Fun things to do in Orlando besides theme parks
If you are wondering what the things to do in Orlando besides theme parks are, you have landed in the right place. Many Orlando experts share their favorite place to visit in Orlando which is not a theme park. Read on.
Whether it’s the tenth time you are visiting Orlando’s theme parks or just that they are not your gem, you should know that Orlando has many other interesting places to see and things to do other than its most popular attractions.
From Wine tasting to kayaking, visiting a museum, or exploring the city, there are so many ways to be entertained and spend a joyful time in Orlando.
Here is the list of the things to do in Orlando besides theme parks according to expert travelers and Orlando connoisseurs.
Things to do in Orlando besides theme parks
Wine tour in Orlando
by Paula @ Paula Pins the Planet
Orlando offers a large variety of fun things to do that are not theme parks, and one of my favorites is to visit the wineries and wine tasting. The largest wine tour in the Orlando area is at the Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards.
It is located only 25 miles outside Orlando, in the town of Clermont. Here you can find a great variety of wines that you can taste, like muscadine grapes, hybrid grapes, sparkling wines, and more.
The wine tasting and winery tour are open 7-days a week from Mon-Sat from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is a very cozy wine room, where you can sample your delicious wine by the glass or half glass.
You will need to purchase a card that you can load with money, and you get to choose the wines you want to try for a few hours. Another great option is that they also offer food trucks to accompany your wine venture. If you decide to visit on the weekend, the entrance is free and they host weekends special events such as picnics and live music.
If you are a wine lover and are looking to skip the lines at the parks and just relax, this wine taste one of the top things to do for adults in Orlando.
Henry Leu garden
by Noel Morata @ Visit California and Beyond
One of the most unique things to explore around the Orlando area is the Henry Leu garden, which is a beautiful tropical and subtropical botanical garden located in the city.
Started originally as sugarcane and cotton-growing land, the property transitioned to a variety of owners and finally to the Leu family who donated this and their main home as a living museum to visit along with over 50 acres of gardens, lakes, and wild natural gardens that are fun to explore.
The gardens were planted by the Leu’s who traveled around the world and brought back exotic plants and added to their sizeable collections of camellias, azaleas, bromeliads, ginger, heliconias, and many other tropical plants that thrive and do well in this environment.
Various garden rooms you can visit and the tour includes the arid garden, bamboo collection, aroid collection, butterfly garden, bromeliad collection, azalea collection, citrus grove, conifer collection, cycad collection and so many more fascinating areas and plants to discover here.
If you love different gardens and plants, this is the garden and museum to explore in the Orlando area and definitely worth a visit while you are in the city.
Cocoa Beach – Day Trip from Orlando, FL
Erin Hynes @ Pina Travels
Cocoa Beach is a small town that’s known for its gorgeous beaches, world-famous pier, and for being part of Florida’s Space Coast. This family-friendly beach town is perfect for a day trip because it’s just a 1-hour drive east of Orlando. Despite its name, Cocoa Beach has plenty to do besides hanging on the beach. You can go deep-sea fishing or take an airboat ride to discover some of Florida’s wildlife. There’s also the option to spend an afternoon kayaking!
Cocoa Beach is on the Space Coast, which means you can fill your visit with space-inspired attractions like the Kennedy Space Centre. There, you can learn about the pioneers of NASA’s early space programs, discover the history of the race to space, and see the Saturn V moon rocket. If you happen to visit Cocoa Beach on a launch day, you can have the incredible experience of watching a rocket launch into space. It’s possible to view launches from the Kennedy Space Centre, and from other locations around Cocoa Beach.
Lastly, a must-do in Cocoa Beach is to take a stroll on the Westgate Cocoa Beach Pier. This historic pier, originally built in 1962, stretches 800 feet out over the Atlantic Ocean. On it, you’ll find many restaurants, bars, and gift shops, and you’ll be treated to gorgeous views of the beach and the ocean. Cocoa Beach has lovely weather year round, making it the perfect daytrip to add to your Orlando itinerary, regardless of the season!
