Sure, the best things to do Orlando include theme parks, but there is so much more to this Florida city. You can explore art museums, tour the everglades, and enjoy quick day trips to historic sites — to name just a few alternatives to the mouse.
I’ve done the legwork for you. Whether you’re traveling to Orlando with kids, as a couple, solo, or with a group of friends, there is something on this list of fun activities that you’ll enjoy.
You can save on tickets, tours, and hotels through my affiliations. If you make purchases through the links in this post, I may be compensated.
Best Orlando Theme Parks
Okay, let’s address the obvious. Orlando’s claim to fame as the Theme Park Capital of the World is absolutely valid. They’re home to more theme parks than any other city on the planet. Though there are a lot of things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, why not make room in your itinerary to visit at least one? Though you’re itinerary will likely include more than one if you have children with you.
1. Magic Kingdom
Dubbed “The Most Magical Place on Earth,” the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort is a place where childhood dreams come true. But, plenty of adults visit on their own, too. The park features more than 40 unforgettable rides and attractions, six themed lands, themed dining and shopping options, and endless surprises.
Magic Kingdom features rides and lands that pay homage to the classic Disney films, including Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and the Little Mermaid. It’s here where parents grow nostalgic over rides they remember fondly from their youth such as Peter Pan’s Flight, it’s a small world, and Pirates of the Caribbean, and attractions such as Cinderella’s Castle.
Your first impression of the park begins on Main Street, U.S.A., just as it does at Disneyland Park, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris. You can also read about how we skipped lines with a Magic Kingdom VIP tour.
See also: How to Find a Walt Disney World Tickets Discount
2. Disney’s Hollywood Studios
Why watch your favorite stories when you can live them in one of the best Orlando theme parks? Immerse yourself in big and small screen scenes with a trip to Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Shrink down to the size of Woody, Buzz, and the gang when you enter Toy Story Land. Ride on Slink as he careens through Andy’s Backyard. Let your little ones take the battle to the First Order, all in a galaxy far, far away. With the new Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance ride, this is the park for fans of The Force.
You can also get into a stretch-limo and hurl down a roller coaster track with Aerosmith blasting in the background (this is my daughter’s favorite ride).
Put your driving skills to the test at Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy, and join Anna and Elsa on their snowy escapades as they act out fan favorites in “For the First Time in Forever: A Frozen Sing-A-Long Celebration.”
3. Disney’s Animal Kingdom
Disney’s Animal Kingdom is actually the largest theme park in the world. That’s because it’s a zoo also, that houses exotic animals from around the world that need space to roam. They’ve also managed to incorporate rides and attractions in a manner that respects the animals’ welfare. Being accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums means that the park is also conservation-minded.
Fun activities include immersing yourself in Pandora – The World of Avatar, where you can take a tour along the Na’vi River and fly along the back of a mountain banshee. Step back in time in DinoLand, U.S.A., where you must fight against the clock to save the dinosaurs — and yourself — from extinction. Definitely don’t miss the park’s most spectacular and acclaimed show, “Festival of the Lion King” (temporarily unavailable).
Epcot is one of the best things to do in Orlando because it allows you to step back in time, explore other cultures, tour space, get up close and personal with Mother Nature, and even travel to the future — all without ever leaving the city.
Begin your journey at Spaceship Earth, where you have the opportunity to travel through the history of communication, from the very first cave drawings to present-day smartphones. Experience the culture and taste the cuisine from 11 different cultures in the World Showcase, and travel to the stars at Mission: SPACE.
We’ve been there during the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, which I would definitely recommend going out of your way to attend if it falls during your Orlando vacation.
5. Universal Studios Florida
Like its sister park in Los Angeles, Universal Studios Florida is themed around movies and television. Harry Potter fans can pick up wands at Ollivander’s and chocolate frogs at Sugarplum’s Sweetshop in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Diagon Alley. The food at the Leaky Cauldron is actually pretty great for a theme park, not to mention riding the Hogwarts Express. (Be sure to have a 2-Park ticket as you disembark the train in Universal’s Islands of Adventure.)
