to life.
All that exploration and fun is sure to drum up an appetite, but OSC has you covered at the 4Roots Cafe. 4Roots is an Orlando-local organization that aims to educate about food science and sustainable agriculture. The cafe sources as much food as possible from grows local to Orlando, Florida.
LEGOLAND Florida makes for one of my favorite easy day trips from Orlando. Legos are brought to life with full-size creations throughout the park and attractions. LEGOLAND is a unique theme park in that all the rides are kid-focused to maximize family fun and prevent the hot, summer meltdowns.
Younger children will have even more to be excited about soon: Peppa Pig is getting her own theme park in 2022! Soon there will be more than enough excitement for every age.
👉 Local Tip: To create an extra special visit for your children, book a night at the LEGOLAND Florida Resort. It has family-friendly, colorful rooms and a free breakfast buffet.
Address: 8001 S Orange Blossom Trl, Orlando, FL 32809 | Phone: (407) 757-1700 | Crayola Experience Website | Hours: 10 am – 4 pm Wed-Fri, 10 am – 6 pm Sat-Sun, Closed Mon-Tues | 👉 Reserve Crayola Experience Tickets
Enter the colorful world of the Crayola Experience, located inside the Florida Mall. This unique attraction allows you and your family to enter the crazy world of color. Not only will you learn about the history of Crayola and how crayons are made, but you get to create art too! It offers endless opportunities to be creative – spinning melted wax, designing a fashion outfit, or just plain old coloring with crayons.
One of my favorite things about the Crayola Experience is its drive to be inclusive to all. Everything in their location is ADA compliant, so all children can enjoy the magic. In addition, they host a Sensory Sunday event one morning a month, which modifies the experience to accommodate children with sensory needs.
What to Do for Adults
Winter Park is a quaint town, located just north of downtown Orlando. The town is filled with picturesque houses and hip eateries.
One of the main attractions is the Saturday Farmers’ Market, which is the number one market in the area. Vendors are selling produce, flowers, bath goods, and homemade decor. Even if you can’t pack a bushel of Florida citrus in your luggage, this is a beautiful event to wander through the vendors and enjoy some delicious homemade goods. Head to the cobblestone streets of Park Ave for the full foodie experience!
Lake Eola is truly the heart of downtown Orlando. A walk around the lake will give you views of the Orlando skyline. This is the perfect path for a stroll or a morning run.
Inside the lake, there is a massive water fountain, which is lit up in a colorful show each night. Swans and swan boats alike can be seen floating on the calm waters. Locals love to keep tabs on the swans, regularly posting about their nests and chicks.
On the West side of the lake, you’ll find the Walt Disney Amphitheater, which is an outdoor venue for performing arts. In 2016, the amphitheater was repainted in a rainbow of colors to commemorate the massacre at Pulse nightclub and to serve as a reminder that Orlando remains a city focused on inclusion and celebration.
Orlando Museum of Art
The Orlando Museum of Art is the premier art museum in Orlando. OMA presents 10-12 exhibitions throughout the year, so check their website to see what artists or genres they are currently exhibiting.
OMA has the perfect location for a day of arts and culture. It is located at Loch Haven Park, which also houses the Science Center, the Mennello Museum of American Art (and their sculpture garden), and the Orlando Repertory Theatre.
On certain days, OMA hosts an Art Night Out for adults, which is a great way to get creative and bring home your own masterpiece during your visit to Orlando.
Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
Take a relaxing boat tour through the chain of lakes and man-made canals. The tour is one hour long and tours leave every hour on the hour.
The tour will show off the natural beauty of Florida’s waterways, including tall cypress trees and hungry cranes fishing for lunch. Architecture lovers will especially enjoy the view of the magnificent estates along the water.
Universal CityWalk is similar to Disney Springs, except there is more focus on restaurants and bars for adults. As the official after-party location for their Mardi Gras event, you are guaranteed to have a great time.
My favorite restaurant is the Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar. The decor is bright and inviting. The fusion menu featuring sushi and burgers means there is something for everyone. Some other great restaurants are Pat O’Brien’s, Voodoo Doughnut, and Antojitos.
If you’re looking for a night of drinking, CityWalk is the perfect place! You can walk around with your drinks and bar hop between the different restaurants. Once you’ve had enough to drink, head into Citywalk’s Rising Star karaoke club, because we all know you sound better after you’ve had a few.
