It will not be very inaccurate to state that Orlando and theme parks are synonym to each other. With a host of theme parks, Central Florida is easily one of the main draws of the state when it comes to tourism. But should you be anyone like me, who shrieks at the thought of theme parks, there are plenty of opportunities Orlando offers that are way more satisfying than the touristy, overdone and super dizzy theme parks. If you are in company of someone heading to this city with the sole purpose of the adrenaline rushing theme parks, save yourself with this list of things to do in Orlando apart from theme parks!
1. Bask in the Beauty of Orlando Downtown from the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye
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If London’s got the London eye, Orlando has the Coca-Cola Orlando Eye. This is one of the best things to do in Orlando that bestows you with a bird’s eye view of downtown Orlando. As you explore Orlando, you are bound to notice this icon dominating the city’s skyline. Before you begin your flight, you are introduced to the attraction with an enlightening family oriented film. There is a gift shop in the premises, that serves as the perfect souvenir stop once you are done with the flight. A word of advice- Head here in the evenings for a mesmeric sunset!
Address: 8401 International Dr #100, Orlando, FL 32819, USA
Entrance fee: USD 25 per adult
2. Wander Leisurely Around the Tibet-butler Nature Preserve
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Orlando’s hedonism can get a little overbearing after a while, when all you want to do is escape into some place boasting of tranquility. The Tibet-Butler Nature Preserve is one such place, nestled in the lap of nature and abundant with soul-touching wilderness. There is no ride in any of the theme parks that can do what a stroll at this trail also considered to be one of the best alternative attractions in Orlando, can do. The butterfly garden, accessibility by wheelchair and a dense vegetation of longleaf pine forests make this place an ideal picnic spot.
Address: 8777 Winter Garden Vineland Rd, Orlando, FL 32836, USA
Entrance fee: Free entrance
3. Spend a Day of Enlightenment at the Kennedy Space Center
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Located at hardly an hour’s distance from central Orlando, the Kennedy space Center is such a break from all the adrenaline rush. This a great place to be at for both kids and adults alike. There are plenty of highlights in here that marks the significance of not just America’s history but the world’s space history! It’s a good idea to wear comfortable shoes, as you are going to be walking around a lot in here. There are guided tours available, and are the best way to get maximum knowledge of every aspect of this place. Being managed by NASA, is the main draw of this place!
Address: Headquarters Bldg 1317, Orlando, FL 32815, USA
Entrance fee: USD 50 per adult; USD 40 per child
4. Dine at One of the many Themed Restaurants
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Orlando’s vividly themed restaurants are a great place to enjoy a culinary experience making them count as one of the top things to do in Florida apart from theme parks. The best part of these restaurants are their locations, that give you a feel of not missing out on all the entertainment they boast of. They are constantly abuzz with visitors heading to the theme parks here. Mythos, Captain America Diner, Be Our Guest Restaurant, Rainforest Café and the Raglan Road Irish Pub are good options. These restaurants are certain to delight you, irrespective of the time you visit.
Address: Universal City Walk and Downtown Disney
Entrance fee: Subjective to the restaurant you choose to visit
5. Visit Gatorland: The Alligator Capital of the World
Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
What does a thought of a 110-acre amusement park do to you? Shriek you out or make you curios? Whatever it does it is definitely something a theme park won’t do! Rightly referred to as the “The Alligator Capital of the World”, Gatorland is one of Orlando’s most important protected lands. Look forward to by entertainment by some of the world’s deadliest creature. There are reptile shows, swamp walks, aviaries and everything you never thought of! Once you are done with the reptiles there are numerous birds that you can seek entertainment through. All the shows here are a great blend of education and entertainment.
Address: 14501 S Orange Blossom Trail, Orlando, FL 32837, United States
Entrance fee: USD 27 per adult
6. Take a Refreshing Boat Ride in the Winter Park Region
Image Source: Experience Kissimmee/flickr.com
This place is likely to give you a vibe of some exotic place in South East Asia. Absolutely refreshing and rejuvenating, the winter park region boasts of several waterways perfect to take a boat ride over. Most of these rides last for about an hour or so, charging you with a enlivened zeal to get on the best things to do in Orlando. The rides take you through slim manmade canals in the backwaters of three lakes of the seven this region is home to. What’s more? These engulf also engulf some celebrities’ homes. You might spot an alligator or two too!
Address: 312 E Morse Blvd, Winter Park, FL 32789, USA
Entrance fee: Subjective to the tour operator you choose
7. Get Awestruck at Madame Tussauds Orlando
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If you have ever fancied a rendezvous with your favorite celebrity crush, the Madame Tussauds is the place to head. Have your fangirl/ fanboy amount as you rest your eyes on these absolute look-alike figures of everyone from actors to politicians! Everyone’s going to love this place because there’s everyone here, even Kung Fu Panda and the uber sultry Scarlett Johansson. Click pictures to your heart’s content, so you can boast about it later, at this self-explanatory attraction. You can easily spend about half a day here in absolute admiration, although a recommended time to visit Madame Tussauds is two hours.
