A Local’s Guide to the Top 11 Things to Do in Orlando Besides Disney
Orlando is one of the most famous cities in the southeast region of the United States because it’s home to Disney World. However, despite having some of the world’s most famous theme parks, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Orlando besides Disney.
This one of the best cities to enjoy the warmth of the South. It is also close to the beach and has an amazing restaurant and nightlife scene. To hit all the best Orlando attractions on this list, you will probably need about 5 days in the city. Here’s what you’ll want to see when you visit.
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The Best Things to Do In Orlando
Orlando is such a fun city and there are a lot of great things to do there. Here are the best 11 things to do in Orlando that you won’t want to miss.
1. Orlando Science Center
The Orlando Science Center is a private science museum. It focuses on bringing awareness to the community about science and technology through live exhibits, a tiny green home, and interactive shows.
The building has been renovated and updated several times since its opening in 1955. These renovations give it an ultra-modern interior.
The Orlando Science Center is located at 777 E Princeton St, Orlando, Fl, 32803. It is open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m but closed on Wednesdays. It costs $21 for adults, $19 for students, and $15 for children.
2. Kennedy Space Center
The Kennedy Space Center is just one hour away and it’s absolutely beautiful. It’s a great place to learn about the history of NASA and how space exploration has changed the way we live.
The center features a number of exhibits worth seeing. But the best are the Rocket Garden, Space Shuttle Atlantis, and Heroes and Legends. Depending on when you visit, you might even catch one of the live rocket launches.
Kennedy Space Center is located at Space Commerce Way, Merritt Island, Florida, 32953. It is open weekdays from 10 to 4 and on weekends from 10 to 5. It costs $75
3. Blizzard Beach
Blizzard Beach is part of the Walt Disney World Resort. It’s a great way to experience a little bit of Disney World without actually having to go to one of the major theme parks. Blizzard Beach is amazing to visit in the warm weather because it features waterslides, raft rides, and a lazy river.
If you’re really adventurous, you can participate in toboggan races and go on the rapid inner-tube waterslides. There are also a few restaurants and a pub on-site to get food and cocktails.
Blizzard Beach is located at 1534 Blizzard Beach Drive, Orlando Florida, 32836. It’s closed on Thursdays and Fridays but it’s open every other day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.and costs $64 for everyone 10 years and older.
4. Lake Eola Park
Visiting Lake Eola Downtown is one of the top free things to do in Orlando. It’s a perfect way to see the city and get some exercise while you’re on vacation. The circle around the lake is just under a mile and it’s a beautiful walk. The Walt Disney amphitheater is right in the middle and frequently has concerts or plays during the weekend.
Paddle boats can be rented for $15 if you want to get out on the lake and see the city from a different perspective. If you want to get a perfect photo op of the city skyline, Lake Eola Park is the best place to go. On the weekends and in the evenings, you will see many locals having picnics and sharing drinks in the grass.
Lake Eola Park is located at 512 East Washington Street, Orlando Florida, 32801. It’s open from 6 to midnight daily.
5. Daytona Beach
A trip to Central Florida isn’t complete without a trip to the beach. Daytona Beach is one of the closest beaches at about an hour’s drive away. It is also home to the Daytona International Speedway where the Daytona 500 Nascar Race takes place every year.
One of the reasons Daytona Beach is the most popular choice in the area is because of the beautiful boardwalk. In most areas, you can also drive on the beach which makes setting up all your beach gear easier. Parking on the beach is usually the better option because some of the parking lots are far from the shoreline.
6. Bok Tower Gardens
Bok Tower Gardens is located between Orlando and Tampa. It has over 50 acres of gardens and a beautiful mansion you can tour. The most famous part of the gardens is the Singing Tower with daily music selections at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
At certain times of the year, they also have live concerts performed by award-winning Geert D’Hollander. The gardens are also a fantastic place to see Florida wildlife like gopher tortoises and over a hundred species of birds. Since Florida doesn’t have winter, flowers bloom all year long.
Bok Tower Gardens is located at 1151 Tower Boulevard, Lake Wales, Florida 33853. The gardens are open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and tickets are $15.
7. International Drive
International Drive, or I-Drive as locals call it, has some of Orlando’s top restaurants and entertainment venues. They have many of the typical venues you might expect in a city like Orlando. These include an escape room (The Escape Game), adventure golf (at Pirate’s Cove, Lost Caverns, and Congo River, and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Museum. However, to be like a real local, there are some other things you shouldn’t miss.
Definitely go to Sleuths Mystery Dinner, a 2.5-hour comedy mystery show. It’s very interactive, so make sure you’re prepared! I-Drive is also the place to go if you are interested in nightlife or adult things to do in Orlando. It has a Bob Marley tribute venue, Mango’s tropical cafe, and the famous Blue Man Group.
Every venue charges a separate entrance fee, so if you plan to spend a day or two near I-Drive, consider buying the Sightseeing Pass. You pay for all the attractions you want to see in one convenient fee. It also lets you use the trolley to get around I-Drive. Prices start at $49.
I-Drive is 11.1 miles long and it’s filled with entertainment options. You’ll find venues open until 2 a.m., so there is something to do no matter the time of day.