Autobots and Decepticons engage in an intergalactic showdown, agents from MIB battle aliens for our freedom, and E.T. tries to phone home — all at this Orlando theme park. At Universal Studios Florida, meet your favorite characters, watch as they reenact some of the most popular big-screen scenes, and browse themed shops and restaurants.
See Also: How to Buy Discount Universal Studios Orlando Tickets
6. Universal’s Islands of Adventure
If books are more your thing, crawl into your favorite stories and immerse yourself in a world of heroes, knights, wizards, and fairies, and live out some of the most timeless myths and legends at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. It’s also one of the Universal Orlando Resort parks.
In addition to exploring The Wizarding World of Harry Potter — Hogsmeade (yes, another Harry Potter land), you can meet some of your favorite costumed heroes such as Wolverine, Spider-Man, Captain America, Doctor Doom, and The Incredible Hulk.
The young and young at heart can step into childhood classics such as The Cat in the Hat and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. Thrill-seekers can take a tour on the Jurassic Park River Adventure, which entails a white-knuckling journey through the infamous park and a climax of a pitch-black, 85-foot drop.
7. SeaWorld Orlando
At SeaWorld Orlando, mingle with penguins in the Arctic, splash around with the dolphins, get soaked by Shamu, and get a thrill on one of several pulse-pounding roller coasters.
The park, open since 1973, is undergoing constant updates and improvements to meet visitors’ evolving demands and expectations. Toddlers also love mingling with their favorite characters and tame rides in Sesame Street Place.
See Also: How to Buy SeaWorld Orlando Discount Tickets
8. Aquatica Orlando
Aquatica Orlando is also part of SeaWorld Orlando Resort. This water park is themed after the southern Pacific, primarily Australia and New Zealand. Attractions suit all ages, with some passing by dolphin pools and other animal exhibits, making it one of the best things to do in Orlando.
Take a ride along the lazy river, recline on sandy beaches, splash in the wave pool, and get a rush on one of the park’s many water rides.
Best Attractions in Orlando
Fun things to do in Orlando go way beyond theme parks because there are more than one hundred other standalone attractions that appeal to visitors of all ages.
9. International Drive
You’ll want to make International Drive, a resort area and entertainment center, one of your first stops during your Orlando vacation. In addition to eclectic dining options, upscale boutiques, a bustling nightlife, and luxury hotel accommodations, I-Drive also offers a wealth of information for visitors.
Whether you need assistance planning your vacation itinerary, want to schedule a few shows, or need help purchasing discount tickets, you can do it all in this city center.
10. The Wheel at ICON Park
For a complete view of Orlando, head to I-Drive’s most famous attraction — the 400-foot-tall Ferris wheel. This wheel contains 30 climate-controlled cars, each of which can fit 15 passengers. One complete circulation takes 22-minutes, giving you plenty of time to sip on some champagne while you soak in sights of the city.
You can upgrade your experience to the Sky Bar, which allows you to enjoy bottomless beer, wine, and mimosas. With a premium package, you can rent a car or two for a couple of hours, during which you can pop the question, celebrate an upcoming birth, or toast to another year of marriage.
11. Madame Tussauds Orlando
Heroes Unite at Madame Tussauds Orlando! Impress your friends with a selfie taken while helping Wonder Woman, Superman, Batman, and Aquaman save the world. Strike a pose with Taylor Swift, consult with Abe Lincoln, and soar to unbelievable heights with E.T.
At Madame Tussauds, there are no ropes, barriers, or bodyguards keeping you from rubbing elbows with your favorite celebrities and characters. Live out your fantasy of being able to mingle with A-listers and raise your glass with the likes of Pink at this gallery of wax-celebrity lookalikes.
