Orlando, Florida is an extremely popular vacation destination in the United States. As a matter of fact, in 2019 alone, this city welcomed a whopping 76 million visitors!
The vast majority of Orlando visitors come for the many theme parks.
After all, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, and their other theme park counterparts are the highlight of this Floridian city.
That said, there is so much more to Orlando than just the theme parks.
You can say hello to the many animals at Lake Eola, enjoy a wine tasting at Quantum Leap Winery, stop and smell the flowers at the Henry P. Leu Gardens, and stroll around the Disney-esque town of Celebration.
Here’s my list for 15 of the best things to do in Orlando besides theme parks.
1. Lake Eola
No list of fun stuff to do in Orlando would be complete without Lake Eola.
Situated in the center of downtown Orlando, Lake Eola is quite a contrast to the city’s towering skyscrapers.
In addition to being a nice slice of nature in an urban area, Lake Eola has a shockingly long list of things to do. Walk along the nature path, take a paddleboat out on the water, say hello to the swans, and even catch a movie at the Walt Disney Amphitheater.
And if you happen to visit Lake Eola during the holidays, you’ll get to see this lovely lake decked out in Christmas lights. There’s even a massive Christmas tree for you to enjoy!
2. Disney Springs
If you want a taste of Orlando’s theme parks without actually paying for the hefty theme park price tags, head to Disney Springs! Disney Springs (formerly known as Downtown Disney) is a Disney shopping area.
The obvious thing to do at Disney Springs is shop for fun goodies – from clothes to stuffed animals to sweet treats.
But there’s so much more to Disney Springs than shopping. And to make everything better, many activities are free!
If you’re trying to keep your Disney Springs trip as budget-friendly as possible, you can listen to live music, race your LEGO creations at the LEGO store, snag a few Ghirardelli chocolate samples, and watch the Rainforest Cafe volcano erupt.
But if you have some cash to spare, you can dine at one of the many delicious Disney Springs restaurants.
Enjoy flavorful Asian food at Morimoto Asia, opt for fantastic Spanish cuisine at Jaleo by José Andrés, or munch on a juicy burger at D-Luxe Burger.
Like Disney Springs, Celebration isn’t technically a theme park, but it is Disney-adjacent. This town was originally designed by Disney.
From the adorable homes to the cute shops to the Cars-esque movie theater, you can clearly see Disney’s touch.
One of the best things to do in Celebration is simply walk around the town.
Buy yourself a sweet treat, sit by the lake, pop into a few stores, and stroll through the Sunday farmer’s market. And if you happen to visit around Christmas, you’ll even get to enjoy an hourly sprinkle of (fake) snow!
4. Universal City Walk
Universal City Walk is basically the Universal Studios version of Disney Springs.
This area essentially revolves around two things: shopping and food.
If you’re more of a shopper than a foodie, there are quite a few stores that are worth your time.
Get a souvenir at the Universal Studios Store, purchase some surf gear at Quiet Flight Surf Shop, or even design a permanent memento of your trip at Hart & Huntington Tattoo Company.
But, if you’re like me and you’re more of a foodie, you’ll enjoy the loads of restaurants at Universal City Walk.
Savor some tacos and guac from Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food, get a piping hot slice from Red Oven Pizza Bakery, and even roast some s’mores at Bigfire.
5. Quantum Leap Winery
Calling all wine lovers! Quantum Leap Winery is a fantastic stop for you! As Florida’s only sustainable winery, Quantum Leap Winery sets itself apart from the pack right off the bat! And then, when you visit, things get even better.
To start your time at Quantum Leap Winery, you’ll want to head to the tasting room. While there, you’ll get to try loads of fantastic, locally made wines! And if you really enjoy your experience, you might even be lucky enough to get a tour of the winery upon request.
Bottom line: You’ll inevitably end up leaving with a bottle or two from Quantum Leap Winery.
6. Central Florida Railroad Museum
All sorts of vehicles – from cars to planes to spaceships – are super interesting. And many of these forms of transportation have entire museums dedicated to them.
But one type of transportation is often overlooked is the railroad. Luckily, the Central Florida Railroad Museum fills this gap.
Operated by the Central Florida Railway Society, the Central Florida Railroad Museum covers everything you’d like to know about railroads in Central Florida.
There are loads of railroad-related artifacts, including historic photos and newspapers. But the highlight of this attraction is its extensive dining car china and silver collection.
7. The Mall at Millenia
When looking for things to do in Orlando when it rains, the list is rather short. After all, the rain in Florida typically sticks around for an hour and then disappears, so you just wait it out.
But there is the occasional day when it rains from dawn to dusk.
If you end up in Orlando on a rainy day, consider visiting The Mall at Millenia. There are loads of shops in this elegant mall – from Vans to Salvatore Ferragamo.