👉 Pro Tip: Parking at Universal Orlando Resort costs $26 (even if you aren’t going into the theme parks), but if you arrive after 6 pm, parking is free.
Activities to Do Outdoors
Bok Tower Gardens
Bok Tower Gardens is a true oasis in Greater Orlando. The main attraction is the “singing” tower which plays carillon music throughout the day. In addition to the 50-acre property, admission also includes access to a 3.5-mile hiking trail through Pine Ridge Preserve.
There are multiple plots on the property, including one dedicated to children and play. I love to wander through the edible garden to see which foods they’re growing in season.
Bok Tower is an excellent day trip at any time of year. The sunlight will warm you up on a cool winter morning, but there is plenty of shade for the heat of a Florida summer.
Kelly Park – Rock Springs
I think locals may come after me for including this hidden gem, but Kelly Park – Rock Springs is one of the most beautiful waterways in Florida. 68-degree water flows out of the springs, creating a refreshing environment. The springs create a natural lazy river and you can relax during the 25-minute tube ride.
Locals cherish Kelly Park. There are ample picnic tables and grills for families to set up at and the water provides endless entertainment. Capacity at Kelly Park is limited, which is another reason this is the perfect place to spend a day.
👉 Local Tip: During busy times, especially weekends in summer, the park can reach capacity more than an hour before the gates even open. Get there as early as possible and you will see the line of cars parked along the road. A sheriff will give you one of 280 entry tickets, which secures your entrance into the park, and then you can take a nap or get out and stretch your legs while you wait for the gates to open.
Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park
Orlando Tree Trek is the best ropes course and aerial obstacle course in town. This is the place to go in Orlando for a family of thrill-seekers. There are four courses to choose from, with varying difficulties, and two kids courses with plenty of fun challenges. The entire family will love the excitement of one of the most challenging but exhilarating Orlando attractions.
To avoid the disappointment of a long wait time, Orlando Tree Trek requires advanced booking for access to the adventure park.
Wild Florida is three adventures in one! They offer airboat rides through the headwaters of the Florida Everglades, a drive-thru safari, and an alligator park that features native and exotic animals.
An airboat ride is one of the coolest things to do in Orlando. Airboats have been used for decades by ranchers and fishermen to move through the shallow swamps of their property and now an airboat ride is on every Florida bucket list.
Getting up close and personal with animals is the best way to truly appreciate their beauty and understand the need for conservation. You can learn about all the pressures facing native animals in Florida due to loss of habitat and pollution.
Wild Florida offers many animal encounters for an additional fee. You can meet rare animals, such as a two-toed sloth or an African crested porcupine.
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
When you arrive at Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures, you will see a beautiful park on Lake Tohopekaliga, known as Lake Toho. There is also a gem mine and a pool of juvenile alligators. Close by is a replica of a Native American village, where you can learn how the indigenous communities survived in the swamps of Florida.
You can choose from 30-minute or 60-minute rides. I’d go for the longer tour, because you have a better chance of seeing more wildlife, like alligators. The boats are Coast Guard-approved airboats that can reach 45 miles per hour!
You’ll often hear locals reference the “real Florida” and Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures will show you just that. The Florida Everglades are unique and special to the state, and there’s no better way to experience it than speeding through the swamp on an airboat.
Horseback Riding at Lake Louisa State Park
Another fun option for seeing the natural ecosystems around Orlando is horseback riding at Lake Louisa State Park. The riding trails are 3-6 miles and all rides are guided by a ranger. The ranger will point out local wildlife and plants.
Lake Louisa State Park offers more than just horseback riding, so you can turn your visit into a day trip. There are 20 miles of hiking trails, a beach to swim at, fishing piers, and a lake with kayak and canoe rentals.
Wekiva Island is nothing but a good time. This recreation complex features a waterfront boardwalk, kayak and canoe rentals, a refreshing river to swim in, and much more.
The Wekiva River is fed by the many springs in the area, but most notably is Wekiwa Springs. Since this is a spring-fed river, the water stays 72 degrees year-round, making this the perfect place to cool off.
Wekiva Island is very popular, especially on weekends, so plan to arrive early. There is a food truck and a bar on the property, so you won’t need to leave once you arrive.
These are my favorite things to do in Orlando. You should have enough options to plan multiple vacations!
If you love one of these activities or think something else should be added to the list, leave a comment below.