Crystal River – Day Trip from Orlando, FL
by Erin Hynes @ Pina Travels
Crystal River is a small city found in western Florida along “Nature’s Coast.” The city rests on the banks of King’s Bay, an inland bay that feeds into the Gulf of Mexico.
The bay is home to the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, which shelters manatees year-round. Manatees love hanging out in the waters around Crystal River because the water there stays warmer than the Gulf of Mexico.
About a 1.5 hour drive from Orlando, this region makes for a great day trip because it’s one of Florida’s best regions for seeing manatees in the wild!
There are several different ways to see the manatees in Crystal River. One option is to spend an afternoon walking the boardwalk and trails at Three Sisters Springs Wildlife Refuge.
The trails guide you through the refuge’s wetlands, providing lots of opportunities to see mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians common to a Florida spring ecosystem.
Especially during the winter, it’s very likely that you’ll spot manatees lazily floating in the shallow waters! If you’d like to get a little closer to the manatees, you can rent a kayak to take out into King’s Bay, or book a manatee tour with one of Crystal Spring’s local operators. Just be sure to practice responsible wildlife tourism while you’re there!
by Amy Gilbride @ The Florida Travel Girl
The Lake Eola area is technically known as Orlando’s Downtown. Because of this, the area has tons of Orlando things to do besides theme parks. You can almost forget you aren’t in a huge tourist destination here. There is plenty of parking around the lake for a small fee.
My favorite thing to do here is rent a swan boat. For only $15, you and up to 5 people can paddle a swan boat around Lake Eola. The views are gorgeous and it’s a great way to burn some calories! You must purchase a ticket at the dock and cannot book it ahead of time.
After your swan ride, I recommend checking out the art sculptures and local businesses in the area. Some of my favorites are Jinya Ramen or The Stubborn Mule for food and Motorworks and Craft & Common for drinks. If you visit on a Sunday, there are endless ways to fill the day here.
The Farmers Market goes on around the lake all day and there is a yoga class on the lawn at 11 AM. It’s always a good idea to check out the show schedule for the amphitheater here too, as they frequently put on concerts, plays, and movies. Lake Eola is the heart of Orlando and you can always find something fun to do here!
Spend a day at Blue Spring State Park
by Lori Sorrentino @ Naples Florida Travel Guide
One of the best things to do in Orlando besides visit theme parks is to get out into nature, and one of the best places to go is a fun and refreshing day trip to Blue Spring State Park. The drive from Orlando will take you less than an hour.
This amazing park has water activities galore including swimming, snorkeling, and fishing – within the park and along the St. Johns River. These waters near Orlando are the start of the Everglades watershed system that flows south through central Florida into southwest Florida. Blue Springs is just one of the many warm natural springs around Orlando that are a must-see.
Rent a kayak in the park or take a guided boat tour on the St. Johns River to see manatees and other amazing wildlife. Winter is a great time to visit when manatees huddle up by the hundreds to stay warm in the 72° water.
For hiking, head out on the scenic 7-mile long Pine Island Trail. If you’re camping, the park has 51 campsites including some for RVs that are all within walking distance to the spring. For day-trippers, there are picnic tables with grills throughout the park.
Blue Spring State Park is open year-round and admission is $6/vehicle, $2 for pedestrians and bicyclists.
The Wheel at ICON Park
Soumya @ Stories by Soumya
The mention of Orlando almost always conjures up images of Disney. However, an interesting fact about Orlando is that there is so much more to do here than just theme parks. Visiting the Wheel at ICON Park is definitely one of them.
A huge Ferris wheel located only 15 minutes away from Disney World, The Wheel is a huge hit among families, couples, and solo travelers.
All you need to do is get into your capsule and ride the Wheel for 18 whole minutes while seeing the city from a height of 400ft. There are some incredible views of Walt Disney World, Downtown Orlando, and even Hogwarts to be had from here.
The best time to take the ride is early in the morning or later in the day when the light is just perfect for pictures. You can also do an evening trip to catch the glimmering lights of Orlando from above. Don’t forget to stop by the Deck Bar on your way to the ride.