Address: 8387 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819, United States
Entrance fee: USD 20 per adult
8. Socialize at the Coffee Shops
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There is no better place to experience local Orlando at the many coffee shops doting the downtown area. This is a favorite leisure activity of all the locals. On exploring these coffee shops, you are also bound to meet some very friendly baristas, who may give you further insights on all the local experiences you can get, ditching the touristy glitz. The best part of the local cafes is you are in for a savory treat, including the likes of some delicious baked vegan goods, redolent teas, sandwiches and more. Drunken Monkey Coffee Bar, Downtown Credo, Stardust Video & Coffee, Achilles Art Café and WaWa are some of the best coffee shops in Orlando.
9. Hike at the Lake Baldwin Trail
Image Source: cityofwinterpark.org
Hiking at the Lake Baldwin Trail is one of the most fun things to do in Orlando for free, for more reasons than one. Stretching at roughly 2.5 miles, you can enjoy a beautiful hike here. A great place to get your dog to in case you are traveling with one. This is an easy to moderate level hike, so it is anything but a hike that will leave you panting! It lies very close to the downtown area. So, this is an incredible way to spend the evening; walking around downtown and then hiking at the Lake Baldwin Trail.
Address: Lake Baldwin Ln, Orlando, FL, USA
Entrance fee: Free
10. Shop till You Drop
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Okay let’s admit it, shopping is a good idea anywhere, anytime whether or not it is one of the best things to do in Florida apart from theme parks! And it gets only better if you are shopping or window shopping at some of the most gorgeous upscale boutiques at the Winter Park’s Park Avenue, local art works at the Sunday Eola Market, Mount Dora, or the Artegon Marketplace for some local goodness. As you do so, you are ought to realize how Orlando is underrated as a shopping destination. A little indulgence never hurt anyone.
11. Sign up for a spa treatment
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So, you are done with all the fantasies of the crazy theme park rides, moving around them, walking at hours on end in the sweltering heat? It is no brainer, what good will a blissful spa treatment do to you. There is a surfeit of spas in this city, which is a reason why there is never a question of what to do in Orlando for adults. Resorts and spas across the city, will leave you spoilt for choice with their world-class treatments. There are many in the vicinity of the theme parks itself, like the Mandara spa next to Walk Disney.
12. Enroll the Kids for Circus School Class
Image Source: Mike Baird/flickr.com
Consistently counted as one of the best things to do in Orlando with kids, the Circus School never disappoints. It is no news what a delight the circus is for kids. How about getting them to learn some tricks of the trade themselves? A host of technique like juggling, tumbling and dancing can be endeavored at this school, with the help of practical equipment like trampolines, hula hoops and the likes. Their flying trapeze classes are one of the best sellers. A great place to take the kids too on a rainy day. They are not going to want to leave!
Address: 6809 Visitors Cir, Orlando, FL 32819, USA
Entrance fee: USD 25 (onwards) per child
13. Take a Yoga Session on a Paddleboard
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Trust this city to throw unexpected opportunities at you to the most unique things to do in Orlando. Like this one right here. Wondering how to get this act straight, that too on a paddleboard, when even ground seems to a far reality?! Take a class with the experts! Work up at that core as you do suryanamaskars, downward dog, and that dreadful tree pose on a paddleboard at these very beginner-friendly classes. Sign up for their evening class for an incredibly rejuvenating experience. Face that fear to find out how delightfully relaxing yoga on a paddleboard can be.
Address: Lake Ivanhoe, Lake Sybelia
Entrance fee: USD 35 per person onwards
14. Visit the Orlando Museum of Art for the “First Thursdays”
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There are a lot of cheap things to do in Orlando, but if you are willing to shell out some you can avail some of the most cherishing experiences of your life in this city. The “First Thursdays” at the Orlando Museum of Art are a fine example of what I am trying to say. On this day, the museum holds special exhibits, along with some soul stirring live music, and even a cash bar. All this and more are an absolute delight to observes the incredible collection of art from the continents of Africa, and of course America.
Address: 2416 North Mills Avenue, Orlando, Florida 32803
Entrance fee: USD 10 per person
15. Go Clubbing at Universal’s City Walk
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And finally, on this list we have the ultimate activity that people love to count as one of the best things to do in Orlando at night, clubbing! There is a plethora of nightclubs, restaurants, lounges and beer bars fringing Orlando’s areas like the Universal’s City Walk. These clubs have a terrific sound technology along with sound effects that make you want to dance the night away. Most of these clubs are multilevel, so it gets all the more fun. Additionally, there are standalone complexes too in the city that cater to activities like shopping and entertainment, like the Pointe Orlando.
Indeed, Orlando has so much more than its theme parks that make for a wholesome experience of the city. What’s your favorite thing to do in Orlando, besides its theme parks? Let us know in the comments section below!