12. Fun Spot America
Fun Spot America is the only family-owned amusement park in Orlando, Florida, and boasts one of two of the world’s tallest SkyCoasters. The second is located at Fun Spot’s other location in Kissimmee. The Orlando SkyCoaster is 250 feet tall and offers groups of three the opportunity to feel like they’re jumping out of a plane.
From a midway and arcade in which visitors can play games even on rainy days to multi-level racing go-kart tracks to old wooden coasters, there’s a little bit of something for everyone at Fun Spot America. Best of all, admission is free. You only have to pay by the day or by the ride.
13. SEA LIFE Orlando Aquarium
At SEA LIFE Orlando, you can come face to fin with sharks, tuna, stingrays, and more. Enter the 360-degree ocean tunnel for a complete view of life beneath the waves, and get hands-on with sea anemones, starfish, and other ocean critters.
Gain insight as to how these creatures live, procreate, and more through educational fun talks, caretaker feedings, and special events.
14. Gatorland: The Alligator Capital of the World
One of the city’s oldest attractions, Gatorland, continues to be one of the best things to do in Orlando. This 110-acre park is home to not hundreds but one thousand alligators and crocodiles. Four of those are known to be some of the planet’s largest white leucistic alligators, which are extremely rare. And, at ten to twelve feet in length and weighing in at over 800 pounds, they’re also huge.
Gatorland doesn’t just house gators, though. The park is also home to panthers, bobcats, exotic birds, and a petting zoo. If hanging out with ferocious beasts isn’t your kind of thrill, take a ride on the Screamin’ Gator Zip Line, splash around in the Gator Gully Splash Park, or hop aboard the Gatorland Express.
15. iFLY Orlando Indoor Skydiving
You don’t have to jump out of a perfectly good airplane to get the thrill of skydiving. You simply need to head over to iFLY, a building that houses a vertical wind tunnel that creates a cushion of air on which you can safely float instead of fall. iFLY is so safe that children as young as three are more than welcome to participate.
Best Arts and Museums in Orlando
Orlando has a rich culture and arts scene, and you would be remiss in visiting the city without exploring its many art galleries and museums. If you’re looking for things to do in Orlando besides theme parks, start at one of these four attractions.
16. Orlando Shakespeare Theater
The Orlando Shakespeare Theater has been putting on spectacular shows for over 30 years, during which time it has flourished into one of the most acclaimed theaters in the region.
From stellar reenactments of its namesake’s most popular compositions to mock trials to performances of cherished children’s classics, this Orlando theater group has an eclectic and enticing repertoire of acts up its sleeve.
17. Blue Man Group
The Blue Man Group has captivated over 35 million viewers worldwide, and for good reason. The group puts on a stunning spectacle of color, music, light, humor, and pure energy, all wrapped into a single spectacular performance you can take in on any given night of the week.
If your things to do in Orlando include shows, a nice way to cool off on hot days, this one is kid-friendly, too. The unforgettable multi-sensory experience happens at Universal CityWalk.
18. Orlando Ballet
Founded in 1974, the Orlando Ballet has flourished into a reputable group known for its fleet of national and international dancers, full-length classics, and contemporary performances.
This group seeks to entertain, educate, and impress audiences. It also aims to enrich the city of Orlando and all of Florida through high-quality dance and beautifully reenacted classics, including holiday favorite “The Nutcracker.”
19. The Mennello Museum of American Art
The Mennello Museum of American Art was founded by the City of Orlando in 1998 to preserve, interpret, and exhibit the permanent art collection of Earl Cunningham.
Like the Orlando Ballet, the museum strives to enrich the public’s lives through art programs, temporary and permanent exhibitions, educational initiatives, and publications that celebrate the arts of contemporary and traditional American artists across a range of mediums.
The exterior offers as much to see as the interior. Outside of the museum is the Marilyn L. Mennello Sculpture Garden, which is best known for the massive 350-year live oak tree. The tree, nicknamed “The Mayor,” is shrouded in Spanish moss and is accompanied by footpaths, sculptures, and Old Florida landscaping.