Apart from riding The Wheel, there are several other things you can do at ICON Park like getting wowed by the wax statues at Madame Tussauds. Choose between 40 amazing restaurants, interesting bars, and lots of boutique shops, and spend an exciting day away from Orlando’s theme parks.
The Charles Hosmer Morse Museum of American Art
by Claire @ Claire Pins Travel
Art lovers who are visiting Orlando should consider planning a visit to the Morse Museum of American Art to explore and appreciate the most complete collection of the work of Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The museum’s main collection features beautiful and finely crafted stained glass windows, jewellery, lamps and other items covering the full time span of Tiffany’s career. A highlight of any visit is the fully reconstructed chapel interior that Tiffany created for the 1893 Chicago World Exposition, which features sparkling glasswork and exquisite mosaics.
You can additionally view pieces from Tiffany’s New York estate along with personal artifacts like letters, photos and memorabilia. Beyond the works by Tiffany, the museum also hosts notable collections of American pottery and Art Nouveau style painting and decorative arts by a variety of other artists.
Upon arrival, visitors can watch an orientation film and then choose to access a complimentary audio tour directly on their own phone. There is also a small gift store selling high-quality Tiffany reproductions, jewellery, glass items, art and souvenirs.
Visitors can enjoy this museum at any time of year, however, it is closed on Mondays. The Morse Museum can be reached in about 20 minutes, driving north from central Orlando and there is convenient parking on site. The surrounding neighborhood, called Winter Park, also offers several options for dining and shopping, once you are done enjoying all the colorful works of art in this unique museum.
Visit the Kennedy Space Center
from Debbie Fettback @ WorldAdventurists.com
An hour’s drive from Orlando, exploring NASA’s Kennedy Space Center is a must for anyone who has ever dreamed of going into outer space. The exhibits are endless and so detailed that you may find that you need more than one day to adequately explore it all. Everything you learn about is completely real!
The exhibits are split into mission zones by chronological eras. The zones cover everything from the dawn of explorations to the present-day hopes and dreams of planned missions.
One of the highlights of the Kennedy Space Center is the Apollo/Saturn V Visitor Center. It is only reachable by taking the Kennedy Space Center Tour bus. Make it your first stop to ensure you get to see it. Another highlight is the impressive Space Shuttle Atlantis, suspended from the ceiling, with its cargo bay open for viewing. The exhibits even touch on the things you have always wondered about, like how astronauts use the washroom in space. There are several simulators, and it is possible to book your visit around meeting an astronaut or witnessing a live rocket launch!
To avoid some of the crowds, visit during the week and avoid school breaks. The easiest way to get to the Kennedy Space Center is by car. However, several tours will also take you for a day trip with transport from Orlando.
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
By Keri @ Bon Voyage With Kids
You don’t have to travel to the Everglades to get on an airboat ride to see alligators. Just right down the road from Orlando, in Kissimmee, is one of our family’s favorite things to do in Orlando besides theme parks.
Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures is a great family spot with fun things to do, including an airboat ride where you will definitely spot alligators peeking up from the water. The boat ride itself is much fun, as you glide across the lake in this unique vehicle. But getting up close and personal looks at these creatures is fascinating. In addition to gators, you will also see turtles and native Floridian birds living in their natural habitat.
In addition to the airboat rides, kids can also enjoy other activities at Boggy Creek. Kids can feed juvenile alligators in the alligator pond. There is a Native American Village, where kids can learn about the indigenous people of the region. There is also a fossil and gem sifting mine and they even offer a barbecue dinner!
The Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures is as educational as it is fun. This is a half-day activity about a 20-minute drive from the Disney theme park area and it is definitely one of the best to do in Orlando with kids but also very enjoyable for adults as well.
Visit Orlando Wildlife Heaven
By Victoria @ Guide Your Travel
The Orlando Wildlife Refuge or Wildlife Haven is a great place to visit for anyone interested in conservation and nature. They’re not actually a zoo but a rehabilitation center that aims to release its animals back into the wild after nursing them back to health.