And if you need a lunch break, the food court is filled with all your favorites.
8. Orlando Science Center
The Orlando Science Center is great for kids and adults alike.
There are nearly a dozen exhibits, so there are sure to be a few that catch your attention.
Learn the engineering behind a roller coaster, find out how to make your life more sustainable in the tiny green home, and even make your own ideas a reality with the help of The Hive: a Makerspace.
On top of all of these incredible exhibits, the Orlando Science Center also offers a series of demonstrations and performances called Science Live!
During these demonstrations, you’ll be able to get an up close look at some of your favorite animals, take part in exciting lab science experiments, go on a guided planet tour, and so much more.
9. Orlando Museum of Art
Right next to the Orlando Science Center is the Orlando Museum of Art. With over 2,000 objects, the Orlando Museum of Art is packed with things to see.
As you stroll through the different exhibits you’ll pass 18th century European art, contemporary American art, and everything in between.
10. Rock Springs Run State Reserve
So far on this list, I’ve included a lot of shopping and museums. But if you’re hoping to get out and enjoy nature, you can make your way to Rock Springs Run State Reserve.
Also known as Kelly Park, this outdoor area is known for its bright blue spring and greenery-laden hiking trails. While there, you can swim, hike, camp, and tube to your heart’s content.
If you do want to go to Rock Springs Run State Reserve, I highly recommend going early. In the summer months, all the parking spots get filled up by 9 in the morning.
11. ICON Park
ICON Park is one of the most popular things to do in Orlando other than theme parks.
With its thrilling rides, colorful lighting, delicious restaurants, and fun shops, it’s a pretty good alternative.
There are so many cool rides at ICON Park, but two top the list: Ride the Wheel and the Orlando Starflyer. Ride the Wheel is a classic Ferris wheel. When you reach the highest point, you’ll be able to catch amazing views of the Orlando skyline.
Then, there’s the Orlando Starflyer, which holds the title of the world’s tallest swing. That’s definitely something you’ll want to check off your bucket list.
As for where to shop, you really can’t go wrong. The Sugar Factory, Calenoi Sunglasses, and Wheelhouse Gift Shop are some of the most noteworthy spots.
To round out your time at ICON Park, you’ll want to get a bite to eat. And you won’t have to worry about a shortage of options, because there are so many good locations.
Grab sushi from Mikado, crepes from iCafe de Paris, or fajitas from Uncle Julio’s Mexican Restaurant.
12. Wonderworks Orlando
Just past ICON Park lies the mind-bending attraction of Wonderworks Orlando.
As soon as you drive up, you’ll try to figure out the engineering of the building, because it’s an upside-down house!
When you get inside, things get even weirder.
Feel what a 5.3 magnitude earthquake feels like in the Extreme Weather Zone, experience the 4D XD Simulator Ride, and even put on a real space suit in the Space Zone.
13. Chocolate Museum & Cafe
If you have a sweet tooth, you simply won’t be able to resist a visit to the Chocolate Museum & Cafe.
Once you walk through the doors, you’ll be greeted by an array of chocolate treats – from chocolate truffles to chocolate bars.
But the real highlight of the Chocolate Museum & Cafe is hidden in the back behind closed doors: the chocolate museum.
The museum portion of the Chocolate Museum & Cafe brings all the coolest wonders of the world to life in chocolate form.
You’ll get to see chocolate versions of Big Ben, a Mayan pyramid, the Eiffel Tower, and so much more. It’s basically like you’ve stepped into the Netflix show, School of Chocolate.
14. Henry P. Leu Gardens
Nature lovers will enjoy a trip to the Henry P. Leu Gardens. After all, it’s one of the best outdoor things to do in Orlando.
Henry P. Leu Gardens, more commonly called Leu Gardens, is a 50-acre botanical garden that’s just a few minutes away from the Orlando Science Center and the Orlando Museum of Art.
While there, you can wander through beautiful blooming flowers, including azaleas, roses, camellias, and so much more.
There’s even a small butterfly garden for you to enjoy!
15. Lake Kissimmee State Park
If there’s one thing that Florida is known for (besides theme parks, of course), it’s alligators.
If you’d like to get an up close look at these powerful creatures, you can head to Lake Kissimmee State Park.
Lake Kissimmee State Park is one of the best places to see alligators in the wild in all of Florida. And to have your best chance of seeing these cool creatures, you’ll want to take a tour.
Alligator Cove Airboat Nature Tours, Alligators Unlimited Nature Tours, and Kissimmee Swamp Tours all offer alligator tours in Lake Kissimmee State Park.
While the highlight of this lovely state park is the alligators, there’s so much more that you can enjoy.
Keep an eye out for white-tailed deer, do a bit of hiking, and make use of the six miles of equestrian trails.
And that’s a wrap on cool stuff to do in Orlando besides theme parks!
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