Best Things To Do in Orlando Besides Theme Parks
Many people make the trip to Orlando for the theme parks. However, if you’ve been there, done that, and want a more personalized experience, check out the following attractions. Many are also popular outdoor activities.
20. Lake Eola Park
Rent paddle boats or take a relaxing walk around Lake Eola Park, an oasis in the middle of the downtown Orlando. You can pack a picnic, gaze at the swans in the water, or even attend a show or concert at the Walt Disney Amphitheater. There is also a playground for kids to enjoy in Florida sunshine.
21. Boggy Creek Airboat Tour
Boggy Creek has been offering visitors by far the best airboating experience in Florida for over 25 years. Zip along the Florida marshes in an airboat manned by an expert who knows the wetlands like the back of his or her hand.
In addition to a thrilling ride, you’ll get to venture into gator territory and witness up-close some of Florida’s favorite and most chilling reptiles.
Boggy Creek offers more than just airboat tours. It’s an attraction where you can learn about Florida history through the Native American Village, a collection of weapons, tools, cooking equipment, and more. Explore the 70-foot mine for gems, alligator teeth, and shells, and bike the 32-acres of historic lands. Because Boggy Creek knows you’ll be hungry at the end of your adventures, it also conveniently serves up delectable BBQ.
22. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition
Step aboard the Ship of Dreams via this world-renowned traveling exhibition. The exhibit features more than 300 artifacts taken directly from the site of the wreckage. The rooms, designed to look and feel just like a room aboard the Titanic, are brought to life through costumed actors, one of which is Captain Smith.
Take your experience to the next level by booking a dinner reservation for the First-Class Dinner Gala. This unique experience allows you and other lucky passengers to partake in the captain’s cocktail party, a first-class style dinner, and a personal tour of the ship. Be forewarned, however; the gala closes with a reenactment of the night of April 14th, 1912, the night the Titanic sank.
23. Congo River Adventure Golf
With eight locations throughout Florida, you know Congo River mini golf is bound to be an adventure. At the Orlando location off I-Drive, explore mysterious caves, rocky summits, towering waterfalls, and tropical rain forests all while you try your best to make par. The course is so exciting that the Orlando location has routinely been rated as the best miniature golf experience in the state.
Congo River offers more than just golf. Live alligators sit at every turn, waiting to be fed (don’t worry, you’re given food to feed them). When you’re done playing, look for buried treasures in the mine, or head indoors to the arcade to test your skills at air hockey, basketball, and racing.
24. Gray Line Orlando Tours
With so many things to do in Orlando, it can be overwhelming to narrow down your activities to a select few. That’s where Gray Line Tours come in. Locally known as Gator Tours, Gray Line Tours are Florida’s sightseeing experts.
In addition to knowing more about local history, hot spots, and hidden gems than most locals, tour guides are trained to provide impeccable customer service, an outstanding tour experience, and more value for your money.
25. The Escape Game Orlando
If you’re looking for a truly unique way to bond with your travel companions, there’s no better way to do it than through The Escape Game. If you’ve never participated in such a game before, you’re in for a treat.
You and your team are given just 60 minutes to complete your mission through clues, puzzles, and signs. Missions take place in a variety of settings, including a 1950s prison, an art museum, and deep space. Regardless of where you find yourself, know that something is always at stake. Work as a team, and you’re likely to come out the other side successful. Work alone, though, and you’re sure to get caught. Let the games begin!
When you step into WonderWorks, you’ll find the ceiling at your feet and the ground above your head, an experience that will literally turn your world upside-down. You can quickly realign yourself, though, when you pass through the inversion tunnel, on the other side of which is 35,000 square feet of more than one hundred hands-on edutainment attractions, mind-boggling experiences, and six different wonder zones.