They take injured or traumatized animals and rehabilitate them, only keeping the ones that cannot be integrated back into nature. They take in mostly local animals that were found. The park is open to the public and is a great place to visit if you usually don’t enjoy visiting traditional zoos but want to support a good cause instead. The park is located south of the city of Orlando, around 30 minutes by car away from the city center.
The best way to get there is definitely by car as public transport options are limited. The park is open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm although you should double-check opening times on public holidays.
They ask for a 5$ donation per person which is definitely a reasonable price to pay for such a great experience. If you call ahead you can also book a guide to take you around the park and explain the many different animal species.
Visit Wall Crawl
by Dymphe @ Dymabroad
One of the best things to do in Orlando besides theme parks is going to Wall Crawl. This is a great place if you want to take photos when you are in Orlando. That’s why it’s one of the most Instagrammable places in Orlando.
You find here many rooms with all kinds of decor. There are many colors and patterns, and there are different settings. Because of this, you can take lots of photos here, with every photo looking different! Furthermore, you can take photos here yourself, or you can get professional images here!
You can find Wall Crawl to the west of the city center of Orlando. The address is 1016 W Church St suite c. You can get here by car or by bus from many places in the city. Because this is an indoor place, you can always visit it and expect the same level of quality! The tickets for general admission to Wall Crawl cost 25 dollars for every person above the year 12.
For children from year 2, the ticket price is 15 dollars. Moreover, you can visit Wall Crawl every day of the week, but you need to make a reservation in advance when you buy your tickets.”
The Disney Boardwalk
by Alice @ Adventures of Alice
The Disney Boardwalk is a part of the Disney Resort that you may not have heard about. It has been around since 1996 and it offers something unlike any other.
Visitors can enjoy an old-fashioned amusement park, complete with arcade games, carousel rides, midway-style food stands and live entertainment. Boardwalk also features several shops and restaurants including ESPN Zone Sports Grill. The resort’s most iconic hotel – the Yacht Club – is located on Boardwalk as well as the Swan & Dolphin Resorts.
One thing to note: BoardWalk isn’t just for kids and there’s plenty of things here for adults too! From unique cocktails at Splitsville Luxury Lanes bowling alley to dinner one of the delightful restaurants. There are plenty of places to eat including Ghirardelli Ice Cream & Chocolate Shop, Pizza Window (a New York-style pizza eatery), Trattoria Al Forno (an Italian restaurant) and many more!
Disney Boardwalk is one of the most underrated Disney Parks. It’s the perfect place to relax, enjoy a show and take in some fresh air. While it may not be as popular as other parks, this park has something for everyone and is one of the best things to do in Orlando.
Saturday Night Classic Car Show
by Trijit Mallick @ Budget Travel Buff
Located on Route 192 in Kissimmee, Old Town is just a few minute’s drive from Universal Orlando. It is a perfect place that offers a fantastic vibe of classic Florida town and a warm break from the busy theme parks in Orlando.
You can visit the Old Town at any time of the year and you must add this place to your Orlando itinerary. This retro walking district is filled with unique shops, and affordable restaurants, bars, rides, and family-oriented entertainment.
If you are looking for free things to do in Orlando, visit the Old Town and stroll through tree-lined brick streets with friends and family.
On every Saturday, Old Town hosts a classic car show which has been a local tradition for over 30 years. This famous premier show features hundreds of classic vintage cars roll down the street and free entertainment for all age groups.
The proud car owners show their old hot rods, street rods, and the visitors are allowed to attend the parade of cars for free.
It is also considered the longest-running weekly car show in the country. Not only the classic cruise, the Saturday Night Classic Car Show also includes free entertainment, giveaways, and many more.
It is a day-long celebration and the free live concerts on Old Town’s main stage begin at 7 pm. There are plenty of affordable restaurants and bars where you can have dinner with your family.
These are just some of the activities to do in Orlando. In case you need a relaxing vacation or want to up your self-care game, here are some meditation retreats in Florida that can help you unwind.