8. Boggy Creek Airboat Adventures
Boggy Creek is about a 25-minute drive from Downtown Orlando and it’s one of the best things to do near Orlando. You’ll find several activities that make it a great destination. It’s part of the Central Florida Everglades so you’ll see alligators, turtles, and everything native to the wetlands.
The Ultimate All-Inclusive Package is the best deal because it includes lunch (amazing BBQ), the airboat ride, and admission to the Gem Mine and park. You can choose between a half-hour or an hour airboat ride depending on your time constraints.
Boggy Creek is located at 2001 E Southport Road, Kissimmee, Florida, 34746. It is open every day from 9 a.mto 5:30 p.m. Airboat tours range from $35-$100 depending on the duration and time of day.
9. Downtown Orlando
There are hundreds of things to do in downtown Orlando. Some of the best places are hidden within the city and are only places locals know about. The downtown area has a cool bike rental system that allows you to rent a cycle using an app.
Some of the best places to go are the Orange County History Center and the Orlando Brewing Company. If you are looking for a fun place to drink and dance, the Aero Rooftop Bar has an outdoor cabana and amazing drinks.
For indoor activities in Orlando, try Saks Comedy Club. They have nightly improv comedy shows. Volunteers are even requested sometimes, so go for it if you feel like giving your own skills a shot! The comedy is geared towards mature audiences so it is one of the top things to do in Orlando for adults.
10. Winter Park Scenic Boat Tour
Winter Park is a suburb about a 10-minute drive from downtown Orlando. The scenic boat tour will take you across 3 of the lakes in the Winter Park area. It also passes through several canals where you can see incredible wildlife.
From the lake, you will be able to see some of the largest homes and estates in Florida. Alligators are a frequent sighting while on the pontoon boat, so beware! Of course, no trip to Florida is complete without an alligator sighting.
The scenic boat tour leaves from 312 E Morse Blvd, Winter Park, Florida, 32789. Admission is $15 for adults and $7 for children. They are open every day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
11. Crystal River WaterSports
If you enjoy the water, Crystal River Watersports is better than the beach or a waterpark because it allows you to see exotic marine life. Swimming with manatees is the most popular activity. The close interaction to marine life makes it a top Orlando attraction.
They offer scuba diving certification and lessons as well as places to dive if you are already certified. All of their employees are highly trained and known to be the best in Florida. Even if you are an amateur swimmer, you are safe in their hands.
Crystal River Watersports is located at 2380 N Suncoast Blvd, Crystal River, Florida 34428. They are open every day from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. Prices vary, but manatee swimming starts at $65.
How to Get to Orlando
Orlando has a very large airport that is easily accessible from most airports throughout the United States. The airport code is MCO, and it’s a hub for most domestic and international airlines.
There is also a smaller airport about 30 minutes north of downtown called Orlando-Sanford (SFB). Sometimes smaller airlines fly into this airport and it’s super affordable!
How to Get Around Orlando
Orlando, unfortunately, really needs to work on its public transportation system. Renting a car is by far the best option for getting around as your public transportation options are very limited.
The good news is the downtown area is completely walkable. And all of the important sights and restaurants are within a 30-minute radius.
When to Visit Orlando
Orlando has pretty amazing weather all year round which makes traveling easy. Even in the rainy season, central Florida only gets a few hours of rain a day. Your plans will definitely not get ruined because of the weather. June and July can be hot and busy with tourists, so it’s best to avoid those months if possible.
The absolute best time to visit though is November through February. The weather is not too hot, usually not getting warmer than 75°F (24°C). Average low temperatures are around 60°F (16°C). It also doesn’t rain much during these months, giving you ample time to spend your days outdoors.
Where to Stay in Orlando
Orlando has many options for hotels for just about every budget. The prices are within the same range as for most large cities. It’s a good idea to stay near International Drive or Downtown so you’re close to all the places to go in Orlando. Kissimmee and Lake Buena Vista hotels are beautiful, but they are closer to Disney rather than the actual city of Orlando.
Budget: Orlando Lakefront Tiny Community is an RV park that offers over 10 tiny home vacation rentals. It is ideal for people traveling solo or as a couple. They also offer fishing docks, free parking, and they have kayaks and paddleboards for rent.
Mid-range: Hilton Garden Inn Orlando International North is the perfect location close to all of the I-Drive hangout spots and nightlife. The bar and pool at this hotel are also amazing.
High-end: Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando Resort is one of the most popular choices for people in Orlando, especially music fans! It’s only 20 minutes from the Orlando airport and is within walking distance to both of the Universal theme parks. The rooms are beautifully themed and decorated much like the Hard Rock restaurants. The pool is incredible and has sand and beach cabanas!
Where to Eat in Orlando
Garp and Fuss: This is a local favorite restaurant in the suburb of Winter Park. It features a beer garden, a seasonal vegetable menu, and locally sourced gourmet meat cuts.
Cafe Tu Tu Tango: Conveniently located on International Drive, this is the place to go for tapas and brick oven pizza.
Lee & Rick’s Oyster Bar: Any visit should include a high-quality seafood dinner and this oyster bar is the perfect place for it. They have fresh oysters, shrimp, and a variety of other traditional southern food.
Orlando is Waiting for You!
Orlando is a perfect vacation spot for any time of the year. All of the best things to do in Orlando are close together making it an ideal city to explore in just a few days. It’s also close to the coast so you can get a good mix of beach days and city life.
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