Though you can spend hours playing with the experiments in each of the six zones — which include Extreme Weather, Space Discovery, Physical Challenges, Light and Sound, Wonder Art, and Imagination Lab — you can give your mind a rest by heading to the basement. There you will find an indoor ropes course, 4D XD motion theater, and a laser tag course.
27. Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show
WonderWorks contains even more magic after hours. Stick around until dinner time to catch the Outta Control Magic Comedy Dinner Show, one of Orlando’s best-kept secrets.
During the show, enjoy interactive and gut-busting magic comedy while snacking on salad and pizza. Adults can order wine or beer, while children (and adults, of course) can indulge in soda and dessert.
Best Things To Do Near Orlando
Most visitors find that there are enough things to do in Orlando to fill a week’s or even month’s worth of vacation time. However, if you want to explore surrounding areas, rest assured that fun extends beyond the city limits as well.
28. LEGOLAND Florida Resort
An amusement park, water park, and hotel wrapped into one, this destination promises to deliver big fun to all ages. Though the rides are geared toward little ones, teens and adults can’t help but be impressed by the lands and structures built from billions of tiny LEGO.
See miniature and extremely detailed models of California, Florida, the Kennedy Space Center, the Las Vegas Strip, New York, Washington D.C., and more.
Children can enjoy rides, the water park, and play equipment. When their little legs get tired, bring them to a building zone, where they can try their hand at making their own impressive creations.
See also: How to Buy Discount LEGOLAND Florida Tickets
29. Kennedy Space Center
Located in Cape Canaveral and just a short distance from Orlando, the Kennedy Space Center is Florida’s gateway to space. This center is the very sight from which rockets launch into orbit and astronauts train.
Because there is so much to see and do at this working spaceflight facility, you want to plan your trip in advance. If you’re lucky (or a smart planner), you’ll be in town for the next launch. Use the online trip planner to build your trip and check for upcoming events.
Learn how to buy discount Kennedy Space Center tickets.
30. Wild Florida Airboats
Head straight into the Everglades aboard a U.S. Coast Guard-approved airboat to get up close and personal with some of the state’s most exotic wildlife. Not only will you see alligators in their natural, swampy habitat, but also you’re sure to catch glimpses of other native creatures, including wild boars, roseate spoonbills, eagles, and more.
Your wildlife encounters don’t end once you hop off the boat, though. The park is also home to over 200 native and exotic creatures, including zebras, lemurs, and sloths.
31. Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Rides
If you’re looking for a more personalized airboat tour experience, look no further than the Spirit of the Swamp Airboat Rides. This company promises to deliver luxury rides to groups of four or more.
The boats are designed for comfort and include padded seats, awnings, and headsets. You can schedule a tour that lasts anywhere from 90 minutes to two hours — the longest airboating experience available.
32. Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park
With 97 aerial challenges, a 425-foot zipline, wobbly suspension bridges, ladders that soar up to 50-feet high, and hanging nets into which you can jump, Orlando Tree Trek Adventure Park promises to deliver thrill and adventure to every guest, rain or shine. Courses are available for adults and children of all abilities.
33. Zora! Festival
This three-day outdoor festival takes place in Eatonville, Florida. It’s a celebration of the arts and is characterized by theatrical productions, educational programs, museum exhibitions, and public talks.
34. Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
This Winter Park museum houses the most extensive collection of works by Louis Comfort Tiffany of any other museum in the world. Tiffany works range in scope from his famous leaded glass lampshades to the chapel interior, which was commissioned for the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago.
The museum is also home to late 19th-century to early 20th-century American paintings, pottery, graphics, and decorative art.
35. Albin Polasek Museum & Sculpture Gardens
Also located in Winter Park, this museum serves as a celebration of the acclaimed Czech sculptor Albin Polasek. Tour his home, sculpture gardens, and galleries to gain deeper insight into the life and times of this influential artist.
What are your favorite things to do in Orlando?
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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